Triumph Electronics, contractors for Vox
makers of the AC4, AC10, AC50, the 7 series, and late AC100s
Quite how Dick Denney found Geoff Johnson and Triumph (Geoff being its owner) is unrecorded, but it may be that names were known through mutual acquaintances and trade fairs. Johnson must have a fairly high profile in the late 50s. Trained in the Admiralty Signal and Radar Division during the war, he joined the Department of Electro-physiology (neurosurgery) at Hurstwood Hospital in 1948, remaining there until 1954, whereupon he joined Faraday Electronic Instruments in London. At some point around 1959, however, he left and set up Triumph Electronics at 118 Brighton Road, Purley, manufacturing and importing electronic instruments (medical and domestic). Johnson's credentials were therefore impeccable.
Above, an Oscillograph, developed and used at Hurstwood Hospital.
Number 122 Brighton Road was acquired by Triumph c. 1963 and came to house the office, design rooms, and the medical equipment side of operations. At one time the building had "Kaiser Laboratories" over its door, as Triumph was the designated UK service centre for Kaiser medical equipment.
Number 118 contained the main assembly area for amplifiers and the component stores.
The numbering of the block (above) in which Triumph had premises is eccentric. Number 118 is now "VALE" to the left of "Dynamics" (the former Orchid Ballroom). This was mainly workrooms and stores.
No. 122 - principally Triumph offices and design rooms - was originally on the far left of the block (now Vithu's Food).
At any rate, Vox contracted Triumph in the early 1960s to make runs of various amps: the AC4, AC10, and the AC50. And Triumph went on to produce PA amps and the 7-series, among other things.
Graham Huggett, who worked for Triumph from 1963 to early 1966, kindly wrote in with details:
"I worked for Triumph Electronics Purley starting in 1963; left around 1966 or so. [...] My boss was Geoff Johnson and Mrs Yvonne Andrews. Small company only 2-3 of us were full time, all chassis wiring was done by team of part time women mainly trained by Mrs A."
"We already made small runs of the AC4 and AC10 but I remember Vox gave Geoff the prototype AC50 (just the chassis no bezel [control panel]) and it was my job to copy and make up some flat masters that I could then use in my production runs. All chassis were produced by me, cut and punched on hand guillotine and a couple of fly presses."
"As I remember we did not serial number anything we made for JMI. We just supplied tested chassis with bezels that JMI sent us. Geoff would deliver a batch personally laid out on back of his estate, probably so he could invoice ASAP. JMI would do cabinets and speakers so we never saw many complete products."
"Testing was done by colleagues using meter, sine wave generator and scope. Never an electric guitar.
"Worked with Stan, Vic Hilton, Les Avery and later Martin Pope who joined as the accountant. Met Dick Denney a few times. He used to bring his pink strat guitar to try out anything we were developing."
"Difficult to be exact but my batch runs [of AC50s] were around 50 chassis which would have been a JMI order. Assuming we had received the transformers from our manufacturer (took some weeks) the staff would easily wire up 15 chassis in a week. After test Geoff would often deliver these himself and I remember carrying them up from downstairs and laying them out in the back of his Ford Zephyr estate. He drove fast, and one day said he’d been nicked for speeding within quarter of a mile of him leaving Triumph."
"Around 1963 I was a bass player (Fender Precision) in good local rock roll band. I tapped up Geoff and had long term loan of the prototype AC50 we had at Triumph and gigged with it for a couple of years. It did go smoke mode once blowing some capacitors in the middle of a gig at Hammersmith Palais but otherwise stable."
Richard Cook, who worked for Triumph in the late 1960s:
"The production area was on the ground floor under the ballroom and was not very large perhaps enough room for half a dozen people to work in comfort. There was a door that led to a path at the rear of the building but I don't remember any storage area. That's not to say that it didn't exist, I just can't remember it."
"I do remember Andy Fairweather Low coming down in his Jensen Interceptor with the rest of his new group after the Split with Amen Corner to try out equipment that we had humped into the Orchid Ballroom. They stayed for about an hour during which time they made one hell of a noise. Not sure whether they ever bought anything as a result."
"As for the copy wiring We had a ready built chassis as a pattern and simply copied it! No drawings, and no circuit. I recently retired after 48 years of wiring and don't remember working anywhere else where I did not have at least a drawing but it seemed to work ok and that's how I managed to build my very own AC 100 from memory as after a while you don't need to look at the pattern any longer."
"I remember Dave Roffey [see below] who worked in an office next to Geoff and there was another lad that travelled up with Geoff and myself called Keith Thompson. Keith and I both lived in Haywards Heath at the time. I also remember an older guy working on production he may have been called Percy but not sure."
Dave Roffey, who also worked at Triumph in the late 1960s, designing among other things the Vamp range of amps, recounts:
"As far as I remember, units he (Geoff Johnson) had started from the end of the building structure next to the ramp down to an underground car park. I used to take amps down there to blast out. Also in the Orchid when it was convenient. Two shops side by side from the end when I was there. The first, or end shop, ground floor was Geoff Johnson's office, a room I used for designing amps and a third room with a drawing board etc in for layouts, pcb and chassis drawings, reference books etc. Stairs down to the basement led into the production and test area. Benches for about 8, bending press and guillotine. This might have been spread into next doors basement, but it wasn't a very large area."
"Out the back was a common path way behind the buildings. Triumph rented space underneath the Orchid for stock etc access via this walkway. The shop area next door (no. 118) was mainly a stock room for components. A Mrs Andrews, a French lady, was fiercely in charge I remember. Think there was a romantic link with Geoff J by all accounts! Les Avery, the designer of the transistor gear had an office in there, and there also was ECG machine equipment somehow involved with it all. Les designed a colour telivision, had strong links with RCA and semiconductors, finally going over to them, which is where I came in. I put the first distortion "bite" controls in valve pre amps, which was a hell of struggle considering it was a big no no for the "clean are us" brigade. And a proper middle control! There were some chassis made at Triumph, but quantities came from South Croydon, as did circuit boards when they started to be used. I did a design for the AC30 pcb at one stage I remember."
"I'm trying to think back again to how I started at Triumph. I was at Negretti and Sambra in Croydon doing aircraft electronics, but always wanted to get into the guitar electronics, since I was in bands and already making amps and effects for myself. I know I went to meet Dick Denny, and it was he who gave me the Triumph contact. He was just playing with effects, not to any really impressive levels, and I remember being a little disappointed at the time. I was never sure about the Jennings connection. It had certainly faded by the end of my time. Quite how the connection started is anybody's guess but I would have thought that Vox guys were concept guys (obviously good at marketing), and maybe started by finding an electronics firm that could do their production and development and then went into their own production as it expanded. They certainly wouldn't want anybody who would jump on their bandwagon and definitely teamed up with a company that was skilled enough to match the professional levels of electronic production."
"Geoff was a pretty shrewd guy who seemed to have all sorts of strange connections. Quite how long they were in the medical equipment world for, before getting into different markets is a mystery to me. It could be that they were chosen for the very reason that they were not in the same market, and therefore would appear not to present a threat. (Plenty of paranoia around in those days) So, all in all, I think you are right in that they were chosen because they were able to match the professionalism that was required, along with appearing to have no reason to wanting to get into the same market."
Triumph later produced amps for Jennings Electronic Industries (founded by Tom Jennings after JMI/Vox had folded), Vamp, and Sound City. Numbers of these amps were marketed under different brand names - Leo, Johnson, and of course under Triumph's own name - see this Plexi Palace thread and the wonderful Vamp site.
Left and centre left, original Triumph schematics. Centre right, page from a Triumph brochure. Right, The Klubs at the Cavern Club, Liverpool, in 1967 with a full complement of Triumph gear.
AC50s and AC100s
Note that serial numbers of Triumph amps are/were not sequential. As Graham notes above, Triumph only made the chassis. These were then taken to Dartford, where back panels (presumably complete with serial number plates) and boxes were supplied.
From 1964 to early 1965, Triumph was the only contractor producing AC50s - for most of that time, all valve rectified. Surviving amps in small boxes are registered here. Later amps in new-style large boxes can be found on this index page, and early solid state rectified amps here.
An early small box AC50 (thin edged box) with its speaker cab.
A second generation small box AC50 (thick edged box.
An early large box AC50.
Triumph continued to make AC50s throughout 1965 and 1966, but by far the largest "supplier" in those years was the Vox / Burndept factory at Erith - the "West Street Works".
Triumph's work for Vox in the mid sixties also encompassed the production of the AC4, AC10, PA equipment, echo units, and later the 4 and 7-series amps. In 1965 and 1966, AC100s were made only sporadically by Triumph, presumably to help Burndept Electronics, Vox's main contractor, meet demand.
In the third quarter of 1967, however, Triumph picked up production of the AC100 again, apparently using up any serviceable parts that came to hand. Late Triumph-made AC100s can therefore be extremely eccentric in character - but they are still great amps.
Immediately below, two AC100s from 1967 assembled by Triumph:
A late Triumph-made AC50 with a plaque identical to the one on the AC100 above. For further late AC50s see this page.