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It is with great sadness that the TR Register have learned that we lost Brian Culcheth on Sunday 11th September 2022, after a short illness. He passed away peacefully with his family at his side.

Brian had an incredible career that spanned over twenty years seeing him compete in more than 125 National and International rally events during the sport’s golden era.

Brian was best-known for his extensive career as a BMC/BL and Triumph Works driver. During this time Brian achieved 7 outright wins, 21 class wins and broke the record books when he became the first ever non-Scandinavian driver to win Finland’s infamous 1,000 Lakes Rally which he achieved in a Morris Marina.

Born in 1938 in Camden Town, London, Brian was the son of a coal merchant. The family soon re-located to Edgware, Middlesex. As Brian grew up his attentions were always focused on sport, but initially it was football that attracted him and a young Culcheth had trials for Watford after being spotted by a scout and played four games for them.

A job as a runner at the Daily Mail introduced him to table tennis where he excelled again and won the London and South – East championships.

Brian learned to drive in his father’s Austin A50 and by the late 1950s started to become interested in motorsport. He attended many race meetings at Silverstone. He moved career as result and began a job as a salesman at a London garage.

Brian cited an image of Paddy Hopkirk driving a TR3A up the Stelvio pass on three wheels that had been published on Autocar magazine as his initial inspiration. Soon, Brian saw an advertisement in his local paper for an event run by Harrow Car Club. Brian had made his way up through the ranks of the Harrow Car Club, whose membership included Stirling and Pat Moss amongst many other motorsport luminaries who would become faithful allies in the development of his motorsport career. 

From there, Brian drove everything from a Renault Dauphine to Sprites and Minis. Brian even enjoyed his first works drive for Mercedes alongside Eugen Bohringer in the 1962 RAC Rally.

A year later and Brian co-drove for Peter Moon in a works Mini Cooper taking 2nd overall and class win. A couple of years earlier, Brian had driven a Sprite navigated by Graham Robson. Graham was now competition secretary at Standard Triumph and on the 12th July 1963, Brian received a letter from Graham offering him a co-driver job alongside Roger Clark in one of the new Works TR4s.

Image by Ian Cornish

The car that Brian Culcheth was arguably most synonymous with came towards the end of the 1960s when Brian was once again behind the wheel of a Triumph, the 2.5 PI saloons. He felt instantly at home on the car and, along with navigator Johnstone Syer, competed in events that have become the stuff of legend such as the 1968 London to Sydney and the 1970 London to Mexico Marathon Rallies.

Brian even drove an Abingdon Works prepared Triumph to success in the very first Rallycross event to be televised from Lydden Hill, with Murray Walker commentating.

The successes at the wheel of the big Triumph saloons were numerous and kept coming through into the 1970s. The end of the decade then saw Brian behind the wheel of the most powerful of the rally cars he ever competed in, first the Triumph TR7 Sprint, then later the V8.

Brian was crowned British Rally Champion in 1978 after winning his class in all seven rounds of the Championship in a Kadett GT/E against fierce international competition. Speaking about the championship win, Brian famously said, ““It was frustrating that after a 14-year association with BMC/BL, I never won a championship, but after just one year at Opel, I became a champion.”

Brian Culcheth was an honorary member of the TR Register. He was also an avid reader and regular contributor to TR Action Magazine and would often contact us with his words of wisdom or support, which were always gratefully received from a man who truly had a deep sense of pride around his successful association with Triumph.

Brian Culcheth made Triumph’s iconic in the 1960s and 1970s. He was a fantastic storyteller, a warm, friendly, and down to earth man and it was always such a privilege to be in his company.

Wayne Scott, TR Action Editor.

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