In my latest one of my eleven novels, The Highland Hens, octogenarians Mimi McKinlay and her friend Isabella Ballantyne take to the roads around Loch Ness in a red Triumph Stag, intent on making mischief. When I wrote the novel, I visualized them in a car that would epitomize their characters: classy, stylish and oozing with pizazz and tradition, so the Stag, evocative of the Highland monarch after which it was never named, came to mind immediately.
The car doesn’t feature heavily in the novel, although Mimi, an ex-chorus girl who has no regard for convention, enjoys her trips out in the car with Isabella, drinking too much and, as her eldest son Fin says, behaving like a teenager. The novel is about many other things: growing older, living in the present, love, second chances and the beautiful scenery and warm people of the Scottish Highlands.
The impact of Mimi’s fabulous car was such that I was asked by my publishers, Boldwood Books, to send them a photo of it and, even better, of two characters in it who would represent the crazy occupants. No octogenarians to hand, I thought I’d do it myself, with a little help. I contacted the Stag Owners’ Club and the rest is history. I met some lovely people who owned a beautifully restored Stag and they were very helpful and accommodating. I spent an enjoyable morning talking all things Triumph before I was offered a photo opportunity in the shiny red Stag that shone in the perfect Somerset sunlight.
I must admit, the Stag isn’t the first classic vehicle I’ve used in my novels. Previous characters have owned a camper van, a Harley Davidson, a VW Beetle and in a future novel there will be a Frog Eyed Sprite, so I’ll soon be searching for someone who owns one of those.
But Triumphs have a special place in my heart; I have an old Spitfire Mark IV in a garage; I owned a GT6 many years ago with pink espadrilles for bumpers, and I’ve travelled across France in a Bond Equipe. It’s only a matter of time until one of those beautiful old cars features in a new story.
But, for now, I’ll say an anonymous thanks to the fabulous couple who let me borrow their Stag for a photo shoot and to the local branch of the club who put me in touch straight away. I hope to catch up with them all very soon and, even better, I might be driving a classic car to one of their meetings, although I’ve a long way to until I replicate Mimi’s behaviour.
Or maybe not….