20 May 2020
I have just added the latest research to this thread, which has been an ongoing experiment. What follows conveys the original story, pieced together as it develops, including my conjectures, often contradicted by the facts, established at a later date. Starting from an initial, vital, clue, provided by a Register member, Meason who wrote to me in response to my quest for information about this TR3, KST 277.
If it reads like a diary, it's because it is a diary, a blow-by-blow account of the breakthroughs and red herrings, the kind of twists and turns anybody asking questions is more than likely to encounter.
It also experiments with the design capabilities of the Forum software, stretching them to the limit, to make the most of a tool which allows more scope than I had imagined. Latest Updates, adding new pieces to solve this puzzle, appear at the bottom, in sequence. The first entry of this diary was posted on 7 March, the most recent, which you will find in chronological order, at the foot of this text, on 20 May.
This story began on 7 March 2020:
Taken by Surprise
I got a message from E. Meason, a really friendly TR Register member, from Glasgow, in the Clyde Valley Group. A few weeks ago, Meason spotted a period photograph of KST 277, parked outside a Standard Triumph Dealership in Inverness, Scotland. He was curious. After all, most Scottish registered cars would have rotted away by now. Could it have possibly survived? So he checked on the DVLA website and realized that yes, the car had actually survived. When he saw the first thread about KST 277, he decided to get in touch. As he said himself:
Well, he did! You can just imagine my surprise, when I read his private message. Vodafone made it more exciting still. There you are, desperately pressing all the buttons, scrolling, rolling your fingers, but no. It wasn't that straightfoward to see this photograph out of the blue, this blast from the past. I had to go on their website littered with adverts and notices. Still no joy. So, feeling very shy and rather nervous, I overcame my reluctance and so I phoned this Glasgwegian, E. Meason.
He told me a little about his own TRs, and how he got involved when he was only sixteen. Beteeen you and me, this was the first time I'd spoken to a Club member for a long time. Same kindness, same shared passion. Again, I felt a sense of gratitude, a club sense of belonging, what Eli calls the "Triumph Family". By the end of the phonecall, I heard myself say: och aye. I did. Honest.
I tried again. Eventually, Lo and Behold!... his photo appeared:
■ Digital photograph taken by E. Meason with a mobile phone of the digitized photograph he found on Facebook.
I tweaked this small image as best I could, to see if I could improve the quality. You can read the 1956 Inverness registration and the same year and location on the registration of the car behind it, KST 845.
So small an image. Might it just be possible to skip Facebook and get to its original source? Worth a try.
On closer inspection, I noticed a watermark bang in the centre. The faint white lettering was just about visible... baile, home or even hometown, in Scots Gaelic, like baihle in Irish. But I couldn't make out the first two letters. So I did a search, and ambaile appeared as I scrolled the page further down. Turns out it is the Inverness Museum site, Highlands Cultural Archive or something, and its photographic collection.
Inverness Standard Triumph Dealership
I typed in J. Ferries and Standard Triumph and this is what came up:
■ Distributers [sic.] for Standard Triumph, Citroen, David Brown.
Then I found the very same photograph, on the Inverness Museum website, larger than Meason's Facebook reproduction.
But big enough to notice several details. For one thing, the registration number, and the one of the car behind it, KST 845, today belonging to a red Rolls Royce, as I discovered on the DVLA site belong to two cars which were bought more or less at the same time. The TR3 first, before mid-August 1956. And here they are, parked on the same kerb.
When was it taken? Late 1956? Early 1957, most probably.
■ Online, Inverness Museum site. More details emerge.
I tried to identify all those badges on the bar. When I enlarged the image, I was able to see that the one on the far left and still on the car today, but on the grille -- the bar is long gone -- is a Standard Triumph Owners' Association Club badge. You can tell, from how the light captures the two curved tops.
■ TSOA badge.
And there are several others, including what looks like a rally plate, judging by its shape. Maybe not? Just guessing here. But there is also a spotlight and a foglight.
■ Lucas Flamethrowers?
But look! The one on the left has lost its glass. There's also a discoloured patch on the cowling, driver's side, above the sidelight: same cause? And a similar patch on the opposite side.
Is the car for sale? First owner ready to sell on? Or is it just parked on the curb, more likely, like the Sportsman, both cars awaiting their annual service, greasing and the rest, at the dealership?
If I find out about this Mark Mason I'll let you know. So far, I can tell you that he moved to Spain, presumably after selling KST 277, therefore, in 2008. In Spain, he restores classic Jaguars and will be visiting Great Britain in a few months' time. TR Bitz will keep me posted and I you. □
Update: 13 March 2020
Meantime, thanks to the trail of Meason's Facebook photo, we can say that James Ferries was a Standard Triumph dealer who owned not one, but two garages in Inverness. But I'm jumping ahead.
■ High-res: drum brakes.
Through the front wheel air vents, you can make out the edge of the drum brake, consistently with early TR3s of that period, this one built on 17 November 1955. Was it Bob (Lebro) who pointed this out? This was several months before Girling disc brakes were introduced. Yet, this TR wasn't delivered to Inverness before early August 1956, and to a dealership. But when exactly were Girling discs introduced?
■ Front TR3 cowling in greater detail.
The AA and Standard Triumph badges are also much clearer now, and the rally badge legible, as well as a further three more badges. Earlier, I mistook two of them for paint blemishes. More soon. □
Update: 16 March. A second garage.
I've now found a second photograph on the Web, this one, below.
■ The Ferries Standard Triumph & Citroen garage and filling station.
A garage for repairs, featuring an AA sign, and filling station, not a fancy showroom. But if you look carefully, you will see KST 277 parked inside. What? The same customer's TR parked in two garages belonging to Ferries Ltd? So no, not a customer's car, Ferries' car. Looks like it's in for a service or repair to the fog light. It's parked by a ramp, in front of a tyres sign.
Therefore, short of having Ferries' name listed on a vehicle document, which it is not, the circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that this TR3 belonged to James Ferries who was the dealer who owned both the ST Showroom and the garage at a separate Inverness address. We have a date for the second photo, 1958. Of course I am ordering a high resolution digital print. □
Update 17 March
The Triumph Rally of Europe
■ Rally plate reads Triumph Rally of Europe.
Incidentally, does anyone recognize the other badges?
1957 was the year Triumph started its US sales drive, involving a European tour, which KST 277 took part in, as the rally plate, now clearly visible in more detail, demonstrates. Ferries went on the first one (they ran from 1957 until 1962), but his car wasn't brand new and therefore should not have been eligible. How come? Simple, he'd already bought it. So for him, this was a junket. This rally is news to me, but surely not to most readers.
Hosted by the Triumph Sports Owners Association — Triumph’s Club — brainchild of Mr. I. J. Penrice, the Publicity Manager, and Jack Croft, the Press Officer, as Motorsport, Vol. XXXIII, n. 5, pp. 15-16, of May 1957 informs us — the immediate objective of these tours wasn't to sell TRs, but, above all, to get publicity and increase sales that way.
The Triumph Rally of Europe, as the wording clearly shows on the plate, was an enjoyable, luxury, publicity stunt, offering a two- or three-week organized cruise, from place to place, in a sports car, top down, on the highways of Europe.
So, how did you join the Triumph Rally of Europe? To be eligible, you had to purchase a new TR3, and pick it up in person at the Canley, in Coventry. The additional cost included the airfare from the US, a holiday abroad, and return shipping. You stayed in five-star hotels, all meals included, as well as being taken to places where TRs had competed in international rallying, and organized sightseeing trips.
It was primarily aimed at North Americans. According to my friend Mike Strange, it was known as fly n' drive.
On tour, at each hotel, two Standard Triumph mechanics who followed the convoy of sidescreen TRs, washed and refuelled the cars. A van carried spare parts for emergency roadside repairs.
In those days, there were fewer cars about, so city traffic was light, and you could achieve high speeds on deserted open roads, as one of the participants, Mike Cook, remembers. He took part in the 1960 tour, in the company of about sixty other Triumph enthusiasts. Watching them go by must have been an impressive sight; when would you ever see a convoy of sidescreen TRs on the open road? In 2009, Cook remembered:
His story ends:
[Source: Mike Cook, "A Cruise on Dry Land", Hemmings Sports & Exotic Cars, March 2009].
■ The Standard Triumph logo on a Ferries & Co. advertisement.
Company records say that James Ferries Co. Ltd., was incorporated in 1946 and dissolved in 1997. Its business had been the "sale of new cars and light motor vehicles -- Other motors".
■ An advert dated 1965. Still going strong.
It is not unlikely that Ferries drove the TR3 into the ground and that KST 277 sat in storage somewhere for years.
Then, years later, Mark Mason bought this TR3, probably in the mid- or late- 1990s, and restored it. He had already restored a concours-winning Register TR4, according to Craig of TR Bitz. Mason's name and that of John Brindley, a well-known racing driver, appear as entry no. 1027, at the 1998 RAC Classic Rally. Mason had obviously made KST 277 a roadworthy vehicle by then, and it's a fact that he owned the car until 2008, when he sold it. The December 2008 MOT states it had 6,853 miles on the clock. A mistake, since the previous one dated 26 April 2007, documented 7,205. Clearly, the 2008 MOT was a slip of the pen for 7,583. The car's documrntation shows that prior to its ground-up restoration, the vehicle had covered over 88,000 miles.
This is the TR that appealed to an elderly Welshman, by the name of Geraint Pritchard. A car with 150bhp at the rear wheel, equipped with a rally cam, Weber 45s, TWM inlets, competition foam air filters, Phoenix s/s 4-into-1 exhaust manifold, 13-row Moss oil cooler, Revington oil breather catch tank, braided Goodridge brake hoses, Girling discs, diff, and half shafts, Lumenition electronic ignition, aluminium sump, alloy damper pulley conversion, high-torque starter motor, alternator, 185 Yokohamas, competition sump, gas-flowed head -- and goodness knows what else.
Strange, to say the least?
Not if this was someone who used to go rallying in North Wales in his youth.
But one thing is certain. Geraint Pritchard, who passed away in 2018, after a decade of great enjoyment, participating in car shows in his local Denbighshire, was the only person whose name appears in TR Register records.
Consequently, KST 277 was never a club car. I asked Mike Ellis and Bill Piggott. They've never heard of it and have no documents on file, and bear in mind that Bill's archive goes back fifty years. This lack of club membership, in the UK, strongly suggests KST 277 was a barn find, gently deteriorating somewhere in Inverness, but under a dry roof.
Oh, I forgot to mention that Andrea Finlayson, a very forthcoming member of staff at the Inverness Museum, told me that a colleague of hers knows someone who remembers this TR3 in the 1950s. Andrea will have a chat with him soon and we'll find out more. □
Update 17 March 2020: A confirmation
What follows is a mixture of my research and Jamie's contribution. He works for the Inverness Museum.
From a Hunch to the Facts
James Ferries opened his motor car premises on East Gate in 1916, but was trading before then. A second premises, close by, on Millburn Road, was opened in 1937. Eventually, J. Ferries became the official Triumph distributor for the whole of north and west Scotland.
The garage in the second photograph was the one listed, in Millburn Road, Inverness and the Standard Triumph fancy showroom was located on the nearby East Gate.
The garage photograph was taken one day in 1958, according to Jamie Gaukroger, Am Baile Co-ordinator, of the Highland Archive Centre and Andrea's colleague. Both photographs, Jamie thinks, belong to the same photoshoot.
You've seen two, but I have discovered a third. It's a rear view of KST 277. It reveals that the car was fitted with two Lucas lights, mounted on the rear bumpers, a red fog light and a white reversing light. I guessed there might be a third, after tracking down the second. Too good to be true.
These accessories, taking into account the front Lucas 700s spot and fog lamps, add more substance to the view that this TR, like so many of those sold in Britain, was used for rallying.
The small file-sized photograph also shows that they were publicity shots for publication, after a closer inspecton. I noticed retoucher's white paint, which has blocked out some of the background, attenuated distracting details, such as the bare winter trees in the backgound, focussing the attention on the building, and the contour of the Standard Sportsman saloon, on the far left. This used to be normal practice for black and white dot screen origination. In other words, in layman's terms, the retouching, in an era before Photoshop, was done by hand, "spotting" the white marks due to dust, and painting out unwanted features.
Therefore, the focus of the commercial photographer's brief is not the same TR3 in all three photographs. It's Ferries & Co. Ltd.
A company search reveals that J. Ferries died in 1948. So I was mistaken earlier, in assuming that he was the owner and driver. He wasn't. Couldn't be. He was long dead. Around the time of his death, as Jamie explains:
Or both? "Billy Jack" is Mr. Simon William Jack (April 1935-), 21 at the date of purchase. There is a document which confirms unequivocally that KST 277 was bought by J. Ferries & Co. Ltd., not by an individual, on 14 August 1956, as the County of Inverness, Register of Motorcars informs us. This date does not appear on the BMHIT certificate or the DVLA Services site, by the way. It's new information.
But the young man's father had exactly the same name, as the Inverness archivist pointed out to me.
So it was Billy Jack Senior who took over Ferries, and turned it into a limited company, which Billy Jack Junior was to inherit in due course. Billy Jack was the & Co., having been James Ferries' associate for years.
Hence, the car that was built on 17 November 1955 and held back, like other very early TR3s, was purchased by Billy Jack Senior, four months after Billy Jack Junior's 21st birthday.
■ County of Inverness, Register of Motorcars
Period photographs and written accounts show that rallying was both popular and frequent at the time, both in Scotland and the rest of Britain. In May of that year, the Scottish Sporting Car Club’s magazine of May 1956:
NB. Frank Dundas was a very active rally driver who later married Miss Innes ‘Annie’ Neil who was also a rally driver and very good, in a Standard 8. In q957, Dundas competed in the Highland Rally. □
Latest: 19 March Update
■ High-res version of detail
The sharper, better quality reproduction reveals one new clue and confirms what you could barely see in the smaller copy. The car was no. 5 in the Triumph Rally of Europe 1957, the first edition.
This confirms that the front plate was more than decorative. The other detail is the Lucas L494 reverse lamp, small, but not cheap. This is mounted above the bumper, so the hole should still be visible on the bracket. Sometimes they were mounted alongside the bumper, using a different bracket.
■ L494 reverse lamp.
Through the ragtop, you can see the glint of a clock and needle. I showed Mike Strang who agreed. But that's the glovebox below the grab handle, so what clock is that?
■ A Halda Speedclock?
Our guess is a rally clock, though probably not this one.There should be no clock in that position on the dash, large or small on a standard car. Actually, more likely to be two stopwatches, as below.
Now we need to wait to hear more from Mrs. Pritchard in a month or so, and later from Mark Mason, to fill the gaps and to get answers to our questions. □
Latest Update: 20 March
To be honest, I'm scraping the barrel at this stage. I have heard back from E. Meason, so I've been able to add some details, I'm waiting for the higher resolution photograph, the first one, which TR Bitz wants to blow up and display in Knutford, I have an address in Inverness for Billy Jack Junior, that is, Mr Simon William Jack (April 1935-).
■ Drum brakes, not discs.
When I looked again at the medium-sized first image, I could see the edge of the front drum brake through the steel wheel ventilation holes. So this 3, which was built in November 1955, months before Girling brakes and rear axle replaced front drums and Lockheed differential, was only registered on 14 August 1956, just before the weaker rear axle prone to failure and the front drums became standard fittings for TR3s. 62 years later, it has both, courtesy of Mark Mason.
■ The badges.
What I cannot identify are the three badges to the right of the Standard Triumph Association badge. Can you?
However, a closer look at these photos, featuring trees with no leaves, has shown that they were taken in the winter of 1958.
Billy eventually closed down Ferries Co. Ltd. in 1997, to open Caledonia, which survived several economic downturns, and was renamed Inverness Leisure, a health and fitness shop, which he closed down twenty years later, in 2017. So the plan is to write to the first owner's address, enclosing a printout of this, and -- you never know -- we may be in for yet another surprise. □
Latest Update: 21 March
Pathé News Triumph Rally 1957
Just when I thought I'd run out of surprises, this evening I chanced upon a Pathé newsreel of the 1957 Triumph Rally of Europe. The one Billy was in. The newsreel includes at least two TR3As, though September 1957 was the crossover date. Who would have thought it existed? It goes to show how effective Standard-Triumph's PR machine really was.
■ Pathé News Triumph Rally of Europe.
The short film shows a couple of refuelling scenes, fingers pointing at maps, a youngish couple poring over one over the bonnet of their brand new TR3, filmed from inside the car, a new owner trying to figure out how to fit the tonneau, a TR with spats, TRs with hardtops, surprisingly, some RHD TRs, Paris, motorcades... The footage is not always in sharp focus, but you can read the following number plates and three of the entrants' numbers: NKV 921 no. 8, NKV 905 no. 15, NKV 893 no. 35, NKV 894, NKV 897, NKV 919, PXA 498. Why is this last registration out of sequence?
A loose end is the business of those mysterious badges on KST 277's badge bar. Can you Scots in the Register find out to which clubs or associations they belong? □
Latest Update: 23 March
■ Triumph Sportsman
Last night I happened to be perusing the January 1957 edition of Motorsport when a road test of the Standard Sportsman caught my eye. I skimmed the article and came to the box containing the vehicle's technical specifications and that is when I realized something was wrong.
■ Motorsport, January 1957, technical data.
The Inverness County Registry of Motorcars, cited earlier gives Triumph Sports as the model name and cc. 2088, as the engine capacity. I thought it was a slip of the pen for the correct capacity cc. 1991. I was wrong. It coincided with the Sportsman or "Sports" for short.
So it was the Sportsman, not the TR3, Billy Jack Senior purchased on 14 August. Not that this rules out that he also purchased the Triumph TR3 that was parked in his showroom, to give to his son. The fact remains that both motorcars were registered in August, both were for sale in Aberdeen, and both went to the only Standard Triumph Dealership in the Highlands, Ferries & Co. Ltd.
It is extremely likely, but, in the light of the new facts, not a certainty. Consider also the presence of the TR3 in all three photographs. The two shots taken a few minutes apart, and the one in the other Standard Triumph garage, possibly taken the same day, but maybe not. Circumstantial detail: KST 277 is parked back to back to KST 845.
One thing is certain: that the Triumph TR3 was registered no earlier than 1 August, but earlier than 14 August, given the difference in the numbers and the fact that the DVLA confirms the TR was registered in August.
And finally, ask yourself this: who else, other than the exclusive Standard Triumph Regional Dealer, Billy Jack Senior, would have had the influence to have a used car accepted in the first promotional 1957 Triumph Rally of Europe, aimed primarily at North America and for new owners, when KST 277 was a two-year-old vehicle? Even so, another email to Jamie is becoming urgent, don't you think? □
Latest Update 24 March
Jamie responded within less than twenty-four hours, in spite of all the hustle and bustle of moving files as the Inverness Archive staff are now working from home. The Scots are truly amazing.
I was wrong. I should have knoen better. It's so important when you're handling archival documents to look at everything very carefully. I had mistakenly reached the conclusion that the entry for Messrs. Ferries & Co. Ltd. was the one for the Standard Sportsman, after spotting the Sportsman's engine capacity of 2088 where the entry should read 1991.
Then Jamie kindly sent me the page for the Sportsman too. KST 845 is down as: a "Standard private" [not a goods or commercial vehicle], cc. 2088, registered by a Mr. George Allan Munroe, on 26 April 1957.
■ Wrong again. The Sportsman belonged to a Mr. Munroe.
Therefore, Allan Monroe's Sportsman that day two of the photos were taken, in 1958, was in for a routine service and parked right behind Billy Jack's TR3.
■ KST 277. Described as a Triumph [...] Sports.
The first number is 277, following 276, and preceeding 278. To avoid needless repetition, KST only appears at the top left hand side of the page. My lazy eye missed it.
So while the clerk did make a mistake in putting down the TR3's engine capacity as cc. 2088, the vehicle really was KST 277, registered by Mssrs. Ferries & Co. Ltd. on 14 August 1956. □
Latest Update 27 March
More on the 1957 Triumph Rally of Europe
When I referred to the the Triumph Rally of Europe as a "junket", little did I know that this was precisely how it was described in the November 1956 issue of the US published TSOA Newsletter (Vol. 2, no. 11). But that should not belittle this touring rally, and the first 1957 edition, the one Billy Jack took part in, retracing the trail of Triumph TRs Alpine Cup victories of the previous year.
The first, TSOA sponsored, 1957 Triumph Rally of Europe, scheduled from 3-23 May, was: "open to all Triumph drivers looking for fun and travel."
In England, Standard Triumph officials met the plane and escorted the fledgling owners to Coventry, where they toured the Canley Triumph factory and then picked up their specially prepared Triumph. On arrival at Harwich, a boat trip took participants to the Hook of Holland and to two thousand miles of driving in fourteen days through six different countries — France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Austria and Germany.
If someone has a collection of Road & Track, it would be nice to see the report of the Rally which appeared in:
"The American Triumph Rally of Europe", Road & Track, Vol. 9 No. 1, October 1957. □
Latest Update 1 April
The other day, I spotted a For Sale advertisement on the Triumph TR Register website, posted by someone living in Denbighshire, which was also home to KST 277 and its last owner. I wrote to the vendor. Did he know Geraint? Not that well, but there was somebody else who did. He put me in touch.
Thus, while the middle history of KST 277 is still shrouded in mystery, as of today, the last chapter of it isn't. With the benefit of hindsight, I find it amusing to see how easy it is to jump to conclusions, riding bareback on one's wild imagination, and then sometimes, though not always, to be proven wrong.
So there I was, imagining Geraint involved in Welsh rallying in his distant youth, now yearning to refresh that exhilarating experience. Yes, this time I was wrong. But that is no bad thing. After all, you can be pleasantly surprised by the truth.
Patrick met Geraint more than ten years before he passed away in 2018. It's not just because they lived in the same village. Geraint belonged to a local stick-making club — I never knew such clubs existed — that met once a week. One day, Patrick asked him if he would give him a hand now and again, when a second pair of hands were needed around his small holding.
This is how Patrick learnt a bit more about this Welsh speaking retired farmer who'd worked on Lord Harborough's Rhug Estate, near Corwen, probably most of his life. As well as stick-making, the previous owner loved:
One day, Geraint walked into Pat's garage and saw his immaculate Sapphire Blue Triumph TR6, with "fancy" chrome wire wheels, only recently reassembled, after a bare metal respray. The 6 had belonged to a village neighbour who bought the 6 from TR Bitz around 1990.
Pat noticed how the car's pristine condition immediately appealed to Geraint’s sense of perfection. Mr. Pritchard was most definitely impressed. Now, I must admit that Patrick is a far better storyteller than I. So I shall let him tell his own story. He has a way with words.
Incidentally, Pat eventually sold his TR6 for the precise amount that he'd quoted Geraint, and replaced it with a TR7 convertible, which also sports "fancy wheels" now that it has come back from the paint shop.
So KST 277 gave retired farmer Geraint Pritchard great satisfaction in those last ten years of companionship. Almost, but not quite, as if the TR were willing to slow right down to a suitably sedate pace that would suit its new owner Mr. Pritchard.
■ Patrick wrote: "We have found a photograph of KST 277. It was taken at the Clwyd Practical Classics Car Show at Caerwys in Flintshire, North Wales, in 2010."
You have to wonder: why buy a 150bhp TR so late in life? Well, I did wonder. The answer then, is another question: and why not? After all, in 2008, Geraint was starting afresh, to the point of breaking out of mourning to remarry, and start again. He loved talking and the car was a talking point at all the shows he attended. And anyway, how wise of Geraint to enjoy the life he had, the way he did. Doubtless a folly, to some, but one which made perfect sense to him.
What about the huge gap in time?
My guess is that, when most of the surviving TRs were being done up or driven further into the ground by the next generation, with clapped out suspension and wandering steering, back in the 1970s and 1980s, KST 277 spent those decades gently rusting away where it had been parked up for the last time, left there, perhaps on the Ferries & Co. Ltd premises, until the former Standard Triumph Scottish Highlands Dealership was finally closed down in the late 1990s. Prior to its restoration, KST 277 had little over 88,000 miles on the clock, and had never been registered in the Triumph TR Register Club before Geraint's time.
I think only a competent mechanic and restorer, someone like Mark Mason, could afford not to join the Register. The online Forum didn't exist yet.
Mason was a good friend of John Sykes, the former owner of TR Bitz who, Craig Mannison, the new co-owner informed me, sourced many of the parts needed to restore KST 277 and sold them to Mason. And remember, neither Bill Piggott nor the current Registrar, Mike Ellis, had ever seen or heard of this car, until 2008, when Geraint became a Register member and requested a Register trace for his TR3.
■ KST 277 at a show? Sporting silver painted wires and aeros, looking newly restored. Photo online. Where is that big hall (double fire doors in the back). Anyone recognize it? A TR Register stand? Ths banner reads TR Restorations? Or Racetorations? And when?
Hence, my theory that the restorer came across this vehicle by chance, by word of mouth, perhaps, a barn find, a long-forgotten sidescreen TR. Perhaps he inherited the car or somehow had been in his posession for a long time. Quite possibly, the show photo might be dated earlier still.
Now, KST 277 is ready and waiting. TR Bitz have been generous, painstakingly attentive to detail, in the way they have prepared the car. I'm impressed and have said so to Craig. And yet, the TR3 is parked very far away, in lockdown, still at TR Bitz. Now they're fitting Bob's super-duper LED conversion which arrived yesterday and a row of stone-guarded Landrover 6" spots. Black and powerful, in addition to so much else they have done: new battery, new braided Goodridge brake hoses, rad hoses, new ATG foam filters, full service, NGK spark plugs, fan belt, dizzy cap, greasing, waxoyling refresh, new 175 tyres to replace the 185 Yokohamas, my compromise between tried and trusted 165s and a wider tread, rear reverse and fog lights, the fastenings on the sidescreen signalling flaps and on the tonneau, as new, but never fitted. I'm sure I've forgotten some of the work. Good to go. Perfection itself.
And yet, like everyone else, I must bide my time. I'd love to drive this new sidescreen TR up north to Belfast, and thence get the ferry to Scotland, tour the length and breadth of the Highlands, meet E. Meason to say thanks, take a look at his TR or TRs. Drop in on Jamie and Andrea at the Inverness Museum, call on Billy Jack himself.
Can't wait, but, like you, I'm stranded. I'd love to tour Ireland, to join in Irish Register events, to get involved in rallies and test days again, autotests, hill climbs, if they do them here. Who knows? Maybe we're looking at the end of April. What next?
At some point, we're bound to hear from Mark Mason. TR Bitz are on the case. Mark did the restoration before 1998, the terminem ad quem. The previous owner John is still in touch with his friend who, TR Bitz say, is planning to come over from Spain where he lives these days.
And also from Jamie in Inverness, as soon as the Inverness Museum archivist gets a chance to speak to the first owner of KST 277, Billy Jack, or to his acquaintance who remembers seeing the TR in town, back in the 1950s. I have another lead: Billy Jack's address, from Companies House, I should try that. You never know. □
Latest Update 13 April 2020
Why didn't I think of it earlier? Look up in this Forum the year Mark Mason sold the car to Geraint, 2008. Or I could have thought of searching "TR Bitz". Well, the fact is that it only occurred to me today — and Bingo! Blue TR3 For Sale popped up.
The Forum is like a collection of conversations frozen in time, jokes, asides, witticisms, expert opinions, dates for your diary, which rewards later consultation. A sidescreen TR appears on ebay and Forumites take note and discuss its pros and cons, or on an online ad, as happened with KST 277.
Eleven years ago, to be precise, when, on 8 July 2008, 69_gt6 (Andy) asked the TR2/3/3A Forum members:
The information appeared on a website called autoexposure, but by 2020, the website autoexposure.co.uk has long ceased trading. Fortunately, however, the history file for KST 277 at TR Bitz includes a printout of that very same advertisement:
Andy got an answer from Stuart the very same day:
Peter (Dykins) responded:
When Peter (Fenlon) asked how much, Stuart replied:
David Johnson chipped in:
■ A recent Open Day at TR Bitz. Spot KST 277.
And that was that. John Sykes retired ten years later and the vendor and a good friend of his, Mark Mason, moved to sunny Spain. For the record, Johnson later found his sidescreen TR, a TR3A.
I have one more card up my sleeve. Watch this space. □
Latest Update 20 May 2020
You may recall that Jamie the archivist from the Inverness Highlands Museum posted a couple of paragraphs about KST 277 on Facebook (at Am baile Highland History & Culture), requesting any information from anyone who had seen this TR3 in Inverness, or knew of it in the 1950s. Why bother? 1956 was such a long time ago, well over half a century. Surely, this was going to be a hopeless attempt, doomed from the outset?
■ (Above left) Stan Kennedy, store and parts manager. (Centre) Pat MacLeod, one of the Directors at Ferries. (Right) Joe Davidson, Ferries, senior mechanic.
Well, I didn’t, truth be told. To be honest, it slipped my mind to look up the page, until several weeks later; what with all of us being in Lock-down, sheltering from the Virus and from one another. Then, the other day, the Highland Museum page in my Facebook browser caught my eye.
It came as a surprise to find that, yes, several people remembered KST 277. Naturally, the first thing I did was to thank them. A week or so later, a Scot from Inverness got in touch from the same Facebook group. We went back and forth with our telegraphic exchanges for a while. Then he decided to send me a private message.
That was when some hard facts started emerging, for which I cannot thank Sandy Cameron enough. His help made it possible to fill in several gaps about KST 277’s early days, not to mention his picture research.
That Sandy Cameron could remember the car is hardly surprising, given that he lived next door to the Eastgate Ferries & Co. showroom and played in the street as a child, which is how the mechanics and staff at Ferries got to know him. The life of Ferries & Co. Ltd. spanned three quarters of a century of the history of motoring in Scotland, selling motorcars long before Standard Triumph was formed.
■ The Ferries garage in Millburn Road, circled in red, a stone’s throw from where freight trains of the London, Midlands and Highland Railway offloaded their cargo, including vehicles for Ferries & Co.
Only Bill Jack can tell how KST 277 arrived in Inverness. Was it by freight train, so close to Eastgate and Millburn Road? Sandy made me think again:
True, but doesn't it seem strange to you that Triumph would flog a TR3 to one of their own Dealerships, which was built a year earlier, basically a TR2 with a new front grille, when, by August, they had already introduced a high port cylinder head to production cars, (taking power output to 100bhp)? If he had gone there in person, wouldn't he have had some say in the matter, apart from getting the basic model for £650, without overdrive or a heater or other extras?
All new cars, mostly Standard Tens and Pennants, but Citröens too, as well as David Brown tractors, reached the Inverness Ferries Dealership for the Highlands and West of Scotland, by freight train. However, if Sandy is right, it would have taken Billy several days to collect his TR, a long train journey on the way down, and an even longer journey back from Birmingham to the Scottish Highlands and to Inverness, a small place in those days. According to the 1951 census, it had a population of 28,107, almost doubled by 2011 (but 62,470 for Greater Inverness).
■ Ferries & Co. Ltd, at a 1950s agricultural fair, Inverness.
Sandy also pointed out:
Ferries & Co. were also suppliers of agricultural vehicles, including David Brown tractors. They owned two sites. One was the car showroom, at 84-86 Eastgate, the other, the garage and petrol station situated only a few hundred yards away, at McGregor’s Buildings, Millburn road, Inverness (shown in a previous instalment with KST 277 parked inside it).
■ Andy Maben at Ferries in the early 1950s.
I asked Sandy: “What sort of person was Billy Jack?”
Did he join in at Ferries? Or did he leave it to the garage to sort things out? Sandy said:
Thus far, to me, these people were only names. Was I being too inquisitive to wonder what they looked like? Once again, Sandy took me by surprise when he sent me the photograph below, taken at a Ferries party for staff and management. It includes Marion and her second husband, Mr. McEwan, a solicitor. Sandy told me that Billy still looks more or less the same today.
■ This group photograph includes Billy Jack, Marion McEwan (formerly Jack), and her second husband, the solicitor Mr. McEwan.
■ (Left, bottom row) Marion's son, Billy Jack jnr. (Right, top row: Marion and her second husband, Mr. McEwan.
Sandy suggests that the directors at Ferries & Co. bought this TR3, as stock. It was registered on 4 August 1956, and initially served as a demonstrator. In the build details, it is listed as "Home Reserve". According to a TR Register Forum post comment by Bill Piggott, dated12 May 2015:
The TR3 had been in production for the past year, and was due to be replaced by the new model, the TR3A, in the autumn of 1957. Although it started its life as a demonstrator, by the time it was registered, it was already out of date, and eventually became Bill’s own car.
What is certain is that Marion was one of the Directors at Ferries. She was from the Pringle Woolen Mills family and married William Jack, Billy's father. Sandy knew Marion MacKewan, who was very kind to him as a small child.
■ Sandy Cameron, aged six.
When I mentioned to Sandy the first Triumph Rally of Europe of 1957, it rang a bell. He could confirm that Billy Jack had indeed been on a European rally, but always believed it was the Monte. But Billy didn’t go alone on the rally. His mother went with him. Did they take turns at driving? We don’t know, though it must have been a very exciting experience for a twenty-two-year old.
In those days, Eastgate and Millburn Road, the two Ferries & Co. Standard Triumph garages, were on the A9, directly on the main route for anyone heading south of the country. This was the route Marion and her son took from Inverness, passing through the dramatic views of the Cairngorms, on their way south to Perth, the first leg of the journey. They then either took the Glasgow route or the Edinburgh one. Either way, as Sandy pointed out, “it was a lot more leisurely in these days”. No motorways, and filling stations were few and far between. It was certainly a bold, adventurous thing to do, if you lived that far north, in the Highlands of Scotland to take part in a European rally, even though it wasn’t competitive.
Their southbound journey meant motoring on to Carlisle, probably, down the A1 across the border between Scotland and England. Then, negotiating the route that took them through the scenic Peak and Lake Districts to their destination, the Standard Triumph Canley works in Birmingham, starting point of the Triumph Rally of Europe.
The participants were nearly all North Americans waiting to pick up their sidescreen TR3s, ordered months in advance and made to their specification, some with hardtops, others not, in a range of colours and other choices. But not KST 277, at that stage, a two-year old TR, built in November 1955 and registered the following year, long before the first TSOA Rally of Europe was set to begin, so for them, yes, it was a junket.
■ Map of the Highlands, showing the 1950s route south from Inverness on the A9, a scenic route, traversing the edge of the Cairngorms, past Aviemore down to Perth.
■ The Glenmore campsite, near Aviemore, 1960s, courtesy of the Highlands Museum.
I asked the former TR2/3/3A Registrar and author Bill Piggott about this discrepancy and, on 17 May 2020, he told me:
Be that as it may, there can be no doubt that Marion in her forties and Billy Jack, barely twenty-two in 1957, were very keen to take part in the Triumph European Rally, because their TR3 was one of the first entrants. Their rally plate, still bolted on to the rear bumper a year later, was no. 5.
The TR’s life as a demonstrator was soon cut short. The European Rally proves it. Not to mention the fact that Billy was very active in the Highland Car and Motorcycle Club, competing in road rallies. Needless to say, one would hardly run a demonstrator in pristine condition on a road rally.
■ A typical local mid-1950s road rally, organized by the Scottish Sporting Club and the Glasgow Herald (as the plate on the car in the foreground indicates). The cars are parked just 60 miles from Inverness. Sandwiched between the Aston Martin DB2 and the MGA, is a TR 2 (as the single-pane sidescreens and rubber wing beading indicate).
Billy’s local motor club’s very existence revolved around motorsport, as Sandy explained to me. Moreover, at least two at Ferries employees were keen rally drivers and racers, for example, Ronnie McKay.
■ Sandy remembers Ronnie McKay from Thurso. He worked at Ferries as a trainee manager. He was also very active in motorsport and campaigned a Triumph early on.
I looked up the Highland Car Club online, but with little success. They are typical, in so far as they’re too busy organizing current events and making new members welcome, to find the time to value their own history. I did learn, however, that it was famous for its winter rally, the Snowman Rally, nowadays a stage rally, and that it was launched in 1955 and run ever since.
Did Billy Jack ever compete in it? It’s a mystery. But Sandy confirmed that he and Billy Jack happened to marshal side by side in one edition of the Scottish Highland Rally, when Sandy was in his teens. Normally, he marshalled with his peers. Once, Sandy recalls Triumph Works men commenting on Billy Jack’s driving skills. He was a first-rate rally driver.
Billy Jack junior and Marion Jack were the first owners of KST 277. Billy is alive and well, and a friend of Sandy’s. He still runs Farm and Household Stores.
There are so many questions that only the original owner can answer. When did he sell KST 277? To whom did he sell his TR3? Does he still have photos of the car from the days when he drove it?
As soon as possible, let's not rule out this summer, but it is beginning to look very unlikely, it would be nice to drive up from Cork to Belfast, take the ferry over to the Lowlands of Scotland, then drive up to the Highlands, and reunite the original owner with his TR. Let him drive it! Well, when the “Lock-down” is lifted in Scotland, Sandy is going to Farm and Household Stores to give Billy a surprise. □