History of STOA

By Bruce Fountain

The Tigers were two to five years old, and most showed that their young lives had seen hard usage. About a half-dozen were parked randomly in the parking lot of The Embers restaurant in San Leandro, California (San Francisco Bay area), while their owners were inside discussing the formation of a club. As I recall, some 30 or so Tiger owners and enthusiasts were at that gathering in May of 1969, and a very productive meeting took place with committees appointed to rough out a constitution, suggestions for the club name, nominations for officers, and so on. Excellent ground-work was laid, and the next meeting was scheduled at the same place for June 12.

Dave Eidell and several others had talked with every Tiger owner they could find in the previous months, and that core group had set up the meeting by phoning, sending notices, and even leaving a notice on this Tiger owner's windshield while he was at lunch five minutes after buying the beast.

It was (and is to this day) a very enthusiastic and cooperative group, with universal attention to issues and plans, and very rarely the kind of personality clashes or political infighting that happens in so many clubs. Several were nominated to be the first president, including Dave Eidell, and you might expect that we would have elected Dave because of his work and enthusiasm in getting the group together and the technical writings he had already put together. Dave was great to talk with, if you were technically inclined, but even a brief phone conversation with him was liable to last and hour and a half! We were afraid that if Dave were in charge of the meetings, they might last well into the next week; and so we elected Mike Rogers as first President, Bob Rieser in charge of Vice, Wesley Rogers secretary, and Dave Eidell as Treasurer and Editor.

One of the strengths of this club has been the policy of having each President serve just one year. Some of us have been President more than once, but not in successive years. Bob Rieser was President the second year, then Tom Hall, Bill Folsom, and Bill Miller in those early years. We didn't exactly decide on this policy, it was just that generally nobody wanted the responsibility and we spread it around. Some of us learned and grew personally through the experience after being drafted into the post.

The name chosen originally was Bay Area Sunbeam Tiger Owners Association, but within a year or so we were getting members from all around the country and several in other countries, so it was decided to drop "Bay Area" from the name.

The first issue of the club newsletter (just called "Newsletter") was published in August of 1969, with reports on the club organization, meeting schedule, tech tips and discounts, and several issues and notices were published in the following months. The newsletter became a regular monthly publication starting with the April 1970 issue, and has kept up that schedule most of the time ever since. The February 1972 issue brought the new "Tiger Tracks" masthead with the newly created S.T.O.A. logo.

We've been very fortunate from the beginning in having some especially talented people contributing to the club. Bob Rieser was head of the Kaiser Corporation Graphics Department and had done some of the design work for the "Small World" area of Disneyland. He threw himself into the layout, writing, editing, and publishing of the early newsletters, setting the standard for us all to follow. Tom Hall added engraving, photo, and color work to the team as they designed our logo, decals, letterhead, etc. Tom and Bette Hall have never let up in their dedication to the club's activities and publications to this very day. Other present-day members that have been the backbone of this club from the beginning until now include Terry & Maria Taylor, Ron Hansen, and Bill & Irene Wallner.

From the beginning, many members have been very active in motor sports of all kinds. In the first year, there were tours of Tigers to Timber Cove and Lake Tahoe, dragstrip day at Fremont, and autocrosses nearly every weekend. At the beginning of 1976, the club set up a points system for participation and for best finishes in these events and has presented trophies to annual winners ever since.

Sometime in 1973, conversations were taking place between some of our members and members of the Canadian Tigers Association about having a get-together somewhere in southern Oregon for Tigers up and down the whole west coast. Plans grew and Tigers United was held in Grants Pass, Oregon, in 1974. It was stunning to see group after group of Tigers arriving from Seattle, San Francisco, British Columbia (one claimed he made the last 100 miles in one hour!), Los Angeles, and everywhere in between, including a group of nine from Eugene who we hadn't even known about, until a total of 42 Tigers were massed at the Riverside Motel on the Rogue River.

The week-end was a cherished experience for all of us and the local people were wonderful. There seems to be no complete report on this very significant first Tigers United in my archives, but there was a report by President Bill Miller on the first meeting of the Presidents of four west coast Tiger clubs where efforts toward more cooperation among the clubs began. Also, I remember the famed Tour To Downtown Pottsville (turned out to be a faded sign on a sagging fence along a pretty country road - no town). A huge, positive response was heard when someone said "Let's do it again next year!"

The second edition of Tigers United was held in May of 1975 at the same location with 83 Tigers in attendance, as described in a special report in Tiger Tracks, including ". . . the miracle from Las Vegas. Jesse Moya came snorting in peering around two Holley four-barrels sticking out of the Tiger hood, mounted on giant semi-wrinkle-wall drag slicks in the rear (which barely cleared the fender wells customized by hack saw), having made the trip from the desert to the mountains with no windshield wipers, no horn, no heater, no top, etc., etc." The weekend featured a hailstorm just before the tour to Jacksonville (a genuine historic town this time), an autocross, and a Saturday evening banquet with copies of some of the Rootes factory communications shown by members and film of racing and autocrossing Tigers.

The full cooperation of five Tiger clubs was hammered together at this event, and that set the tone for this west coast event every year since, with the setting alternating between locations as far north as Eugene, Oregon and south to Temecula, California, and primary responsibility rotating among the clubs. Concours, quizzes, special speakers, special events, and much better organization were soon added, leading to bigger and better Tigers United gatherings, such as those we now have every year.

Tigers United III deserves special mention here. Ian Garrad, "Father of the Tiger" had paid not much attention to his brain-child since the last one left the factory and he left Rootes Group after its take-over by Chrysler. Tom Hall of our club had made contact with him in his Los Angeles office, and as TU-III approached, our then current President, Bill Miller, talked Ian into attending the event. Ian Garrad's smile as he beheld 125 shining Tigers, row on row, in Ashland's city park is something that will never be forgotten by all of us who were there! "Rarely have I enjoyed a week-end so much", he said in a generous letter of thanks to S.T.O.A., "The enthusiasm of your members is truly something to behold. I must admit that I really did not realize until I met your group, what I had wrought in creating the Tiger."

Ian and his delightful wife Laura became instant friends and patrons of our club and our members and Tiger People everywhere. He attended most Tigers Uniteds and many special events of our club and other Tiger Clubs until his death in 1986. He contributed the plaque that we installed on the base for our President's gavel, and his father, Norman Garrad, contributed the Garrad tray (which had been an honor to him from his drivers) which is awarded each year by S.T.O.A. Laura is still our special friend and frequently attends club Christmas parties and special events.

The visit of a dozen or so British Tiger owners to our club and to Tigers United in 1980 was a highlight of that year. Some of us ferried some of the Brits from the San Francisco area to the meet at Eugene, Oregon, and they were much impressed with the beauty of our area and the forests of southern Oregon. They joined in enthusiastically in the rally and socializing, and even drove some of our cars in the autocross!

The Britons' visit led to organization of a tour of England and visit to their annual General Meeting for about two dozen S.T.O.A. members in 1982, and it was one of life's favorite memories for all of us who went. Planned time with the British club members was perfectly balanced with time on our own to see the country. The general meeting was held at Looe on the coast of Cornwall, a very beautiful area, and our rooms at the small hotel run by S.T.O.A. member Sven Christensen overlooked the beautiful Atlantic Ocean.

There were Tiger-talking times, history-learning times, scenery-times, and riotous times during that week that none of us will forget. Most of us added the option of 3 days in Paris and were simply overwhelmed with experiences - 11 hours in the 747 back to the States is barely more than a blur.

The association of our club, and some of our members, with other clubs has led to many more opportunities for competition and socializing with other car people. Since early times, some of our members have been also associated with various Shelby clubs, we've enjoyed many invitations to open track days at Sears Point, Willow Springs, and Riverside, along with concours, autocrosses, special parking areas and parade laps at Laguna Seca and Sears Point, as well as other events.

Beginning in 1980, we've had an annual picnic with the local Shelby American club. Since 1981 or earlier, some of our members have been invited to the Ferrari Club's Virginia City Hillclimb, and have represented the Tiger marque very respectably.

In 1990, after two years of planning and preparation, Sunbeams United International was held at Snowmass, Colorado, bringing cars from all parts of the U.S. from sea to shining sea, and several Sunbeam vehicles shipped in from overseas.

One of the most ambitious and challenging projects the club has undertaken, with cooperation from other Tiger clubs has been the Tiger Authentication Committee. In 1992, several members with intimate knowledge of the structure and mechanics of the car developed a set of specific criteria for identifying a true Tiger that came from the factory as a Tiger, as distinguished from an Alpine body that has been converted and registered as a Tiger. The program began in 1993 and has been very successful, providing certificates to owners and decals to Tigers that are authenticated. The TAC inspections have been offered at many locations, and the method has been passed on to the members of other clubs.

Local tours have been an important part of our schedule, featuring winery tours, trips along the ocean, to the mountains, Lake Tahoe, the Fresno Area Blossom Trail, an aircraft museum, and many, many other examples. Presently we are attempting to schedule a tour-a-month to provide drives of interest for everybody. Members in other areas of the country are encouraged to set up tours in their areas and publicize them in Tiger Tracks.

Sunbeam Tiger Owners Association has been, and continues to be, an outstandingly active organization, and an important part of the lives of many people. It is a vital organization, ever-changing to meet the changing needs of our members.

-Bruce Fountain, STOA Charter Member.

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