Mike Cook in 2016 with a classic 1973 Triumph Stag. Photo credit: RICHARD TRUETT
Triumph sold its last sports car in the U.S. in the summer of 1982, and on Tuesday the brand lost its PR man, Michael Cook, 85, who never stopped promoting the fun-to-drive brand of budget roadsters.
From 1958 until 1991, a couple years after Ford Motor Co. took control of Jaguar Cars Inc. — which was spun off from British Leyland Motors Inc. in 1984 — Cook worked in various marketing, public relations and advertising roles with Rover, Land Rover, Austin, MG, Jaguar and the brand he loved most, Triumph.
“His passing is like a library burning down,” said veteran journalist Jamie Kitman, who grew up within walking distance of British Leyland’s Willow Tree Road headquarters in Leonia, N.J., in the 1970s, and was a frequent visitor there.
“I met Mike in 1987 when he was Jaguar’s PR director,” Kitman told Automotive News. “I actually walked from my parents’ home down to the British Leyland offices. He gave me my first test car, a [Jaguar] XJSC, which was the one that had the removable roof panels. He sort of looked me up and down. I think I had holes in my T-shirt and torn jeans. But he still gave me the car. I think the fact that I was able to talk to him about British cars helped,” Kitman recalled.
Cook sold his own sports car, a 1955 Triumph TR2, in 1958 to buy a plane ticket from his home state of Ohio to New York City in hopes of landing a job with the upstart brand of British imported sports cars. Cook began his career at what was then Standard-Triumph, which had its offices and showroom in Manhattan. He was hired as Triumph’s assistant advertising manager and put in charge of the Triumph Sports Owners Association, a role he never really relinquished.
Until his death Tuesday morning of pneumonia in Wayne, N.J., Cook was editor of The Vintage Triumph, a magazine for owners of the brand’s now classic sports cars. He was also active in Jaguar’s classic scene, contributing articles and helping journalists with history questions. During his career, Cook landed Triumph cars on magazine covers, and his work helped the brand sell cars to drivers entering the burgeoning sports car racing scene in the 1960s.
One of Cook’s most famous PR stunts showed him leaning out of a TR4 as it appeared to be taking a corner quickly at a racetrack. But the numbers on the side of the car were hastily stuck on, the car was going slow and the photo was taken at a closed horse racing track, recalled longtime friend Ted Schumacher. But it became one of the brand’s most iconic pictures.
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