Tuesday 29 September 2015


Last month we visited the prolific motoring historian Graham Robson, at his home in deepest Dorset. Here is a trailer of the interview we recorded ...

In 1965, Colin Chapman persuaded Ford to underwrite development of a V8 for the new 3000cc Grand Prix formula. Built by Cosworth, the new DFV engine won Lotus four World Championship Grands Prix in 1967. A year later, and now available to other constructors, the engine began its domination of Grand Prix racing.

This book is based on a concept placed with Veloce by Anthony Pritchard shortly before his death in 2013. Graham Robson has written a detailed and superbly illustrated account of the Formula 1 cars powered by the Ford DFV V8 engine. This all-conquering power unit was the result of discussions between Colin Chapman, boss of the Lotus car company, and the UK Ford Motor Company. Design, development and manufacture was entrusted to the Cosworth company in Northampton, in response to Lotus' desperate need for an engine for the 3000cc Formula 1 regulations that came into force for 1966. Lotus had exclusive use of the DFV in 1967, its first season, when Jim Clark drove the DFV-powered Lotus 49 to four World Championship victories.
     Becoming available to other Formula 1 teams in 1968, adopters included McLaren and Matra. Graham Hill won the Drivers' Championship with DFV-powered Lotus cars in 1968, and drivers of DFV-powered cars won the Championship in 13 out of 16 years. Year by year, the power of the DFV engine increased; new companies were set up to overhaul the DFV; and engines prepared by these companies were more powerful than those emanating from the factory.
     Robson's narrative starts with a look at Ford's strategy of entering F1, a description of the design and development of this engine, and details the successes – and failures – of every Formula 1 car powered by the DFV engine. During these years the only manufacturer to successfully challenge DFV power was Ferrari, with drivers Lauda and Scheckter winning the Drivers' Championship on three occasions. Because the DFV later gave rise to successful derivatives, such as the turbocharged DFX, and the DFY, DFZ and DFR evolutions, these are also analysed.
This important book is illustrated with more than 300 photographs, most of which come from the UK Ford Motor Company’s own archives.

Graham Robson is one of the most experienced, prolific and versatile motoring historians in the world, and is recognised as one of the authorities on anything concerning Ford in motorsport. He watched his first F1 GP – at Aintree – in 1955, and has never lost touch with the cars, the technical trends, and – most importantly – the personalities connected with placing Ford, and Cosworth, at the pinnacle of F1. He was close to Cosworth, both as a working historian, and as a personal friend of the company's senior personalities, throughout the lengthy period covered by the DFV – and considers it an honour to have been entrusted with the compilation of this amazing story.

Grand Prix Ford – Ford, Cosworth and the DFV by Graham Robson is published next month. Click here for more information about the book.

Monday 21 September 2015


Chris Carter has been a journalist, broadcaster, commentator and friend of the star names of international motorcycle sport for more than 60 years.

We asked Chris a few questions about his career ahead of the publication of his forthcoming book.

High/low points of your career?

My good friend, former Motocross World Champion, Jeff Smith, told me over half a century ago that he was a very fortunate man, because he was paid to do his hobby. He was right.

People have paid me for over 60 years to travel the world and watch the world’s top motorcycle competitors in action. Fans would have had to spend a fortune to do just a small amount of what I have done.

The high points have been witnessing the triumphs of my many friends in different branches of the sport. The lows have been the heartbreaks and tears those friends and their families have suffered over the years. Road racing, in particular, can be a very cruel sport.

Best rider/race featured in the book?

It is so difficult to compare competitors in different eras. Road racing has had Geoff Duke, Mike Hailwood, Jarno Saarinen, Kenny Roberts, Valentino Rossi and now Marc Martinez. They raced at different times, on different bikes against different opposition.

It’s the same in motocross. Jeff Smith, Dave Bickers, Joel Robert, Roger de Coster, Graham Noyce, Ricky Johnson, Stefan Everts, Jeremy McGrath and Ricky Carmichael were supreme at times.

Who was the best? You take your pick.

The best race? I have seen thousands, ranging from club races to GPs. Impossible to pick any out.

Best/worst travel experiences?

Easily the worst trip I ever made was my first trip to Macau in the mid-70s. The Pan Am flight was cancelled and we all had to return to Heathrow 24 hours later.

The plane landed at Frankfurt, and we were kept on board for four hours before being allowed back in the terminal. After another four hours, we took off for Hong Kong. On arrival, however, we found we had missed our jet foil, and had to take the slow ferry to Macau.

At the hotel everyone in the group was allocated a room … except me and French road racer Bernard Fau. “Very sorry. All rooms gone,” said the elderly, Chinese night porter. But when Bernard and I grabbed him by his shirt and lifted him bodily over the counter, he suddenly remembered one!

The whole nightmare took well over 24 hours from leaving Heathrow. The flight was Pan Am 004 – renamed Pan Am 007, and definitely licensed to kill!

Many years later, a first class trip with Emirates to Hong Kong and then on to Thailand was easily the best.

Several people come in for a bit of a drubbing (eg Barry Sheene) – was the book an opportunity to get things off your chest?

There are many Barry Sheene fans, some of whom will not agree with what I have written, but that’s just tough. Sometimes you discover another side of someone’s character when you get to know them well.

I criticize other riders, too. Maybe it is a case of getting things off my chest, but perhaps it is more taking the opportunity to telling the truth.

Having done print, radio and TV work, which would you say was your preferred medium?

TV can give you an audience of millions, but for me all the radio work I did with the BBC was the most rewarding. The listener, perhaps out driving his car, cannot see anything. Your skill with words will give them the story, or not.

You must talk all the time. If people are flicking through stations and find silence they will move on!

The book largely concerns incidents from your professional life – was it by design or coincidence that you omitted more personal anecdotes?

Motorcycle sport is my life. The stories, all of them, are personal.

Do you still follow motorcycle racing? Who are the ones to watch?

I am still very much a racing fan.

No one is indispensable, and that is particularly true in motorcycle sport. Superstars come and go, but there is always someone to replace them. The Italian, Marc Martinez, has been a breath of fresh air in the sport, but Valentino Rossi, now a veteran of 36 years of age can still beat him.

Watch out for the young British crop: Danny Kent, Bradley Smith, Scott Redding and the Lowes twins, Sam and Alex. 

Any regrets?

No regrets at all. I have had the good fortune to have be on the inside for many, many years. I have had all the excitement, but none of the danger.

This book is a wonderful collection of anecdotes – some tragic, but mostly humorous – documenting Chris Carter’s fascinating and unique life spent at the heart of motorcycle sport.

Chris Carter at Large – Stories from a lifetime in motorcycle racing by Chris Carter and Richard Skelton is published next month. Click here for more information about the book.

Wednesday 16 September 2015


She may have famously sung “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz”, but legendary singer Janis Joplin personally drove an unmistakably wild 1965 Porsche 365C 1600 Cabriolet. This December, Joplin’s iconic Porsche will be offered as a star attraction at RM Sotheby’s exclusive Driven by Disruption sale in New York City – just in time for the holidays!

“Janis Joplin’s 356C is without question one of the most important Porsches of all time,” says Ian Kelleher, Managing Director of RM Sotheby’s West Coast Division. “It’s a fantastic automobile that transcends art, pop culture and social movements, and is as groundbreaking and stunning as the renowned singer was herself.”

Joplin purchased the Porsche in September 1968 and decided that the original Pearl White finish was slightly too conservative for the Queen of Rock and Roll. She engaged Dave Richards, a friend and roadie with her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, to customize the car with a kaleidoscopic mural. Described by Richards to represent ‘The History of the Universe’, the dramatic artwork included such graphics as butterflies and jellyfish, as well as a portrait of Joplin with members of the band. The finished product was as colorful as the singer’s personality and certainly representative of the era - a one-of-a-kind flamboyant symbol of San Francisco’s psychedelic rock age. The car quickly became identified with Joplin, who was frequently seen driving it in period.

As Janis’s sister and biographer, Laura Joplin recalls, “Janis drove the car everywhere, all around San Francisco and down to Los Angeles when she was recording there. Wherever Janis went in the car, her fans recognized it. When she parked it and returned, there was always at least one fan note under the wipers.”

Following Joplin’s untimely death in 1970, the Porsche has remained in her family’s ownership, and was enjoyed by her manager, Albert Grossman, who drove it for several years, lending it to visiting family and friends. By the early 1990s, the car was treated to a meticulous restoration, preserving the integrity of the Porsche and presenting the car precisely as it was customized in period.

The Janis Joplin Porsche went on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 1995, where it remained a permanent and popular display up until this week. Offered for sale by the Joplin Family, it is expected to bring in excess of $400,000 when it crosses RM Sotheby’s New York podium in December.

Michael Joplin comments, “Besides Janis's music and legacy, her Porsche is the most visual and important piece of memorabilia that exists. Like most people and their car of choice, her Porsche is a direct link to Janis. She drove it everywhere - and with everyone that was anyone in the San Francisco music scene - with the top down and her feathers flying. Her music, life and car are a part of rock and roll history.”

Kelleher adds, “As a titan of the creative movement of the late 1960s, Janis Joplin remains one of the music industry’s brightest stars. It is an honor to be working with her family in the sale of this magnificent Porsche and even more so to have the opportunity to showcase such an important woman’s ownership of a classic car.”

The Joplin Porsche will be joined at RM Sotheby’s December 10 sale by a carefully curated selection of some 30 creatively-styled and pioneering motor cars, and select automotive-themed artwork. The second iteration of the company’s Art of the Automobile event, the December auction has been entitled Driven by Disruption. Much like the Porsche’s groundbreaking artwork, each of the cars in the auction showcases the extremes of motoring history and the molds that were broken by engineers and designers in pushing the automotive envelope. Previously slated for November, the new December date was strategically chosen to coincide with one of the most spectacular times of the year in New York City.

“Whether it be a stunningly beautiful coachbuilt automobile, a wild, untraditional design, or a marvel of high performance engineering, the auction will present cars that break with the conventional morals of car design and production. We are delighted to showcase this exhibit during a time in New York that is truly magical,” states Kelleher.

The new sale date is perfectly suited to the tastes and interests of RM’s collector car clients, providing opportunity for them to not only spend a few days in New York during the electric holiday season, but to also enjoy other events taking place during the same period, including Sotheby’s Important Watches and Magnificent Jewels sales. As a prelude to the Driven by Disruption sale, an exclusive six-day exhibition will open over the weekend of December 5 in Sotheby’s 10th floor galleries.

More information: RM Sotheby's

Available from Veloce!
The Book of the Porsche 356
by Brian Long.

The story of the most successful sports car manufacturers first car, detailing the full and fascinating story of the Porsche 356 and the racing and rallying cars which sprang from it. With over 240 pictures and extensive, well researched text, this book is a must for any Porsche fanatic. More info.

Friday 11 September 2015


Industrial Espionage, Nazis And Air-Cooled Engines: The Tale Of Tatra – a new video by XCAR, featuring the author of our forthcoming book on Tatra.

Coming soon from Veloce! Tatra – The Legacy of Hans Ledwinka by Ivan Margolius & John G Henry.

Hans Ledwinka’s innovative Tatra cars were models of design excellence, and, prior to the Second World War, were highly influential in shaping what was to become modern car design concepts and the development of Volkswagen. This book at long last places Ledwinka in his well-deserved place amongst the great car designers.
This enlarged 2nd edition contains updated material and additional illustration. More info.

Here is the MUST SEE Tatra advert, mentioned in the interview ...

Tuesday 8 September 2015


Watch the official trailer for an exciting new project set to be released on the Superprix's 30th anniversary next year.

From 1986 to 1990, Birmingham City staged a street race every August Bank Holiday weekend.

It took over 20 years to develop, support and plan the event prior to the inaugural year in 1986, with involvement and backing from Bernie Ecclestone, Sir Jackie Stewart, Sir Stirling Moss, and Nigel Mansell, and with rising stars such as Damon Hill, Jean Alesi, Mika Hakkinen and Martin Brundle all charging around the city streets in their earlier, pre-formula one careers.

To this date, Birmingham is the only city in the UK to be able to stage such an event, having a government approved Road Race Bill passed especially for the Superprix.

80,000 spectators would arrive for the august bank holiday weekend in the heart of the city, gathering to see the action from formulas such as F3000, British Touring Car Championship, TVR Tuscan's, Formula Ford 1600 and many more.

This documentary will cover the intricate, vast details from the local sources that have fond memories of the event, right through to the organisation of the officials who made the Superprix a reality, in order to relay to a new generation what the city and its people achieved through what some saw as the impossible.

The Birmingham Superprix Film team are inviting donations of photos/films/memorablia or interest in being interviewed for the film.
Email here.

Available from Veloce! Superprix – The Story of Birmingham’s Motor Race
By SS Collins & David Page

The story of Superprix, Birmingham’s very own road race – the subject of much controversy amongst residents of the city, politicians' and race fans alike. More info.

Wednesday 2 September 2015


Peter Grist has written three books for Veloce, and his biography of automotive designer Virgil Exner is reprinted later this month.

Peter Grist is regarded as one of the world’s most knowledgeable figures in American automotive history circles, and, in particular, the Chrysler Corporation. With four books on the subject already published it would be easy to assume that he is a homebred American, but Peter was actually born on a council estate in West London in 1964.
     At the tender age of 16 Peter joined the Army as a Junior Leader, which is where he first learnt to drive. By the end of his tenure, over a decade later, he had progressed to HGV1 class vehicles and was a unit driving instructor. His love of 1950s music led him into buying his first classic car while based in Bicester, Oxfordshire, a 1961 Ford Consul 375 featuring 50's styling. The Consul was restored and became an award winner, and was taken to Germany on Peter's next posting. The Ford was then traded up for a 1955 Buick Century, the first of many American cars that became part of the Grist family over the years.

On leaving the Army in the early nineties, Peter moved away from London and settled his family in Southampton on the South Coast of England, purchasing his first Mopar car, a 1959 DeSoto Firesweep at the same time. This car would be the catalyst for his writing career. As with most owners of older cars, Peter wanted to join the national club for his car's marque to learn more about his kind of car, and to communicate with like-minded enthusiasts. Sadly, a club for Chrysler vehicles didn’t exist; only a hand-written fanzine from an enthusiast’s register could be found. Peter joined this register and began writing of his experiences in restoring his car, and the trips he made in it. This led to Peter taking control of the fanzine and creating The Chrysler Corporation Club UK and its monthly publication TalkFlite. With help from his wife, Peter ran the club virtually single-handed for more than a decade, honing his skills as a writer and broadening his knowledge base. This led to writing articles for high street magazines including Classic American, Old Car World and others.
     Peter was approached by a publishing company, and asked if he would consider writing a book on an American automotive subject to coincide with the launch of that company’s American office. Peter accepted and created Dodge, The Performance Cars, a hardback, black and white, book that offered a potted history of Dodge and then every performance vehicle built by Dodge over the next 50 years.
     Peter continued to write for TalkFlite and other magazines whilst training as a DoT (Department of Transport) driving instructor, which eventually became his full-time occupation. He is now an advanced driving instructor working for a Hampshire-based charity.
     His love of American cars was only just beginning and, over the years, Peter has owned a 1967 Dodge 440, a Jeep Cherokee, Dodge Neon R/T, Chrysler Voyager, Shelby Charger and a Dodge Stealth R/T amongst others. Currently in his garage at home is a WW2 Willys Jeep which he is restoring.
     On the writing side Peter has let the historical books simmer on the back burner so as to finish his first novel, Flashback, which is due to be published late 2015, but he has already started writing the history of the Chrysler Corporation’s Forward Look. Peter still lives in Southampton with his wife, Catherine, and two of his three children.

Virgil Exner – Visioneer: The official biography of Virgil M Exner, designer extraordinaire (Paperback edition) by Peter Grist is published later this month. Click here for more information about the book.


Special thanks to Triumph Owners Motorcycle Club for allowing us to use this article from the August 2015 edition of Nacelle.

As Triumph are building up to celebrating 25 years of producing motorcycles in the Hinckley factory in Leicestershire; if it hadn't been for the action taken by a dedicated workforce over 40 years ago, that celebration may never had been able to happen. Here is a story of those intervening years written by Nick Swain of the Berkshire Branch, with thanks to John Rosamond.

On the 14 September 1973, Dennis Poore the Managing Director of Norton Villiers Triumph (NVT) made his first ever visit to the Triumph factory in Meriden, and announced that the factory would be closing in stages with the loss of all 1700 jobs. He then left, refusing to answer questions, saying he had an urgent meeting in London; leaving behind a stunned group of factory workers. It looked as if Triumph's 71 year history as a motorcycle manufacturer was finally over. But it was not. The next few years were to be the most extraordinary in Triumph's eventful history. The Triumph workers took over the factory, eventually bought it off NVT, and formed a successful co-operative, which continued to develop and manufacture the legendary Bonneville motorbike against all the odds for nearly another eight years. John Rosamond was at the epicentre of the action during that period as the second and final Chairman of the Meriden Co-op. He later went on to become the General Manager of the new Triumph Motorcycle Company when John Bloor bought the Triumph intellectual property rights in late 1983.
     John Rosamond came to the TOMCC Berkshire Branch earlier this year and gave a personal inside account of the Meriden Co-op. Like many of the Branch members, I knew the outline of the Co-op story, but it was a privilege to be able to hear about it in detail from someone who had been in such a key role through all its up and downs. John came to our regular Thursday club night at the Burghfield Community and Sports Association (BCSA) Hall and more than 40 members turned out to listen to him and ask questions. A buffet meal had been laid on, so John split his talk into three sections allowing intervals for members to help themselves to food or get drinks from the bar. There were a lot of questions from the floor to which John was able to give answers from his personal experience.
He started his talk by putting the Co-op into its historical context, recounting the background leading up to Poore's dramatic announcement. Motorcycle design at Triumph he explained, had always been carried out at the Meriden factory since they moved there during the war. As John put it "The beating heart of any motorcycle company is the engineering design and development function". But by 1970, when he joined Triumph Engineering, their owners the BSA Group, had decided to centralise all Group design activities at Umberslade Hall, Hockley Heath, Birmingham. This design group according to John "had about 300 highly qualified engineers. The majority however, sadly lacking any experience of motorcycles."

They decided to design a new mass producible, all welded frame for the best­selling Bonneville and Trophy models designated the P39. The new frame was intended to be stiffer and stronger, to give better handling, with the hollow main tube section large enough in diameter to hold all the engine oil, thereby eliminating the need for the separate oil tank that Bonneville and Trophy models had previously had on their hearth brazed frames.
     To manufacture the new P39 frame Triumph needed to recruit 40 MIG welders, and that is how John came to join the Triumph Engineering Company. But on his first day, he was surprised to see all the welders sitting around with no work to do. The vital design drawings for the manufacture of the new frame, welding jigs and fixtures were already three months late with a rumoured 1200 (approx.) late design modifications still taking place.
Faced with this production delay, the rest of the factory had been kept busy producing a whole year's production of the 5oocc Daytona models, as these did not use the new P39 frame. Also a huge stockpile of Bonneville and Trophy engines had continued to be built to the 1970/71 production schedules in readiness to go into the new frames as soon as they were built. Meanwhile the days and weeks were slipping by, until it looked certain that Triumph would miss that all important North American spring and early summer very seasonal market window; when the majority of bikes were sold.
     Eventually the P39 frame drawings were delivered to the factory and once the jigs and fixtures became available, the welders were able to produce their first production frame. As the frame was also to act as the oil tank it was important it did not leak; so all P39 frames were completely immersed in a tank of water and pressure tested to 50 PSI with compressed air. The resulting torrent of bubbles from the first frame produced showed it had a major problem; it leaked like a sieve! The factory MIG welding team set about solving the problem and soon developed a welding technique that enabled leak-proof frames to be produced consistently. Unfortunately there were to be further problems. Incredibly, after all the months of delay and design changes, and despite the frame having been specifically designed for the Bonneville/Trophy engines, it was found that the engine would not fit without removing the rocker boxes and cylinder head!
Mindful of the fact that by now there were thousands of engines stockpiled around the factory, the remaining Meriden factory Design and Development team led by Bert Hopwood and Doug Hele, modified the cylinder head and rocker box fasteners to enable the engines to be fitted minus the cylinder head and rocker boxes. These were then fitted after the engine was in the frame; however yet more problems were to surface. Once the first bike was built, it became clear that the seat height had increased by around 3 inches, meaning only the tallest of riders would be able to touch the ground with their feet. As a stop-gap measure and before yet more fundamental changes to the frame design were implemented, alterations were made to the seat padding and nose of the seat. The downside being that by the time these problems had finally been sorted; even more time had been lost.
     A valiant effort was made by the Frame Section workers in an attempt to pull back lost time. In one mighty week of 60 hours on both the night and day shift working, 1460 P39 frames were manufactured. The rest of the Meriden workforce downstream of the frame section also started to work those long hours. Inevitably these production problems impacted the financial performance of Triumph Engineering and had a knock-on effect on the BSA Group's bottom line. With 75% of Triumph's annual production normally destined for the US market, missing out on the critical US early season motorcycle sales had a huge impact. Thousands of late arriving Triumph 1971/72 models had to be carried over in US warehouse stock until the following year. When eventually sold, at a heavy discount, they represented multi­million dollar losses for the BSA Group.
     These losses, and the overall poor performance of the motorcycle companies within the BSA Group, left the Group Board of Directors with no alternative but to seek an emergency government loan. This was refused, although the government did support a plan to merge the motorcycle businesses of Manganese Bronze Holdings (MBH), which included Norton and Villiers, with the BSA motorcycle businesses including Triumph. The plan was to form a single new company to be called Norton Villiers Triumph (NVT) with MBH former boss, Dennis Poore as its Managing Director. As a result Poore had to rationalise his sprawling new motorcycle businesses. The answer to the question of how he was going to do that and which part he would close, was provided on his visit to the Meriden factory. Once the agreed production schedule of 7500 bikes had been completed he announced production of the three­cylinder Trident would transfer to Small Heath, Birmingham, while the production of the iconic Bonneville twin would be discontinued. Meriden would close and for those employees not at the meeting with Poore, there were copies of the mid-day edition of the Coventry Telegraph newspaper on sale at the factory gates telling the full story with the headline: 'Triumph Meriden to Close'.
To the workers at Meriden, building Triumph motorcycles was a way of life and they had been working their socks off to get production back on track. They refused to accept the factory was closing and as soon as Poore left the premises they chained the gates closed. The now infamous Triumph Meriden factory occupation had begun!

Workers picketing factories was not an uncommon phenomenon in the 197o's, but this trade-union action did not follow the normal course. It wasn’t a strike, it was initially a work-in and production briefly continued at full tilt. It soon became clear though that the NVT management were not prepared to negotiate. Accordingly, following a mass meeting of the whole work force, the full 24/7 around the clock 'workers occupation' of the Meriden factory started. An action supported by the Trade Union and the Labour Movements, who undertook to mobilise all possible support. Months of picketing of the factory followed, during which the pickets made sure that the thousands of finished and part finished motorcycles did not leave the premises while the workers representatives and their advisers developed plans for a workers co-operative at Meriden.
     "Meriden had the skeleton of a worker's co-operative proposal" John told us, "ideally timed as the Tory government had just lost the UK General Election".
     This brought in a Labour Government and with it the left wing Tony Benn as Industry Minister, who wanted to experiment with industrial democracy. Benn saw Meriden as a good opportunity to set up a worker owned co-operative and he gave it his full support with the promise of financial backing from the government. The Meriden workers factory occupation also attracted the interest of Geoffrey Robinson, the socialist CEO of Jaguar cars located in nearby Coventry. Robinson offered his commercial expertise and advice, helped put the case for government funding, and worked alongside representatives from the Co-op to negotiate a deal with NVT.

The US Triumph dealers were understandably worried by developments at Triumph, and their fears were exacerbated by the negative messages they were getting from NVT about the Co-op. Bob Myers, representing the US dealers, flew over to the UK to check out the situation at Meriden for himself, and whilst expressing concerns he was broadly supportive, returning to the USA re­assured. As John explained to us: "For the US dealers, the possibility of the Meriden factory reopening, even as a workers Co­op, represented for them a glimmer of light at the end of a very dark tunnel".
     Eventually, with the help of Robinson's commercial experience, Benn's sponsorship and the support of the US dealers, the government came up with the funding and an agreement was reached with NVT that would enable the workers to buy the factory and its contents, with NVT acting as distributor. Eighteen months after Poore's devastating announcement, the Co-op was up and running and production of Bonneville motorcycles restarted. It wasn't all plain sailing though, the Co-op had to walk a financial tight rope, but the new owner-workers were extremely enthusiastic. John estimates that this enthusiasm translated directly into a productivity gain of around 30%. Management expertise was brought in from GKN and later from GEC, and a number of Triumph workers with key production engineering skills who had previously left, re-joined the Co-op.
     In spite of the Co-op having very limited financial resources, they still managed to continue development of the Bonneville throughout this period. A Bonneville with a 75occ engine and five-speed gearbox had been introduced as the T140V in the year before the occupation. The Co-op decided to focus on this and discontinue the 65occ T120. Over the next few years they introduced a series of innovations - the change to left foot gear shift/right foot rear brake in order to comply with the latest stricter legislation in the key US market, as was a reduced emissions T140E version engine for the same reason. Various spin­off models appeared based around the same basic Bonneville theme, with uprated specifications such as gas-filled rear shocks and electric starter.
The most successful early marketing proposal came when the Co-op was receiving managerial help seconded from GEC. This proposal was intended to move excessive factory stock (into which all the Co-op's very precious operating capital had become tied up) that had built up due to NVT dragging its feet in negotiations for a new product sale agreement. To accelerate the sale of this stock, GEC came up with the idea of the 1977 Silver Jubilee Bonneville to celebrate Her Majesty's 25 years on the throne. This was combined with financing from GEC. Each time one of the Special Edition Silver Jubilee Bonneville's was sold, the Co-op was able to draw down a percentage from each sale from the GEC financial facility, gradually replenishing the Co-op's operating capital.
The very striking red, white and blue patriotic livery to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee stimulated UK, US and European customer demand. What started as a mere trickle, soon developed into a raging torrent as customers attempted to buy at least one of these 'Limited Edition' collector's items that still command a premium price today.
     The Tiger Trail semi-off-road Triumph, both in its 75occ and 65occ forms, also secured a steady customer following as did the 750 Fully Equipped Triumph Executive. But perhaps the two most popular models produced in the later days of the Co-op, were the US Custom styled TSX and the High Performance TSS 8-valve versions. Triumph US Dealer Jack Wilson of 'Big D Cycle of Texas' entered a pre-production 8-valve TSS prototype in the Battle of The Twins race at Daytona with the bike lapping at over 150 mph. The TSS certainly gave the Bonneville back its 'street credibility', whose performance had been throttled back over the years by the ever tightening US 'Noise and Emission Regulations'.
     Not only did the Co-op continue to develop and manufacture the Bonneville, it actually survived longer than NVT, which was eventually wound up in 1976. Unfortunately by the early 1980s, the external economic situation deteriorated and the UK went into recession as the new Conservative government pursued a policy of high interest rates to cut back on inflation. This resulted in a dollar exchange rate rise to $2-45 to the pound; a move that effectively priced the Triumph Bonneville out of the US market. Sales dried up and by 1983 the Meriden plant was facing closure again.
Even at this late stage, the Co-op was very nearly saved due to the increasing value of its underused 22 acre factory site as a potential housing development in the rising property market - converting its use from industrial to residential status almost doubled its value! Plans were put in place to sell the site and move to a smaller leased factory in Cashes Lane, Coventry, the former site of Triumph Motors, the car side of the Triumph business in the 193o's. But at the last hurdle the deal fell through when West Midlands County Council failed to provide the promised lease and the Co­op's bankers advised that sadly, it was time to call in the receiver. It may have been the end of the Co-op; but it wasn't the end of Triumph!

John Rosamond stayed on to help the receiver sell the assets, being heavily involved in the sale of Triumph's intellectual property to John Bloor (who had made a fortune over the years building and selling houses). It was then that John Rosamond told us, contrary to what many people think, Bloor had
no interest in purchasing the Meriden factory site for house building. The site was sold to another builder and became a housing estate. He wanted to invest in an engineering company and saw Triumph Motorcycles as that opportunity. John Bloor asked John Rosamond to work for him in the new Triumph Company and to pick five other workers from the Co-op to come with him. How the new Triumph Company worked in virtual secrecy for years to develop a new range of motorbikes, build a brand new factory in Hinckley and then make a sensational return from the dead at the Cologne International Motorcycle Show in 1990 is another story. John Rosamond was reluctant to talk about it. One of his last acts working for Triumph was helping to organise that product launch in Cologne. He recounted talking to journalists expecting a single new Triumph model or at the most two to be launched, and were stunned when they realised there was a totally new range of six modern motorbikes at the show. Triumph had never seemed a more appropriate name for the company than on that day.
     One question John was asked by members was whether he thought the Co-op had been a success. John hesitated before replying, no doubt mindful that it had ended in administration. However his answer referred to the new bikes that the Co-op had produced, particularly the 1978 Jubilee edition; which he thought had been a GEC marketing masterstroke, allowing the Co-op to clear a backlog of unsold, stock piled bikes with an astute marketing and advertising campaign.
     He also believed the Co-op had been a successful experiment in industrial democracy and was only brought down by external economic forces. Indeed at the point it closed, it was near to sorting out all its debts and was about to re-launch the model range in a new factory.
John Rosamond has written a fascinating book 'Save the Triumph Bonneville' that goes into a lot more detail. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about this extraordinary period in Triumph's history. But why not invite John Rosamond himself to give a talk at your branch. If you get the chance to hear him talk, go and listen. You will have a interesting evening. The Berkshire Branch certainly did.

John's book Save the Triumph Bonneville! – The inside story of the Meriden Workers' Co-op is available here.