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Triumph Herald

Published: 13th May 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph Herald
Triumph Herald
Triumph Herald
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Hark The Herald

You don’t need to turn yours into a Vitesse if you want a quick, sporty little saloon says Scott Bradley

On the face of it it’s easy if you want to make your Triumph Herald hotter – just drop in a GT6 or even a TR6 engine! That’ll certainly do the trick, but there’s a lot more to slipping in that straight six than you’d credit – we’d sooner find a Vitesse and enjoy the other benefits this car has to be frank. Also with some selected mods you can make the Herald as quick and a lot nimbler plus it would make a better candidate for certain motorsport classes; Heralds were pretty capable rally cars in their day, winning the Tulip Rally outright. Here’s how to make yours well and truly blossom.


First things first; ensure that your car is solid and safe. The chassis is prone to rust but the good news is that you can weld in sections or even buy new frames and riggers.

Mechanically (apart from a Morris Minor) you can’t get a simpler car; the forward-hingeing bonnet allows magnificent access to the engine and front end and parts availability is excellent. The main concern is that old Triumph foible of crank thrust washers and these need to be okay before you tune; naturally an engine overhaul would see these replaced with the latest aftermarket types as a matter of course.


The engine first started out as a ‘Standard’ unit of just 803cc and ended up almost double the capacity! It’s a simple, sturdy unit with plenty of potential; eclipsed by the A-Series but extremely popular in the States. Discarding the 948cc unit, you’re best off starting with the 1147cc ‘1200’ or best of all 1296cc ‘1300’ unit. While they all share the same 76mm crank throw, you can’t bore the engines out to their next respective sizes without hassle. And while the blocks look similar, the early 1200 flat chassis cars differ in engine mount fittings.

That said, you can overbore a 1296cc unit by 40 thou and some have even stretched the 1500 by as much as 60 thou to 1604cc using TR6 pistons – but seek expert advice first as this employs custom roads and liners from the USA and they don’t come cheap!

Some engines (made from 1961-65) featured weaker con rods and are not suited for dramatic tuning, so be warned! One of the reasons why specialists hark on about the 1296cc unit, apart from its larger size, is the far more efficient eight port cylinder head used. Sadly, this can’t be fitted to the smaller units as the stud pattern is different.

Pre 1296cc engines featured a Solex carburettor with an integral inlet/exhaust manifold and the only mods you can carry out is either fit a Weber carb (you may strike difficulty finding a manifold or adaptor) or fitting the twin carb set up from a Spitfire or Herald S along with the exhaust manifold. Bear in mind that if you don’t go the full Spitfire tune then the jetting will be wrong but these are easy enough to revise.

One peculiarity is that the 1200 Herald head features larger valves than the ‘sportier’ Spitfire! This means that it already has more scope for further modding, although without a Spitfire camshaft (usefully made racier when the Mk2 Spitfire was released) and distributor (advisable to fit electronic ignition), the gains will be moderate but worthwhile nevertheless for road use, especially if you raise the compression ratio by having 40 thou skimmed off the head. Incidentally, fitting a camshaft with the engine in situ is quite easy as it can be pulled out at the front once the grille rad and head are removed, while you may need a Spitfire downpipe to mate with the stock exhaust. Better still use the factory Mk2 Spit tubular extractor manifold if you can find one, that can at least be made to fit to most systems.

The 1300 engine is regarded by most as the best and this alone in an earlier car will give a useful power gain. If you don’t find a less rev happy but lustier engine, then the single carb 1500 engine is a good pick, gives Spitfire-like pace and looks completely standard.

With a fully modded head, racier cam and a single Weber DCOE carburettor (can’t use twins due to Siamesed inlet ported head) you can muster up to 90bhp or so from a 1200.

The 1300 unit saw up to 130bhp in full race tune in its heyday but it will be a pig for road use; aim for a milder tune on Webers and you’re still looking at over 100bhp or say 80-90bhp if using the standard 1.25in twin SU carbs. Webers are expensive instruments so the twin 1.5in Stroms found on Vits, GT6 & 2000 saloons are a useful upgrade if you can find a suitable manifold, but speak to your tuner as some advocate using 1.5in SUs which fit much more easily and give much greater needle selection.

Moss sells Triumph Tune and Piper cams catering for road, fast road and Race for around £180 incidentally, and a range of cylinder heads in the region of £900 as do some specialists like Moordale.

The 1500 unit yields only a little more power over a 1300 and has problems wearing out its big end shells. Moss advises using uprated engine fasteners for more accurate control of clamping pressure and reduces the risk of failure during use and is highly recommended for uprated or competition engines.
However, one big fan of the 1500 is leading Triumph specialist and Herald tuner Moordale Motors in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire (01707 650284); Dale “A lot of rubbish has been spoken about these engines” likes the added torque of the larger unit and says it can rev almost as high as the 1296cc engine once carefully balanced and the flywheel lightened by around 5-7lb. When the head/cam combination are properly sorted it provides a much quicker road car.

Cooling can do with an upgrade by dint of a superior radiator or core (try Radtec or Express Radiator Services) as 1500s can run hotter than others. Experts have improved oil flow to the centre main by opening up to 5/16in and although some say “You don’t need an oil cooler on a four pot” it is of benefit with a tuned 1500.


The transverse sprung independent stern is infamous for its ability to ‘tuck in’ its rear wheels just when you need them! Various aftermarket tweaks were devised over the decades from a simple ‘camber compensator’ costing a few quid back then to a virtual full-race rear end design.

When the Mk4 Spitfire was launched Triumph finally got around to sorting it out and it’s now regarded as the best modification – say around £150 from specialists who also add that 175/65 section tyres are about the widest you need for road use; Spitfire wire wheels can fit but limit your tyre choice.

There’s a choice of dampers and springs to mull over along with better (thicker) anti-roll bars though these MUST be matched to rear end improvements; speak to a specialist.

Brakes? Most Heralds boasted front disc brakes, so just a set of EBC Green Stuff or Mintex 1144 pads copes with a lot of power increases before you think about GT6/Vitesse anchors, which need the appropriate master and slave cylinders, not to mention front suspension vertical links – often overlooked – to work okay. If you want even better brakes, Dale says a remote servo and some ‘custom’ pads are all you need, he should know as he set fire to his pre-development set at Castle Combe on a Club Triumph Track Day!

The optional overdrive allows six-speeds in theory – or more! This gives you the choice of either benefiting from improved cruising or, if you drop the ratio in the axle, better performance yet without the engine screaming its modified head off.

You can fit the evergreen Ford Sierra Type 9 five-speed gearbox but this may be unnecessary say experts as the overdrive works agreeably well and can be uprated with stronger clutches and springs as well as higher operating pressure for a more ‘immediate’ engagement.

O/D Spares of Rugby (01788 540666 charges around £80 on top of its usual overhauling prices. On single-rail boxes, it’s worth fitting the later Spitfire gear lever so the overdrive switch is atop, and so you can change gear and flick in and out of o/d with one hand.

Moordale says that when this O/D Spares uprated ‘Race’ unit is wired up properly, you can have an eight-speed gearbox and while it sounds like an overkill, Dale adds that it’s brilliant for Autosolos/ Autotests or if you tackle rallies with lots of hairpin bends.

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