The TR Register is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of our long-time honorary members and stylist that played a pivotal role in Triumph's history - Harris Mann who has passed away at the age of 85.
Harris Mann was born in London in 1938 and by the time he arrived at Triumph to style the TR7, had already built up an impressive portfolio of work. He worked at Duple, the (American) Loewy Consultancy. Then after some time out of the country for National Service, Mann worked for Commer and then Ford, where he was involved in the first Escort and Capri. His boss at Ford, Roy Haynes then persuaded Harris to follow him to BMC in 1967, where he moved to lead the design studio at Cowley. Roy Haynes' brief was to rejuvenate the design team and part of his solution would include Harris Mann.
Harris taking photos at the Standard Triumph Picnic, Shelsley Walsh.
When the TR7 family was conceived in 1971, Harris was really considered a ‘Longbridge man’ as opposed to a ‘Triumph man’. Once he moved to Longbridge, he shaped the beautiful BMC ‘Zanda’ concept car and put forward acceptable original shapes for the Austin Allegro before these were changed by the British Leyland (BL) planners. Harris was responsible for the wedge-style BL Princess which would be launched immediately after the TR7. The Princess was a large and attractive package which, once again, would have done him more credit if it had not been put on sale when BL was in the depths of its nationalisation crisis.
It was his work on the TR7, where he offered up the shapely wedge-styled shape, which was accepted ahead of Michelotti, Pininfarina and other proposals in a kind of ‘internal’ styling competition. It would be the TR that would outsell all the models that came before and despite a troubled start due to factors out of Harris Mann’s control, would be loved by its dedicated band of enthusiasts for generations.
Harris Mann with former Chairman, Phil Tucker cutting the TR7 anniversary cake in 2015.
We interviewed Harris Mann on many occasions in front of audiences at TR events and for TR Action Magazine, and learned much about the detail surrounding the TR7 - why was the screen angled so, why was the rear window glass angled like that, what influenced the nose and flip-up headlamp layout etc – and he was always so honest, modest, and eager to share insights and stories.
Harris Mann at the TR Register International Weekend
Spending time with Harris was to appreciate what professionalism and talent he had, but also what an agreeable and pleasant personality he was. He was so very friendly and easy to get along with. A conversation over lunch though might often be disrupted by him grabbing a beer mat or menu card to draw up some styling detail to explain why things were as they ended up on a particular model.
In the late 1970s, he worked on updates to the Marina style, then the Metro and Maestro projects and the still-born Triumph SD2 saloon project. The entire motor industry recognised his talents, so after he left BL in 1983, to set up on his own, he was never short of work. He shaped several Suzuki motorcycles and worked for BMW on four-wheeler and two-wheeler shapes. Then there was work on big railway locomotives, on Lotus and Lola models, and much more.
Harris found himself back at Longbridge during the early-2000s working with the team headed by Peter Stevens on the MG Zeds and even the MG SV.
Harris Mann handing out Concours Awards to Simon Eaton at the TR Register International Weekend
For the fans and enthusiasts, the delight of meeting Harris never waned and he always took time to answer in detail even the most naive of questions and explain the reasoning behind designs or to share an anecdote from those troubled times at British Leyland.
He was an active participant in TR Register events, an honorary member of the club and a friend to many of us and he never seemed to tire of seeing the cars being loved and appreciated by enthusiasts, always willing to stop by for a photograph, a ceremonial cake cutting or to sign someone's boot lid!
Harris Mann, a stylist, a talent, a part of history, a lovely Mann.
Harris Mann and Graham Robson
Harris Mann designed the logo for our 2015 International Weekend, celebrating the anniversary of the TR7's UK launch.