Jamaican Me Crazy
Every so often I buy a project car that I know will be more work than worth, but the “rescuer” in me takes over. Recently I acquired a “re-bodied” 1957 Triumph TR3. It was re-bodied in 1971 with a fiberglass Fiberfab Jamaican I body shell over the original TR frame and drive-train.
The Corvette was introduced in the 1950’s as the first production fiberglass bodied car. This unique body building material sparked a trend with car enthusiasts to convert their sports cars from steel bodied cars to light weight fiberglass cars. Some were custom built one-off cars, but most of the bodies were supplied by small manufactures, often located in car-crazy California.
One of those manufacturers was Fiberfab. Fiberfab built several bodies, but the one considered the most attractive was the Jamaican, based on the Lamborghini Miura. The name Jamaican is surprisingly not derived from the country of Jamaica. The co-owner of Fiberfab had married a woman named Jamaica Elwood, and he named the car after her.
I have been aware of the Jamaican for a long time. There is a man in Deland who collects them; several years ago I purchased some Triumph TR4 rims from him and he gave me an education on the cars. For me, the most intriguing thing about the Jamaican I (there is also a Jamaican II) was that they were all placed on British sports cars, Austin Healeys, Triumphs or MGAs. I love old British sports cars and know them well.
After learning about the Jamaican, I started to watch for the car on Craigslist, Ebay, etc. I noticed one a few years ago in Kathleen, near Lakeland. I went and looked at the car, but the original engine was missing so I passed. There was also one recently in north Florida but it was sold before I could make the trip to view it. So when I saw one recently listed in Melbourne, I jumped on the phone and bought the car sight unseen.
That impulse may end up being a mistake, but the existing owner was a Triumph collector and assured me that the car was complete, sans the rear window. One thing interesting about these cars is that except for the body shell, every component is “off the shelf.” The window glass, door components, lights, etc. are all available, and of course the entire drive-train, frame and electronics are Triumph.
So far the car has been behaving well. I found a replacement for the missing rear window glass. Even though the car has been sitting for 30 years, I was able to free the brakes and get the engine to turn over. I’m now planning to replace the points, rebuild the carbs and throw in some new sparkplugs. I’m hoping the engine will eventually start. If she continues to behave, I’ll move onto hydraulics and some rust repair.