Rides from the Readers: 1959 Triumph TR3

1959 Triumph TR3 Glacier National Park 2004
Kurt Matter

Hagerty readers and Hagerty Drivers Club members share their cherished collector and enthusiast vehicles with us via our contact email, tips@hagerty.com. We’re showcasing some of our favorite stories among these submissions. To have your car featured, send complete photography and your story of ownership to the above email address.

Today’s featured car is a 1959 Triumph TR3, whose story was shared with us by Kurt Matters. The TR3 first belonged to Kurt’s brother Mark, who bought it in 1969. Mark had his heart set on an early MGTD, but the royal blue TR3 satisfied the basic criteria of nice-looking, British, and sports car. From road-tripping with their girlfriends to fixing roadside flats to sewing new seat covers on their mother’s sewing machine, the brothers shared many memories in the petite Brit.

In 1970, Mark was faced with a choice between college and the draft. He enlisted and sold the TR3 to his brother. On October 1 of that year, Mark was killed in Vietnam. Since then, despite a sequence of alternately improbable and disastrous events, Kurt has refused to give up on the TR3. Although he was forced to sell shortly before his brother’s passing, he scoured the classifieds until he found the TR3, which was then painted a “butt-ugly yellow, sitting on top of blocks, and leaking gas.” He paid to fix the TR3 and repaint it in its original blue.

1959 Triumph TR3 leaving wedding 1971
Kurt and Joanie Matter leaving their wedding in 1971, driving Mark’s TR3. Kurt Matter

The story hardly ends there. When the TR3 was stolen out of Kurt’s garage, he and his wife tracked the car to an impound lot, barely managing to rescue the now-abused Triumph from the crusher. When the clutch went out while Kurt and Joanie were on a road trip in southern California, they limped it back to L.A. “The only tricky part was toll booths,” Kurt writes.

1959 Triumph TR3 restoration
Kurt Matter

When the now-aging TR3 began to rust, as the couple drove it less frequently, Kurt patched it up with Bondo fiberglass and “a piece of steel that a wonder man made for me ‘until I could afford a new one.’ Still there!” When the TR3 collided with a deer at 55 mph—”the headlights were looking at each other, and the radiator cap was in between the SU cabs”—Kurt wrangled with the insurance company and refused to give up the treasured Triumph. Thanks to the Matters, the TR3 stayed on the road, taking them on anniversary trips and family visits across the United States.

Multiple restorations, cross-country treks, and grandchildren later, Mark’s TR3 is still in the Matter family—a family that will never, ever leave it behind.

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    I read your article about the Tr3. I sold my baby blue Tr3 when I was in the Navy in Corpus Christi Tx. I have always wondered what happened to it. I am curious if this might be the same vehicle. Do you have any more information about it? Where Kurt bought it, Vin number, other photos (particularly of the engine compartment? Please let me know Thanks Ken Latimer Santa Fe NM

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