Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Today in motorcycle history, February 12, 1987




  One time savior of the British motorcycle industry, Roger Dennistoun "Dennis" Poore dies in London at 70.

  Dennis Poore was a British entrepreneur, financier, and when the mood struck, racecar driver.  Matter of fact, he used his personal wealth to bankroll the founding, in 1950, of the racing journal "Autosport".  

  Twenty-years later,  Poore would sell off the propeller business from Manganese Bronze Holdings PLC and use the funds in a heroic attempt to stave off the collapse of the British motorcycle industry.  Buying engine manufacturers Villiers first and then Associated Motor Cycles (AMC), meaning iconic brands Norton, James, AJS, Matchless and Francis-Barnett were thereby all owned by the Manganese Bronze group.  

  BSA Group merged in July, 1973 in a government-encouraged "shotgun wedding" with Norton-Villiers as Norton-Villiers-Triumph (NVT) - with Dennis Poore as new NVT Chairman.  The pints were flowing in celebration as people remembered that Poore had rescued Norton from the brink of folding in the 1960's. Then BSA collapsed.  The celebratory pints went dry.  The motorcycle interests of Manganese Bronze and BSA were put into Norton Villiers Triumph Ltd, and the non-motorcycle interests of BSA were bought by Manganese Bronze.  With the purchase of BSA came its subsidiary Carbodies, builder of the FX4 London Taxi; the classic "black cab". 

  Then  when, without warning, in September Poore announced the closing of Meriden works effective February, 1974.  Of the 4,500 employees, 3,000 are to be let go.  Faced with unemployment and having their products handed over to a rival firm, the workers rose up.   This immediately starts an 18-month employee 'sit-in' and the closure of the Meriden plant.  By late 1973, all the Triumph models except the T120 Bonneville are discontinued.

  After disposing of the motorcycle manufacturing arms, Poore continued to head Manganese Bronze as a taxi and component manufacturer until his death.