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Triumph Herald @ 60

Triumph Herald @ 60 Published: 6th Mar 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph Herald @ 60
Triumph Herald @ 60
Triumph Herald @ 60
Triumph Herald @ 60
Triumph Herald @ 60
Triumph Herald @ 60
Triumph Herald @ 60
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Andrew Roberts looks back at Triumph’s quality small saloon which sadly seemed out of place during the fast changing swinging sixties

The date is the 22nd April 1959, and the place is the Albert Hall where Standard Triumph is launching its latest small car in a four-hour musical spectacular. After the assembled dealers and scribes had been diverted by Tiller Girls and the swinging sounds of The Kentones, they were ready for ‘A New Experience in Motoring’ – the car ‘the average man needs’ – the Herald. Motor Sport thought it likely to ‘break all previous sales records for the courageous British concern that has introduced them’.

Canley had commenced work on ‘Project Zobo’, the replacement for the Standard Eight/Ten in the late 1950s and an essential part of its raison d’être was to attract younger motorists to their local Standard-Triumph dealer.

The Ensign/Vanguard Phase 3 were associated with National Service and a general lack of frivolity while the smaller models looked as sensibly unglamorous as a pair of army boots. By contrast, the Herald (the name was taken from the md Alick Dick’s speed boat) declared your hard-won professional status and contemporary outlook to all suburbia.

Power for the Herald was from the familiar 948cc OHV straight out of from the ancient Standard Ten, combined with four-speed transmission that lacked synchromesh on first gear.

However, there was all-independent suspension, via a penny-pinching single transverse leaf-spring at the rear, but rack and pinion steering was a modern touch. Perhaps most notably of all, there was styling, courtesy of Giovanni Michelotti. This was a car that belonged to the same world as Vespa scooters, three button suits with thin lapels and espresso bars serving the sort of frothy coffee disdained by Tony Hancock.

Another notable feature of the Herald was that, unlike its predecessor, it featured separate chassis. This was a move that was dictated by the Standard-Triumph’s bodywork supplier Fisher & Ludlow now being a part of the BMC empire. This form of construction had the advantage of comparatively straightforward assembly in overseas car plants and, as the sales copy claimed, it saved ‘time and money on replacements and repairs’ as each panel, including sills and roof, could be simply unbolted.

The ease of access to the engine and front suspension instantly appealed to the many owners who carried out routine maintenance in their driveways and, appropriately, a highlight of the Albert Hall launch ceremony was a team building a Herald live on stage. This basic platform also provided the basis for the Spitfire sports car and the GT6 coupé.

But it’s no longer a standard bearer…

The use of the Triumph marque was a logical step, given the high profile of the TR3A and the fact that the Herald was a rather upmarket small car and although Standard bought out the bankrupt vehicle maker after the war, was forward thinking enough to realise that the Standard name was becoming decidedly old hat.

At £702 2s 6d for the saloon and £730 14s. 2d for the coupé the new Triumph was costlier than the Austin A40 Farina, the Morris Minor 1000 and the new Ford Anglia 105E but its specification included a heater, windscreen washers, an adjustable steering column and front seats that could be altered for height via rubber blocks. There was also a useful reserve on the fuel tank and, a ‘chip basket’ style mesh parcel carrier beneath the fascia. A compact 25ft turning circle that was the smallest of any production car was another major sales feature and cinema adverts of the early 1960s featured a Herald being chased through Brighton by a police Wolseley 6/99.

March 1960 saw the launch of the very attractive convertible, which boasted extra power from a twin-carburettor engine but the lack of performance from the 948cc unit was still hampering sales. The saloon’s top speed of 70mph and 0-60 in a snail-like 31 seconds was not quite in keeping with the ‘motorway age’.

As a response, the Herald 1200 debuted in April 1961, and for £708 0s 10d, it offered 76mph, a wooden veneered fascia and distinctive white rubber bumpers. Autocar regarded it as “another model of which keen and sensitive drivers will approve”.

That same year marked the demise of the smaller engine coupé and convertible and further introductions of the Herald estate, the successor to the Standard Ten Companion, and the entry-level Herald 948 S. The last-named cost £664 2s 6d, came sans heater and its status was made immediately apparent by the mesh grille which was sourced from the Standard Ensign. 1962 saw front disc brakes as an option and the replacement of the Standard Ten-based light commercial by the Herald Courier, a converted estate which was billed as a van that ‘says a lot for your business and does a lot for your public image’. Unfortunately, the load bay was too restricted for many small businesses and the price was too high as compared with Ford’s Thames 307E.

Joy of six

Meanwhile, for those press-on drivers, Triumph offered the Vitesse 6 saloon and convertible in May 1962, sporting a meanlooking quad headlamp frontal treatment. Using a special 1.6-litre version of the 2-litre Vanguard engine, it was quite a Q-Car combining GT performance with the smoothness only a six-cylinder engine can provide. As a compact ‘Six’ with an equal appeal to an up-and-coming young solicitor and the sort of motorist who would never be seen without his string-backed gloves, the Vitesse had no direct rivals.

In the following year, the 12/50 saloon was somewhat more successful, as its combination of 51bhp (as opposed to 39bhp) Spitfire-like engine, front disc brakes and, very unusually for a British car of this period, a fabric sliding roof made it ideally suited to the sort of up-to-theminute motorist who wore dark glasses in fashionable night clubs and who regularly watched That Was The Week That Was.

The price was £634 18s 9d, and the chaps of Autocar mused that “Women drivers appreciate the lightness of all the controls’ while ‘strong armed men can, with or without finesse, use the little car as they like and it never complains”. 1963 really was another world…

The S and the Coupé were both dropped in 1964, as was UK production of the slow-selling Courier – assembly continued in Malta for a short period. Triumph also considered building a four-door Herald but it was eventually decided this would clash with the new 1300 saloon, which was due for launch in 1965. In the mid-1960s, Michelotti created a three-door hatchback Herald for due consideration by Canley’s management who proved sadly not so keen on this very promising concept. Fortunately, this unique Herald survives.

The Vitesse 6 was upgraded as the Vitesse 2-Litre in late 1966, using the same 1998cc power plant as used in the GT6 and with an all-synchromesh gearbox as standard. The top speed was now a rousing 95mph, and the price was a very reasonable £838 15s 7d even if the Herald’s rear suspension design was found severely wanting in terms of predictability as a consequence.

In October 1967 the 12/50 model was replaced by the 1.2-litre 13/60, losing its sliding sunroof, but gaining a 1298cc engine and a distinctive new grille, plus the estate and drophead option. Motor found the saloon to be “the liveliest car in its price class”, even when compared with newer rivals such as the Ford Escort.

Towards the end of 1968, the Vitesse was upgraded as the MkII, receiving a much altered rear suspension with lower wishbones and Rotoflex half-shaft couplings to cure its working handling tendencies especially as enhanced power meant it was capable of ‘the ton’. A 1969 review in Motor Sport – ‘I quite liked this compact 2-litre, but this did not overcome the impression that it has been on the market for a long time’ – denoted a car that was coming to the end of its lifecycle. As it was, the Herald 1200 and the 13/60 saloon were both replaced by the 1300-based Toledo in 1970 while the 13/60 convertible and estate ceased production in May 1971, followed two months later by the Vitesse.

By that time, the Herald had earned its place in Triumph history, as a world car (the Indian-built; Standard ‘Gazel’ lasted until 1978!) and a model that had spawned a dynasty of models from the Vitesse to the 1962 Spitfire and the 1966 GT6. And as a clever ménage of traditional engineering and chic looks, it was the perfect car for the 1959-vintage motorist, who believed he or she had ‘never had it so good’ although in truth, compared to the Mini and Ford’s Anglia, also launched during that pivotal year, the Herald always appeared a step behind the fast-changing times.

Remember when.. 1971

Time was finally called on the Herald range after 12 years where the world was now a very different place to when Triumph launched it. Here’s why…

The year started off badly in January when during ‘an old firm’ Celtic vs Rangers football match at Ibrox a crowd surge caused a stairway to collapse killing 66 spectators and injuring many more 10 years after a similar accident.

Out went £sd in favour of decimalisation and 100 new pence to a pound; Rolls-Royce went bankrupt and, as a result, was nationalised; British Leyland launched its first new car after taking over BMC – the sink or swim Morris Marina – broadly based upon the old Minor.

Here’s something that’s rarely been out of the news since… That June, Britain under the leadership of Tory Edward Heath, began successful talks to join the Common Market leading to membership a couple of years later in 1973. Forty six years on and we are leaving.

In sport, Arsenal did the double, beating Liverpool 2-1 with Eddie Kelly becoming the first substitute to score in an FA Cup final (the goalmouth scramble originally attributed to George Graham). In F1, Scot Jackie Stewart canters to his second title.

With salaries of £2805 and a typical house costing £5300, you’d need some overtime to also afford a new £900 Marina (below) – so how about a ’68 Cortina 1600 at £675, or a well kept ’63 MG Magnette at just £285 instead?

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