Car Restoration Projects

A Triumph-ant man

 

Dave Clark established his eponymous Triumph-specialist mechanical repair and restoration business in 1976 and his name and reputation are synonymous with the marque. Jim Gibson caught up with him in 2009.

 

The very affable and Triumph savvy Dave Clark

 

Jim opened the discussion by asking Dave Clark of David Clark Automotive how many employees he had: “None,” said Dave. “If you want the job done properly then you do it yourself.” 

“ And what if you need an extra helping hand to hold something?” Jim asked. 

“There’s always a pair of vice-grips handy,” quipped Dave. 

 

A reconditioned Stag engine on the way back into the engine bay

 

This punctilious tradesman was working alone in his workshop, with his wife attending to office duties, in the Sydney suburb of Rydalmere. However, when Dave took one a complete Triumph restoration he outsourced a minimal amount of specialist trades jobs: panel beating, painting and machine shop work.

 

RH inner guard of a Stag before refurbishment

 

Dave said he specialised in Stags, TR2 to TR6 sports cars as well as 2000 and 2500 sedans, with his extensive knowledge of these models covering general servicing, mechanical repairs, restorations and race and rally preparation. He was adamant that he did not work on TR7s, TR8s or Dolomite models.

 

The same RH inner guard after being refurbished

 

Dave had raced and rallied Triumphs, which gave him first-hand knowledge about how to tweak suspension components, engine enhancements and other areas of the go-fast black arts. 

A Bathurst boy, Dave was apprenticed to Gurdon Motors  – the then BMC dealer in the town. BMC’s absorption of Triumph added it to the Gurdon fold and that began Dave’s connection with the marque. He was keen on the design and finish of Triumphs. 

 

US-spec carburettor-induction TR6 engine

 

However, by the end of the 1960s he’d had enough of the Bathurst climate and headed for the big smoke, finding a job with Larke Hoskins, a British Leyland dealer in Sydney. 

Later on, Dave moved to Rowley Motors’ Triumph section as assistant service manager. 

By the mid-1970s it was time to take on a business venture for himself, starting with a mobile workshop in the St Leonards area. He gained an increasing number of customers and finally set up his own workshop in Gladesville in 1977. He moved from there to the Rydalmere premises in 1986.

 

Job done and ready to close the bonnet on a completed Stag restoration

 

Dave commented on re-powering Stags, because of that engine’s reliability issues: 

“I know there are some Stag owners who choose to re-power their cars with Rover 3500 engines, because of the cost of reconditioning a Stag engine, but I can’t see the logic in bastardising the car.

“If the original engine is reconditioned properly there’s no need.” 

The Stag V8 engine is basically two Dolomite engines bolted together and Dave had one customer who used his Stag daily, and had travelled more than 300,000km.

“The only work I’ve done on the car apart from scheduled serving was to replace the water pump a few times.”

 

Dash on the way back in after heater core and instrument refurbishment

 

Dave Clark said the only other car brands that he has worked on are a Morgan, with a Triumph engine and a 1938 Lagonda, which was owned by a good customer with a TR that Dave had restored. The customer insisted on Dave carrying out some of the mechanical work and refitting the dash and instruments to the Lagonda.

 

All this to get to the heater core during the Stag restoration

 

Jim Gibson noticed there was no hoist in Dave’s workshop and asked why.

 “I much prefer to use a floor jack, stands and a creeper,” said Dave. 

“You can pull a gearbox out and put it back in, by resting it on your chest and just rolling in and out from under the car. 

“I get a sore neck standing up working under a hoist,” he added.

Dave reckoned the best value for money buy for someone wanting a windup-window Triumph sports car was to buy a US-specification TR6, with carburettor induction. It’s an easy left-to-right conversion and made a good, reliable sports tourer.  

 

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