Special Projects

Framed - Roy Owens

As some of you may know, I’m building a 1965 TR4A solid axle for my wife, Vivian. She wanted a classic sports car, but with specific modern attributes including an automatic transmission and smooth, powerful motor. After much research and consideration, I decided to go with the Rover V8. Used in the TR8/MGB GT V8, the Rover is 40 pounds lighter and twice the horse power of the original - the perfect modern “Triumph” motor. To further honor the spirit of a factory assembled TR, I chose the Borg Warner automatic transmission used by Triumph and other British classic cars.

In my head I had worked out exactly what I wanted. "I’ll just repair and modify the factory parts to meet my needs." I thought. It was all coming together, until I took a deeper look at the 55 year old, well rusted Triumph frame. On further inspection I realized it would be an extensive, detailed project and in the end I would still have a 55 year old frame at the heart of my “modern” Triumph. I wanted perfection.

55 years of Ohio weather!

What To Do?

I did my homework. After more research, I found a company that fabricates modern replacement frames for the TR2 — TR6: RATCO. The reviews were impressive. It seemed everyone that utilized their frames were extremely happy with the product and service. I contacted Tony Vigliotti at RATCO to see if he could help with my dilemma.

The next day I received an email from Tony, asking me to call him and discuss what I needed. A friendship was started. As it turns out, Tony is the founder of RATCO. A Triumph convert since college and forty years of owning, driving and customizing Triumphs, he has built frames for the solid axle TR4A — and many others — throughout his career. He was more than up to the task. I sent him photos of the old frame and our plans were made to start the work.

The Rover V8 with an automatic transmission was a new request for RATCO. There were a lot of variables to be considered; neither of us were sure of the best place for the mounts. After a few more conversations, Tony suggested I bring the drivetrain to his shop to custom fit the frame to my drive train.


I was a little shocked and surprised that a part supplier wanted to provide exactly what I needed. (I’ve become accustomed to having to adapt my needs to the parts they supply.) I made arrangements to take the drive train to Tony’s shop in upstate New York. When I arrived, he insisted I stay in his 1865 farmhouse while we planned the frame build.

Tony's shop is the kind of place most of us gearheads can only dream about, outfitted with every fabrication gadget known to man. I was overwhelmed and humbled by the prospect of working alongside a Master Craftsman with such a keen knowledge of Triumphs and a shop with tools I could not identify.

Tony had the frame about 95% complete, just awaiting the drivetrain. To ensure proper placement, he brought his highly modified TR 250 — used as his test bed for RATCO performance upgrades — to the shop so we could check and measure the clearances.

95% frame on welding jig.

The Process

Measure. Think. Measure. Level. Think. Program Plasma Cutter. Think. Bend, Place On Frame. Think. Measure Again. Level. Weld. Tony leaves nothing to chance; everything is checked, and checked again. It was 3 days of meticulous fabrication before he was ready to let the frame go home.

Cutting Steering Rack mounts.

Fresh cut Steering Rack mount before bending and fitting.

New motor mount in place.

Final inspection.

My frame is the last production frame that Tony will personally build in his shop. After years of hands-on training with Tony, Master Craftsman Bob Waldeck is continuing the legend building RATCO frames at his Holbrook, NY production facility. (One of Bob’s TR6 frames was in the shop awaiting pick up and it was a work of art.) Tony will remain the technical advisor and mentor to ensure RATCO continues to set the bar for Triumph frames. He will now be concentrating on his line of Triumph performance upgrades, and research and development for additional performance parts.

Ready to load! TR 250 “Test bed” in background.

How to justify the cost…..put wife’s initials on her frame!

Redesigning the TR6 frame to accept a Ford 289 V8, Top Loader Transmission and a Jaguar differential with inboard Braking

Brad came to us with a vision of creating a high performance TR6. We already had a solution for the engine mounts with our Ford 302 frame modifications, but the rear spring and differential towers needed a complete re-design to accommodate the larger Jaguar differential and the inboard braking system. It was a tight squeeze, but you can see we got it all in, and it even appears you will be able to change the brake pads from below without dropping the differential. Some body modifications will be necessary below the gas tank to allow for the increased height of the mounting bolts and the sway bar, but Brad was willing to modify the body to get the Jaguar differential in the car.

The Jag diff arrives in the shop, boy is it wide

Here it is after shot blasting

We noticed a few things after putting it in place on the TR6 jig with some representative frame members in place. The input shaft on the diff is 1 1/8" off center, although we believe it will still fit in the TR6 tunnel. The brake calipers overhang the frame slightly, so the diff will have to move down and aft to clear the frame rails.

The right and left calipers overhanging the rails

The trailing edge of the vertical tower interferes with the caliper, these will need to be modified

The first pass was to try to develop a bolt in bracket that would allow the diff to be removed from below and avoid any bodywork interference. The cardboard mockup is shown on our demo frame. This idea was later abandoned when we realized the sway bar could not fit below the mounting plate due to interference with the emergency brake mechanisms, it would need to go above the plate, about an inch into the trunk space below the gas tank.

Here's the cardboard template turned into steel. The diff is actually hanging from it's bracket. The standard sway bar has an upward bend in the center to clear the Nissan diff which served us well here. The mounting position of the sway bar needed to be moved upward which also required us to fabricate new brackets for mounting it as one of the bolts is now on top of the spring tower. I should mention the output shafts on the Jag diff are in exactly the same place as the original Triunph diff.

Here are the left and right vertical towers modified to provide clearance for the brake calipers.

Here's a view from the rear, showing that the aft edge of the spring tower also needed to be modified to provide clearance for the braking systems.

Here's the final installation with the diff bolted in, and the swaybar mounted with it's new brackets. The mounting system is very solid, and we provided some flexibility using a 1/16" rubber sheet between the diff and the tower, and then hard plastic T-bushings under the bolt heads. To prevent the bolts from vibrating out, we cross drilled the heads for safety wire which will keep them from unscrewing themselves.

We also had to modify the transmission bracket for the Toploader transmission. The toploader is several inches longer than the T5 and the bracket had to be lowered. Since this pushed the bracket farther back into a narrower area of the frame the overall width had to be reduced while maintaining the width at the bottom so the transmission mount would still fit. The side angles became much steeper. Good thing I always liked trigonometry.