TESSA VITESSE : a triumph over design
And before the pain began Tessa was born in 1966 and started her life in British Colombia as a Vitesse saloon.. There she was purchased by a New Zealander. When he returned home he bought her back for a holiday and she served as reliable transport for many years. After that she a few little mechanical alterations. A Toyota 5 speed 18R gearbox was fitted with a couple of cuts to the chassis.A Nissan 180B diff head was fitted with two out of round spacers to the original axles. (this gave vibrations you would not believe!) The diff appears to have a similar layout to Triumph Vitesse diffs and had taken all side loadings to date without incident, she was obviously driven hard and although she broke axles, the diff took the pressure, however subsequent modifications (sliding splines) has removed side loadings altogether.She, at some stage, passed through a wire fence when she proved unable to pull up in time. (Nice bonnet creases!)

I didn't really start out looking for Tessa but saw her advertised in the Buy, Sell Exchange. She was very, very rough. She had a very tired 2000 motor. Her boot was full of broken axles. Every single part of her danced and rattled when we finally got her going, on her bald tyres. Not one panel was straight, but no rust, and all her badges were present. Love at first sight!

In view of her obvious drivetrain modifications it was decided not to restore her but to give her a rebuild instead. In the process, I rang all her previous owners and re discovered many of her original parts, which are stored in case I have a change of heart (unlikely in the extreme). I stripped her down to see how many cardboard boxes she would fit into. I actually had to cut the rear universals off as they had been welded on! Not surprising, as the bolt holes in the universals were elliptical rather than round.Most of the engineering was appalling. Then began the long slow haul. All panels were straightened, fishoilened and undersealed. The body was undersealed inside and out. Chassis boxed where it had been cut for the gearbox clearances. All undersealed. I wasn't as worried about additional weight as I was about the fearsome rattles and resonance I had experienced earlier, on the drive home.

She was sound deadened under all the carpets and bulkhead area. Her body has been kept stock and I used rubber mounts on the body. I filled in the accessory dashboard holes and re veneered to original specs. Door wood re-veneered to match dash. The rev counter did not operate, as the original cable drive distributor had been lost in the sands of time. I got the internals from a PI rev counter and had the face plate and needle from the 'Jaegar' unit installed to match the speedo. The gearbox cover had 2 inches cut longitudinally from the middle section, fibreglassed and re-carpeted. I did not keep the original front seats in the interests of my back health, so Vauxhall Chevette items were obtained and re coloured black, I chose these seats as the upholstery pleating is pretty close to Triumph standard.
A 2500 engine was reconditioned and given a massage in the interests of reliability and performance. The modifications were not extreme and consisted of balancing internals, lightening the flywheel, head had reshaped combustion chambers, ported, hardened inserts and a head plane (95 thou off) to get close to TR6 specs. Fast Road cam by Kelford Cams. (2nd cam fitted after first one was too mild) New Moss oil feed to the head and alloy spacers between the rockers. Valve springs uprated with alloy caps etc. Extractor exhaust imported from TriumphTune (Moss)in England. Lumentition ignition with electronic Honda coil was fitted to aid spark through the S type distributor. Induction is via 1.75 HS6 SU's. I used a Triumph 2.5 sump but put a crease through the bottom to bring the engine down over the rack and pinion, which was overhauled.

I finally did locate the original gearbox but kept the reliable strong Toyota unit.Had to make up a new spigot bush as the spigot 'floated' in the stock Triumph one with no support at all! I rebuilt the original rear suspension and brakes. I actually replaced all the universals with Triumph 2000 units (fit straight on), made up new spacers, looked at the crazy camber changes, and then stored it.
A new custom set-up was built to eliminate the camber problems inherent in Tessa's breed. I fabricated axles out of Triumph 2500 and Datsun units. The rear hubs are Datsun 180B which have been cut, reversed and modified to take the transverse spring. The mounting plate for the 180B differential was cast at Woolston Foundry, 11 Wickham Street. I ordered a mould of this plate which is kept there, for anybody who also wants to order one. We called it a "Triumph Diff Plate" (original thinking!) if you want one. The original mounting rubbers fit in the housing. The spring plate has to be fabricated and welds on top of the diff, with a front mounting plate fabricated out of 8mm steel to mount it to the original mounting holes on the chassis. (See details for this plate) You need to shorten your driveshaft but the mounting bolt holes on the universals match up to the Nissan diff.

Final drive at this time is 3.7:1. She has the torque to handle an even higher cruising ratio if wanted.

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Rubbing multi hues off her, colour coats on

Final Product

FIRST SYSTEM (but not used) - 2000 universals,
Datsun diff, Vitesse axles with spacers.