“I can’t attend a wedding or a prom without being asked if my 1952 Triumph Renown Limousine is available for someone’s next big event,” Dave Pilcher. says. His experience is entirely understandable, given that the international legacy of his limo is all about providing brides and grooms with memories to last a lifetime.
Before he acquired the rare vehicle on its 60th birthday in 2012, it was already long in its history of chauffeuring newlyweds in its home country of England.
Dave learned of the car’s availability when he got word that its owner, who he had first contacted a couple of years earlier, was planning on getting out of the wedding business.
A good friend, Duncan Wood, was going to England for an automotive event being staged in close proximity. He was able to thoroughly inspect and drive Rose – the name its owners had used to market its services.
“I received an email from Duncan that read, ‘Drove the car. You’re an idiot if you don’t buy it. If you don’t, then I will!’ That totally sealed the deal for me,” Dave says. “An email and phone call handshake agreement was struck with the British owner, but our arrangement was kept under wraps since folks in the UK would not be happy with such a fine car leaving their country.”
Following some degree of hassling with currency conversion, the next task was to arrange for its journey across the English Channel and beyond with the ultimate destination being the Port of Houston.
“I decided to hire an agent to shepherd her through the process,” Dave explains. “If you’ve never shipped a car into the U.S., there are custom fees, port fees, inspection fees, and imagine this, unpacking fees. So, believe me when I say that the nominal fee for an agent to keep these straight and get the car through the process was well worth it.”
Upon departure aboard the Charleston Express sailing from Thamesport, England, the journey began. “We were able to follow its progress for the almost two weeks it took to get to the first U.S. port in Charleston, South Carolina,” Dave recalls. “Then to Miami and finally through the Galveston Breakwaters and into the Port of Houston.”
Next was to stage a “Welcome Home” ceremony with a 60th birthday party for Rose. Dave proudly sums it up: “Good friends, cake, cards, roses and a stunning car. Who could ask for more?”
The marvelous Triumph fits into the category of “Orphan Cars” – historic automobiles whose parent companies have disappeared from the scene. Along with names like Hudson, Studebaker, Kaiser, Frazer, Packard, Nash and Willys, to name a few, their rarity makes the cars very collectable.
There were only 190 of these cars manufactured – Dave’s was number 17, built and registered in Coventry, England. The engine is a modest 4-cylinder version developing 68 horsepower with a 3-speed transmission producing a top speed advertised at 77.5 miles per hour. It sold new for just over $4,000 in 1952, which equates to about $36,000 in today’s dollars.
Dave is past president and events coordinator for the Red River Triumph Club. The Renown is the sixth among the classic cars in his collection. “I was looking for something rarer than the others, specifically this limo,” he says. “My wife does the decorations and sets up the atmosphere for the weddings and proms; I become the chauffer.
“One of the most memorable occasions was the one where the bride’s gown was so big that she couldn’t fit it into the front seat with her new husband. So, she rode in the back, and he rode in the front with me.”
Whatever it takes, once anyone arranges this vehicle for such a special occasion, there’s no way any substitute would take its place.