Like his near-namesake and distant relation in that other great work of fiction, Wind in the Willows, Toady has a passion for fast automobiles, particularly motorbikes. The frottage of warm leather, the thrust of acceleration, the pulse of powerful machinery beneath one's ... but this is a family magazine. Anyway, it is thus that one of his great heroes has become the otherwise colourless John Bloor, a secretive Midlands builder well known to readers of this magazine. No, Mr Bloor is not the Barry Sheen of the loft insulation world, although the fact that - in mid-recession - his house building outfit, Bloor Holdings, remains a profitable concern, does show a certain undeniable elan. The reason for Toady's affection is that Mr Bloor, in spite of being self-professedly uninterested in the motorbike qua motorbike, is trying to revive one of the few tottering remnants of the once-great British motorcycle industry: Triumph. In 1972, Triumph went into receivership. In 1983, Mr Bloor took it right back out again, buying exclusive name rights to the once-formidable marque. Using the millions generated by building innumerable housing estates in his native Staffordshire, Bloor built himself a new, purpose-built factory in Leicester and filled it with designers. A decade later, the new Triumph Trophy 1200 has won rave reviews from the notoriously sniffy motorcycling press, and some 5,000 of the little devils are being built and many exported every year to markets long assumed lost to the Japanese. If Mr Bloor has his way this figure will soon reach 15,000 a year. But spare your cheers for a moment: Toady's moles in Companies House reveal that all is not serendipity chez Bloor. Bloor Holdings' accounts for 1991 record a nasty fall in pre-tax profits, from £21.5 million to £8.7 million. Page 10 of the accounts shows why: "manufacturing and design engineering services" contrived between them to clock up a startling £6.8-million loss on a turnover of £242,000. Now, in place of "manufacturing and design engineering services", Toady is reliably informed, one may substitute the single word "Triumph". The only thing faster than a motorbike's progress along the race-track has been the rate at which it has consumed Mr Bloor's money. He is a determined man and rich but enough may well become enough, even for him.
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