The TR Register car club celebrated the golden anniversary of its inaugural meeting on January 12, returning to the same Oxfordshire venue of the Holt Hotel in Hopcrofts Holt on the same weekend, 50 years on.
The occasion was marked with a gala dinner on the Saturday night for the founding members and long-standing volunteers of the club, which was founded after Terry Simpson and his wife Valerie wrote a letter and placed adverts into Motor Sport Magazine in 1969. Also present were representatives from the community of parts specialists that grew out of the club’s quest to preserve the marque TR through securing reliable parts supplies.
The evening was hosted by the club’s Magazine Editor, Wayne Scott, who took attendees on a journey through the different eras of the club’s development. A panel of interviewees also recounted stories of the formation of local regions and the huge contribution to Triumphs in motorsport that the club continues to make, with the venue displaying covers from every year of the five decades of TR Action, the club’s magazine. Sunday continued with a more in-depth programme of interviews plus a photo gallery, where attendees brought along photographs, memorabilia and videos to share.
Some 93 TRs attended including the club’s very own TR2, better known by its TS2 commission number and the first right hand drive TR to be built, plus the ex-Simo Lampinen Works TR8 of Steve Rockingham. The TR Register event starts a year-long celebration with various events up and down the country.
The full story of the weekend will appear in the February issue of TR Action Magazine.
Glenn Hewitt presents the TR Register with the original number plate from MVC575, the Jabbeke land speed record TR2.
Members gathered outside the venue where the very first meeting took place, 50 years ago on the same weekend!
Why Hopcrofts Holt?
It is 1969 and Triumph TR2-3As are cheap, really cheap and can be picked up from “Boycey’s” backstreet second-hand car dealer for around £125. Yes, it might be full of filler and the road holding may be wayward after years of neglect and hard use, but it would still top 100 miles per hour and overtake most of the ‘normal’ cars on the road with ease.
The Standard Triumph factory, that had originally launched TRs to such success over 15 years earlier, had long since withdrawn support for the TR2-3A models and had itself been swallowed up into the BL conglomerate. The factory’s marketing led loyalty club for those who had bought the cars from new, the Triumph Sports Owners Association, had dwindled in the UK throughout the 1960s and now many owners of these affordable little sportscars were now struggling to source parts. There was no classic car scene to speak of either, certainly not in the form that we have today.
Furthermore, there were not the racks full of motoring magazines that we enjoy today, rather a handful of main titles existed. One for buying cars, Exchange and Mart, a couple for new cars, Motor and Autocar and then Motoring News and Autosport but only one covering all aspects of motoring as a hobby and a passion – Motor Sport Magazine.
The Editor of Motor Sport Magazine in 1969 was Bill Boddy MBE, who was an active motoring writer right up until his death in 2011 at the age of 98 and is considered by many as the longest serving motoring journalist in history, so far. In November 1969, he published a letter from a Mr Douglas Thompson from Edinburgh entitled “A Triumph TR Enthusiast”. In the letter Mr Thompson told the story of his past year of TR3A ownership. During that time, he covered 12,000 miles, took part in motorsport most weekends, from rallies to sprints and tests and had been required to undertake very little maintenance on the car. However, he went on to say, “The trouble is that I seem to be the only person who has any faith in the car. Whenever I enter the car for an event, without fail at least one uncomplimentary remark will be passed, usually of the form ‘That’s a real handful you’ve got there’ or ‘You’re a brave man entering that thing!’ Why is this then?”
He went on to ask, “I feel it has been a reasonably cheap way of getting to 100 m.p.h performance and a great deal of fun. So, I admit to being rather mystified as to the reason why the TR is so unloved among spectators and fellow competitors alike. Perhaps someone can provide an explanation.”
Well, the letter certainly started something and soon, replies were flooding in to Motor Sport Magazine. Three letters followed in the December issue, one from David Adams who claimed the side-screen TRs were the last of the true sportscars because, according to him, only those skilled at driving could keep them from crashing. He said, “Compare with, say, the MG-B, which is the most forgiving car I have ever driven, the TR is lethal in the wrong hands.” A dubious accolade, but also one that included the claim that his TR3A blew off E Types at will and was “the best mechanical sporting machine ever!”
Fate was perhaps sealed with the letter from Darryl Uprichard of Sunbury of Thames, (much later of Racetorations and to serve as President of the TR Register) who wrote in to congratulate the publication on covering the story and to extoll the virtues of the model ending with, “Personally I find the TR an exciting car with much character. A ‘TR’ Register perhaps?”
But it was the letter from a Terrence J Simpson that really got the ball rolling. His letter began, “Like Mr D Thompson, I too am at a loss to see why there is not a more enthusiastic following for the Triumph TR. My interest in these cars started in 1964 when I purchased a 1955 TR2 for £210.” Terrence went on to explain how exciting the car was to drive and how easy it had been to maintain before ending with, “If there are any other TR enthusiasts around, I would be only too pleased to hear from them. Regrettably, it seems that Mr Thompson is the only other TR owner who shares my enthusiasm.” He was about to be proved wrong in that assumption!
The correspondences continued, with the March ‘70 issue carrying a double page spread of letters headed “TR Enthusiasm” such was the outpouring of support for the model. The subject was to dominate the magazine’s correspondence pages right through until April of 1970, whereupon editor Bill Boddy MBE cried “enough” and called things to a conclusion.
Meanwhile, Terry Simpson had taken his invitation to the next level and had, with his own money, placed adverts in Motor Sport Magazine and indeed the aforementioned Exchange and Mart to invite replies from those who would like to form a much-needed club. On the 19th December 1969, he wrote a letter out to all those who had contacted him in reply, (all 54 of them) inviting them to an inaugural meeting.
Terry figured that somewhere in Oxfordshire would be most central for most respondents so, he and wife Valerie chose a pub with a large car park on the cross roads of the main road between Oxford and Banbury, a place called Hopcrofts Holt.
Wives and friends were welcome and, as Terry himself was at the time working on essential repairs to his TR, attendees were not required to attend in a TR. There were no sat-navs in those days, so to help, Terry included in his letter, the AA members handbook grid reference 18SP42. The agenda to form the club was simple; 1 a) To name the club b) Aims c) Rules (i) Officers (ii) Subscriptions (iii) Meetings (iv) Funds. Item 2 detailed correspondences from Standard Triumph and a letter from Sportsweek with 3) being any other business.
Terry and Valerie were assured, from their many phone calls and letters, that around twenty people would guarantee their attendance. In the end, over 50 attended. Attendance was mostly in side screen TRs but also included a number of TR4s and 4As. So, that Sunday 11th January 1970, at noon, the TR Register, began.