The Best Made Plans

Once again we raid the archives of the excellent publication Triumph Over Triumph, published by Paul Richardson in England. Let’s take you back 50 years to 1947!

It was decided as part of the celebrations for the introduction of the Standard Vanguard in 1947 to organize a demonstration of Standard Motor Company products for distributors, suppliers, and VIPs at the Banner Lane factory.

The demonstration took the form of a large procession of Vanguards and Ferguson tractors, which filed past Ivy Cottage for the assembled guests to admire. On the day, the company promotion went perfectly, BUT at the dress rehearsal a few days before the main event, things didn’t go quite so well!

A convoy of over 200 pristine Vanguards and Fergies were lined up three abreast on the service road adjacent to Ivy Cottage in readiness for their parade past the VIP viewing platform.

A platform had been installed for the dignitaries to review the procession. Sir John Black stood at the front, and a large group of his staff and the organizers of the rehearsal were positioned a few paces behind. This included Ted Martin, the sales director, and John Warren, his newly appointed assistant. All the press and public relations people were present on this auspicious occasion.

When all was ready, the order “Start your engines” was given, and Sir John took up his position on the platform with his entourage behind him all expecting to witness a routine rehearsal. What happened next is best described by John Warren:

Sir John gave the signal and the vehicles moved off. Midway through the procession, and right in front of us, a loud thump was heard, and Vanguards and tractors began crashing into each other! The vehicles behind started to brake and swerve in all directions, trying, in vain, to avoid the monumental pile-up that was to follow. The sound of shattering glass and crunching metal heralded the arrival of clouds of steam that began to arise from punctured radiators!

As Vanguards and tractors began to pile up in front of him like a scrapyard delivery, Sir John, still standing to attention, and not moving an inch, surveyed the scene before him and demanded of Ted Martin, “What the bloody hell is going on?”

Meanwhile I got a glimpse of Ivor Penrice, the public relations manager, and Jack Croft, the press officer, rapidly disappearing around a corner of the building. I was too exposed to make a dash for it unnoticed, so I stepped forward and said, “Excuse me, Sir John, but do you think three white lines on the road would help the drivers?” Sir John bellowed, “Pugsley!” (B.J. Pugsley was planning director for Standard Triumph) and in what seemed like seconds later, men with white paint arrived.

Thus encouraged, I said, “All the Vanguards are the same champagne color, and all the Ferguson tractors are gray. Do you feel it would add some color to the parade if we flew a flag on each vehicle depicting all the countries to which we export?” Sir John considered for a moment, and approved, adding with a note of skepticism, “Got any more bright ideas?” Somewhat overconfident by now, I replied, “Maybe it would liven up the whole show if the parade was led by our British Legion Pipe Band?” and went on to remark, “Besides, I think it was Shakespeare who said, ‘Music soothes the breast of man.'”

Sir John’s response was explosive. “Nevermind about bloody Shakespeare, just make sure that band is here this time tomorrow!” With that, Sir John spun on his heels, called his chauffeur, and was driven off in his Bentley, leaving behind absolute bedlam and a real shambles to be coped with.

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