Triumphs Only was literally started by accident. The story begins in Mamaroneck New York. I was always impressed with the looks and sound of the Triumph TR6. Here was this car that does NOT pop the front wheels off the ground, or have the loud sound of cherry bomb mufflers. Here was a car that squatted in the rear, and had a beautiful sweet hum. This still was the 70’s muscle car era after all! I did own the requisite American car. It was a 1967 GTO.
The year was 1975. I was in Mamaroneck high schools parking lot where I was a student. I was driving a Fiat 124 spider which I owned also. I was cutting through the parking lot and a fellow student Greg Panno was driving a brand new Alpha Romeo the wrong way down a one way street. Well he hit me, The final blow was that he had borrowed the Alpha from his father without permission.
Now backing up a little, Mamaroneck NY is in Westchester County, a wealthy suburb of New York City. (Trivia; The actor Matt Dillon went to our High School, and still lives in the town) So I go to his fathers office who happens to be a wealthy doctor, to collect my damages. We start talking about cars. He tells me all about his car collection. I then say to him that my favorite car is a Triumph TR6. Well he tells me he owns one. He then goes on to tell me that his other son was driving it home from college and had blown the motor (I’m thinking, hey this is sounding a little bit better every minute!) He also tells me he wants to sell it. So he describes where it is and to go look at it. I tell him to hold the money for the damages while I go look at it. The car was parked at a little Arco station on Palmer Avenue (this landmark gas station is still there!)
I arrive and see this beautiful red 1969 TR6 sitting there, waiting for a new owner. This car had my name on it, and just begged me to take it home! With all my excitement I called back to Dr Panno and told him I wanted to buy it, hold the money as a down payment and it will take me about a month or so to save and buy it. Well a month later we towed the car to it’s new home. Mine!
I lived in a small cabin in the back of Hommocks Jr. High school, and Winged foot country club. Now this is my first experience with a British car, so like any normal person I read the manual on how to install the motor. The little red book says that to pull the trans you must remove the interior. So I do just that, remove both seats, seat tracks, carpeting, transmission tunnel, almost the complete interior. I then buy an engine from the local wrecking yard and proceed to install it. I now am really excited! Here is this gorgeous little red sports car that I have been dreaming of driving for the last 30 days. The new motor installation is a success! It starts right up, now mind you the exhaust is not hooked up, interior still out, so I do what any All-American kid would do. Grab a milk crate and drive it! WOW! My dream car! (Little did I know what this is going to lead too!)
So here I am this young kid with a TR6. And now that you own a British car you are in an elite club of special car owners. (Probably triple A towing club also!) I made friends with a guy who owned a black MGB. His name was Ken Barker. Ken and I still stay in touch, and he currently owns several MGB’s. (are we gluttons for punishment or what?) So Ken and I kind of hung around together. Well Ken had this really good looking sister named Sharon. Soon her and I started dating. Now Sharon had always wanted to go to California. Being I was stationed at Fort Ord California which is near Monterey, and really wanted to go back, we decided to head west! Besides Jim Morrison of the Doors said the west is the best!
We packed up the TR6 and left on a cold snowy January for the sunshine state. The year was 1977. Now here is where I should have known what was in my future. As we said goodbye to our last friend (Emily Wasserman, who lived in the house where Woody Allen’s film “interiors” was filmed) upon backing out of the driveway, which the neighbor was backing out of theirs at the same time, well we collided. It was only a small accident, broke the right side blinker lens. We fixed the light and took 2 and a half months to come across the country. It was a trip I will never forget. We got pulled over in Tennessee, where these two redneck deputies did not like us hippie kids, threatened us with a shot gun wedding. Luckily, they got a call and left. Before leaving Tenneessee, we also got a speeding ticket. Going 72 mph in a 55. We had to pay the ticket when we arrived in CA, which cost us a whopping $2, yes thats right $2. It seems the “old” speed limit was 70 and since we were going 2 mph over the speed limit, well that was the fine! We stopped in New Orleans for the Mardi Gras, the Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, and many other places I don’t remember. I will never forget arriving in California, coming over the San Bernardino Mountains and looking at the ugly brown sky of Los Angles. We only had one problem the whole trip. And that was in Taos New Mexico, where the front lower A arm bracket broke of the frame.
Well Sharon and I soon split up after arriving here. She missed New York, so I continued up to San Jose where I knew some people from being at Fort Ord. I can go into much more detail about all the little things, but remember that Triumphs only was started out of accident”.
Well it was in the first few months that I had my second accident. I was coming down a hill preparing to make a left turn, now in New York we did not have left turn lane red lights. So I am approaching this left turn lane, the light is green and this guy in front of me puts his car in reverse and I hit him. The guy was very drunk, I told him it was his fault that he put his car in reverse and he quickly paid me $250 cash on the spot and left. I drove home, pulled the hood off and literally jumped on it to straighten it out.
I then proceeded to the world famous East 14th street auto wreckers to buy a front valence and hood (bonnett). This at the time was a huge shop, 18 employees, a British car owner’s heaven! I wanted to be like that some day! Arggg be carefull what you wish for, it may come true! My car went back together OK.
I am not sure of the time frame from here, but it probably was another year or so that the 3rd accident happened. It was a very hot summer day and I was invited to go water skiing at Lake Berryessa. I stopped and had a few brews to cool down at a restaurant where my friend from NY (Joe Adonetti) worked. Beers at the time helped keep the stress down that goes with any British car being taken on a long drive. I think a long drive in a Triumph is one that lasts over 1 hour! 5 hours later, I got on the brand new freshly paved roads leading up to the lake.
Boy what a great drive, newly paved winding roads, a nice lush forest that provided shade to cool down, a fast TR6 and going to go water skiing. There were no cars in sight, so I had to put the petal to the metal! Then on one of the many winding turns a Bizzi Body van towing a boat was in MY lane. I was only doing 65! Well I decided to take his lane and found myself heading straight for a stone walled bridge. At the last minute I let off the brakes and the car steered to the right avoiding a head on collision with the bridge. I bounced off and hit the side of the mountain. I was OK. The car did not fare so well. The guy driving the van had the nerve to say, “driving a little fast eh?” Well I took a pair of channel locks and pried the fender away from the left front wheel, put a bungee cord to hold on the hood, then limped the car to the campsite. The car was a goner, but still drivable. I got the car home (what a sight I must have been, the car was totaled! Hood strapped on by a bungee cord, tire squealing and staying up with traffic!). When I got home I decided to part it out. I was done with Triumphs (so I thought!). I had a company car and great job being a salesman and team motivator for Kirby vacuums! (no sucky vacuum jokes, please!)
I placed an add in the paper for Triumph parts. Well this guy calls and asks me if I want to buy another, I tell him NO way! Well about a week later he shows up to buy some parts for his car. He worked in a body shop and his car was fabulous! I asked him if he wanted to sell it. He said I asked you a week ago and you said No, I said well I did not see it! So you guessed it, I bought the car!
Now on to how “Triumphs Only” name was born. It was another hot summer day. I was working on a 1972 VW super beatle with air-conditioning (yes they did make bugs with AC). I was trying to get #3 plug in, I spent about an hour trying. Finally I lost my patience, slammed the engine cover and said from now on its nothing but triumphs only! Hence that day, the now historic, world famous “Triumphs Only” name was born! Chris Hope, you were there!
My next accident (I told you this company was started by accident!) came soonafter in early 1979. I was sitting at a red light in Redwood City. It was 5:30pm on a Friday afternoon. A teleprompter cable TV truck came around the corner and rear-ended me. The guy was drunk. Well about 8 months later, I collected a insurance settlement of $12, 000. I took $4000 bought a 1972 corvette, $4000 and invested in gold, silver and stocks, and $4000 and invested in my back yard Triumph shop. Let me back up again. On the side I always had a car business, it all started out when I parted out the TR6. I still remember my first customer, Roger McGlothlin. (He still owns the Triumph TR250, that I sold to him from my first ever shop, And is still one of my customers!)
Ok, back to my back yard shop. I had this wonderful house in Cupertino. The year was 1979. My business had grown. I had a little ad in the phone book yellow pages. It gave the name triumphs only and a phone number. My hours were by appointment only. I screened my customers. I told them if you want your car tomorrow, forget it. I will work on it when I get around to it. Now the reason for this was I was a professional sun tanner. I had to keep up my sun tan! Hey I was living the California dream! The home had 1 acre of property, a 3-car garage, and a single car garage. It was built in the early 30s and at one time was a very large ranch. I will try to post some photos of the house and the many triumphs that filled the back yard. Anyway an angry neighbor called the city to complain about me working on cars. Well, the city inspector came by. I managed to avoid him for almost 2 months! Finally one day he came by, I was tired of dodging him. I met him at the gate. He told me he had a complaint that I was working on cars in a residential area. Now here I am in cover-alls, holding a set of points and screwdriver. I told him I would be a damn fool if I told him I wasn’t. He than gave me a summons, and in the very next breath asked me if I worked on Volvo’s! His name was Robert, several years later I bought a TR6 from him that he was the original owner of, but never told me! By the way, my roommate John Robb, he owned a TR250 and several more TR’s through the years and now I have learned he just bought a 76 TR6! Way to go John! Johns brother David who is my longest known friend in CA, has owned a 1972 GT6 since I met him in 1978!
Well my first “official” shop opened at 1751 Villa Stone Ave in San Jose. It was January 1980. Now get this. My shop hours were Monday through Friday 1pm to 6pm. People asked why I had those hours, and quickly told them THEY were lucky that I even had those hours, that they now knew where to find me! Boy how I wish for the old days! There were many Triumphs around then. My business quickly outgrew my 1000 square foot shop. It took about a year to where I had to move into larger quarters. I moved into a larger shop, 3000 square feet about 3 blocks away at 217 San Jose Avenue. The success continued.
Soon we were booked up for 2 1/2 months in advance. Well 3 years later we moved again, this time to 1718 Lick Avenue which had 5,000 square feet, then soon moved again to 456 Willow Street, which had 7500sq ft, then to 1718 Stone Ave which had 9000 sq ft (and also happened to be right across the street from our first shop!) and now we have moved into an even larger space! This hopefully will be our final move. The move from San Jose to Stockton took 4 months of packing, 35 54ft semi truck loads over a period of 3 months, 60 cars and here it is October 2003 and we are still unpacking! The making of Triumphs only was a day by day operation. When people walk into our shop they say “how did you get all these parts” Well being a pack rat helps. When everyone was throwing these cars away, I was saving parts. Our work load now is much smaller, our warehouse much larger. I am sorry to say, many of these cars have been exported or gone to the great bone yard in the sky.
Our work is now much more diversified. We sell many “custom” built cars, and do a large mail order business. We also perform many repairs, small restorations. However we are not even close to being booked 2 and a half months in advance!
Triumphs only is continually growing in many different areas. We manufacture. Yes, only one part currently, but it is a start! We have gained a reputation for honesty, knowledge, and having many rare hard to find parts. Our inventory of New Old Stock continues to grow. Yes, we cannot compete with the “Big Boys”, but have really never wanted too. We have carved out our own very special niche and want to stay this way. It is nice being a “small” shop. Our future goals are to start a production line rebuilding old Triumphs, to have a much larger web presence and of course continuing to build our N.O.S inventory. We will be continually trying to update our site now that we are maintaining our own site. Will we ever have a catalog? Probably not, but who knows!
I hope you have enjoyed reading about the history of how this shop started and the many milestones we have gone through. Of course I have left out many details, memories, customers that have had a profound affect on us, customers who will never be forgotten, and yes some who need to be forgotten. Customers that are still around and some that have passed on. I do know that the world of Triumph owners continues to change, but we are all of a special breed. I still enjoy driving a TR6, yes even with all the little squeaks and rattles. In the future I will try to write a story of our many accomplishments, awards, and press articles, while trying not to be too modest. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it!
Thank you for your patronage and continued support of Triumphs Only.
Wayne Bier, Owner