The cars : Standard Eight, Ten and Pennant development story

The small Standards might well be almost forgotten today, but that doesn’t mean their story is any less fascinating.

Robert Leitch tells their fascinating story, as well as that of the internal politics of Standard-Triumph during its most tumultuous period.

Small wonder

Standard Eight, Ten and Pennant - Standrive
Standard Eight, Ten and Pennant - Standrive

In the pantheon of British small cars of the 1950s, the Standard Eight and Ten are overshadowed by their Morris, Austin and Ford rivals, yet they were worthy and efficient vehicles, whose well-considered design responded well to the preoccupations of the market they served.

The Eight and Ten’s predecessor, the Triumph Mayflower, launched in autumn 1949, may have been razor-edged in its styling, but it was shaping up to be a rotund failure, having failed to capture the imagination of the home market, and the United States and Canadian customers it had been designed to seduce with its ‘British luxury car in miniature” charm.  Its advanced unitary bodywork design, based on a large number of complex panels, made production costly and large volumes would have been difficult to achieve, had demand existed.

Early development
By late 1950 the Standard-Triumph board, under managing director, Sir John Black, were considering a very different sort of vehicle to replace the Mayflower.  The post-WWII world had moved towards recovery and although exports were still the major priority, the new car would, above all, respond to the expectations of the British home market, and its latent and unsatisfied demand for efficient basic transport.  Without doubt the Nuffield Organisation’s Morris Minor had shown the way.

The immediate post-war Attlee era was as much concerned with reconstructing the nation’s social fabric as its physical infrastructure, and saw a brief setting aside of the sort of petty snobberies cars of the Mayflower’s type – it was memorably once described as a ‘charm bracelet Rolls-Royce” – pandered to.  Issigonis’s Minor suited a time when ‘utility’ and ‘austerity’ were the watchwords.  The Minor was not austere, but it was unpretentious, functional, pleasant to drive, and efficient in its use of fuel and raw materials.  Its immediate success could not be ignored, and its design principles set the benchmark for the British small car class of the 1950s.

The magnitude of Standard-Triumph’s ambition is evident from the £6 million development and tooling budget, compared with just over £1 million for the Mayflower.  A large part of the latter budget had covered new engine tooling, with the expectation that it would be used well beyond the Mayflower’s production life.

Standard-Triumph’s earliest ideas for the small car project were radically different from the Minor.  It was recorded, for example, that the Renault 4CV, a rear-engined four door saloon with a tiny 767cc ohv engine was being considered as a possible pattern for the new car.  The company was no stranger to French inspiration – the detachable-liner Vanguard engine drew heavily on the example of Maurice Sainturat’s Citroën  Traction Avant unit.  Dreary realism soon took as the designers realised that such a departure from the familiar would slow the development process.

The original intention to use existing components where feasible, for cost and time benefit, rather than out of any principle of engineering conservatism, resulted in the first prototypes being built on the Mayflower platform, but with a new three speed constant mesh gearbox – the Mayflower used the Vanguard’s three-speed synchromesh transmission.  Even in early 1952, a reduced capacity version of the Mayflower’s 1247cc side valve engine was still being proposed for its replacement.
As the design evolved, it became, in effect, a clean-sheet exercise, with the significant exception of the requirement to continue use of the Mayflower engine tooling.

By the standards of the time the new car’s specification was progressive, rather than conventional.  An all-new 803cc four cylinder ohv engine was mated to a four speed gearbox, also completely new, with synchromesh on the top three ratios.  The open propshaft drove a hypoid bevel rear axle.

The unitary body, whose styling was credited to Vic Hammond, was produced by Fisher and Ludlow at Tile Hill.  The engineering of the monocoque bodyshell was the work of Albert Coaley.   To alleviate concerns at the time about crash repairability of unitary bodies, it featured detachable, bolt-on front and rear wings, but otherwise was rigorously designed to stressed-skin principles to keep down costs and weight.  An unusual feature was a front subframe, supporting the engine, transmission, and front suspension. The front bumper mountings were incorporated into the subframe, rather than the bodyshell itself.

With Sir John Black’s diktat that the car had to be sold profitably at a lower price than the Morris and Austin rivals, the body specification was ruthlessly pared down, with horizontally sliding windows in the front and rear doors, and infamously, the omission of an external boot lid.  This latter feature was promoted as an advantage, as it allowed the luggage space to be extended into the rear passenger compartment, and was ‘dust and rain sealed”.

The interior was equally basic, with tubular hammock-type seats covered in Tygan, a synthetic fabric.  The deep door bins and open dashboard with a single instrument  anticipated Issigonis’s Mini design by over six years, although the Standard’s speedometer was placed in front of the driver, rather than centrally.

The engineering underpinning the car was far more impressive than the rudimentary equipment levels might suggest.  Front suspension was by double wishbones, with coil springs and telescopic hydraulic shock absorbers, while, at the rear the live axle was suspended on a pair of longitudinal four-leaf springs.  Steering was by a Burman worm and nut system.  Brakes were fully hydraulic, with seven inch drums on all wheels, generously sized for the car’s modest performance and weight.  Controls were completely conventional, with pendant pedals, a long direct-acting gearlever centrally located, and a handbrake lever between the front seats.

The SC Engine
Like the Austin A and B series engines, the SC engine was developed from a clean sheet to production readiness in an extraordinarily short period of time, and had a long production life, in which it increased in size and power output far beyond its original designers’ most extreme expectations.

Comparisons with the Austin A series engine are inevitable, as the first two iterations of both engines not only had the same cylinder capacity, but also the same bore and stroke dimensions.  Both Austin and Standard engines were water-cooled overhead-valve four cylinders, with iron blocks and cylinder heads, and three bearing crankshafts.  Siamesed ports were used on both engines.

Despite widespread rumours, the Standard Triumph engine was not in any sense a copy of the Austin engine, although between the Austin ‘Seven’s launch in October 1951 and the arrival of the Standard Eight in September 1953, there would have been plenty time to study the minutiae of the miniature Longbridge four.

Many differences are plainly evident.  Viewed from the front, the SC engine has its camshaft and pushrods on its right hand side, and the inlet and exhaust ports on the left.  The Austin engine has exactly the opposite arrangement.  The base of the A series block casting coincides with the centre of the crankshaft main bearings, whereas the SC block extends much further down, making the unit considerably heavier than the Austin engine.  From the earliest days the SC engine had separate ports for each exhaust valve – all production A series engines had siamesed exhaust ports for the two inner cylinders.

The stipulation that the Mayflower cylinder boring tooling was to be used played to Standard-Triumph’s advantage.  Sufficient extra space between the bores was available, by comparison with the A series, to allow the larger 948cc capacity to be ‘designed in’ from the outset, with the Standard Ten going on sale in March 1954, six months after the 803cc Eight.

The 948cc A series engines did not go on sale until September 1956, in the Austin A35.  Like the Standard-Triumph engine, the stroke remained at 76.2mm while bore increased from 58mm to 63mm.  However the Austin unit required extensive re-engineering to provide the additional capacity, whereas the Standard-Triumph unit’s only major change was the omission of the water passages between the outer pairs of cylinders.

The design team led by David Eley, under the eye of Harry Webster, paid particular attention to accessibility of ancillaries, with electrical components grouped on the opposite side from the manifolds, and as high as possible.

The performance figures for the SC family leave no question that they were tuned for driveability and low fuel consumption, rather than performance.  The same is true of their contemporaries.  The success of the Standard Ten in rallying in and circuit racing demonstrated the potential of the power units, and a number of third-party tuners were working their magic on them from an early stage.  A twin carburettor conversion kit was offered by the factory as an accessory from the mid ‘50s, but was never offered as a production line option.  At least one tuner, Alexander Engineering, had factory approval for a comprehensive conversion which raised the Ten’s output to 45bhp, compared with the pre-modification 35bhp.  Standard-Triumph honoured warranties on the converted cars, suggesting they were well aware of their engine’s robustness and potential for increased performance, even though they were not yet prepared to exploit it themselves.

That Standard did not capitalise on motor sport success with a home-grown performance version seems remiss to the contemporary observer, but none of their competitors did either.  The ‘GT” mindset largely originated in the 1960s, and even the Ford Anglia 105E was never offered in a version with sporting pretensions.  

The SC engine was the Eight and Ten’s enduring legacy, and by the time the saloons bowed out in 1959 the surface of its development potential had barely been scratched.

The Standard Eight takes a bow
In September 1953 the Standard Eight went on sale, at an after-tax price of £481, undercutting the smaller Austin A30 by £23, and the four door Minor by a full £80.  To achieve this cost advantage, equipment levels were at an absolute minimum, with the passenger side wiper and sunvisor listed as optional extras, as were hubcaps.  None of this deterred the customers, and sales looked set to exceed the ambitious 50,000 target.  Press reports praised the car’s spaciousness, good handling, and light controls and, most of all, the new ohv engine’s fuel efficiency, with over 45mpg easily achievable.

The 948 cc Ten arrived in March 1954, with another 7bhp, and a rather heavily styled  chrome radiator in place of the Eight’s gaping unadorned maw to provide visual distinction.  The package addressed the equipment deficit, with the introduction of better upholstered Vynide trimmed seats, wind-up windows on all four doors and those passenger wipers and sunvisors and even hubcaps added to the inventory of standard equipment.  In May 1954 an Eight De-Luxe was first offered, combining the Ten’s trim and equipment with the 803cc engine.

In October 1954 an estate car, the Standard Ten Good Companion was introduced.  The ‘Good” part of the title was dropped after a short time.  Whether good, bad, or indifferent it offered something none of its competitors did – a full set of four passenger doors.  Like the van and pick-up which appeared around the same time the Companion bodies were delivered from Fisher and Ludlow part-completed, and fitted with their rear bodywork by Mulliner of Birmingham at their Bordesley Green factory.

Boardroom turmoil
Any account of Standard-Triumph history in the 1940s and 50s will bear the long shadow of Sir John Black’s autocratic rule over the company, and the swelling undercurrent of fear and loathing which prevailed.  Black’s extravagance and fondness for grand schemes were instrumental in the funding and rapid development process of the SC project, but as the first Eights went on sale, an extraordinary drama unfolded.

In October 1954, Sir John Black was injured in a collision while a passenger in a Swallow Doretti two-seater driven by test driver Ken Richardson.

The following is a quotation from a personal letter from Black to styling chief Walter Belgrove written on 11 November 1953, during his convalescence. ‘It won’t be long before I come in and have a look at you, you old devil, and see what you are up to and see if you have got rid of the Belsen line, and the Otto line, and as far as I am concerned anyone can have the Doretti line.”

The ‘Otto line’ was the Vanguard, but the preceding piece of off-colour officers’ mess humour indicates Black’s misgivings about the bare-bones specification of the SC.  It is not known whether the ‘Belsen” nickname was used more widely, or was a private joke between Black and Belgrove.

The letter is a mere aside, but on Black’s return to the boardroom, a dispute regarding the contract with major customer Massey Ferguson led to the retirement of the long-serving chairman, Charles Band, and Black assuming his duties as well as those of Managing  Director.  At the management team pre-Christmas dinner, Black peremptorily sacked deputy managing director Ted Grinham.  This was the tipping point in a litany of instability and irrational behaviour, which was now imperilling the direction of the company and its relationships with its suppliers and customers.  In early January the remaining board members mounted a coup, and demanded Black’s resignation, on somewhat specious grounds of ill-health.  Given the Managing Director’s notoriously combative reputation, it was surprisingly bloodless, probably eased by a generous severance package.

Black’s departure may have secured the future of the SC series.  Fisher and Ludlow had entered into a contract to produce the SC bodies at their Tile Hill factory, but unexpectedly, had been taken over by BMC in September 1953.  For some time there was trepidation that BMC chief Leonard Lord, would use their position to stifle a competitor, particularly given a reputation for vindictiveness and belligerence to match Black’s own.  With the new, more democratic management under the direction of Alick Dick in place at Standard-Triumph, commercial realpolitik prevailed, and the Fisher and Ludlow contract was honoured for the production life of the SC series.

Continuous improvement
The evolution of the Eight and Ten through its production life tells a story of rising consumer expectations, and a Ford-inspired strategy to maintain buyer interest by adding new trim variations and engine options regularly.  Standard-Triumph’s ability to improve and add variety, with minimal capital outlay, endured into the British Leyland years, in marked contrast to the BMC companies, whose product lines often stagnated for years on end.

Early 1956 – Deluxe versions replaced by ‘Super Eight” and ‘Super Ten”, the latter featuring an opening bootlid.  ‘Family Ten” introduced with the 948cc engine and base level trim.

Late 1956 – ‘Standrive’ semi-automatic transmission became available as an optional extra.  This was a Newton and Bennett ‘Newtondrive’ system also offered briefly by Ford on their 100E range.

Early 1957 – ‘Phase 2’ versions go into production with a new front grille, improved seat trim and carpeting, and an opening bootlid for all but the cheapest Eight.  Taking advantage of improved fuel quality, the SC engines were upgraded to ‘Gold Star” versions, with their gold painted rocker covers signalling a higher compression ratio, giving more power and improved fuel efficiency.   Remarkably, a Laycock overdrive was offered as an option on both the Eight and Ten as a £63 option.  This operated on second, third and top gears, and raised gearing in top to 17.5mph per 1000rpm for the 803cc cars, and 20mph per 1000rpm for the 948cc Ten.  At a modest cost, this addressed the matter of the small Standards’ low gearing although in this they were no worse than their competitors.

In October 1957,  just over four years after the arrival of the Eight and Ten, Standard-Triumph made a courageous bid to shake off their small cars’ utilitarian image with the launch of the Standard Pennant.  Expectations had risen, and the buyers now expected more than basic transport.  Rival manufacturers had responded appropriately, with BMC offering the Minor-based Wolseley 1500 in the spring of 1957, and its higher performance Riley One Point Five twin at the end of the same year.  In 1957 Ford also upgraded the Anglia and Prefect, with more chrome and improved trim.

The £729 Pennant (£244 of this sum was Purchase Tax!) featured a full width grille and an enlarged rear window, new front and rear wings, the former with fashionably peaked headlight surrounds, the latter with tail fins and upright tail lamps, following the vogue of the day, though not to the extremes of some later BMC products.  Interior upgrading was extensive, with a new two-dial instrument panel, and two tone interior colour schemes in ICI’s synthetic ‘Vynair” material.  The engineering upgrading continued.  All of the range gained a higher lift camshaft, and the Pennant also used a larger carburettor.  The Pennant’s gearbox was operated by a remote shift, described in advertisements as ‘sports car style”, in place of the long direct lever which continued on the Eight and Ten.  The rear leaf springs were upgraded to a variable rate type across the whole range.

History, backed up by sales figures, has recorded that the work which went into the Pennant was a classic case of ‘too little, too late”.  Development was moving forward rapidly on a new small car codenamed ‘Zobo”, originally planned as an ultra-basic 60mph / 60mpg car to sit beneath the small Standards.  The company realised that the original targets were impossible to achieve, and the result would yield little or no profit.  The project thus evolved into a stylish range which would replace the Eight, Ten and Pennant, and move Standard Triumph’s small car offering considerably upmarket.

The competition
The British small-car market of the early 1950s, was highly competitive but easy to understand.  Rootes and Vauxhall had nothing to offer, and foreign products sold in such small numbers that they were effectively irrelevant.   When they arrived in the autumn of 1953, the small Standards had three domestic rivals, all forward-looking in their design, and each with their strengths, weaknesses and individual idiosyncrasies.

Morris Minor Series 2
The Minor was already in its fifth year of production when the Standard Eight went on sale.  It had arrived first, and had had been an immediate sales success, but was looking dated by 1953, with several replacement proposals already under consideration by its manufacturer, including one with a transverse engine and front wheel drive.

For rival firms’ designers, there were a number of areas where the Minor could clearly be bettered.  It had a woefully small and awkwardly shaped boot, and was, until the arrival of the 1956 Minor 1000, rightly considered to be underpowered.  The transition in 1952 from the 918cc Nuffield side valve engine to the Austin A series was of questionable benefit.  Performance figures scarcely changed and the potential fuel economy gain of the more efficient engine design was largely negated by the lower gearing necessary to compensate for the 803cc engine’s low down torque deficiency.

The dimensions and specification give a clue to the Minor’s ‘on the road appeal”.  The legendary decision to widen the car by four inches gave the car the widest track of the four by a good two inches.  Combine this with rack and pinion steering and torsion bar suspension, and the evidence is clear that this is a driver’s car, developed by enthusiasts, and capable of handling far more power than was ever available in production

BMC kept faith with the Minor, an easy decision given the continuing strength of home and export sales, and offered the heavily revised Minor 1000 in October 1956, with 948cc and 37 bhp, a one-piece curved windscreen, and a much larger rear window.
The character of the car was unchanged, and even after eight years BMC must have realised that the Minor was going to be difficult to replace.  Even so, nobody at that time could surely have guessed that they simply would not bother for a further fifteen years.

Austin A35
The Austin Motor Company was not slow to develop its response to their Oxford-based rival’s extraordinary Minor.

To Austin’s credit, their approach was not to produce a facsimile of the Morris, but rather something which aimed to match its space and performance in a smaller, lighter and therefore cheaper and more profitable package.

The Raymond Loewy Organisation were consulted on the design of the car, and their Holden ‘Bob’ Koto proposed a streamlined rather Saab-like car, with minimal ornamentation.  Austin chose a less daunting path, with a pared-down version of the design vocabulary which was also to serve for the larger Somerset and Herford saloons, with an upright grille, and side pressings which hinted at the ghost of separate wings.

The most advanced, indeed radical element of the A30’s engineering was the fully-stressed monocoque bodyshell,  drawing on WWII aircraft design experience which merited it the distinction of being the British industry’s first truly chassis-less car.   The weight benefit was significant – 170lbs less than the equivalent Minor, although the Austin was also shorter and narrower.
The ohv A series engine was the other weapon in Austin’s challenge to its Cowley rival.  Light, compact, and efficient, it kept consumption of scarce raw materials as low as possible, allowing greater numbers to be produced from rationed allocations.

However, the re-engineering required early in its life suggests Austin’s engineers did not look far enough beyond the A30 project to build in some room for expansion from the start.

The comparison figures reveal that the Standard Eight and the A30 weight are given as the same – 14 cwt, despite the Standard being longer and wider, and having a heavier engine.  Some of this reflects basic Eight’s ultra-minimal interior furnishings and equipment, but much credit should also go to Harry Webster’s team’s work on developing its unitary bodywork.

Like its competitors, the A30 range comprised a number of bodywork variations, two and four door saloons, a van, and a three door ‘Countryman” estate – essentially a van with a rear seat and side windows – and a rather odd pick-up which was only ever sold in tiny numbers.

In September 1956 the A30 was replaced by the 948cc A35, visually distinguished by its painted radiator grille and much larger rear window.  Another 6bhp and a 25% increase in torque transformed the car’s performance, making it comfortably the fastest of the four British small saloons.

The A30 was launched at a price £100 cheaper than the Minor, but never matched its sales success.  Even in 803cc form it was livelier and more fuel-efficient than its Morris rival, but its considerably narrower track gave less assured handling.  Notwithstanding inferior dynamics, the lightweight Austin had a following amongst the motor sport and tuning fraternity, particularly after the larger engine was introduced.   After a production life of eight years, the saloons were discontinued in 1959, although the Countryman continued until 1963, and the vans until 1968.

Ford 100E
“Ford gives you more” was a long-running advertising slogan in the early 1980s, but the strategy applied decades before.  With the antiquated upright Popular carrying on in production covering the absolute bargain sub-basement, the new small Fords which arrived in September 1953 were significantly larger than their competitors, at least in length and wheelbase.

The styling of the new unitary construction full-width bodywork echoed the Consul / Zephyr of three years ago, but was leaner and, if anything, better proportioned.   Unlike the larger Fords, which featured oversquare GM-inspired four and six cylinder ohv engines, the 100E retained side valve power.  The 36 bhp, 1172cc unit had the same capacity as the previous generation Prefect, and its highly undersquare 63.5mm x 92.5mm bore and stroke dimensions, but was substantially re-worked, with larger crankshaft bearings, and the novelties of adjustable tappets and a water pump!

Unlike the Morris, Austin, and Standard cars, the Ford’s gearbox had only three speeds.  This may appear to be an economy too far, but the reality is that the first gear of the small ohv engined cars was extremely low, in order  to facilitate hill starts with maximum loads, and would be largely unused in normal driving.  The Fords, with their much larger capacity long-stroke engines had no need of such a ratio.

The Ford-patented MacPherson strut front suspension introduced on the 1950 Consul and Zephyr was also used on the 100E.  The rear suspension used the near-universal formula of the longitudinal semi-elliptic leaf springs with lever arm shock absorbers.   The basic configuration, much refined in detail, continued on the Escort Mk. II until 1980, and the European Capri until 1986, and was widely copied, particularly by the emerging Japanese motor industry.

The 100E’s names were legion.  The Anglia and Prefect were two and four door saloons.  The Thames 300E 5cwt van was next to arrive in September 1954, and in October 1955 estate car derivatives followed, badged Escort in the lower specification, and Squire in de-luxe specification.  In their earliest entry-level form, the Anglia ran the Standard close for the poverty of its equipment, with passenger wipers and sunvisors being absent, and grilles and bumpers painted rather than chromed.  Even in the October 1955 de-luxe versions, a heater was an optional extra.   Unlike the BMC and Standard cars, the Ford 100E had no major engineering changes between its introduction, and the arrival of the Anglia 105E in 1959.  At this point the four-door Prefect gained the Anglia’s new ohv engine and four speed gearbox and the designation 107E, continuing in production until 1961.  Side valve 100E saloons and estates, designated Popular and Escort, were sold until 1962.

The 100E derivatives consistently undercut the prices of the class benchmark Morris Minor, despite being more powerful and marginally longer.  Production numbers of the Ford and Morris were similar.  The Minor took 12½ years to reach its record breaking first million.  In the six year run of the side valve 100E family, around 465,000 passenger versions were produced, plus a remarkable 196,000 Thames 300E light commercial derivatives.

The end of the line
Apparently without ceremony, production of the SC saloons ended in November 1959 to make way for the new Triumph Herald, launched in April of that year.  The Companion and the van and pick-up continued in production, now fitted with the Pennant’s front wings and hooded headlights.  The Companion bowed out in 1961 with the arrival of the Herald 1200 estate.  The light commercial SC derivatives continued in small-scale production until 1964, later versions being fitted with the Herald’s 1147cc engine.  Standard’s Indian factory built the Pennant until 1961, although it was badged as a ‘Standard Ten’.

Production figures for the passenger versions from 1953-1959 totalled approximately 370,000, comfortably exceeding the 50,000 car per year target set at the start of development.  Numbers for the variants are broken down as follows:

Eight – 136,000
Ten – 172,500
Pennant – 43,000
Triumph Ten (USA export) – 18,000

Perhaps owing to the memory of the original ultra-basic, pared-to-the-bone, 1953 Eight, the cars are remembered as a ‘lowest common denominator” offering in a field of more charismatic products.  Yet, at the time, they made the Minor look distinctly dated, the Ford look flashy and profligate, and the Baby Austin appear like a bad case of malnutrition.  In a less than a decade, consumer expectations had changed dramatically.  In 1953, for the great mass of the British people, private transport was simply out or reach, or, at best, was likely to be a decaying pre-war relic, or a motorcycle combination.  A new, efficient, small car, even a plainly-styled, slow, and poorly equipped one, was the stuff of dreams.   By the close of the decade, the buying public had higher ambitions, and sought, style, sophistication, and performance.  Standard-Triumph recognised this and in 1959 presented the car to meet at least the first two of these desires.

The SC family did not catapult Standard-Triumph into the top league of British manufacturers as hoped.  The company was customarily included in the British ‘Big Five” but usually as a poor fifth.   Yet the small Standards served the firm well, selling consistently in sizeable numbers through a six and a half year production life, and despite low sale prices, turning a decent profit.  Despite this, by the latter half of the 1950s, the company was in a precarious state.  After several years of acrimony the Massey-Ferguson contract came to an end in mid-1959.  Production of the legendary TE-20 series ‘Grey Fergie” had ended three years before, after which the association went into rapid decline as a dependable income stream.

Corporate schizophrenia continued to prevail.  A number of merger possibilities were explored, in some cases to an advanced stage, but came to naught.  In 1958 and 1959, Standard-Triumph embarked on a vainglorious spending spree, purchasing component suppliers and production sites seen as strategically important to their survival, as an independent manufacturer, often on terms far from advantageous to the buyer.  On the product front, the Phase 3 Vanguard failed to meet sales expectations, in the face of strong competition in its sector.  With the Herald (‘Zobo’) project committed to production, the design team set upon the ‘Zebu’ development to replace the Vanguard, but this was frustrated by lack of capital, and eventually abandoned.  The 1958 Atlas van (‘Zany’) was a woeful failure.  The Herald itself, like the contemporary BMC Mini, was a slow starter, possibly too extreme for its market sector, and sales only took off properly in 1961 with the arrival of the Herald 1200.

Before that, in the final months of 1960, huge monthly losses resulting in declining sales and over-ambitious investment made insolvency appear inevitable.  At the eleventh hour, an ambitious and acquisitive lorry manufacturer from Lancashire decided that the opportunity had finally come to re-enter the car manufacturing business.

With the benefit of hindsight, the takeover by Leyland in late 1960 was to Standard-Triumph’s great advantage, and the decade brought a succession of highly regarded Triumph cars.  Astute product planning, and the legendary Harry Webster / Giovanni Michelotti double-act drove this success, but the enduring and adaptable SC powertrain was also to play a leading role in what was arguably the Coventry-based car manufacturer’s finest era.

Many names
The Eight and Ten titles were something of an anachronism, relating to the RAC horsepower taxation rating system which had been abolished in favour of a £10 flat rate road fund licence in 1947.   There seems to have been a deliberate effort to recall the well-liked pre WWII Flying Standard Eight, Nine, and Ten.  The Flying Eight returned to limited production in the immediate post WWII period, until its replacement by the Triumph-badged Mayflower.

Company minutes from as late as May 1953 record the intention to sell the cars not as Standards or Triumphs, but under a new nameplate ‘Beaver”.
Scandinavian export versions of the SC were badged ‘Vanguard Junior’.
For the Australian market the name ‘Cadet’ was used.
From 1957 to 1960 the Ten Companion and later, the Pennant ware sold in the USA as the Triumph TR10, in an attempt to capitalise on the popularity of the TR2 and TR3 sports cars.
The ‘Pennant’ upgade was instigated with the intention of reviving the ‘Triumph Mayflower’ name, but the idea was soon passed over in favour of the ‘flag’ theme of the Ensign which arrived at almost the same time.
Indian-built Pennants retained the Standard Ten name.

Tile Hill
The Fisher and Ludlow facility which produced the SC bodyshells passed from BMC ownership to Standard Triumph in 1958-9, after a stand off between Alick Dick and Sir Leonard Lord.  Lord had taken a dog-in-a-manger attitude to Dick’s request to continue the relationship for the forthcoming Zobo project, sensing a potential threat to his own ambitious product plans, but was unexpectedly amenable to an offer to buy the plant outright.  It became an important part of Triumph’s operations until the end of the 1970s.

Rally Star
Cooking’ Eights, Tens, and Pennants were never fast cars, but along with their three main competitors, they had a successful double life in motor sport.

The works team, managed by occasionally careless Standard Triumph test driver Ken Richardson entered only a few events, but attracted distinguished drivers such as Stuart Turner, Maurice Gatsonides, and Paddy Hopkirk, achieving high placings on the RAC and Tulip rallies.  The SC highpoint was an outright win in a Ten for Jimmy Ray and Brian Horrocks in the 1955 RAC Rally, in extreme weather conditions, and under a handicapping system which favoured small-engined cars.



Triumph SC Comparisons

1957 Standard Pennant 4 door 1956 Morris Minor 10004 door 1956 Austin A35 4 door 1956 Ford Prefect4 door (100E)
Body construction Steel – Unitary Steel – Unitary Steel – Unitary Steel – Unitary
Length 148” 148” 137” 151”
Width 58” 61” 55” 60.5”
Height 59” 60” 58.3” 58.75”
Wheelbase 84” 86” 79.5” 87”
Front track 48.5” 50.6 45.2” 48.0”
Rear Track 48.5” 50.3 44.8” 48.0”
Weight (lb) 1760 1736 1568 1736
Engine Capacity 948cc 948cc 948cc 1172cc
Bore x Stroke 63mm x 76.2mm 62.9mm x 76.2mm 62.9mm x 76.2mm 63.5mm x 92.5mm
Power 40 BHP @ 5000rpm 37 BHP @ 4800rpm 34 BHP @ 4500rpm 36bhp @ 4500rpm
Torque 50 lb. ft. @ 2700rpm 48lb. ft. @ 3000rpm 50 lb. ft. @ 2000rpm 54 lb. ft. @ 2500rpm
Valve operation OHV OHV OHV Side valve
Gearbox 4 speed manual. Synchromesh on 2,3,4. 4 speed manual. Synchromesh on 2,3,4. 4 speed manual. Synchromesh on 2,3,4. 3 speed manualSynchromesh on 2,3.
Gearing in top 13.2mph per 1000 rpm 15.18mph per 1000 rpm 14.2mph per 1000 rpm 14.6mph per 1000 rpm
Steering Worm and nut Rack and pinion Cam and lever Worm and peg
Suspension (Front) Double wishbone, telescopic dampers, coil springs Upper link, lower wishbone, torsion bars Upper link, lower wishbone, coil springs MacPherson struts, coil springs
Suspension (Rear) Live axle, Longitudinal semi-elliptic leaf springs Live axle, Longitudinal semi-elliptic leaf springs Live axle, Longitudinal semi-elliptic leaf springs Live axle, Longitudinal semi-elliptic leaf springs
Brakes Drum / drum. Hydraulic. Drum / drum. Hydraulic. Drum / drum. Hydraulic front/ semi-hydraulic rear Drum / drum. Hydraulic.
Maximum speed 70 mph 72.4 mph 71.9 mph 70.7 mph
0-50mph 18.0 seconds 18.7 seconds 18.7 seconds 20.2 seconds
Fuel Consumption 39 mpg 36.3 mpg 40.6 mpg 30.4 mpg
Robert Leitch


  1. Lovely to see such a detailed article. Well done on putting it together. I know it is hard to get all the facts right, so often, good sources have them wrong. For 1955 the 10 had quite a luxurious interior. Leather for the seat cushion and squabs, matching vinyl for the rest of the interior. (I think this was the case from the start.) The 10 also had an opening boot lid from launch. That the petrol tank formed the boot floor ahead of the spare wheel allowed for the spare wheel to sit in a tray within the boot under the floor, but still accessed and secure via the boot lid. This meant all goods could be left undisturbed if one needed to access the spare wheel. The 10 always was the up-trimmed option with wind-up windows and decent door handles. The in house joke of “Belsen” referring to the 8 was referred to at other times by Black. Everything possible had been done to de-feature the 8. Quite whether this was really a management plan or a “test to extreme” of the market by Sir John Black, as would currently be done by say Michael O’Leary (Let them pay to use the toilet on the plane – after all, most flights are only 1 hour long) is unknown. A couple of spin-offs left unresolved for the later launch of the 10 were the fact that only the drivers door had a key lock, and neither car featured a temperature gauge.
    The 8/10 also had an incredibly low drag coefficient of just 0.400, much lower than its contemporaries and lower than many a car of the 60’s which followed. Adding the cowls to the headlights and the Pennant bodywork negated this advantage by a very surprising margin.

    That the 8/10 were always and only, 4 door saloons shines through the design of their layout. Internal space within the package was far better than the A30 or Minor and comparison with a side-valve, 3 speed Ford 100E, particularly in more common 2 door form, was irrelevant. Seating within the internal space was also more practically arranged than in the A30 or Minor. The early cars did feature a rear window that was just too small for good rearward viewing. This was rectified for 1956.

    Whilst it is right that in the 50’s Standard were a poor 5th in the big five, in the late 40’s Standard had been a very clear 4th without countenancing their tractor production. It as against the failure of the Mayflower that the design of the 8/10 was set. With the better car and a keen price should they have sold more? What was going on at senior management level throughout the 50’s at Standard-Triumph ? Launching the 8 first, with no boot lid, sliding windows and spartan trim, left the legacy which runs to this day. That the 10 was so comparatively well specified, is lost on many of those with the consciousness to remember. Probably the “first impressions” left by the “too spartan” 8 is one of the reasons why the 8/10 range is the least well remembered and considered of its rivals. Would the memory and market have been more kind had both complimentary models been brought out together ?

  2. For info, why is the Standard 8/10 in the ‘rivals’ section of the website, surely it’s part of the BL timeline!!!

  3. My first ever car was a pea green Standard 10 (VKK 994) which I sadly never managed to make road-worthy. I have a great affection for these wonderful vehicles and always threaten that, if the time & opportunity arises, I’ll restore one (but with a 1500cc Spitfire engine & gearbox)…

  4. Another good ARonline article of a sometimes forgotten car. My only memory of these is that a neighbour at the bottom of our street owned one in the early 60’s (cant remember if it was an 8 or 10). Do recall it was a light grey colour though. Despite its modest spec it was another basic UK built car that “did the job it was made for”

  5. I ran a Standard Ten Estate for several years until 1974 It had a very useful fitting that I’ve not seen on any other car, an electric demister. There was an electric heater coil fitted in the demister which could be switched on to demist the screen before there was sufficient heat in the heater radiator fed by the cooling system. Once the engine had warmed up it would be switched off.

  6. A wonderful return to my childhood. My dad sold 100Es and we had plenty. My abiding memory was overtaking a long line of cars with the engine screaming in second gear. The change into third (top)completely bogged the car down and you held your breath as he pulled into the head of the queue just as the oncoming vehicles arrived.
    I can’t say I ever appreciated the 8s and 10s until recently when I realised what a nice functional design they were, but I agree the sliding windows and boot access sent out the wrong message.
    My first car was a Minor 1000 (1098cc). The handling with the rack and pinion steering was excellent for a first time driver. So predictable.
    This contrasts to my second car which was a Herald 12/50 whose tail snapped round when I was caught out by a slow bend and was only just held by the same rack and pinion steering on opposite lock.

    • I had a 1956 (in 1966) Ford Prefect XMA on the plate, so always known as Excema because of the many rust spots. As the previous correspondent said, you could scream in 2nd or chug in 3rd. Also, the vacuum-operated wipers would just about crawl across the windscreen with foot flat to the floor on hills, giving practically zero-visibility in heavy rain, and then go like mad when I let off the pedal pressure.

  7. Fond memories of the Eight as it was the first car I sat in as a child, my Dad eventually replaced it with a new fangled Viva HB SL. Lovely little car.

  8. I assume Ianto means “The VIVA HB SL was a lovely little car” as well as the Standard 8? I agree, my brother once owned a 1970 Viva SL in dk blue which was nice at the time. I later owned a ’72 Viva HC… sorry I digress from talking about Standard’s.

  9. My first “modern” car was a 1958 Pennant, bought very secondhand in 1965 , and I have very fond memories of it. I had it for about 2 years, did something like 40,000 miles on it, including a trip to Hungary – then behind the Iron Curtain – and I thought it was a lovely little car . It came to a sad end in my hands when I did 64 miles in 59 minutes ( try doing that now) and shortly after that several big ends ran ! Not the least of its attributes was that the back seat let down so that one ( or should that be two ) could lie full length with feet in the boot

  10. Richard : pure coincidence. The Standard engine was quite different from the A series, with the pushrod arrangements and the porting of the heads being fundamentally different ( the Standard was very much more advanced with separate rather than siamesed inlet ports ) . Having owned several different examples of both engines in differing capacities over many years, the Standard Triumph engine had a definite edge in refinement but the A series was probably more durable and would stand up to mistreatment better – see my message 13 above

  11. Congratulations.

    Recognition at last that the Standard Motor Company did exist and is a marque within the AR family. We dont seem to have made the list or marques on this website yet though.

    The Standard Motor Co. took over Triumph in late 1945 and every Triumph Postwar was designed, developed and built by the Standard Motor Company

    Perehaps we will see features on others Standards built from 1903 to 1963. If required, I could write you some.

    Phiol Homer

  12. In 1958 as a young New Zealand naval officer training in the UK I bought my first new car, a red and cream Standard Pennant. I fitted an Alexander conversion and toured the Continent before bringing it home to NZ. Last weekend I took delivery of a red and cream car identical to my original. Unregistered since 1991 it ook just 2 hours to get it running. Now for the restoration!

  13. My first ever car was a green Standard 8 with a top speed of about 63mph. I fitted an Alexander head to it and the top speed increased to about 70mph. A great little car if somewhat basic with no boot hatch.

    I recall a Richard Sandilands raced one in the 60’s with some success. I think it had a larger engine than standard, sorry about the pun!

  14. Hi..really interesting and informative article.
    Forgive me as I now diversify some what. I am desperate for some Standard Pennant panels or a complete car if anyone has one out there. I am racing a Pennant in the HRDC series and have sadly suffered some damage..really need some parts to continue the series.
    If anyone can help please get in touch 020 8871 1112

    Kind Regards

    Mike Hilton

  15. An interesting variant that was developed (in the early-1960s?) as a possible Indian People’s Car was a 2-door Standard 8 prototype called the Standard Stanmobile, the rear resembling a sealed hatchback with a spare wheel mounted at the back and a folding rear seat to slip in small luggage.

    Only one prototype was built (and later scrapped), it is said that the Indian Government did not accept any prototype except that made by the Gandhi family. Not long after the Gandhis launched the peoples car – the Maruti.

  16. I’ve no knowledge of refusal to accept anything other than that with a Ghandhi connection. The Standard Motor Co of India was well established in the 1950s, and was controlled, or at any rate managed , by the Mehta family, one of whom I was at school with. It continued to make cars until well into the 1980s with the last one being a variant of the SD Rover

  17. The word Standard is one that has changed meaning, it was a word to indicate “top specification” or deluxe, today it is associated with a basic specification.

    When the Standard car company was formed, did they choose such a name for the association of a superior product?

    • The clue lies in the Union Flag emblem that was retained throughout its history – they were “hoisting the standard” and by implication aiming for the top

  18. We (my brother and I) bought a Standard 8 for £15 in about 1967. I remember once when it got a puncture, we had no jack – just a wheel brace. So, we rolled it onto its roof, changed the wheel and rolled it back up again. They were taught as a brick sh*t house (until the rust set in).

  19. I used to get a lift to college occasionally in 1970-71 from a bloke who had a lowered Standard, 10 I think, with a Spitfire engine and box. It was a bit of a shed – well a lot of a shed – but it went and handled really well.
    He pulled up one day and I noticed the NS rear door was held on with string. When I mentioned it he just shrugged and said “It fell off”.

  20. I have to say the four door lay out on small cars causes me problems, I’m over 6ft and would appreciate a larger door aperture, a two door option would suit me better rather than the access to the little used rear seats. Still I’m loving my 10.

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