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Triumph Herald

Published: 8th Apr 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph Herald
Triumph Herald
Triumph Herald
Triumph Herald
Triumph Herald
Triumph Herald
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A separate chassis, topped by 50s styling, meant that the Herald was hardly cutting edge when launched in 1959. But, for many, this is all part of the car’s appeal

The last British Motor Show of the 1950s ranks one of the most significant of them all, and some cars certainly showed the way ahead. Cash-strapped Standard-Triumph was one of those showing an all-new model and it couldn’t afford to mess up! Cars were fast moving into the motorway era and ST had been lagging in the slow lane for too long.

You wouldn’t think it, from such a vintage design that even included a separate chassis, but the Herald successfully dragged the ailing firm into the 1960s, spawning a design base that also served the big-engined brother, Vitesse, as well as the Spitfire and GT6. Compared to the Mini, and even Ford’s Anglia, it was certainly mundane, but at least Italian Giovanni Michelotti’s body style looked crisp, even though tail fins were on the way out by then.

The Herald lasted for well over a decade in faithful service and remains a popular classic, admired for its simplicity and that certain style. Dead simple to maintain and practical enough to use as a daily driver with the odd modern upgrade, it makes a pleasing and rather quaint classic.


With nearly 400,000 made, there’s a wide choice of saloons, coupes convertibles and even vans (as well as a foreign-made four-door that was never available in Europe). Indeed, the Herald is one of the ten most popular classics left on our roads.

The most popular was the 1200 range which was launched in 1962 and ran right up to 1970. If you simply must have the original incarnation, then you’ll struggle here, as they are now very hard to find. Early 948cc convertibles are real rarities, though saloons and coupes are slightly more plentiful. An original Herald features a white speedometer and switchgear, plus a ‘Wisteria-coloured’ steering wheel and column nacelle; from the 1200 onwards, it changed to a more traditional, rather posher wooden dashboard.

The expansion to 1147cc brought more power and slashed the 0-60mph time from a yawning 31 seconds to a still tardy 24.  But it was the hike in torque that was more pronounced and allowed the engine to cope with higher gearing, which made for more relaxed cruising. Things were even better if the optional overdrive was fitted, which really set the Herald apart from other low cost cars like the Anglia and Viva at the time, as well as making it the choice for the more affluent.

Front disc brakes became optional on the 1200 from 1961 and were standard fitment on both the more upmarket 12/50 and the later 13/60 of 1967, the latter which gained a larger 1296cc engine that was to serve Triumph up until 1980.

Benefitting from useful hike in power, the 12/50 also boasted a folding sunroof as standard, making it a commendable sports saloon that at one point in its production run it was the best-selling Herald of them all.

In terms of buying choice, the 1200 and 13/60s are the most plentiful and there’s a fair selection of saloons and estates. The Coupes have a certain style about them – dropped by 1964 – while there’s also the ultra-rare Herald S, which sported twin carb power before the Spitfire was even thought about! Convertibles hold their values best and £7000 for top cars will be a norm over the next few years, but really good saloons are easy £3000 buys, the coupe perhaps worth a grand more.

We understand that estates, and especially the (Courier) vans, command high values. If you find the ultra-rare Jack Brabham-converted models, sporting the Lotus Elite engine, you’ll simply have to pay what the man wants.


Well it’s certainly old fashioned! Access is easy through those large doors, and the cabin extremely light and airy thanks to the generous glass area. Unusually, for a cheap family car, the steering column is adjustable, as are the seats, for height and rake.

Triumph proudly boasted that more than 70 permutations were available, although as Motor magazine replied in its 1968 road test: “At least 48 apply only to small people.” The significantly offset pedals irritate all sizes, however.

The Herald’s handling has always been a contentious issue, too. Although not fast enough like a Vitesse or GT6 to really cause trouble, the crude swing-axle rear suspension, with its single transverse leaf spring, will “wipe the smile off your face” if you drive hamfistedly, as one road test put it.

This is because excessive rear wheel camber changes during hearty cornering, a well known trait of this chassis, allows the inside rear wheel to ‘tuck in’ to such an extent that there is a sudden loss of grip and potentially a spin. In fairness, modern radial tyres help a great deal. Incidentally, wheels were strengthened with more narrow slots from November 1964, while 4.5J (inch) rims were used on the 13/60 estate but the rest of the range made do with puny 3.5J items.

The gearbox is one of the nicest of its era, although all Heralds are low geared, meaning you get through the gears quickly and a fussy 60mph is probably best for cruising. The answer of course is to fit overdrive which many Spitfires wore. Drum brakes, fitted to many of the base models, are adequate if set up correctly, but discs are preferable and easy to retro fit.

In terms of performance, the 13/60 is the best and, thanks to its hotter Spitfire-like (eight port) cylinder head, was one of the tidiest movers in its class (16.6 to 60mph according to Motor in 68), which was swifter than Triumph’s similarly-powered plush front-wheel drive 1300 saloon. The 1200 is a pedestrian performer but the 12/50 is quite okay for leisurely classic motoring.


There’s no reason why a suitably upgraded Herald can’t be used daily for commuting. Indeed, that legendary rack and pinion steering, with its turning circle of a taxi-like 25ft, makes for a very competent town car. Dial in great visibility and low gearing, and this small Triumph is an ideal city dweller.

Ergonomics are typical of the era and safety is obviously not a patch on modern cars, but the Herald isn’t as archaic as you might expect. Front seatbelt anchorages were fitted from ‘62 and the steering column is designed to collapse in a frontal.

Roadholding and handling are just about acceptable on modern radials and later 13/60s benefitted from the stiffer Vitesse chassis which improved things further, although shakes and rattles still dominate.

The boot is sizeable enough and, on 948cc cars, the rear seat folds down to create space for bulkier objects. All models, bar the practical estate and Courier, come with a reserve tap on the fuel tank in the boot. 


Designed like a giant Meccano kit, the Triumph Herald consisted of seven main body panels that just bolted together, on a separate chassis frame. As a result, it was always a mechanic’s dream and is probably the easiest classic to work on, especially thanks to the huge, front-hinged bonnet, which gives magnificent access to the engine and the front suspension, which all require regular lubrication anyway.

From the 1200 onwards, Heralds were fitted with both a full-flow oil filter and a paper-element air filter by the way.

Transmission repairs are almost a pleasure. There’s a removable tunnel to provide access to both the clutch and gearbox, so you don’t have to lay on your back covered in dirt doing the job.

Proper major chassis repairs are only possible with the body removed and while a heavy-duty task, this is possible at home.

Parts availability and interchangeability (with the Spitfire and Vitesse) is excellent – and a real bonus if you’re not a stickler for originality. You can keep a Herald going by mixing and matching and using parts from a 1200/13/60 or even Spitfire bits.

We Reckon...

If you’re after a starter classic that’s a DIY dream and, thanks to its separate chassis, similarly easy to restore, then you can’t beat a hearty Herald. Parts supply and specialist back up is excellent and these quaint saloons and convertibles have real character about them. Add their lowly prices and you have a classic that will put a smile on your face – unless you overdo it on the bends, that is!

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