Photos by the author; 1966 image of Mike Cook from Triumph Cars in America.
We’ve just learned that our friend, current Jaguar Land Rover North America corporate archivist and former Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car columnist Michael L. “Mike” Cook passed away on Tuesday, November 27, after a short illness; he was 85.
Mike, a consummate car guy, was well-known by British car fans in the U.S. and abroad for his many decades of public relations work with the American arms of Triumph and Jaguar, two marques that would come together in the late 1960s under the umbrella of British Leyland; his gift for storytelling would contribute to his 2017 induction into The British Sports Car Hall of Fame.
Born in Winnepeg, Manitoba, Canada, in 1933, Mike moved with his family to Glendale, Ohio, in the 1940s. Like many young people of that era, he became a hardcore sports car enthusiast, and, in 1957, purchased a 1955 Triumph TR2 that he drove to SCCA races at air bases in Columbus and Akron. Mike soon joined the Triumph Sports Owners Association — a corporate-backed enthusiast group publishing a newsletter that provided information to owners looking to prep their cars for competition, among other topics — and made contact with the Standard-Triumph Motor Company Inc. in New York City, where he would be hired in August 1958 as STMCI’s assistant advertising manager and executive secretary of the TSOA.
Mike was in on the ground floor as Triumph became as popular as fellow British imports MG, Jaguar, and Austin-Healey. He helped market these cars through auto-show displays, and handled magazine advertising and the creation of sales brochures. He was actively engaged with Triumph’s competition arm, where he oversaw motorsports activities, worked with the SCCA and prominent racers like Group 44 of Bob Tullius, and also indulged in his own amateur racing hobby. With the Triumph Rallies of Europe program of the TSOA, he’d travel overseas with groups of owners to pick up their new TRs. He was also involved with the British Automobile Manufacturers Association (BAMA), a subsidiary of the U.K.’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, and decades later, he’d organize the remaining BAMA files within the Jaguar Land Rover North America corporate archive.
Mike in a Spitfire Mk II, during a Triumph advertising photo shoot at Pismo Beach, California, in late 1966.
Employed there as Standard-Triumph became part of the Leyland Motor Corporation in 1961, Mike would continue through the business changes that brought Rover/Land Rover in-house in 1966, before taking a 16-month break to work with Mobil Oil. He returned in 1969, after MG and Jaguar joined the firm under the umbrella of the British Leyland Motor Corporation, and took on the role of corporate PR manager and chair for the BL advertising committee. He’d see Triumph through its final TR7 and TR8 days, as Jaguar Rover Triumph Inc. morphed into Jaguar Cars Inc. Mike retired from Jaguar (then under Ford control) in 1991, but would come back on a part-time basis to manage the vast British car archives he helped preserve for Jaguar Land Rover, where he’d ultimately work with friend and fellow British Leyland (plus Volvo, Porsche, and more) alumnus Fred Hammond.
Mike, with associate archivist Fred Hammond, in the Jaguar Land Rover archives in July 2015.
Through the years, Mike authored books on the topics of Jaguar and Triumph, the latter including a definitive history of the Spitfire and the excellent Triumph Cars in America. He updated John Dugdale’s Jaguar in America: The Continuing Story Into The 21st Century. His columns and other writings were eagerly awaited in Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car, as well as in The Jaguar Journal, The Vintage Triumph, and Triumph World.
Mike was predeceased by his wife Carol Ann, and is survived by sons Geoff, Tim, and Drew, daughter Jennifer, and their families. The Hemmings Nation and British car fans everywhere send our condolences to Mike’s family and friends; we will certainly miss him and his delightful stories.