[TR] A rose by any other name? (A bit of Standard Triumph history for them wots interested)

John Macartney john.macartney at ukpips.org.uk
Fri Jan 2 07:44:08 MST 2015

Hi, List

Over the Christmas and New Year break, Liz and I have been busy going
through our possessions. We're 'downsizing' home-wise and too much of the
stuff "that'll come in useful one day" has had to be reviewed. As you can
imagine, as someone who spent a lifetime in the UK auto industry, I've
managed to accumulate quite a lot of "come in useful one day" items. Dec 26
saw me making a start on evaluating several thousand 35mm colour slides of
vacations in Europe in Standard cars (Vanguards and a Standard Ten Companion
- aka Triumph Ten Wagon) when they were new and I've kept back too many
cherished pix to be later scanned to a hard disk. It's only sentiment as I
just can't bring myself to throw them out.

I then got into some of Dad's many internal reports from Canley days dating
from the mid-fifties and early sixties - before Leyland appeared in Coventry
- and there are two little aspects I've uncovered this far that I thought
might entertain you?

The first one relates to the hieroglyphics (my spelling?) on instrument
panel controls. Standard Triumph was probably the first UK manufacturer to
adopt them on the 1200 Herald / TR4 and this was not without its problems
back in the day. Up until then, car users had long become accustomed to
words on a knob to describe its function while today, several generations
have grown up intuitively knowing what a symbol means. For example, the
image of a heater matrix radiating warm air was perceived to be something to
do with a set of false teeth (!!!!) while the symbol of a throttle butterfly
in a venturi for the choke completely foxed the majority. It was a series of
reports about these hieroglyphs and overseas markets that I found most
entertaining but that's worth another story when I've read the rest of the
reports. It seems the French and the Italians were greatly against English
words on control knobs and argued with some rationale that they should
reflect the local languages. They argued that if you could build a car with
varying national specs (laminated windscreens, different wiring looms to
meet local requirements and laws, LH steering, kilometre speedos et al) then
local wording on knobs shouldn't be a problem.

The French argued and won for 'Eclairage' for lights, 'Chauffage' for
heating (where the false teeth symbol would later appear), 'Essuies' for
wipers, 'Dist d'Air' for the heater directional air control etc. All well
and good. Somehow, a budding linguist in Engineering failed to fully
research his dictionary for 'Choke' and probably tried to in-build the term
'strangler' into his deliberations. He could have used 'Melange' which was
the pre-WW2 term for 'mixture' or its then more modern and current
equivalent of 'Starter'. Note, this does not mean the engine start button on
sidescreen TR's or the twist switch on the ignition. Instead, the translator
made a noun out of the French verb to "choke on a piece of food" which is
'Etouffer' and modded it to 'Etouffeur.' Shrieks of laughter from French who
always love to mock the Brits and claimed this term *could* also be
interpreted into a person who chokes people to death. So all this
precipitated a mad rush for revised knobs in the correct terminology to fit
to cars in dealer stocks before they could be sold!!!!!

However, things didn't stop there. A few weeks later, the words for 'wipers'
in Italian was found to have been translated into a slang expression of a
particular local Italian dialect which common decency prevents me from
clarifying any further and I leave that to your imaginations. Suffice it to
say it is associated with Restrooms / Toilets :)

I suppose all these little issues are probably par for the course but my
amusement at these 'faux pas' was greatly heightened when I read that the
company making these various knobs had contracted with the factory for an
initial stock of 50,000 items of each in four different languages and there
was no way they were willing to scrub round the mistake or absorb the cost
for changing the tooling for revised wording.

So when you operate the knobs on your Herald, Vitesse, Spitfire which all
have the images on them, spare a thought for what happened to the words. I'm
currently reading the reports between Engineering, Quality Control,
Purchasing and Final Inspection on the tacit issues of the problems
encountered with all the hieroglyphs on the very early knobs which kept
falling out because the insert was a tad too large for the hole and the glue
to hold them in place didn't last. More anon

(aka John Macartney)

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