The Tamar Trio Trials Team

26th December 2020

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By Alan Davis

In the early 1960s, having watched the Annual Land’s End Trial run by the Motor Cycling Club every Easter for several years, I was attracted to the challenge of this type of Motorsport. ‘Sit up and Beg’ Ford Populars were a common choice of vehicle. Some local events could attract a class of 30 Ford Pops at the time, making it a very competitive class.

The Tamar Trio leaving for Derbyshire

I purchased a suitable ‘Ford Pop’, carried out some minor modifications allowed by the rules, and entered my first Trial. Having cut my teeth on local events I joined the MCC (Motor Cycling Club) and entered the first of many long distance Reliability Trials.

The Club runs three major events in a 12 month period:-

The Exeter Trial in January

The Land’s End Trial at Easter

The Derbyshire Trial in October.

My friend, Peter Moores, acted as ‘bouncer’ and navigator until he decided to enter a car himself. Another Ford Pop was purchased and we began to compete with both cars. Most weekends from September to April were spent competing at various venues throughout the West Country.

The Tamar Trio at the summit of Putwell section Derbyshire (L-R) Colin Bird, Harry Oxenham, Alan Davis, Verona Davis, Pete Moores and Ann Moores

Axles were the weakest part of the Ford Pop and frequently one of the cars would be towed home with a broken Crown Wheel and Pinion. Unfortunately, due to the design of the axles, if the half shaft broke the wheel would fall off, meaning a trailer recovery or roadside repair. We mated up with other trialling enthusiasts, Barry Boundy and Nick Palmer, who shared the driving of their Ford Popular and we formed a team using the name ‘Tamar Wheals’. The Tamar Valley, the area we live in, is noted for tin and copper mining. Wheal is an old mining term and seemed an appropriate play on the word wheel.

The Team enjoyed considerable success in local and national events. About this time David Miller, an avid MG enthusiast, moved to our village. He enthused about the history of MGs and their trialling successes during the 1930s.

Inspired by Dave’s enthusiasm Peter Moores and I decided to campaign the MG marque. We joined the MG Car Club where we became friends with Norman McKee who encouraged us further. Pete purchased an MG J2 and I bought an MG TC in a completely dismantled state. The previous owner had taken the car to pieces ‘to do it up’ Even the instruments were dismantled and put in separate boxes with all relevant parts.

Finish of Derbyshire Trial 1978. (L-R) Jane Barnacott, Julia and Norman McKee, John Barnacott, Harry Oxenham, Colin Bird, Tony Bolt, Pete Moores, Jeff Hearn and Alan Davis

Eventually, both cars were up and running and Pete and I started to compete in them. We soon made friends with Colin Bird in his J2 and formed the Tamar Trio Trials Team in 1975. Apart from the three major events of the year, The Exeter, Land’s End and Derbyshire Trials, the Team travelled to Gloucestershire to compete in the Cotswold Clouds Trial, (the Cotswolds being a range of hills in that area). The cars were also entered individually in local events organised by the Devon and Cornwall Centre of the MG Car Club, Tavistock Motor Club, Camel Vale Motor Club, Launceston and District Motor Club, Holsworthy Club and North Cornwall Motor Club.

Both J2s were fitted with non-original engines initially, Colin using a TC engine and Pete a 1500cc Z Type Magnette unit. They both aspired to fit original J2 engines and eventually enough parts were obtained to build up two competitive J2 engines using Phoenix cranks. Colin used his expertise to increase the power to 65bhp by supercharging. Alan’s TC ran with a standard TC engine naturally aspirated. All three cars performed well, were reliable and usually featured in the awards for their class.

Tamar Trio in Stroud competing in the Cotswold Clouds event

We became friendly with Barry Smith who owns an MG PB and has been competing with it since 1971. When trialling, as each competitor is competing against the course, there is always a great camaraderie. When someone is in trouble you can guarantee many helpers within minutes.

One noteworthy event was the 1976 Derbyshire Trial. A friend of mine owned a large four-wheel trailer which could carry two Jaguars. We thought it would be an adventure to take the team to Derbyshire on this trailer, towed by Pete Moores’ Land Rover Safari. The three cars would just fit with spare wheel removed from the centre car to give the required amount of room. We set off, well loaded towing the huge trailer, three cars and eight people in the Land Rover Safari, only to find the whole outfit became terribly unstable above 30mph. Having committed to the scheme we persevered and eventually arrived in Buxton Derbyshire many hours later.

We completed the Trial and caused quite a stir when reloading for the long journey home, over 300 miles. Having done it once, we all agreed it was an experiment not to be repeated. These days, with more emphasis on towing weights, the outfit would be illegal, quite rightly so. It was very unstable with the combined weight of cars and trailer greatly exceeding the towing vehicle’s weight.

The Tamar Trio on the move. Alan Davis lead car followed by Pete Moores with Tony Bolt passenger, behind Colin Bird and Nigel Wood

Alan and his TC dropped out of the team during the early 1980s and Barry Smith in his MG PB joined Colin and Pete to keep the Tamar Trio intact.

They put up very creditable performances all through the 1980s and 1990s, regularly featuring on the results sheet. In 1992 the Tamar Trio beat all other teams entered in the three big MCC trials of that year to become Team Champions.

Unfortunately, Pete Moores’ J2 suffered a major engine failure in the late 1990s. Since then, Colin and Barry have teamed up with various others to make up the team until 2005 when the Tamar Trio name was dropped, 30 years after its inception.

Waiting to attempt Beggars Roost

Colin and Barry were still campaigning their MGs in 2014, competing in the major National events just as the team cars of the 1930s. Quite an achievement in vehicles now 80 years old, especially as sections are more difficult now, an attempt to stop the modern purpose-made entrants.

Colin Bird and his J2 has been competing for a longer period than the famous works teams, has covered more miles and has probably won more trophies. An outstanding achievement worthy of recognition.

List of Awards:

Alan Davis MG TC – 52 Trophies in total, including MCC – Class Win Edinburgh Trial 1978, four Gold Awards and one Silver Award.

Alan Davis Mine Shop section, Crackington Haven, Lands End Trial

Pete Moores MG J2 – 140 Trophies in total, including one MCC Triple Award, eight MCC Class Wins, 10 Team Awards, one Team Champions 1986, one Team Champions 1992, 15 Gold Awards, ten Silver Awards, eight Bronze Awards. MCC Trials Champion Trophy, seven times winner of MGCC Slade Trophy. Pete’s J2 has competed at Silverstone winning MMM Mary Harris Trophy (Racing), MMM Race 1990 and has won class wins at Wiscombe Park, Werrington Park and Babbacombe Hill Climb.

Colin Bird MG J2 – Over 200 Trophies in total, including one MCC Triple Award, ten MCC Class Wins, 20 MCC Gold Awards. 15 MCC Silver Awards, 20 MCC Bronze Awards, two MCC Team Championship Awards. Colin’s J2 has also competed and won awards at Silverstone, Wiscombe Park and Werrington Park Hill Climbs. It is regularly used on the road and has been driven to and from events in Germany and Switzerland. Quite a creditable history, well worthy of recognition.

Cars waiting to attempt Putwell section Derbyshire Trial. (R-L) Austin Nippy, Dennis Nicholas, PA John Adams, PB Barry Smith, TA Cream Cracker Norman McKee, HRG David Uglow, TA Cream Cracker John Barnacott, J2 Colin Bird, J2 Pete Moores, TC Alan Davis and TA Nigel Wood

Barry Smith MG PB – 57 Trophies in total, including eight MCC Gold Awards, 16 MCC Silver Awards, three MCC Bronze Awards, four MCC Class Winner Awards, two MCC Team Awards. One MCC Team Championship Award. One MMM Register Championship Award. Barry has also won awards at Wiscombe Park Hill Climb, won the MMM Register Slade Trophy and used the car extensively for pleasure and MG events in the UK and on the Continent. In 2015 Barry with his wife Fiona enjoyed a trip through Spain and France in his PB, calling at Angouleme for the Race of the Ramparts weekend.

Now in 2020, Colin Bird’s J2 is undergoing a major engine overhaul, as is Barry Smith’s PB. Alan Davis is still enjoying Classic Car events 50 years later in his MGB Roadster. Unfortunately, Pete Moores passed away suddenly in 2012 but his son, Jonathan, still uses his Dad’s J2 competitively in MCC Trials and so the story continues.