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tribute to john nelson

John Nelson MA, 92, universally respected service manager for both Triumph and Norton, died peacefully at home in late September. As well as his family and friends there was a considerable gathering of former industry colleagues at Gedling Crematorium, Lambley, Nottingham on 30 October.

From boyhood John developed a passion for things mechanical, embarking on a fulfilling half-century industry career in January 1950.  First, though, at 17, he had volunteered for military service with the Royal Engineers. Following a lengthy period of training, Lieutenant Nelson was posted to India and, having attained the rank of captain, he was active on a variety of assignments throughout the Middle East until his demobilisation in 1947.  

After studying at Cambridge University for his CEng MIMechE, the first job interview was at Triumph with Edward Turner himself. It clearly went well for he remained at Meriden for the next 21 years; initially as experimental department manager, followed by promotion to service manager. 

 John had the foresight to oversee service matters on an international basis, organising and personally running a series of annual service schools in Triumph’s valuable overseas markets, not only in USA/Canada but also in Australasia. The format he devised was both informative and popular with participating dealers, and – in terms of technical awareness – kept Triumph ahead of its British and European rivals. He was frustrated, however, by the ever-worsening industrial situation at Meriden so, in 1971, he moved to Norton Villiers, swiftly strengthening the Wolverhampton factory’s technical support for their fast-selling Commando.

Following the collapse of what later became Norton Villiers Triumph, John did a two-year stint with Steyr Daimler Puch before accepting an offer as CEO of the Meriden co-operative, handing over to Geoffrey Robinson MP after 18 months. 

He had by then become an author, writing three definitive Triumph books over the next decade, alongside a raft of service literature under the respected aegis of JR Technical Publications Ltd, which he and his wife June started in 1983 and ran successfully until its eventual sale in 1996. 

John finally retired aged 72 but kept in touch with the two-wheel community as patron of the Triumph Owners Club.      

Mike Jackson

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