The late Jan Pearce’s famous PKV374 could be yours!
In 1954, a TR2 was privately entered in the ‘24 Heures du Mans’ by Mr Edgar Wadsworth and, sharing the driving with Mr John Brown, the pair finished a creditable 15th in the gruelling event completing a total of 214 laps of the Circuit de la Sarthe.
The following year, Standard-Triumph Ltd decided to enter a ‘Works’ team of three cars to compete at the 24-hours, all finished in British Racing Green with wire wheels and carrying consecutive registrations ‘PKV 374’, ‘PKV 375’ and ‘PKV 376’. We are incredibly proud to be offering one of these team cars, ‘PKV 374’ for sale. For a long time, 374 was the sole survivor of the Works team and as a result is one of the most historic TR cars in existence.
The Team cars were not exactly standard customer cars at the time, as they were fitted with uprated experimental front disc brakes, long range fuel tanks and high-port cylinder heads, effectively making them prototypes, however, it wasn’t long before these modifications became standard fitment on customer cars. 374 and 375 were fitted with Girling disc brakes at the front and 11” Alfin drums at the rear, whilst PKV 376 utilised a four-wheel Dunlop brake setup. Each car was piloted by just two-drivers, perhaps unthinkable in modern-day endurance racing when three and four are the norm. PKV 374 (car.no 68) was driven by Leslie Brooke and Mortimer Morris-Goodall, PKV 375 (car no. 29) by Ken Richardson and Bert Hadley, and PKV 376 by Bob Dickson and the talented Ninian Sanderson, who was subsequently to win the race overall in 1956 in the Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D Type alongside Ron Flockhart.
The 1955 event would prove to be one that would long remain in the memories of all those that witnessed the devastating accident when, at 6.26pm, the Mercedes-Benz 300SLR of Pierre Levegh struck the left-side of Lance Macklin’s Austin Healey 100S ‘NOJ 393’ and the rapidly disintegrating Mercedes ploughed into the main stand killing 84 people and injuring a further 400. The commemorative plaque still remains on the tribunes at Le Mans even today.
The organisers made the decision to continue with the race and, at the time of the accident, ‘PKV 374’ had been running well and, according to the late-June issue of Autosport, “Leslie Brooke was easily the fastest of the MG and TR2 drivers, and for many laps averaged over 90 mph.”
Frustratingly for Brooke, at around 7 pm on the Saturday evening, he overcooked it exiting the famous Tertre Rouge corner and ran aground embedding the car into the sandbank. As the marshals were not permitted to help the drivers to extricate their cars, it was up to Brooke and his brute strength and determination to dig the car out! Legend has it that he used the glove box lid and a shovel that he found near the corner, whilst rocking the car in first and reverse gears to free it from the ridge of sand on which it was stubbornly perched. Eventually, after 2.5 hours of toil, 374 was free and back on track with Brooke returning to the pit lane. For the rest of the race, gear selection became an issue and second or top gears appeared the only options, so it was remarkable that Brooke and Morris-Goodall finished the race in 19th place overall, only a few places behind their teammates in cars #28 and #29 who finished 14th and 15th respectively.
After the race, both 375 and 376 returned to Coventry, however, 374 took the fancy of the late King Hussein of Jordan who negotiated the car’s purchase at the circuit and took it directly home to Jordan in full Le Mans race trim. A fabulous article documenting purchase can be found in the April ’08 issue of Classic Cars magazine which is included in the file. The King brought the car back to the UK in 1956, at which time it was in the Jordanian colours of blue and white with luxuriously upholstery, when he came over to attend the Army Officers College at Sandhurst. However, in November of 1956 he sold PKV 374, presumably because it was not suited to a British winter!
The car then passed through several hands until purchased by a well-known character in TR Register circles, the late and much missed Jan Pearce, in 1972. The car was in a dilapidated state; sprayed yellow and there is clear evidence on various panels of its transition from British Racing Green, to blue and white and finally yellow.
After an incredibly long restoration, due to a growing family and work commitments, the car was finally finished and ‘PKV 374’ duly returned to competition in May 2000 when it successfully competed in the London to Istanbul leg of the inaugural ‘Around the World in 80 Days Rally.’ The car still retains its Le Mans long-range fuel tank, its original and irreplaceable cylinder head, manifold, axle and brakes as fitted by the factory for the ’55 Le Mans race.
After running 374 in many endurance rallies, most of which are now run by the Historic Endurance Rally Organisation (HERO), a plan was hatched to return this important TR2 to its spiritual home – Le Mans. The car was race-prepared, an FIA HTP passport gained and a team assembled to run the car. With the help of some generous sponsorship, ‘PKV 374’ returned to the Circuit de la Sarthe for the 2005 One-Hour Le Mans Legends race (the support race for the modern-day 24-hours) driven by top historic racers Tony Dron and Nick Marsh. Unfortunately, a misfire and fuel starvation troubles meant the car retired after only 6 laps, but in 2006 ‘PKV 374’ returned once again to the Le Mans Legends race and had a successful outing in the hands of Nick Marsh once again, finishing 5th in Class and 23rd overall.
In the intervening years the car was cherished, rallied and shown. It was last seen on display with the TR Register at the NEC Classic Motor Show in 2013.
The car means a lot to long standing members of the TR Register, not only because of its historical significance, but also because Jan Pearce, who we lost in 2015, was such a well-liked person within the club, having been one of the TR Register's early members. He was so happy to see it circulating once again at Le Mans back in 2005 and hopefully it will bring as much joy to the new owner, whoever they might be. All predictions are that the car will reach its guide price of £100,000 - £140,000. Prospective buyers are advised to contact Silverstone Auctions ahead of the NEC Classic Motor Show sale in November.
Having not been used for the past four years, the car is running, but needs some light recommissioning work and any prospective buyers would be advised to bring a trailer and van to collect the car, parts and the staggering history file that accompanies this venerable little Triumph!