In 1983 my wife Nancy and I were living with our two children in Austin, Texas. My duties as a professor and textbook author at the University of Texas, family life and church kept me very busy. One day Nancy told me about a sports car on a used-car lot near us; she wanted me to take a test drive because I had had a 1959 Triumph TR3A while in college during the 1960s and she thought I might be interested. I politely told her, "No, Honey, we don't need another car, especially with two young children and plenty to do already. And besides, where would we put it?"
Nancy persisted, so I took our son Will, 8, for a spin in the cute but rickety 1952 MG TD. We returned home, and Nancy wanted to know what I thought about it. I told her that an old English sports car was not very high on my list, and I thought that was the end of the deal. Little did I know that Nancy would start squirreling away money and enlist Will in her adventure.
Fast forward to my birthday in 2002, to be celebrated with my mother. When we drove into Mother's driveway, what should appear but Happy Birthday banners above a red 1959 Triumph TR3A like the one I had during college. I was stunned, but not too stunned to jump in the Triumph and drive it around the block. I remember thinking, "This car doesn't even pull to either side when braking." Other than that, it was as though I was driving my first TR, which I sold 37 years earlier.
In 1985 we moved to Waco, Texas, where I joined the faculty of Baylor University. As the story unfolded, I learned that our son Will, now 26, had decided it was time to "give Dad his Triumph." Will located the car in Titusville, Florida and with the help of a friend towed it back to Texas. My mother bought the car, and Nancy paid for the trip to Florida and back, hotels, towing, tax, title and insurance.
I named the TR3A "Willie" for our son Will and my mother Billie. When I received it, the car ran well but was a 20-footer. In 2003 I had Willie painted and took it to the White Rock Lake (Dallas) All-British Car Day. To my surprise Willie won 1st place among all Triumphs. That whet my appetite and over the years Willie has won many 1st place awards, including Participants' Choice at both Triumph Register of America and Vintage Triumph Register national meets. Most recently, Willie beat some stunning Ferraris, Rolls Royces, Jaguars, Porshes, and Healeys to win the Hagerty's Choice Foreign Vehicle award at Autos in the Park at the Cooper Aerobic Center in Dallas.
The Willie adventure spurred son Will to buy "Dubber," a 1959 Austin Healey 3000, which he later sold to me after towing it to Waco several times for repairs. We've also added "Perky," a 1967 MGB, and "Blue Bell," a 1965 Triumph TR4A, to round out the fleet. But Willie is still my favorite since he came as a surprise birthday gift and a serious trip down memory lane.