Stag Meets Stag – or OKY to On Tow

Here’s Pete Dennis to tell you all about his Stag….

Stag-IV

Like many other classic car enthusiasts the Triumph Stag is the car I had always wanted. Of course there were – indeed are – others such as the iconic E-Type, Lotus Elan, Austin Healey 3000 and Aston Martin DB6 to name but a few. However the Stag just seemed to embody that combination of flair, style and power in a slightly understated way very few cars had done before or since. Being launched in 1970 it was the year I became 17 and was learning to drive. There was also a Triumph dealership close to where I lived at that time and walking past it on a regular basis over the years I used to stare in and admire the beautiful, shiny examples in the showroom – Heralds, Dolomites, 2000s, Spitfires, TRs and then the Stag. What a beauty! The Italian styling with every curve and angle in the right place, the V8 engine, the wooden dash and smart instrumentation – and a four seater!

I owned several Triumphs in the 1970s and 1980s including Dollies and Spitfires and finally an Acclaim CD and was disappointed when the name finally disappeared somewhere in the BL ‘possibly pending file’ and I bought a Ford! I had enjoyed being a Triumph owner over all of those years. From the Dolomite’s hint of luxury with a sporty edge to the Spitfire’s sporty edge but very little luxury! I worked in various parts of the country and in Germany so drove tens of thousands of miles in the UK and across Europe at that time and all models proved (generally!) reliable. But I still really wanted a Stag…..

Fast forward some 35 years and various moderns later and more laterally a Mk IV Spitfire 1300 as my classic for 6 years, a friend told me about a Stag that had been off the road for several years and would I be interested in buying it? I went down to the New Forest, just to take a look of course, and it was inevitably love at first sight and I agreed to purchase ‘OKY’ (OKY 235 R), a 1977 model in Pimento Red, automatic and with original V8 there and then.

That was 5 years ago now I have used her regularly throughout the year ever since. Sometimes just taking her to work or locally to visit friends and pubs. I have also attended numerous classic get togethers including those at Brooklands, Goodwood and Prescott as well as meetings and treasure hunts organised by the local Stag Owners Club. Despite some slight initial reservations about the Stag’s reliability and the usual comments about ‘I hope it’s got the Rover engine’ OKY has proved to be steadfast and trustworthy over the miles since ownership.

When my niece announced her wedding last year she asked if OKY could be the Bridesmaids car. Of course I was honoured and without any hesitation said ‘Yes’. Plans were put in place over the months and I received my brief to arrive at Oakley Court Hotel, near Windsor, on the Friday night and then to take the Bridesmaid, Maid of Honour and her mother to the Church and back afterwards on the Saturday.

Being the proud uncle that I am I spent several days making sure that OKY was all checked and checked over again – not that I had any doubt that she would let me down as it was only some 15 miles or so away. I cleaned her in and out and polished her and buffed up the chrome so she was glowing and gleaming. I hoovered the inside and cleaned the upholstery numerous times as I wanted to make sure new, smart dresses were not marked before the ceremony on the big day. The inside can get a little messy as Hattie, our Flatcoated Retriever, also loves going out in her! I measured ribbon to tie around the front and on to the wing mirrors and bows to make OKY look suitably festooned for the occasion.

One final check and I got my smart clothes on for a meal in the evening and suit and everything else packed and ready for the great occasion. The forecast was looking a little mixed for the Saturday, but I was hoping it would remain fine so we could arrive with the top down, slightly blown about but not too cramped on the inside! Despite it being a relatively mild evening on the Friday I put the hood up just to avoid getting any dust or leaves blown in on the way over.

On arrival at Oakley Court I noticed this amazing wooden sculpture of a Stag leaping. I parked directly outside the main entrance and jumped out of the car camera in hand and took several shots from various angles to capture that ‘Stag Meets Stag’ moment. Needless to say it caused quite a stir and numerous other guests came out – some also attending my niece’s wedding, others just curious to see what all the fuss was about. However, when they saw OKY there glistening in the evening sunshine next to the sculpture they also all rushed for their cameras and started to take snaps and asked me all about my Stag, with me responding in my usual proud way.

 

After several minutes I thought I’d better get parked up and checked in as I was one of the last to arrive. I turned the key and the Stag roared into action with that glorious burble form the V8. I gave a little wave to the crowd still mingling around the entrance when Tom, my nephew, called out, ‘Uncle Pete, did you know you’ve got an oil leak’!! I quickly jumped out of OKY and to my dismay on looking underneath, sure enough a steady spurt of oil was dripping onto the clean drive of Oakley Court. The cheery grin of the concierge soon turned to a scowl as he quickly waved me away into the main car park and he hurriedly got a bucket of sand and covered over the slippery slick of Millers Classic 20w50. Despite me being in my best casual attire I crawled underneath to see a steady drip coming down from the oil filter. I’d cleared the boot of my bag of tools and odd spares to make sure I had enough room for any wedding paraphernalia that might be needed, so no spares and no tools.

Over a hearty meal and several pints of ale I was ribbed mercilessly about my pride and joy breaking down on her big occasion. After a humble apology to the bride and her family we agreed not to try to make a quick fix ‘just in case’. I was also fairly sure Halfords in Maidenhead would no longer stock oil filters and seals for a Triumph Stag! A rapid change of plan and the ribbons that were going to adorn OKY were cut to shape to fit on to my brother in law’s Alfa Romeo – now who would ever have thought a modern Alfa would prove to be the car to replace a 37 year old Triumph Stag on such a special day?

The wedding went off without a (another!) hitch and apart from the disappointment of not being driven in Uncle Pete’s classic it was the most wonderful occasion. OKY was sadly and forlornly taken home on the back of a breakdown truck, so OKY became temporarily ON TOW! Fortunately it was just the seal that had ‘kinked’ causing the leak and she was soon back on the road and roaring around the roads of Berkshire once again.

OKY1

Note the flow of oil!!!

OKY2

For those who don’t know Oakley Court was where they filmed many of the Hammer House of Horror movies and I think this was Dracula’s way of having a bit of wicked fun at my expense!!

Stag Adventure to Spain

Many thanks to Roy Smith for his Stag Tales in Spain….

I thought that I would start by sharing a picture of my wife’s Boobies. She took the picture in March 2012 on Ascension Island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (near the equator) when we were warming up on a break from my Civil Service job supporting the British Forces in the South Atlantic in the Falklands.

Boobies

It was later that day that – without any understanding of either the subsequent financial or social life changing consequences – she tossed me a 2008 copy of Classic Car magazine that she had found in the converted portakabin that we were staying in. As I browsed through, I came across an advert by Cherished Classics of Leicester who specialize in the Triumph Stag. I had admired the Stag since its launch – regrettably I am old enough to remember those days – but had never been in one or even had a close look. Heading for retirement, the following year I quite fancied the thought of something to enjoy after I left work and after discussing this with my wife Sandra we set about investigating the possibility of ownership then. Once a year, I was entitled to return to UK with my wife – the Ministry of Defence being all heart – and I wrote to Lee Court of Cherished Classics and explained that I would appreciate it if he would allow us to visit his showroom in May as he opened only “by appointment” on Saturdays – the day that the flight arrived at Brize Norton. I also explained that we were not in the market at the time but were interested. I am sure that he thought that we were just “time wasters” and initially put us off. I persevered and eventually he agreed to our visit. Sandra and I had done a little homework, looking at various websites and had concluded that we would particularly like a yellow or red Stag, one with solid rather than wire wheels as these are too difficult to keep clean. We didn’t want white.

Spain stag1

When the day came, after the 17 hours of flying we made our way to Leicester and Cherished Classics showroom. Lee pulled back the showroom door. There were maybe 6 cars in there but the very first, immediately behind the door was PKE 454L. White, wire wheels, love at first sight! Lee talked us through the cars in the show room and started two up. I still have the recording!!

We looked over the others but our hearts were set on the white one. She has been renovated – in 2006 but has covered – even now less than 5k miles. The interior is French blue leather with white piping. It’s funny, as we did not intend to buy for a year or so, we did not look in great detail at the condition of the body, although she looked immaculate but we did listen to what Lee told us about how to tell a good renovation.

Spain stag interior

She was priced at a figure more than we could afford so we thanked Lee and left. We watched Lee’s website and over a period of a month the asking price dropped by £2k. We offered a little less again and this was accepted! However, we were back in the Falklands winter by then and couldn’t arrange another flight for a month or so.

Our home is in Spain, near Gibraltar so we made all the arrangements, flights, ferry, hotels etc and arrived back in UK towards the end of July 2012. We rented a car from Brize Norton, drove up to Leicester and there she was, sitting outside the show room. Beautiful!

Lee ran through putting the hood up and re-stowing it, told us a story about another Stag owner and a problem he had had with the Torquatrol unit – the noise it makes when the bearings fail. He gave us a free pack of all the fluids and also the various “insurance” items that I had bought in preparation for our long journey to Spain – spare fuel and water pump, service kits (2), rear wheel cylinders, etc, etc, plus the right hand drive headlights as the car was now fitted for continental driving. It was at the front of my mind that neither Sandra nor I had ever driven any Stag before. Buying a car on the internet with no knowledge of this particular example, but with plenty of not so good press about reliability, overheating, mashing cam chains was a gamble and with the bookings made for our journey, we were committed.

We stayed with friends for 3 nights in Melksham before setting off on Tuesday morning for the Portsmouth – Santander Brittany ferry. All the time we had been in England, I had been praying that it would not rain. I just did not want to get the car wet. I did not know if it would leak, affect the electrics; stop us getting to the ferry…. The weather was fine.

The sea voyage to Spain was lovely and a chance to relax a bit but we had the thought of the next challenge – getting to Salamanca and the hotel – a 4 hour drive from the ferry. But the ferry did not dock until 1830 and by the time we got off and cleared customs….. Off we went, assisted by TomTom. The skies darkened and not because it was getting late, but because there was a thunderstorm ahead. The rain in Spain falls mainly on my Stag! Well, it did that evening.

Salamanca

We made the Abba Hotel in Salamanca by 2300 that evening without incident with only a few drops of rain – which was pretty heavy at times, dripping through the firewall somewhere. The view from the hotel, of Salamanca at night was so wonderful that we went down to the front desk and booked a second night. The Stag was safely parked in the hotel garage as we explored the historic elements of the city and possibly exceeded our capacity for churches in the process. But I can thoroughly recommend the hotel and the city. The next day we set off bound for home, driving some of the excellent old “main” roads that have been replaced by the autovia’s funded by the EU.

Spain stag2

It was on one of these that the grinding began. Oh no! Cam chains!! In a bit of a flap, I phoned Lee Court and put the phone as close as I could to the front of the engine so that he could listen. “Oh, that’s the Torquatrol unit”, he said. “Get some oil on the bearing and it will be fine”. I don’t know if you have tried to drip oil onto the bearing here, on a hot engine but it is a bit inaccessible. Remembering a Bond movie where the villain dripped poison down a thread lowered from the ceiling into the victim’s mouth (Bond’s new wife I seem to recall), I used a small stick to drizzle the oil onto the bearing. It worked a treat. We had 300 miles to go but only had to do this once more before we arrived safely home in Los Barrios, Andalusia. Other than the minor problem that was nowhere near as bad as I had feared, the car had run perfectly. The car has a Kenlowe fan fitted and the temperature gauge never exceeded the 11 o’clock position. The outside temperatures had been up in the 30’s and all bar the thunderstorm had been done with the hood stowed. Many other motorists had peeped and given a friendly wave as they passed us or we passed them and it had been an adventure.

Spain stag3

We live only 13 miles from Gibraltar where our daughters live now so went over the border a few times but the queue of over 2hours (now sometimes exceeding 5 hours) made us decide not to risk sitting in traffic for such extended periods. When I got a chance to have a good look at the condition of the car in my garage, she is in better condition than I could have hoped. Great actually. I can recommend Cherished Classics of Leicester and Lee’s expertise. We flew back to UK and on to the Falklands a few days later.I retired at the end of last year and I have not yet managed to get the car back on the road due to Spanish red tape. But that is another story!

Gibraltar