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Triumph Dolomite Sprint

Published: 7th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

The Sprint lacked stamina for rally work but engines were tweaked for 180bhp -200 depending upon class The Sprint lacked stamina for rally work but engines were tweaked for 180bhp -200 depending upon class
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Fancy owning a motorsport legend for road and track use? Paul Davies looks at true classics that made their names on stages and circuits, and still provide fine drives today

Here’s an almost-forgotten gem. Deep in British Leyland’s motor sporting black hole, between the days when the Mini and the MGB covered themselves in glory and the early eighties when the TR8 and the Metro 6R4 nearly made it, shines one bright light - the Triumph Dolomite Sprint. It’s easy to forget the Dolly, coming as it does from the era when Britain’s home-grown auto manufacturer was not officially involved in motorsport. But outright victory, two runnerup spots and a third place in the competitive British Touring Car Championship, plus a brace of seconds on consecutive runs of the Tour of Britain and numerous rally class wins, mean it’s a car we can’t - and shouldn’t – ignore. From 1973 to 1980, the Triumph works at Coventry turned out nearly 23,000 examples of the smooth handling, 127bhp, two-litre sports saloon. Nowadays the vinyl-roofed, cloth-andwood interior trimmed, four-door Sprint is a rarity on British roads: you’re more likely to see a Chevette HS, and Vauxhall only made 400 of those. Many Sprints were exported, mainly to Australia and New Zealand, and doubtless rust has claimed some, but if you can locate one you’ll find you’ve bagged a corker! The Sprint was born out of the front-wheel drive Triumph 1300, a sort of upmarket competitor for the BMC 1100/1300 and a BMW 3 Series of its day. The first Dolomite saloon placed an 1854cc, eight-valve, four-cylinder engine - developed for SAAB - at the front driving the rear wheels, whilst the Sprint version took capacity to 1998cc, along with a 16-valve cylinder head (still operated by a novel single overhead camshaft design) and twin SU carbs. With original engineering undertaken by Triumph’s competitions department, the Dolly Sprint was taken on by the Castrol-supported rally team that emerged after the closure of BL Comps. Brian Culcheth debuted a prototype (with bonnet firmly closed from public eyes) on the 1972 Scottish Rally, claiming a fighting second in its class. ‘Culch’ tried his very best with the Dolomite, but for a couple of years there were more retirements than successes, mainly due to rear axle failures. The Sprint came good in Group One (production) trim in ‘75, with a string of high placings on national rallies, and a class win on the RAC. Tony Pond and Pat Ryan also rallied the Sprint for the quasi-factory team, the latter giving the car its last official outing in mid ‘76, as BL eased back into full-time with the TR7 (so there’s hope for mine -ed?). In racing it was the car to catch. Andy Rouse followed up a second place in ‘74 with overall victory in the 1975 Touring Car series with his famous Broadspeed run car, and journalist/ racer Tony Dron continued the good work for the next couple of years. Privateers including the late great Gerry Marshall also found the Sprint a more than useful production racer, especially on the multi-discipline Tour of Britain. Thirty years on it’s still, potentially, a frontrunner. The Sprint sits nicely in several of the historic and classic race formulas, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t shine in the posthistoric (‘68 to ‘74) division of the British Historic Rally Championship. Only, they’re not there. Where has Dolly gone?

Triumph Dolomite Sprint Summary

Production

Total: 22,941

Technical

Engine: Four-cylinder, in-line, with cast iron block and aluminium cylinder head. Single overhead camshaft operating four valves per cylinder. 127bhp.
Gearbox: Four-speed with overdrive.
Drive: Rear wheels.
Suspension: Front, independent with wishbones and
coil springs. Rear: rigid axle with four trailing arms and coil springs.
Brakes: Disc front, drum rear.
Steering: Rack and pinion.

Claim to fame

BTCC: 1st (1975), 2nd (1974, 77), 3rd (1978). Tour of Britain: 2nd (1975,76). Numerous rally Group One class wins, including 1975 RAC.

Famous names

Andy Rouse, Tony Dron, Roger Bell, Gerry Marshall, Derek Bell, John Handley, Brian Culcheth, Pat Ryan, Tony Pond, John Bloxham, Tony Drumond.

Where to buy

A rare beast on the market. Try owners clubs and Classic Cars for Sale classified advertising.

What to look for

Rust everywhere! Check suspension mounts. Failed head gaskets due to warped alloy heads, usually caused by incorrect anti-freeze (ditto clogged cooling systems). Noisy rear axles, failed overdrive units. Good ones will be cherished and watch out for lesser parts from 1500/Dolomite used.

What to pay

Basket cases in the hundreds, a good ‘un should be no more than £4000. How much do you want one?

Clubs

Triumph Dolomite Sprint Club: http://www.tdsclub.supanet.com Triumph Dolomite Club: http://www.triumphdolomite.co.uk Triumph Sports Six Club: http://www.tssc.org.uk

Classic sport

Top Hat Racing programme, and the car fits into the Post Historic category for the British Historic Rally Championship. And why not for running round the lanes on navigational rallies?

Maintenance, tuning and sport

Once the standard engine’s in good nick, over 150bhp is easy and upwards of 200bhp possible on race motors with twin Webers. Ex-ST man Brian Kitley (01934 823295) is the Sprint tuning guru, Rimmer Bros (http://www.rimmerbros.co.uk), Moss Europe (http://www.moss-europe.co.uk) and T. D Fitchett (01952 619585) the people to supply most of the spares that you’ll need.

Competitive Rating: 6



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