Rumblings, June 1959

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Two Bright Parties

Some time ago the Standard Motor Company of Coventry threw two parties which were sufficiently out of the common rut to be remembered, and which confirm our opinion that someone at Canley has brightened things up in no mean manner — witness the refreshingly new features of the Triumph Herald, which is a Standard production.

The first party we attended began at London Airport rather early on a Saturday morning, when 70 American visitors arrived from New York, per B.O.A.C., to take delivery of 36 Triumph TR3 sports cars. Such parties have been arranged before by the Standard Company — the idea being that these American members of the Triumph Sports Owners’ Association come to England, take a 4,000-mile European tour in the care of the Standard Company, ably assisted by representatives of B.P., after which they fly back to the States, the TRs following by sea transport. As a matter of fact, this scheme is in its third year and two further groups of T.S.O.A. members will repeat the process later this year.

On the occasion of which we are writing, the American TR enthusiasts drove in convoy, with an R.A.C. motor-cycle escort, to the R.A.C. Country Club at Woodcote Park. Epsom. Here they were entertained to lunch with Lord Tedder, Chairman of Standard/ Triumph, as host. It came out that the oldest visitor was a young sportsman of 68, Lord Tedder’s remarks were very well received and he was followed by Mr. M. Whitfield, General Sales Director of Standard, who told, we thought, a good and appropriate story. It went thus. On his first experience of American airline travel he was scarcely seated when the American next to him shook hands and announced: “My name is Joe Smith. I am 45. I am married. I live with my wife. We have three children. I am a canned-food salesman. I earn 20,000 dollars a year.” Mr. Whitfield was completely bowled over at this effusion of a stranger but decided not to be backward when next he flew with Americans. On next entering an airliner he turned to the person in the next seat, shook hands, and said: “My name is Whitfield. I am married,” etc., etc., concluding, “I am Sales Director of the Standard Motor Co. of Coventry, England. I earn one million dollars a year.” This, said Mr. Whitfield, caused a long silence from his new-found companion and for the rest of the journey he was addressed as “Sir.” And, as he reminded us, in England you are seldom paid what you earn! (To which Lord Tedder caused much laughter by rising to remark that he had made a note of this.)

The Americans showed considerable interest in beautiful Woodcote Park, which, incidentally, was originally part of the possessions of the great Abbey of Chertsey, said to have been founded as early as A.D. 666. At the time of William the Conqueror, it is stated in the Doomsday Book that the arable land held by the Abbey of Chertsey in the Hundred of Copendorne (Copthorne), in which Woodcote Park is included, consisted of seventeen Corrucates, a Corrucate being as much land “as could be tilled with one plough and the beats belonging thereto in one year, together with meadow, pasture and houses for householders and cattle.” About the middle of the seventeenth century, the estate passed into the hands of Richard Evelyn, brother of John Evelyn, the famous diarist, and uncle of Lord Baltimore, who founded Maryland. Richard Evelyn built the mansion that stood on the site until it was destroyed by fire in 1934. From this time, too, dates an interesting archaeological curio, the underground ice-house which is beneath the upper lawn, and was connected by a passageway leading to the basement of the original mansion. It is interesting to note that John Evelyn records in his diary that he had seen such ice-houses in Italy on the occasion of his visit to that country in 1645, and therefore it is highly prohable that he told his brother how to construct one at Woodcote Park. This old-time “refrigerator” is completely below ground. It is constructed of red brick and the lower part (in which broken ice was stored) is in the shape of an inverted and truncated cone, having a diameter of nine feet and a depth of over ten feet. The floor is pierced with one-inch holes for draining purposes, and a drain runs to the 50 feet deep soakaway, some 12 feet farther along the passage. The upper part of the ice-chamber is also circular in plan; the side walls are five feet high, covered by a domed roof, and in this section the meat, game and wines were stored during the summer months, access from the passage being through a three-feet wall with double doors. When Woodcote Park was purchased by the R.A.C. in 1913, a quantity of rare and valuable oak panelling was removed from the mansion and sent to the Boston Museum, U.S.A. After Evelyn’s mansion had been destroyed, the present building was erected in 1936 on the same site. The front is almost an exact copy of the old mansion and even the brickwork is the same unusual 2-in. The only remaining parts of the old building are the front steps, the arches and balustrading and the two wing buildings. The ornamental stonework of the front door and ground-floor windows was taken from the ruins, carefully marked, and re-erected in its original position as the new Club House was built.

After lunch the 36 gleaming English-registered Triumphs left for Folkestone, and on the Sunday started on their tour of France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland.

We were interested to find that of these three dozen TR3s, just over half — 19, in fact — had been supplied with Michelin “X” tyres at the request of the customers, the rest being on Dunlop “Gold Seal,” some white-walled. About four of the cars had hard-tops.

*

Having seen the American sports-car enthusiasts on their way, we attended another Standard/Triumph party a couple of days later, this one at London’s Mayfair Hotel, to preview the sensational new Triumph Herald. On this occasion we left home, 36 miles from London, at 9.15 a.m. and got to the Mayfair at 11.40 a.m., hardly a tribute to the new Cromwell Road extension, on which we, in company with hundreds of other motorists, were stationary at the Hammersmith roundabout for about half-an-hour, or to parking facilities in the region of Berkeley Square.

Now what happened in the Mayfair ballroom may be dismissed by some people in a single unsavoury word redolent of military contempt, but the fact is it was slick publicity by the standards of the Space Age.

After a brief address by Lord Tedder and a longer one by Standard/Triumph Managing Director Alick S. Dick, girl heralds, all eyes on their long legs clad in net stockings, walked across the room and removed the covers from a Herald saloon and a Herald coupe. From these startlingly-new cars emerged men and model-girl passengers who had apparently been sitting in the cars under the covers for nearly an hour!

Next, the head apprentice was introduced to the assembled journalists and he explained the constructional simplicity of the Herald bodywork, whereupon curtains were drawn back to reveal a coupe chassis and four Standard apprentices. These lads then proceeded to assemble the coupe body and fit a battery, the job being completed in less than 4½ minutes. The head apprentice then remarked that he proposed to take his girl-friend for a ride. The model-girl who had emerged from the saloon entered this freshly-assembled coupe, which was rotated on a turntable, the driver got in, the engine was started, and the Herald drove down a ramp, across the ballroom, and out through the doors — and off to the coast, for shipment to Brussels to make its debut on the morrow at the opening of the European Common Market . . .

Later a colour-film was shown which emphasised the severe testing the two Heralds which were driven from Cape Town to Coventry via the Sahara Desert had undergone. This endurance run was the more impressive because none of the factory personnel who formed the crews had been out of England previously. At this preview of the Triumph Herald many of those directly responsible for this revolutionary new British small car were present, including Mr. M. J. Tustin, Director and General Manager, Mr. Harry G. Webster, Standard’s Director of Engineering, and Michelotti, the Vignale stylist responsible for the Herald’s bodywork.

Clearly, someone has infused much new life-blood into the Banner Lane concern!

In the past Triumph made good but by no means outstanding cars until the advent of the sports TR, although the early Super Seven and Fifteen used hydraulic brakes earlier than others, while the Super Seven boasted a three-bearing crankshaft and was raced in the Ulster T.T. in supercharged sports form, and at Brooklands by Victor Horsman. Standard built good solid Edwardian tourers, followed by a successful light car and quietly-stylish touring cars and saloons in vintage days. They retrieved a slump with the hastily-designed Standard Nine worm-drive model, some examples of which are still encountered on the road, often in surprisingly sound condition. More ambitious Nines, Tens and Twelves, etc., followed, succeeded after the war by the rugged Eight and Ten and all-purpose Vanguard. But it is with the Triumph Herald that really new ground has been broken.

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