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