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UK

12/07/2019

Leslie Williams, creator of the 1984 Triumph Legend and a Triumph legend himself, has died aged 87. Employed for 20 years by Triumph Engineering and latterly Norton Triumph International, Les, as he was invariably known, was a totally dedicated contributor to machine development and factory racing.

Made redundant in 1975, Les set up his LP Williams business, catering to owners of the three-cylinder 750cc Triumph Trident, a machine he knew intimately from its 1960s origins. Aided by ex-Triumph colleagues, he produced the sleek and civilised Legend to show that the Trident could be refined into a 1980s product. More than 50 editions were snapped up by customers worldwide and the twin-cylinder Buccaneer that followed was also in demand.

Apprenticed at the Central Garage in Brecon, Les served in the Regular Army from 1952 until 1955 and fettling Royal Signals display team Triumphs led to a job in the Meriden factory’s service department. He took a drop in wages to join the experimental department, working on varied projects from two-stroke development to an electric starter experiment quashed by MD Edward Turner because of weight and cost penalties.

Promoted to chargehand, Les enjoyed strong mutual trust with his immediate boss, Doug Hele, Triumph’s senior development engineer from 1962 to 1975. Under Hele, Triumph launched into racing and Les had a key role in major wins with twins and triples, from the 750cc Production TT and Thruxton 500 to the Daytona 200 and Bol d’Or.

As de facto team manager, it was his job to deal with passports, customs carnets, flights and hotels as well as preparing machinery. He became known to race fans in the 1970s as the owner of Slippery Sam, the Trident so named after covering itself in oil at the 1970 Bo d’Or that went on to win five consecutive Production TTs. Les bought Sam from the company for £300 when racing was halted in 1972 and collected four of the TT wins with some factory support.

After NVT’s 1975 collapse, Les took a freelance assignment abroad, uncrating a batch of police-spec Trident T160s sold to Saudi Arabia. He was supplied with a stack of Norton transfers: the original order was for Norton Commandos, no longer in production, so if things turned awkward Les could change the Triumphs’ branding.

Softly-spoken Les had a wry sense of humour and was notorious for his practical jokes at Meriden. He kept in touch with several of his former colleagues and they restored priceless 1970s factory triples after the 2003 National Motorcycle Museum Fire. Moving to his native Mid-Wales in retirement, Les was honorary president of the Trident and Rocket 3 Owners Club.

Treated for cancer over recent years, Les leaves a widow Joan and two daughters Lynn and Sue. His funeral will be at the United Reform Church, Libanus, Powys LD3 8EW at 12 noon on Wednesday 24 July.

MICK DUCKWORTH  

LP Williams Ltd changed hands over the years and is run today as a parts operation by Jill and Michael Townley in Lancashire. www.triumph-spares.co.uk