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Triumph Herald

Published: 22nd Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph Herald
Triumph Herald
Triumph Herald
Triumph Herald
Triumph Herald
Triumph Herald
Triumph Herald
Triumph Herald
Triumph Herald

Buyer Beware

  • The chassis consists of two strong central main rails, with three lighter outriggers on each side under the passenger compartment, tied together with a perimeter rail on each side under the doors. Front outriggers are in the most vulnerable position and need checking.
  • The sills are just bolt-on cosmetic covers, but the perimeter rail behind them is very rot-prone. Feel also for crunching in the structural panel below the step trim plate, which means major repairs needed.
  • Mk2 chassis had a dip in the main rails by the differential crossmember where road muck can collect. All chassis need checking here for rust and bad repairs.
  • Look for accident damage to the longitudinal rails in the engine bay ahead of the engine mountings.
  • Check for both accident damage and rust where the chassis rails splay up and out under the boot.
  • Rear wings rust where they meet the inner arches, and can rust in the seam that separates upper and lower portions. Rear quarters also rust, but are not structural.
  • Floorpans rust, especially on convertibles.Water tends to collect around the pedals, and the accelerator pedal can break away entirely.
  • Swelling seams where the door skins wrap around the frames are the first signs of trouble here.
  • Bonnets always go around the arches and on their lower panels by the side catches. Good secondhand replacements are rare and expensive.
  • If mixing and matching secondhand parts to create a good car, be aware that the revised chassis from 1962 required numerous detail changes to the body. It is easier to fit a Mk2 body to a Mk1 chassis than to go in the other direction, but it is still not straightforward. The quickest way to tell what you have is that on the Mk1, the chassis contains an oval hole near the diff mounting through which the exhaust passes.
  • The rear axle is located by radius rods that run from the hub extensions to the rear outriggers. Check the outriggers carefully for rust.
  • The front suspension is subject to heavy loads, so check carefully for signs of regular lubrication and any wear. Jack up the front wheel and rock it at the top and the bottom: play where the stub axle meets the trunnion could indicate that the two will soon part company.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 3/5

    Not quick but fun – fab turning circle, skittish rear end

  • Usability: 3/5

    If you can put up with old pace and feel, can even make daily driver

  • Maintaining: 5/5

    Superb aftermarket and specialist support; plus is a DIYer’s dream

  • Owning: 3/5

    Charming sporting family treat that’s quaint in soft top form

  • Value: 4/5

    Hardly expensive for what it offers, especially convertible

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With its old-fashioned separate chassis and 50s styling the Herald was hardly cutting edge when launched in 1959. But for many, that’s the appeal of this Triumph

Cash-strapped Standard-Triumph was casting for a new model at the end of the 1950s – and it couldn’t afford to mess up! Cars were moving into the motorway era and ST trailing behind in the slow lane. The Herald was the car that successfully dragged the firm into the 1960s. Compared to the Mini and even Ford’s Anglia it was mundane, but at least Giovanni Michelotti’s body style looked crisp, while the separate chassis meant that a plethora of other cars could share the same base when the time came (modern thinking 50 years ago). Today the Herald is admired for its simplicity and style. They’re dead simple to maintain and practical enough to use as a daily driver – with the odd modern upgrade, of course.

Which model to buy?

If you simply must have the original incarnation, then you’ll struggle with this one. The early 948cc convertible is now a rarity, though saloons and coupes are slightly more plentiful. The telltale sign of an original model is a white speedometer and switchgear, and a Wisteria-coloured steering wheel and column nacelle. From the 1200 onwards, they changed to a less eye-catching black with the wooden dash. The 948s are much slower, and spares are less plentiful than they are for later versions. The expansion to 1147cc brought more power and slashed the 0-60mph time from a yawning 31 seconds to 24 – still not great. But it was the hike in torque that was more pronounced and allowed the engine to pull a taller back axle, increasing top speed from 71mph to 76mph which made for more relaxed cruising – especially if overdrive was grafted on – this was only available on the MKII chassis, engineered for the Vitesse but made popular by the Herald in 1962. Front disc brakes were optional on the 1200 from 1961, but were standard fitment on both the 12/50 and the 13/60. As well as a useful hike in power, the 12/50 also had a Weathershield folding sunroof as standard, a useful halfway house between saloon and convertible with the benefit of a full-width seat in the back. The 13/60 gets even more power and torque but the gearing was unchanged. Instrumentation is more detailed too, but some find it less appealing. Triumph knew that the Herald was a dated design at launch and by 1964, after disappointing sales, was trying to convince the public that there was still life in the car. Indeed, it lasted until late 1971, but was replaced by the characterless 1300 styled Toldeo.

Behind the wheel?

Rear suspension is okay so long as you don’t drive ham-fistedly”

Access to the Herald is easy through those large doors, and the cabin extremely light and airy thanks to the generous glass area. The steering column is adjustable, and the seats move forwards and back as well as being adjustable for height and rake. This last movement is taken care of by the rather crude means of eccentric rubber blocks under the rear feet, and it’s not possible to adjust the seat base and backrest individually, but it does at least mean that all shapes and size of driver can get comfortable in a Herald. Indeed Triumph proudly boasted that over 70 permutations were available, although as Motor magazine replied in its 1968 road test: “At least 48 of these apply only to small people” while the offset pedals can irritate all sizes. Performance was only acceptable when the 1296cc engine was installed – a 0-60mph in 16.6 seconds was considered highly respectable at the time – and certainly enough for the Herald’s quirky chassis. A good swap now is to fit a single carb 1500 engine – if you can find one. Looks like a 1200/1360 engine but a bit lustier for modern roads. The front suspension is a sophisticated independent system using coil springs and telescopic dampers, delivering comfort and safe handling. The rear suspension is a more crude swing axle affair using a single transverse leaf spring. It has been welldocumented that under hard cornering, the major wheel camber changes allowed by this design can allow the inside rear wheel to tuck in to such an extent that there is a sudden and total loss of grip. It’s okay for normal driving though; it tends to be Vitesse owners who ever have cause to go there. That said, anybody used to a grippy modern hatch will be in for a surprise if they drive a Herald ham-fistedly. The gearbox has a lovely, accurate feel. All Heralds are low geared and the single carb 948s are worst in this respect, struggling with a 4.875:1 final drive ratio. But even the 13/60 had a 4.11:1 gear set tucked between the rear wheels. This does mean that the lack of synchromesh on first gear is rarely noticeable on the move, but you get up through the gears quickly. 60mph is probably best for cruising if you have any kind of mechanical sympathy but you can graft a Spitfire overdrive on to earlier cars. Drum brakes are adequate if set up correctly, but later discs inspire more confidence and are easy to fit. Steering is via a rack and very precise, and the turning circle is a tiny 25ft. Coupled with great visibility and low gearing, the Herald makes for a very maneuverable and competent town car.

Daily Driver?

Access to the engine bay for servicing is legendar y

Ergonomics of the secondary switchgear is a random affair, typical of the era. On earlier cars, the wiper switch is in the centre of the dash and the push-washer plunger under the dash to the right – so cleaning the screen is a seriously choreographed affair. On 13/60s the two functions were combined in a single switch. Safety is obviously not a patch on modern cars either, but the Herald isn’t as archaic as you might expect. Front seatbelt anchorages were fitted from 1962 and the steering column is designed to collapse in the event of a frontal accident. The Herald was unusual in 1959 in being supplied with a fresh air heater as standard. This was later made optional under Leyland’s cost-cutting regime during the life of the 1200, but few cars were actually supplied without it and it is more effective than most of the era. The seats on early cars were sparsely padded, although those fitted from the 1200 onwards are much more comfortable. At everyday speeds, the Herald has a good ride under most conditions. Roadholding and handling are both just about acceptable on modern radials. The boot is sizeable enough, thanks to the fact that the spare wheel is located in a well in the floor, below a hardboard cover that keeps your luggage clean. There’s no solid bulkhead between the boot and the cabin, and on 948cc cars the rear seat folds down to create space for bulkier objects. The convertible hood has a decent sized rear window as well as rear quarterlights, so rear visibility is better than many ragtops of the era as long as the plastic hasn’t gone opaque with age. All models bar the über-practical estate and Courier come with a useful reserve tap on the fuel tank in the boot.

Ease of ownership?

Herald arts are generally cheap and plentiful, both new and secondhand. Access to the engine bay for servicing and repairs is legendary – the front bodywork hinges out of the way in a single piece. There’s also a removable tunnel to provide easy access to both the clutch and gearbox. On the other hand, proper chassis repairs are only possible with the body removed. From the 1200 onwards, Heralds were fitted with both a full-flow oil filter and a paper element air filter. The front suspension needs regular lubrication, especially if using the factoryrecommended Hypoy oil. Many owners clean it out and use longer-lasting grease instead. Part interchangeability is excellent – and a real bonus if you’re not a stickler for originality – for example, any hood fits any age of Herald. The rear overriders are the same on all cars, while the fronts only altered to accommodate the 13/60’s revised nose. The taillights altered in detail only, and the 1200’s headlamp peaks shrank slightly in May 1963 but are still interchangeable. It pays to look carefully when mixing and matching. For example, the wheels were strengthened with more narrow slots from November 1964, while 4 1/2J rims were used on the 13/60 estate but the rest of the range made do with lesser items.



New Herald is announced in April as a two-door saloon powered by Standard’s 948cc engine and a single carburettor or the two-door coupe with an extra carb, more aggressive camshaft and higher compression ratio. By December, a sportier twin-carb saloon is also offered in the range.


A convertible is added to the range in March, though not made available on the home market until September. In June, the coupe roof is re-designed to include ribbed C-pillars and extended rain gutters. The despecced Herald S is designed to grab a bigger slice of the growing fleet market.


April sees the specifications for all cars being standardised on an enlarged 1147cc engine. Cosmetic changes include white bumpers and a wooden dash. An estate is added to the mix in May. Front disc brakes offered as an option late in the year as company is taken over by Leyland.


Courier van, basically an estate without the rear sidewindows, is offered from February. Six-cylinder Vitesse launched in May, requiring substantial alterations to the chassis to cope with the extra power. This is quietly incorporated into the Herald as the Mk2 chassis


The sporty 12/50 models becomes available with front disc brakes and a folding sunroof as standard, along with a more powerful 51bhp engine that is lifted from the Spitfire sports car. A year later the van is dropped while the coupe is also discontinued, a victim of the Spitfire stealing its market.


Herald gets a neat interpretation of the Vitesse’s slanting eye look, but this time incorporating just one light on each side. Long-serving engine is stretched to 1296cc tocreate the 13/60 with better breathing. Dash is revised, 12/50 discontinued, but 1200 saloon continues alongside 13/60 saloon, convertible and estate ranges.


Vitesse rear suspension is redesigned to finally eliminate the weaknesses of the original design. Sold as the 2-litre Mk2 (thanks to using the full fat GT6 six pot, Triumph never sees the need to carry this revision across to the lesspowerful Herald - even in quite pokey 13/60 tune. The last 1200 saloon is produced in May 1970.


With the design now being seen as very old hat, the last Heralds and Vitesses are built in May, to give way to the new Dolomite/Toledo range of fully conventional monocoque saloons which surfaced the previous year. Spitfire however survives into the early 1980s but big brother GT6 is dropped as early as 1973.

We Reckon...

Heralds are quaint, classy, quality saloons that have a character all of their own. DIY is easy and with good spares and support, you can make one into a highly useable classic. Performance and handling are nothing special but you can easily upgrade to Spitfire spec – but if you want real performance best buy a Vitesse!

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