Marques : Triumph Story – Part One
Triumph’s history was an interesting one but, following bankruptcy on the eve of World War II, it was left to The Standard Motor Company to pick up the baton and shape Triumph’s brave new world…
A potted history
Triumph was a relatively late entry into the arena in 1923, but the company had been a successful producer of motorcycles since 1901. The entry into car production was facilitated by the purchase of the recently defunct Dawson factory in Coventry and soon the first Triumph road car was launched, the 1.4-litre Triumph 10/20 which lasted two years before the 1.9-litre Triumph 13/30 replaced it, in 1925. This car was notable for being the first British production car that incorporated Lockheed external contracting hydraulic brakes.
The 832cc Triumph Super Seven was launched in 1928, which was a light and well-designed car, as was its replacement, the 1931 Scorpion, powered by an unusual 1.2-litre six-cylinder engine.
The following year, the first Triumph powered by a Coventry Climax engine was launched, the Triumph Super Nine. The power unit used in this car was interesting for being overhead-inlet-side-exhaust configuration. After that, the Triumph Ten joined the Super Nine.
In 1934, Donald Healey joined the company as Chief Experimental Engineer and he pushed ahead with the two-litre, eight-cylinder, double overhead camshaft Dolomite sports car. It was noted by contemporaries that this car was an obvious plagiarism of the Alfa Romeo, but whatever, the specification of this car was exceptionally advanced for its day. Unfortunately, this car did not prove popular and was only produced in small numbers, but it did lead to a family of Triumph engines, which were made available alongside the Coventry Climax unit.
In 1937, the range had expanded to include the 1.5-litre Gloria and the four and six-cylinder variants of the Dolomite, which shared only their name with the Healey-designed straight eight of a couple of years previous.
On the eve of the War in 1939, Triumph was declared bankrupt and it was not until the 31st December 1945, that the Standard Motor Company paid £75,000 for the Triumph name (and goodwill). Now, Triumph amounted to little more than a defunct nameplate owned by the Standard Motor Company.
Once production resumed, all subsequent Triumph-badged cars built at the Standard factory in Canley were Standards through-and-through. The engineering behind the next generation of Triumphs was down to Harry Webster, who rose to prominence within the Standard Motor Company. The cars that initially sported the Triumph nameplate were the razor-edge 1800 saloon and roadster (the latter being infamous for being the last series production car to feature a dickey-seat).
It was not long before the Standard Vanguard engine supplanted the Triumph units and, in 1949, these wet-liner engines were standardised across the range. In 1953, a 1991cc version of this was used in the first of the long line of Triumph TR sports models, the TR2. Decendents of this car remained in production until the Harris Mann-penned Leyland devised TR7 took over the mantle in 1975. The 2.1-litre engine remained as part of the TR line until 1967, when the (ex-Vanguard) 2.5-litre straight six from the Triumph 2500 saloon replaced it.
Triumph saloon car production faltered in 1955, when the Razor-edged Renown saloon was phased out (but Canley was still occupied with the production of Standard Eights, Tens, Vans, Pickups and Companions). The Triumph side of the business did not really pick up again until Standard’s replacement for the Eight – the unconventionally engineered Triumph Herald – was launched. Thankfully, this car was a great success and this popularity would lead to the adoption of the Triumph badge for all future Standard cars.
Triumph’s rise to prominence continued and, in 1959, a holding company called Standard-Triumph International was formed (where Standard was the manufacturing subsidiary). In 1961, Leyland engulfed Standard-Triumph and continued the policy (that was defined following the launch of the Herald) to badge all future products Triumphs, thereby laying to rest the Standard name…
…except, of course, in India!
Post-War Standard and Triumph models
Written by Keith Adams, with reference to the Standard Motor Club’s website and Phil Seed’s Virtual Car Museum.