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|History '66 Derek Pollock|
1,900 miles in just under 48 hours despite fog and waterlogged conditions in many parts of England and Scotland! That was the marathon completed by members of the North London Branch of the S.T.A.A. early in October. With six normal production cars representing the Standard Triumph range, these amateur drivers spent 46 hours at the wheel and travelled from London via John O’Groats and Lands End back to London at an average speed of 41.3n.p.h. To the unshaven, tired but successful, team who returned to their starting point one October Sunday evening, we say “Well done indeed!”
A member of the team wrote the following story which is a tribute to the Branch, the drivers and the Triumph products they drove.
It was earlier this year that Phil Perry and Les Mills discussed the possibility of driving from London via John O’Groats and Lands End and back to London in 48 hours in the former’s TR4 just to see if it could be done – and to enjoy a weekend’s motoring. Other North London Branch members heard about the idea and before long there were five cars prepared to undertake the venture.
Although we had members with Triumph 1300’s none was willing or able to join the happy band, so we managed to persuade Broadfields Engineering, Standard-Triumph Distributors of Cockfosters, Herts., to lend us their demonstration 1300 for the week-end and we are very grateful to them and to Standard-Triumph for providing a Triumph 2000 at the last minute when our driver dropped out. Thus we were able to field a team of six cars, one of each model produced by Triumph at the time.
The route and timing for the drive was organised by Les Mills and we believe it was the biggest single factor in our success. The route was divided into 53 sections, each one having a different average speed requirement according to the conditions, and a maximum and minimum arrival time. Provided crews kept within these limits they knew they were on time and this made for a relaxed atmosphere.
Phil Perry handled the correspondence and did all the hundred and one liaison jobs that were called for including drawing up lists of articles which would be needed on the journey.
The cars left the premises of Broadfields Engineering in Cockfosters, at 7p.m. on Friday, 7th October, after a number of photographs had been taken. There was a good crowd of members and friends to give us a rousing send off, and we had an uneventful run up the M1 and were on time at F.Mitchell’s Triumph Distributors in Nottingham. However, there was a great deal of patchy fog for most of the night and we were lucky to be on time crossing the Forth Bridge.
We pressed on northwards in the early hours of Saturday and found a lot of rain in the extreme highlands approaching John O’Groats where we partook of an excellent breakfast at the Seaview Hotel. This had been laid on in advance and we only stayed for half an hour before setting off.
Darkness on Saturday found us refuelling in Lanark and getting more reports of fog expected to the south. We were over Shap on time at around 10 p.m. and stopped for a quick meal at the first service area on the M6.
It did not take long to complete the 100 miles of this motorway, meet the Midland S.O.C. boys and join the M5 where the fog began to reappear. It was at its worst on the A38 approaching Bristol.
We watched the dawn rise amidst the mists of Bodmin Moor and this was voted by most of us as the most impressive sight of the whole drive.
We were well within schedule at Lands End and set off for Exeter in high spirits after two night on the road. The Spitfire had to have a change of dynamo at Exeter and was twenty minutes behind at this stage.
Traffic on Sunday afternoon was quite heavy and the run in to check with our marshall at Charing Cross was rather trying. However, we foregathered at a prearranged spot near the finish and waited the arrival of the Spitfire which joined us in plenty of time for all six cars to drive triumphantly into Broadfields Garage in the same order as they had started.
John Graham, know North of the Border as “the interpreter” was the only driver to wear a collar and tie. Inside the garage he was given a glass of champagne by someone who enquired “Don’t you wish you had been on the run?” He has been muttering about this ever since!
Perhaps the least useful fact discovered by most crews was that it is not advisable to open cans of coca-cola in a moving car! The honorary secretary, who shared the Triumph 2000, was unable to use the only reclining seat available because the back of the car was full of food, and the press secretary accused by his co-driver in the Triumph 1300 of doing nothing but ear bananas for 48 hours……..!
The Chairman and Committee of the North London Branch as well as the drivers themselves are well-pleased with their small achievement which, although it required determination, certainly gives the lie to the often expressed theme that it is impossible to enjoy motoring in this country today. It was also a most stimulating experience which most of us are ready to repeat in some form.
We would like to take this opportunity of expressing our warmest possible thanks to some of those who assisted us. In particular, Arnold Bolton, S.T.A.A. General Secretary, who not only organised assistance at many points but who popped up twice during that memorable week-end to encourage us.
Also our thanks to the following garages some of whom opened specially during the wee small hours to provide both cars and drivers with the necessary liquids:- F. Mitchell, Nottingham; Bishops Garage, Corbridge-on-Tyne; J.Ferries & Co., Inverness; Mansefield Service Staion, Lanark; College Motors and the Bristol Motor Co., Bristol; Whitfields Garage, Redruth; Motor Macs, Exeter; and last but not least the Broadfilds Garage and Engineering Co., Cockfosters, who filled us up with petrol at the start and champagne at the finish!
Perhaps the most impressive welcome on route was that of the Midland Spitfire Owners’ Club whose line of cars greeted us at the southern end of the M6 and led us unerringly to the M5.
Three o’clock in the morning is not the brightest of hours, but the South West Spitfire Owners’ Club were out in force to see us in and out of Bristol and the East Lothian Spitfire Owners’ Club’s help in foggy Edinburgh, also at around 3 a.m., was most welcome, as was that of the Devon Branch, S.T.A.A., in crowded Exeter. We hope to be able to return the compliment one day!
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