Vintage British cars come to Downs Park

Lovers of classic TR6 to show off Saturday


July 28, 2005|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,SUN STAFF

Gary Klein loves and loathes his classic car. He devotes half his garage, hours of free time and a good chunk of change to his yellow convertible 1975 TR6. It's British, and it's his little metal baby.

The car's design - the straight lines and the boxy shell - drew him in. That's his favorite part of the car.

"It's the shape," Klein said. "It's been described as a man's car, and I guess I must have fallen into that trap. It attracted me."

After restoring it, Klein reached out to other British-car owners in the area. This year, he's president of TRiumphs Around the Chesapeake Ltd., a British-car club.

The club hosts its annual show, Brits by the Bay, Saturday at Downs Park in Pasadena. Klein helped organize the club's first show four years ago, which exceeded all their expectations, he said.

"We were looking for a) a reason to get together and display our cars as club members, and b) we were looking for a small source of revenue, and we achieved both," Klein said. "We gave a little bit of money to Downs Park, and we were able to get our cars together and be with other people enjoying the hobby."

Klein, 52, became interested in cars in the '60s when he used to tune up his father's 1968 Oldsmobile Cutlass. Since he bought the TR6 back in 1993, he's tinkered with it endlessly. The toughest part was the initial restoration - something he didn't start until 1997. During the four-year gap, it looked best from 20 feet back, he said.

The engine burned oil, the body was a rust-bucket and the top and bottom ends needed work. But it was a decent deal for the $3,000 price tag, he said. Since then, he said he's spent enough money on the TR6 to buy a Miata.

"But then I would have had a Miata," he said.

Klein hoisted out the engine, stripped the rest down to a rolling chassis and shipped it to a body company. He had a local machine shop work on certain engine parts and reconditioned the rest himself. He finished the major work in the fall of 1999, but he said the thought of starting it up scared him to death. Would it explode? Would the engine turn over, or cease and ruin nearly two years of work?

"I turned the key, and it fired right up. It was the greatest feeling," he said. "I rolled it out of the garage - you never know if there's going to be an accident - had it down the driveway, fired it up and bang, off it went. It was great."

With a mere 106 horsepower block, the TR6 isn't built for speed, but Klein doesn't care.

"It cruises along the highways just fine," he said.

For Klein, power comes second to a fun dusk drive with his wife, Priscilla.

"An evening cruise with the top down? Absolutely terrific," he said.

Klein said he drives an average of 2,000 miles and participates in three car shows each year. He said the TR6 will be one of about 150 cars at the Brits by the Bay show. When he's not driving his car, he's tweaking it - which leads him at times to mixed feelings.

"Even when they're running perfect, sometimes you hate them, and when they're running badly you love em," he said. "It's hard to describe."

Klein loves it when he's standing by his car at a show or sitting in it at a stoplight and other drivers give him the thumbs up or ask about the car. Those people understand the time and effort he's put into giving a relic its shine back.

"It really makes me feel good inside to know that people appreciate what I've done and what the car represents," he said.

TRiumphs Around the Chesapeake Ltd.'s Brits by the Bay car show is Saturday 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. at Downs Park, Mountain Road in Pasadena. Registration for the non-judged show is $15. Call 410-987-1535 or visit Downs Park entry fee is $5 (included in the registration fee for participants).

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