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Triumph Herald

Published: 28th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph Herald

Then & Now

Despite large numbers of Heralds (not to mention the Spitfi re) were made, the car never really grabbed the attention of the go-faster industry like the MGs did even though the car did fairly well in rallying during the early 1960s. It was Syd Hurrell’s SAH Accessories who, almost alone, were the people for tuning small Triumphs (the outfi t even marketed an offi cial Stage 2 kit for the factory Spitfi res) but the company has long gone. The name, however, lives on, because Syd’s son, Terry, has been instrumental in developing the excellent line of Triumph parts that are now marketed by Triumph specialist Moss Europe ( Small Triumph owners are better suited nowadays, with several specialists offering spares and a limited tuning gear line up. In addition to the aforementioned Moss, there are Canley Classics (, David Manners (, Rarebits 4 Classics dealing in new and used Herald parts ( Tel 01249 815342) and of course Rimmer Brothers ( amongst the biggest players. If you want anywhere near a full-race small Triumph Jigsaw Racing Services at Kettering ( are the men to talk to. Their re-creation of ADU1B, one of the ’64 Le Mans Spitfi res, is proof of just how much they know.

Triumph Herald
Triumph Herald

Model In Depth...

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Which classics still have the potential to get up and go today? Paul Davies remembers the cars, the people… and how to make a classic hot car!

On the face of it, no one would call a Herald a hot car. More lukewarm, I’d say. But hang on and hear me out, the little Triumph was really quite advanced in its day – 1959 that is – and as the forerunner of more exciting things to come there’s a lot you can do with it in 2010. Take my old Editor on Hot Car magazine back in the late 1960’s. Tony Bostock obtained one from his mother when she moved on to something grander, then after playing with twin carbs and the like he plonked a Vitesse six-cylinder motor under the bonnet. There was a lot of room, you see. Tony – now no longer with us I’m afraid –also had the car sprayed in a blue and pink Velvetex fl ock fi nish! Yes, you could (and can) do a lot with a Herald. At a time when everyone else was going to one-piece unit construction for their bodies, the canny guys at Coventry opted for a separate chassis with ‘backbone’ central section, outriggers, and ‘Y’ shaped ends for the engine and running gear. Colin Chapman did something similar with the Lotus Elan a few years later. Onto this chassis Triumph stuck a, Michelotti designed, two-door body with lots of glass. All body panels bolted on, allowing easy coupe and convertible options. The independent front suspension with coil spring and wishbone was brilliant – and used on many small race cars and limited production sports cars – but the rear set-up with a transverse leaf spring and swing axles was not so bright. Drums brakes all round were standard, front discs came along later. The fi rst Herald engine let the side down a bit, being the 948cc unit previously found in the Standard 10. Then it became 1147cc, then1296cc; power ranged from 38bhp through to 61bhp. Coupes (rare now) delivered 45bhp thanks to twin Solex carbs on their 948cc unit. The last Herald was made in 1971. Back in those days Triumph had a thriving competitions department (TR2, 3, and 4, were rallied very successfully) and the team lost no time in using the Herald on classic events such as the RAC, Monte Carlo, Alpine and Tulip. Fast lady Rosemary Smith started her rally career in a Herald, whilst Tiny Lewis was a class winner in one on the 1960 RAC. The Herald can be judged a sales success – some half million were made in total – but for the hot car addict, then and now, the attraction lies in just what you can do to the little Triumph. Even by just dipping into the ST’s spares box you can see a satisfying improvement.

Get One Now

A 1500 unit looks stock but supplies a fair bit more poke

Buyer beware! Rust attacks the chassis just as much as it does a monocoque body of the same era, but with many bolt-on panels still available it’s easy to make a Triumph four of the ‘60’s look good. More saloons were made than coupes or convertibles, so prices for the latter tend to be higher. A basic saloon ‘project’ can cost as low as £250; a tidy convertible will be around £5000 – perhaps nudging double this for a concours example. The rare Courier vansare also held in the same esteem. We’ve seen several period ex-rally cars for sale at sensible prices so shop around.

Hotting One Up

Even though the fi rst engine was straight from the Standard 10, the all-iron ohv unit at least had one more cylinder head port (four exhaust, two siamesed inlets) than the BMC A-Series of the same era. But, forget the 948cc and think in terms of the 1147cc or (better) 1296cc. Racing and rallying moved engine development along swiftly, most importantly pioneering eight port heads, which became standard fi tment on the 1296cc engine. Obviously, the eight porter has a lot more potential than the six por t deisgn but sorry to say there’s no chance of retrofitting the 1296cc part to earlier engines – the later engine has a 10-stud fi xing for the head while the earlier engines are 11-stud. For any Herald power increase you have to take a look at the Spitfi re engine, and then add a bit. Most Heralds suffered from having a single Solex downdraught carburettor and a, less than exciting, camshaft profi le. Fortunately appropriate Spitfi re parts – twin SUs and a hotter cam – will fit and you can see an easy 75bhp with the 1296cc unit. Beyond that we’re talking modifi ed head (re-shape combustion chamber, bigger valves, gas fl ow) a fast road cam from a specialist, and decent four branch exhaust manifold, and on standard carbs reckon about 85bhp. Beyond this, an obvious upgrade for any capacity twin carb engine is to go for a twin 1 1/2ins HS4 SU set up, which can use the existing inlet manifold with a certain amount of re-working and an adapter plate. The full potential of such a system will not, however, be realised without appropriate head modifi cations and a camshaft change. As always,there’s no point increasing the fuel delivery if the rest of the engine is unable to cope adequately. You can go much further, of course. Full race 1300 engines, with twin Weber DCOE carbs will deliver around 130bhp, but here we’re talking about a complete re-build, balancing, cracktesting, special pistons, the lot and it may prove impractical for road use (and really if you’re after that sort of grunt then a Vitesse engine is the best starting point). It goes without saying a 1296cc engine will produce more power than an 1147 or 948, but despite the fact that all three capacities are obtained by retaining the 76mm throw crank of the smallest unit, there’s little chance of upping capacity by boring the block of a smaller capacity engine and fi tting bigger pistons. All the blocks are different and there’s very little excess material to take an over-bore. And if you’re thinking engine swaps, although the external dimensions of the blocks are similar, it’s not quite straightforward. Early Heralds, until part way through the life of the 1200, had engine mounts that fi xed to the chassis, later 1200 cars – and all 1300s – had the mounts located on the front suspension turrets. Which means that a 1300 (or even 1500) engine single or twin carb fits straight into a late model 1200 car, but it’s more diffi cult if you are slotting the bigger motor into an early saloon. You can, like the Hot Car editor, elect to skip all this and go for the six-pot motor of the Vitesse – in 1.6-litre or 2.0-litre form. It’s all possible, but you’ll need to get hold of the engine mounts of the appropriate engine, plus gearbox, propshaft, and – of course – upgrade the braking system. Remember also, you’ve got more weight over the front wheels and so spring rates will need to be altered accordingly. Then there’s a need for increasing the cooling capacity. At this point it starts to get a bit complicated! The Herald has another ace up its sleeve: overdrive! Using the unit commonly found in the sportier Spitfi re you have in effect a six-speed gearbox to play with and can either use the overdrive cogs for a far more relaxed cruising gait, or drop the rear axle ratio a tad to help with acceleration as well.

Handling The Power

It goes without saying (does it?) that front discs from a later 1200 or 12/50 model will fi t earlier cars and this is a must if any serious tuning is envisaged. The next step is harder pads up front, EBC’s Green Stuff being the ideal compromise of pedal pressure and retardation for road use. The next step is to fi t larger discs and calipers from the 2-litre Vitesse or the GT6 along with the correct master and slave cylinders. You can go further with exotic four pot calipers and vented discs but that must be a real hot Herald that you’re making! Naturally the suspension has to be upgraded and after 50 years the specialists have some well sorted kits to tame that twitchy rear end. Back in the ‘60’s the aftermarket fi x was to fi t a camber compensator which limited movement of the axles, today you can consider adding the lower link that Triumph did to the Mk2 GT6, (which for around £150 is our choice) or invest less in a rear suspension lowering block, which helps no end even if it’s not the real answer. Finally tyres. Experts reckon 185 section is about the widest you need for road use (even on the six pot Vitesse and GT6)and check with a specialist about the best pressures to run quality radials on. There was a big variation in recommended pressures according to make and tyre of tyre fi tted when these cars were contemporary. Spitfire wire wheels can be fi tted but it will limit tyre size.

How Did It Drive?

No standard Herald was ever fast, but on a smooth road the handling was pretty good and the legendary 25ft radius turning circle of the (rack and pinion) steering made parking a doddle. Heralds did (and do) well in autotests. All drum brakes on the earliest cars were adequate for the performance, but the later front discs feel much better and easy to retro fi t. The big problem (like earlier versions of the Spitfi re, Vitesse, and GT6) was the swing axle rear. Lift-off in a tight or fast corner and the back end would jack up, the inside wheel go to extreme positive camber, and – in the extreme – fl ip the car on its roof! Later non-Heralds (Spitfi res/GT6) had a rear suspension fi x and the rear can be brought into line fairly easily and cheaply with this.

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