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Short History of TSOA

Written by TOB

British car manufacturer, Standard-Triumph established the Triumph Sports Owners Association (TSOA), in late 1955 to encourage new TR2 sports car owners to partake in the full capabilities of their car. Factory sponsorship of what was once the worlds' largest single-make club continued in various ways for 27 years, until the demise of the TR range in 1981. The first TSOA handbook proudly proclaimed the real rationale behind the Association "The Triumph TR2 Sports car has been designed to provide a high performance.  When it leaves the works it is capable of maximum speed of 100 miles and hour". With a basis such as this, it is no wonder the TSOA has always had a strong competition base.

tsoa1The TSOA Handbook was provided with all new TR 2's & TR3's sold, describing modifications available and offering membership to TSOA. The TSOA was established in the USA in 1956 where owners joined for $5 for life, with the newsletter initially being free, then finally $3/year. A regular TSOA Newsletter keep owners up to date with the numerous technical developments and racing succusses of the TR range, especially in North America where British sports car competitions raged for decades. Many of these very informative newsletters found their way to Triumph clubs overseas including Australia. In the UK, TSOA branches communicated via the substantial company magazine, the Standard-Triumph Review. 

In late 1960, with Triumph emerging as a successful builder of saloon cars, a broader based organisation called Standard-Triumph Automobile Association (STAA) was established by the factory to support British owners of all  Standard and Triumph cars not just the sports cars. Branches for TSOA or STAA were set-up on demand all over the UK and overseas, with factory support overseas arranged via the importer and dealer network   With the establishment of STAA, the TSOA effectively ceased as a separate entity in the UK, however it continued in its original form (for sports car owners only ) in America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Malaysia. Whilst not of immediate interest to TSOA members, the North London STAA branch (established in 1961) became the principal UK link for clubs to the factory in 1977. The STAA changed name to The Triumph Automobile Association in 1968 and to Club Triumph in 1973, both in line with factory changes of direction. Throughout the UK, USA and the rest of the world, TSOA branches were organised on a regional basis with local volunteer committees. The TSOA Victoria is believed to be the oldest continuous branch of the Association worldwide.

Perhaps the most famous early endeavours of the TSOA were the "rallies of Europe" held every year from 1957 to 1962, organised by the US importers under the banner of TSOA. North American members ordered a new car and collected it at London airport prior to a trip to the factory an onto an organised 10 day tour of Europe. This was a particularly favoured option for US owners who were more used to regular car replacements than UK or Australian owners. Standard-Triumph arranged special tax free prices and shipping deals for such purchasers. In 1957, 42 new TR's trundled their way through Europe passing over the Jabbeke highway in Belgium where in 1955 the brand new TR2 set speed records for production sports car.

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The majority of Triumph sports cars were sold in North America and it was there that the TSOA was established in 1956 and flourished throughout its life. At its peak, the TSOA USA newsletter had a circulation of over 40,000. This was at the time when Triumph were selling 20,000 Triumph sports cars (TR's, Spitfire and GT6) into North America per year (best year was 1975 with 26,000 sold). In 1977 the Illinois (USA) TSOA group founded the North American Triumph Challenge which quickly became the feature TSOA event in North America.

The first Australian TSOA branch was Victoria, established in Melbourne in 1960, initially as a branch of the Standard-Triumph Car Club. The Australian Triumph importer and assembler (AMI) was based in Melbourne so TSOA there obtained considerable assistance for many years. AMI released the Spitfire in 1962 and started to actively support sports car racing with special Spitfires. Shortly after, Spitfire owners could join TSOA (the first non-TR's). TSOA Victoria organised the prestigious "6 hour relay race" for sports cars between 1973 and 80, but unfortunately never managed to field a winning team. The club newsletter "tractor" changed its name to "TRACTION" in 1969 when it became a monthly magazine.

Sth. Australia established its TSOA in early 1965 when two enthusiastic owners who worked together started collecting names of local TR owners. Within a few months they had organised a parcel of ties, badges etc from the UK factory and by September ‘65 they had a formal club, with at least one member being ex TSOA Victoria. In April they organised an outing to Collingrove hillclimb track with TSOA Victoria members, and with that, began the Tri-State competition meetings that would feature for many years. The first week-long "national meeting" was held in Sth Australia in 1981

TSOA Queensland commenced as the Triumph Club of Brisbane in 1972 and to harmonise with others, it was renamed TSOA in 1976. From the outset, all Triumph owners were permitted full membership and as a result, non TR models (Stag, Saloon, GT6 etc) were the majority for many years. Other States progressively followed this lead as non-TR's started to increase in numbers in their clubs. Due to the local market demands, very few Spitfires or GT6 models were ever seen, and racing was limited to a few enthusiastic owners until mid 80's . TSOA Qld hosted its first national meeting in 1985.

In 1975 TSOA began in West Australia, initially with full membership restricted to TR2-6 and Spitfire. Within a few years membership was opened to Stags and TR7, and then finally to all models.

In 1980, TSOA-NSW organised the first truly "national" meeting when members from all States were invited to a 3-day long-weekend meeting.

By the time Triumph sports car production ended in 1981 with the TR8, the TSOA had completely disappeared in the UK, being effectively replaced by a combination of Club Triumph and the TR Register. In the USA, because of the extensive factory support provided right to the end, Jaguar-Rover -Triumph Nth America arranged a merger with the Vintage Triumph Register, with the TSOA newsletter being abbreviated and included in with the Vintage Triumph for some time, before disappearing completely. The negligible assistance offered by Leyland Australia at this time meant no change to TSOA in Australia.

Today the TSOA is active in all Australian mainland States, with over 1000 members, many of whom own multiple cars. A national meeting, hosted by a different State each year, keeps members in touch and fosters competition on and off the track.  Members vie for coveted prizes in both concourse and competition, with multiple classes to cater for all tastes and models. Whilst most members use cars built in the 60's and 70's, a few pre-war cars feature in Concourse and social events.

© Terry O'Beirne TSOA Queensland