AutoMemory #4 – Triumph Toledo XBN921L


At £400 it seemed a bargain – but it wasn’t. Far from it, considering the bits that had to be replaced, repaired, welded or patched. On the other hand, it wasn’t my money; Dad paid for it, being particularly keen that I didn’t follow in my brother’s footsteps into the biker fraternity. On the other hand, it did take a lot of my own money over the 18 months it lasted. On the other hand (whoops that’s three up to now) I learned an awful lot about maintaining cars, as did poor old Dad, who later admitted he lost a lot of sleep over my wreck.

I don’t recall losing sleep but my Toledo did, at various stages, lose oil, water, petrol and power. Amongst other things, we had to patch the petrol tank, repair a hole in the boot, replace all the brake drums and fill holes in four wheel arches. One day I tried to change a headlamp bulb and found the whole lamp unit coming away in my hand as the surrounding corroded metal crumbled to a pile of rust. Solution? A custom-made plate was fabricated courtesy of the workshop at Dad’s work and welded in place.

Naturally that wasn’t the last part of the bodywork to succumb. Both sills were replaced and treated with black bitumastic paint rather than trying to match the paint colour. And several of the structural box sections underneath needed welding – whereby hangs another fascinating Toledo tale.

In what, with hindsight, was clearly a pointless attempt to (literally) stop the rot, I had sprayed the underside with Waxoyl, a popular rust inhibitor at the time. You were also urged to spray it directly into the box sections, which I did. Waxoyl used white spirit as a solvent and on the day the car went to the welder’s it clearly hadn’t dried out. A spark from the welding torch set light to the white spirit causing, one presumes, a spectacular fire which fortunately was rapidly contained and didn’t reach the petrol tank. The bill, however, included a charge for the discharge of a fire extinguisher.

There was more, naturally. Recon starter motor, recon dynamo (not an alternator as far as I recall) and finally a recon gearbox which cost a massive £80 and lasted not much more than a few weeks. Its demise signalled that enough was finally enough and it was time to tow it to the scrapyard. I got all of thirty quid for it and kept the rear number plate as a souvenir. This was probably illegal, especially as someone actually put the thing back on the road.

And that, 30 years on, is my tale of motoring Triumph.