More so than any other individual, Sir John Black had the greatest influence on Triumph in the postwar era. Born in 1895 in Surrey, his nascent legal career was derailed by World War I during which he first served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve before transferring to the Royal Tank Regiment serving as a Captain (one of the youngest ever) on the Western Front.
He joined the growing automotive industry and took a management job with Hillman in 1921. He later became a Managing Director and after Hillman joined the Rootes group joined the Standard Motor Company becoming the Managing Director in 1933.
With a mercurial personality and often difficult to deal with, Black was nonetheless well respected and considered a fair man by his peers. He was active during World War II in manufacturing and knighted by the King for his efforts. In 1944, he purchased Triumph from Ward’s and soon announced that a new range of cars would debut after the war.
Under his watch came the Standard Vanguard and his decision to team with Harry Ferguson on tractor production would have great consequences on the later Triumph sports cars. Rebuffed in his efforts to purchase Morgan he was the impetus behind the TR2 and the TR range of cars would establish the company’s; reputation for all time. An injury he suffered in 1953 while driving in a Swallow Doretti allowed the board of directors to oust him and he was replaced by Alick Dick. Criticized for his largesse, manner and dictatorial style, Black would be the man most responsible for the postwar success of Triumph. He died on Christmas Eve in 1965 at the age of 70.
By Johnny Oversteer