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Triumph Herald vs. Ford Anglia vs. Austin A40 vs. Vauxhall Viva

We’ve all got to start somewhere, so forget that E-type for now and look to a more prosaic purchase as your route into classic m Published: 16th Aug 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

What The Experts Say...

Ernie Drake traded up from an A35 to the A40 over 50 years ago, specifically for its hatchback facility. “I don’t know why someone didn’t think of it earlier,” he told us and has been a lifelong convert to the configuration ever since, owning a succession, including a 1977 Sunbeam Alpine, 1986 Cavalier, a 90’s Rover 400 and now a VW Polo. He says the A40 was a better all rounder than the A35 but insisted he bought a later Mk2 for its all-hydraulic brakes and 1098cc engine.

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The British Motor Show of 1959 must go down as an all time classic because three major British manufacturers launched important fuel frugal, family ferriers at Earls Court; the Mini, of course, Ford with its Anglia plus also Triumph’s more upmarket Herald. It’s a common belief that the Anglia competed with the Mini, but Ford actually saw the Austin A40, introduced a year earlier, as the car’s chief rival.

With Morris Minors now making £30,000, even budget family cars can be expensive propositions for the fi rst time classic owner. However, thankfully this assembled quartet can offer frugal fun and easy ownership. The fourth one? We’re pitching in the fi rst Vauxhall Viva to make up the numbers if for no other better reason that the model frequently over looked, is rare and still strong value for money.

Which one to buy

1st Herald | 2nd Anglia | 3rd A40 | 4th Viva

With its old-fashioned separate chassis and 50’s styling the Herald was hardly cutting edge when launched in 1959. But for many, that’s been the appeal of this Triumph. 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 60 years ago). Today, the Herald is admired for its simplicity as much as style.

With nearly 400,000 made , with a wide choice of saloons, coupés convertibles and even vans, the Herald remains one of the ten most popular classics left on our roads.

The most popular version was the 1200 range which was launched in 1962 and ran right up to 1970. Front disc brakes became optional on the 1200 from 1961 and were standard fi tment 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.

Benefiting from useful hike in power, the 12/50 also boasted a folding sunroof as standard, making it a quaint semi-sports saloon.

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 Coupés 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 Spitfi re was even thought about. Convertibles hold their values the best and vans (known as Couriers) are also sought after.

The Anglia 105E is more than just after the cleanly-restyled 100E even though mechanically they are highly similar, the chief differences being the new short-stroke ‘Kent’ engine and four-speed gearbox. Apart from the saloons, a stylish estate surfaced along with light commercial vans (and a lesser known pick-up) in 1961 yet aside from added colours and a better specifi ed Super trim, Ford did the minimum to maintain sales until its 1968 demise. Not so in Europe which saw some specials early in the car’s life, such as the Sportsman from Belgium and Italy’s Torino. The former was little more than a novel externally-mounted spare wheel along the lines of US Station Wagons, but Torino was a total redesign of the car, by Triumph stylist Michelotti, which squared off the shape and reversed the reversed window creating something not unlike Vauxhall’s boxy new HA Viva!

Ford saw real potential in the Italian-styled A40, not least its hatchback facility that Ford took two decades to emulate, fi rst with Capri and then Fiesta; who knows how successful the A40 would have been if it was made and marketed by Ford?

As the story goes, the origins of the A40 date back to a visit paid by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh to Longbridge in 1955 where he opined, in typically forthright fashion, that their projected new designs were ‘not up to the foreign competition’. And the result of this royal intervention was that Battista “Pinn” Farina was awarded a healthy (for the day) £84,000 contract, his fi rst task being the styling of ADO8, the future replacement for the Austin A35.

Beneath that genuinely radical yet fuss-free two-box styling with its slim pillars and large glass area were some very familiar running gear. The 948cc A-Series engine, mechanical rear brakes, steering and front coil and rear leaf spring suspension were all cribbed from the A35. The door glasses were operated by counterbalancing rather than winders and you would have to specify the De Luxe version if you craved a passenger sun visor and rear side windows that opened for better ventilation.

In September 1959 Austin introduced the A40 Countryman complete with a split tailgate. Two years later saw the A40 facelifted as the MkII, with a slightly more proud-looking radiator grille, a revised dashboard a longer wheelbase and all hydraulic brakes (at last!). In the following year the A40 gained the 1098cc version of the A-Series unit as fitted to the Minor and despite the advent of the BMC 1100 the A40 somehow remained in production until November of 1967.

Not only was the Viva, Vauxhall’s first entry into the 1-litre market, but also saw the initial cooperation with German Opel brand because the HA of 1963 was little more than a rehashed Kadett and just as boxy styled.

Initially a base model and De Luxe featured but soon after, for 1965, came a very plush SL (standing for Super Luxury) fl agship. Vauxhall also saw some sporting potential with its little 1057cc star and made it more vivacious with a sporty ’90’ option comprising of an engine tune worth an extra 10bhp for 54bhp, front disc brakes with servo and fatter tyres.

The Viva was popular yet indifferent and was quickly replaced in 1966 by the all new and far superior HB but the HA continued as a van and specialist estate/ motorhome conversion, lasting right up to the early 1980s. Out of this quartet, the Vauxhall is the rarest, followed by the A40 with the Herald being the more prevalent and certainly the easiest to own.

What's the best to drive?

1st Anglia | 2nd Herald | 3rd A40 | 4th Viva

In all honesty, none gets the pulse racing or the urge for a crack of dawn empty road blast. Yet all charm in their own way. The Anglia is the best all rounder; its 997cc or better still the 1198cc engines are high revving and the car handles obediently displaying no nasty traits; an important point for young drivers. Best of all, as the Ford was second to the Mini for go-faster tweaks there’s an enormous scope for improving.

The Herald’s biggest concern has always been its quirky independent rear suspension which can cause the rear wheels to ‘tuck in’ during a closed throttle situation when cornering, causing dramatic tail slides. It was steadily improved over the production run and with modern wider radial tyres should alleviate most worries plus there’s a wealth of suspension mods as well.

Anyway, there’s little power to upset the car during cornering; 58bhp 13/60 versions are best for modern roads plus overdrive was optional on some – unheard of for this class of car – for more relaxed cruising, further assisted by a degree of interior refinement and comfort that was quite uncommon in the small car market. On the other hand, due to age and rusting, many will suffer from chassis flex giving rise to irritating creaks, rattles and groans on the move.

If you’ve only driven later HB/HC Vivas then the HA may shock you because the handling and stability isn’t nearly as impressive. A front suspension boasting a transverse front leaf spring may well have worked for Fiat, Lancia and even Ferrari but not for Vauxhall and it’s no wonder that the transformation on the HB was so great that the press at the time, said Vauxhall should have given the car a new name. The Viva’s plus points are its peppy engines (many are running with the later 1159cc and 1256cc engines), flick-switch gearchange (easy the best out of this bunch) and a very positive steering.

The A40 drives pretty much like the A35 predecessor, so it’s a trim performer. The hydro-mechanical brakes won’t suit all (making the all hydraulic MkII by far the better buy) and the A-Series engine is the same gutsy labourer as ever.

Improvement potential

1st Anglia | 2nd Herald | 3rd A40 | 4th Viva

Anglias have been tuner’s delight since the 60s and are still finding favour. If anything, the depth and scope for tuning is better than ever now that the Ford Zetec engine can be cheaply fitted. Installation kits are available and, best of all, the bellhousing location bolts have remained in the same place for 60 years, meaning that the engine can marry up to the standard transmission, if need be!

As the Herald sired the Spitfire, the Triumph can be usefully easily improved. Engine performance is best served by a 1296cc unit with its ‘eight port’ cylinder head but it’s perhaps the suspension which needs your first attention – a Triumph specialist can help here and £200 should reap the desired improvement to the stern.

The A40 is a steady rather than a great handler but it is predictable and as the A35 (which provided the basis for the Frogeye Sprite, remember) is such a popular classic racer, pretty similar improvements are easily incorporated if desired; ditto the engine where time honoured A-Series mods will add a spark to the unit; a 1275cc unit will one really fl y along with associated MG Midget hardware. Tuning the Viva is mixed bag. The engine responds well and a 1256cc unit is a direct drop in plus we’ve seen Ford’s Pinto engine also nestling happily under the bonnet. The downside is that odd suspension where uprating parts aren’t widely available other than sportier dampers and better tyres.

Owning and running

1st Herald | 2nd Anglia | 3rd Viva | 4th A40

The simplistic make up of the Herald means it’s a DIYer’s delight and the forward hinging bonnet allows fantastic access, while the gearbox is removed from inside the car. Being a Triumph, parts supply is excellent and keenly priced and this includes replacement chassis frames or repair panels.

The Anglia is almost as easy to maintain as you’d expect being a Ford. Interchangeability of mechanical parts with other Fords is brilliant and body panels are not dificult to source either.

Because the HA design lasted into the 1980s, parts supply isn’t too bad apart from the trim and minor details which can spoil any classic Vauxhall restoration. Mechanically, later parts from the HB/HC can be utilised but the front suspension is unique. The A40 shares a lot of A35 parts, which in turn means easily sourced Midget mechanicals. Body and trim panels will always be the chief dificulties.

In terms of prices, all are fairly compatible with lightweight wallets. Apart from the Anglia, where really good ones can command around £7000, all are easy £3000—£4000 buys, with the exception of Herald convertible and coupés as these can carry a premium in the region of 25 per cent over the saloon – still fi ne value all the same.

And The Winner Is...

1st Herald | 2nd Anglia | 3rd Viva & A40

Was the Triumph Herald the last ‘old new’ car ever made by a major UK car manufacturer? Probably yes, but its old school simplicity and resultant DIY potential makes it one of the most sensible starter classics around. The Anglia is almost as good but the Herald has the benefi t of a greater choice of body styles and engines and the level of club and special support that comes with the Triumph badge few can match. “A glimpse into the future of small car styling” claimed Austin back in 1958 when describing its A40 – and it was so right.

The A30/A35 and Morris Minor may sport more character but the A40 has something about it for considerably less outlay – and we love its forward thinking [hatchback] design. Vauxhall’s first Viva is marmite classic; its boxy styling now holds some appeal, less so its driving qualities compared to the HB/HC. It’s probably the hardest car to keep due to parts supply but it’s also delightfully different and that counts for something.

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