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Sir John Black

Brought up in the late Victorian period, allowing for his engagements in the First World War, would have shaped the life of John Paul Black in a unique way. He had evidently learned the quality of self-discipline at an early age, while growing up with his five brothers and two sisters at Kingston-Upon-Thames in Surrey. Before 1914 he had acquired much experience through his education in Law, but his first job on leaving school was with ABC Ltd. (All British Company) who were building their aero engines at Brooklands in 1911. At sixteen years of age, the young John Black would have had no concept of his future involvement with aircraft production during the Second World War. Yet that early life significantly marked the pattern of his later career in the Motor Industry. The Standard Motor Company surely needed direction and leadership during those uncertain years of the 1930’s so the timing was perfect for an enthusiastic and dynamic character like Black to arrive on the scene. 

The ‘Flying Standards’ were to put the Company back on the map, after earlier financial challenges, paving the way for mass production of both vehicles and aircraft in future years. With the inception of war Captain Black directed resources towards manufacturing mostly Bristol Mercury engines and Mosquito aircraft, under the government backed Shadow Factory Scheme in Coventry. These factories also proved to be extremely useful after the war for further production of the  Standard Vanguard and the TE-20 Ferguson tractor. So it was with vision and conviction that the newly knighted Sir John Black approached the government with the plan to secure these two extremely large factories for the purpose of producing vehicles, which would assist Britain’s export policy and revolutionise farming. When you consider that over a quarter of a million Vanguards and half a million Fergusons were manufactured and delivered through Black’s administration, it gives an indication of the immense amount of work undertaken in those post-war years at Coventry. It was also extremely economical to utilise the same basic 4 cylinder 2,088cc engine for both vehicles.

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After the acquisition of the Triumph Company in 1945, John Black went on to create a completely new image for his production lines. The Roadster, Renown and Mayflower all came under this new Triumph Marque, leading to his crowning glory- the TR2 in 1953. Perhaps that was the epitome of Sir John Black’s involvement, and contribution to the British Motor Industry. Ironically the year 1953 saw both the TR2 breaking speed records in Belgium in May, but also the ill-fated Banner Lane crash in November with Black as passenger in the new prototype Swallow Doretti. Coincidentally the two cars shared the same engine and driver, Ken Richardson, who had himself helped develop the TR2.

Whether that episode precipitated Black’s ‘fall from grace’ is open to opinion, but he sustained serious enough injuries to require a period of convalescence down in the South of France, being rather typical of his style. In reality, his formative years and wartime trauma at Ypres in 1917 probably affected his temperament for the rest of his life. Like so many veterans of war, he carried the scars he experienced, while in the First Tank Regiment, silently. Despite his extensive contribution to Standard Triumph, he was made to sign a letter of resignation in 1954, largely due to independent actions relating to future contracts with the Ferguson Company, together with his controversial practice of sacking Managers and Directors in the Company. However, because his involvement in so many aspects of car production, over his twenty years of service, was undoubtedly appreciated, the Standard Motor Company allowed him the dignity of a retirement package and pension scheme, which at least offered him security in his later years alone, when retired in Wales.



Nick Black

February 2021

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