Cars, facts about cars, opinions about cars, experiences of cars have been an obsession as far back as I can remember. I am without doubt a "petrolhead".
When I passed my test in 1999 in my mothers Volvo 360, I worked and worked, and with excruciatingly slow passage of months, it was time to choose a car for myself.
Discussions and study led me towards a classic. My friends Novas and Renault 5s were horribly built, with buzzy one litre engines and no sex appeal.
I settled on a 1979 maroon Triumph Dolomite 1500HL. It saw me through an aerospace engineering apprenticeship, surfing every weekend, gigs, teenage love, it was there for me. That sweeping roofline, those rear wheel arch flashes, those twin SUs. It was so beautiful. It was love. Sadly like most teenage first cars, it passed away in a crash. I replaced it with a Sprint, and then with a 2500s in 2001.
Then came a VW phase, a Japanese phase, a v8 phase.
But I always wanted another Triumph. There were many fantasy projects. How about a two door 2500? How about a Dolomite with a rover v8? A two door Toledo pocket muscle car?
The two door Toledo idea wouldn't go away. The lines of the two door were so much taughter, more sporting, lighter. I always kept my eye open. Even lost a deposit on one which turned out to be not as advertised. Maybe some day.
These idle thoughts waited as life continued on. I moved to London. Got married. Moved to Tanzania, then India. Settled in Finland. Got heavily into old motorbikes. Last year we bought a house, with a three car garage and plenty of land. Finally, I'd never have to sell a car again if I didn't want to.
My affordable fantasy garage preoccupied my thoughts. Clio Williams? Fiat 124 coupe? 106 Rallye? I settled my focus on a Lancia Fulvia Rallye. None available in Finland of course. Corona dragged on. How could I get to Italy to buy a Fulvia?
Then one day I idly checked an online market website, not one of my usual car listing pages. Two door Toledo for sale, good working order.
One fifth the price of a Fulvia, potentially just as pretty, just as interesting and available whenever I could scrounge a trailer. The roads are still covered in ice and snow here, so I wouldn't risk an unknown car on a 4 hour journey in -20C.
Four days later it was nestled cosy and warm in my heated garage. Paintwork scabby and poorly repaired all over the car, but mechanically like new and carefully repaired underneath by a very nice old boy over a period of three years.
I'm so happy with this car. It will need a lot of work to get it as I like it, but I have time and space. I shall enjoy it as it is for the next year or so before it gets stripped down and rebuilt completely. This winter I have also been building a 78 BMW R100RS into a Cafe Racer so that's been taking all my time and budget, but it should be finished in time for spring.
In Finland, our winter is from October to March or April, so we use this time to work on our projects ready for next summer. Summers we use for building projects or outside stuff. So we are always busy, especially with an old wooden house to renovate!
The Toledo is by no means perfect, so for the purists, it will not be a travesty to modify it. It is made a little bit trickier in Finland by quite restrictive rules on what you are legally allowed to do to modify a car. Cars of a certain age qualify to be 'Museum Registered' this entitles you to no tax and very cheap insurance. However you have to keep the car original. So I will keep it original for a year or two before taking it off the register to repair and repaint the shell, and fit all the modifications in one go. This will give me time to save for the parts I will need.
The plan is to build it into a period road/race style car. I would say almost a four wheeled version of a Cafe Racer, with the focus on light weight, power and period style modifications. I will be going for the following:
Depending on Registry restrictions, motor-wise it will be either:
Rebuilding the standard 1500 with lightened internals, head work, twin 1.25 SU's and a four branch manifold, or
Fitting a 2.0 from a Sprint or a TR7
Either 5 speed box or four with O/D
Sprint rear axle
Gaz adjustables all round
Sprint springs on the front
Dolomite grill conversion
Trackerjack front discs and hubs
Sprint wheels (not settled on this just yet. I'd ideally like something more like the Alfa 105 Campags)
Solid rack mounts
Polybushing as and where
Stripped interior with period buckets
Dolomite dash with rev counter
Colour-wise, she will stay close to the same. It's currently a blue with a slight green/grey shade to it, most close to BMC Persian Blue. Not sure if the colour is original, faded, completely random but it looks period and I like it so it will get resprayed close to the same shade. It will have 60's style white roundels on the doors and bonnet. Rear panel will be black. Interior will be relatively bare and painted the same olive as Spitfire etc cockpits. Wheels silver. Tempted to go half cage and harnesses, but I'd like to take three passengers so probably won't go that far.
So that's the back story as to why I am here, the plan, and the timescale.
I will slowly be collecting the parts as and when I have the budget. Of course now, for every Triumph owner on the continent, the price of parts has just skyrocketed. Import duty here in Finland is especially high.
According to the Traffi Finnish registry, this is the only Toledo on the road in Finland, and there is only one Dolomite, so locally sourcing used parts may be a challenge!
If any of you lovely people have any of the above and are willing to stick it on a pallet once I have some savings, please let me know. Or generally, any advice, or if you have questions or just want to say hi, I would welcome that! I will be around, and more and more when next autumn drives me indoors. Best wishes to you all from snowy Finland!