Triumph People : Sir John Black


Sir John Black was MD of the Standard Motor Co. (which later incorporated Triumphs) from 1933 until 1953.

John Paul Black was born in February 1895 at Kingston upon Thames. He was educated locally and studied law at the University of London. This education, according to the Standard Triumph Works Directory, "brought out an aptitude for clear-cut decisions" which were to serve him well in the future. During WW1 he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, before transferring to the Royal Tank Regiment where he gained the rank of Captain. Although he had no engineering skills he was a good salesman and joined Hillman Motors in 1918 as Sales Manager. Due to his acumen he was rapidly promoted, becoming a Director in 1919. He also married Daisy Hillman, a daughter of the company founder, although the marriage was later dissolved. After Hillmans were absorbed into the Rootes Group in 1929, he left to work for the Standard Motor Company where he became Joint MD (with founder Reginald Maudslay). Standards were not performing well, and he was instrumental in the turn around of the company increasing production from around 7,000 in 1930 to around 53,500 in 1939, quite an achievement. According to Mark Evans, in his recent BBC4 TV programme Classic British Cars: Made In Coventry (aired May 2021), "The industry really took off in the 1920s when John Black masterminded the introduction of mass assembly line production following the example of Henry Ford". During WW2 John Black was appointed chairman of the Joint Aero Engine Committee, his success in this role led to his being given a knightwood in 1943.

After the war Standards were in a good position due to the increase in capacity caused by the 'shadow' factories or "duplicated facilities under the direct control of the parent company" (Oxford University) - two were built adjoining Standard's existing facilities at Canley. One of the first decisions Black made was to purchase what was left of the Triumph Motor Co. and its name in 1944, when it became the Triumph Motor Company (1945) Limited, a subsidiary of Standard. This is atttributed to the rivalry between Black and William Lyons of Jaguar which made him keen to built sports cars to compete with the Jaguar XKs of the time. The TR series therefore was introduced in the early 1950s. Like his predecessor Siegfried Bettmann, Black considered "Triumph" a more marketable name, especially as "standard" cars were labelled at the time as basic rather than "deluxe" or more upmarket models!