The cars : Triumph 2000/2500 development story

Triumph’s early 1960s future looked far from assured but, thanks to the launch of the Herald in 1959, it looked a whole lot brigher than once-dominant Standard’s.

So it’s no surprise that, when the company formulated plans to replace the full-sized Vanguard range, it would feature Triumph signature Michelotti styling and that all important matching marque badge on the bootlid…

Triumph 2000: The great turnaround

Triumph 2500

Many observers of the British motor industry have often said that, when the Rover P6 and Triumph 2000 exploded onto the scene in 1963, they both revolutionised the luxury car market. Certainly, in the UK, things would never look the same again, as a 2.0-litre executive car could offer everything that the British middle manager could ever possibly need. At a stroke, the more cumbersome 3.0-litre opposition looked rather past their collective sell-by dates – the more efficient Rover and Triumph products showed that a bigger engine did not necessarily lead to executive bliss. In the UK, a new market sector was effectively created and executives never looked back – as they now had a choice of two young and dynamic products.

It may have been a co-incidence that Rover and Triumph would launch conceptually similar products at the same time, but that is not to say that each company was not expecting their rival’s product. The Standard Motor Company had experienced a gradual drop-off in sales and profitability during the 1950s and, thanks to their stolid range of cars, a recovery was looking increasingly unlikely. The company’s initial response was to seek out a partner – or, more correctly, someone to buy the company in order to help finance a product-led recovery. Among others, Rover was targeted, and talks duly commenced between the two companies. On 6 March 1959 it was  revealed in the press that Rover and Standard had opened merger negotiations.

Although little specific future product information was shared, both companies did discuss their future plans in vague terms, and a big part of that was their upcoming 2.0-litre saloons. However, when an agreement could not be reached, the talks broke down and so, following a press announcement on 21 May 1959, the two companies continued to work on their upcoming products – both knowing that they would meet each other on the market, as competitors.

A new big car from Standard takes shape

Standard had started working on its new car in 1957, and concentrated on it as a replacement for the uninspiring Vanguard Mark III – a car that was underperforming badly on the marketplace. The new car – codenamed ‘Zebu’ – was intended to eradicate the image of staidness that overshadowed Standard’s current model range. A new six-cylinder engine was conceived (Harry Webster believed that big fours were not smooth enough), and an advanced body style was soon sketched out. Funding for the new Zebu (as well as ‘Zobo – the Herald, as it would become) was gained when Standard-Triumph sold its profitable tractor-making subsidiary in July 1959 to Massey-Ferguson, the Canadian tractor group.

This included Standard’s holding in Societe Standard-Hotchkiss, the French tractor firm. The deal involved the sale of the tractor assets for £14,900,000. When other items had been taken into account the Standard company’s cash resources would be increased by £12,500,000. The existing arrangements between Standard and Massey-Ferguson for the manufacture of tractors would be gradually terminated, but complete disengagement would not be effected until 1 May 1961. Until that date, Standard could not sell tractors. In theory the deal released funds for the new Zebu as well as ‘Zobo’- the Herald, as it would become. However, the company also decided to spend some of its windfall on expansion.

Standard’s Directors had decided that all the group manufacturing and trading activities should be carried out through subsidiary companies, leaving Standard as a holding company. It was therefore intended to change the name of the group to Standard-Triumph International Limited (STI), while the newly-formed car subsidiary would retain the name of the Standard Motor Company. Proposals to give effect to the arrangements were approved buy stockholders on 28 August 1961.

Corporate moves at Standard-Triumph

Marshal of the RAF Lord Tedder, the Chairman of the company and General Eisenhower’s wartime deputy, said it was felt that the sale of the tractor business was both rational and equitable to everyone concerned. He added that, during the past 50 years, the meaning of the word Standard had changed until, in America today, it just meant ‘ordinary’.

‘People there asked where was the de luxe. We are up against the problem of international publicity whereby we are having to use the name Standard in Britain and Standard-Triumph in other parts of the world,’ he said.

No question about it – Zebu needed to look startling and herald (no pun intended) a new and confident direction for the company. The team behind Zebu – Harry Webster and Giovanni Michelotti – overseen by Alick Dick would engineer a complete transformation of Standard-Triumph’s fortunes, bringing the latter marque name to the fore.

On 28 September Standard-Triumph International (STI) became the holding and policy-making company for the group  with a Board of Directors comprising Lord Tedder, Chairman,  Alick  Dick, Managing Director, Mr K. Aspland, Mr E. Brimelow, Mr Martin J. Tustin, Mr H.S. Weale, Mr M. Whitfield, and Mr Les  Woodall, Directors. The Directors of Standard-Triumph International announced on 22 December that agreement in principle had been reached with Hall Engineering (Holdings) with a view to acquiring the motor car body building and die-making sides of its business.

Expansion of the company

This would involve a cost of some £2m. A statement issued by the company said factories at Speke (Liverpool), Dunstable and Basildon, in Essex were involved. The Speke factory was  engaged in the production of body panels for the Triumph Herald announced earlier that year.

It was announced only the previous week that Standard-Triumph were having talks with Alforder Newton of Hemel Hempstead with a view to Standard-Triumph taking over that company. Thus ended 1959, a year in which Standard-Triumph International, having failed to merge with Rover, liquidated its tractor assets in order to fund further expansion. The new Herald was selling well, but it was also a year in which the British car industry was blighted with a never-ending series of labour disputes.

More Standard-Triumph International expansion was announced at Speke, Liverpool on 9 February 1960, with the Group proposing to spend £11m. on new works on Merseyside. The scheme, part of an £18m. expansion, embraced a three-year plan under which 4500 would be employed at Speke. By 22 February, the deal to buy Alforder Newton for £500,000 had been approved by all the Ordinary shareholders.

The construction of the new Standard-Triumph International factory  at Speke began on 31  March with Alick Dick behind the controls of a mechanical digger. However, while the management was spending the windfall from the tractor sale, Harry Webster and his team were pressing on with development of Zebu.

Project Zebu takes shape

 Zebu soon took shape under the guidance of Harry Webster - and as can be seen from this very early model, the reverse slope rear window was on the cards right from the beginning.
Zebu soon took shape under the guidance of Harry Webster – and, as can be seen from this very early model, the reverse slope rear window was on the cards right from the beginning

Zebu was rapidly developed into something of a sophisticated car – the new six-cylinder engine was mated to an appealing and radical-looking package. However, the matter of funding was a different matter – and, following the company’s inability to tie-up with another car producer, Standard-Triumph continued development of the car at a slower than desirable pace.

This did not blunt Harry Webster’s enthusiasm for the project, and an interesting specification was drawn up: traditional separate chassis construction, a rear-mounted transaxle gearbox was used for the gearbox and a McPherson strut/independent layout was chosen for the suspension system. Even more advanced concepts were also mooted: one such being a pneumatic suspension system. It may have never left the drawing board, but its mere mention reflected the radical spirit that permeated Standard-Triumph at the time.

Zebu had developed nicely along the way, and the rear three quarter view (top) was especially attractive. The frontal aspect (above) was less so with its fussy grille/headlamp arrangement, but this was far from finalised. The reverse rake concept would be ditched in 1959 following a visit from MOTOR magazine's editor.
Zebu (above and below) had developed nicely along the way, and the rear three quarter view (below) was especially attractive. The frontal aspect (above) was less so with its fussy grille/headlamp arrangement, but this was far from finalised. The reverse rake concept would be ditched in 1959 following a visit from the Editor of Motor magazine

Zebu had developed nicely along the way, and the rear three quarter view (top) was especially attractive. The frontal aspect (above) was less so with its fussy grille/headlamp arrangement, but this was far from finalised. The reverse rake concept would be ditched in 1959 following a visit from MOTOR magazine's editor.

Zebu’s future was being put into further doubt, thanks to falling Standard-Triumph profitability and the lack of funding to put it into production. Two events effectively sealed the fate of Zebu…

Firstly, a visit from Motor magazine’s then Editor Christopher Jennings, who was given an exclusive advance viewing of the car, tipped off Harry Webster to the effect that a competitor would be introducing their own ‘reverse-rake‘ car, and that it would hit the market a long time before Zebu. Although he never revealed who it was that would be building this car (it turned out that he was referring to the Ford Anglia 105E and Classic 109E models), Harry Webster treated the information as being reliable. Panic facelifts were planned – initially, in the form of Zebu being redesigned to feature a more conventional rear window line.

Standard-Triumph hits the skids

Secondly, Standard-Triumph hit rock bottom in 1960, thanks to the domestic credit squeeze and a drop-off in export sales. By September that year, the company was announcing short-time working in its plants. Standard-Triumph, which produced about 5000 cars a week, was said to have cut production of the Vanguard range by half because of the credit squeeze and falling American sales. A 30% cut was made in the Triumph Herald and Triumph sports car output. Despite this setback, on 4 October the company opened a new factory at Malines in Belgium.

Financially, the company was now seriously on the ropes, losses were beginning to mount and the Vanguard was, by this time, a lame duck in the market place…

There was more bad news on 8 November when Standard-Triumph announced to that 1700 hourly-paid employees at its Coventry factories were to be declared redundant and that a three-day week for its remaining 6300 manual workers would come into force. Shortly after this came the news of another 200 redundancies. The year ended with Lord Tedder standing down as Chairman to be replaced by Alick Dick and the news that Leyland Motors were in “merger” talks with Standard-Triumph International. When the Leyland bid was made Standard-Triumph had a bank overdraft equivalent to over a quarter of its net assets.

Zebu styling attracts a rethink

The Zebu style was now completely under review – effectively at the point it should have been frozen for production – and, following on from the conventional flavour of the original Zebu, a more original Herald-based solution was sought. The idea was that the Herald body could we widened, lengthened and given four-doors. It could then clothe the Zebu chassis and running gear and act as a ‘big brother’ to the successful Herald. This idea was soon rejected on the grounds that the style did not translate well on a bigger car and that, realistically, it did not look different enough to the car it was based upon.

Beyond that, a new and conventional Michelotti style was also mooted – somewhat akin to a plainer Austin Cambridge/Peugeot 404, it was also not viewed favourably by management. This left the company in a quandary as to the best way to continue the Zebu project. In the end, there was only one plan of action to follow – start again from scratch…

The credit squeeze was eased in January 1961 but Standard Triumph would still be restricted to short time working until the end of the year. The following month the company brought into operation a new assembly hall at Canley which had cost the firm some £2.5 million.

Leyland bailout forces a change

1961 saw Standard-Triumph rescued from financial ruin by Leyland – it followed a brief courtship, where the carmaker’s management ensured that it did not stand in the way of the takeover. For Leyland, it marked the beginning of a doomed adventure into car making. Essentially, Leyland had prospered in the truck market thanks to a dynamic management team and was awash with cash. Taking on Standard-Triumph was a way of expanding the business – and, hopefully generating, even more profits.

On 17 May 1961, following the acquisition of Standard-Triumph International by Leyland Motors, it was announced that in order to integrate the operation of the two companies, Sir Henry Spurrier had become Chairman of Standard-Triumph International, with Mr Alick Dick, the former Chairman, continuing as Managing Director.

Stanley Markland, Sidney Baybutt and Donald Stokes had also joined the Board. In addition, Alick Dick and  Frank Dixon were invited to join the Board of Leyland Motors. Stanley Markland, newly appointed as Leyland’s Deputy Chairman, was seen at the time as the heir apparent to Sir Henry Spurrier, Leyland’s Chairman. Mr Markland was also Managing Director of Albion Motors Limited, a subsidiary of Leyland Motors. Leyland’s patience with the existing STI management finally snapped on 17 August 1961 when Sir Henry Spurrier and Stanley Markland used Harry Webster’s office to fire most of the Standard-Triumph Board.

Standard future plans changed

Sir Henry Spurrier, Chairman and Managing Director of Leyland and Chairman of Standard-Triumph, said in a statement: ‘Leyland Motors have decided that they must streamline and integrate the Standard-Triumph organisation into the parent company at an early date. Mr A.S. Dick is to resign from the company, and Mr S. Markland is appointed Managing Director of Standard-Triumph International from today.

‘Further, Leyland Motors have asked K. Aspland, E. Brimelow, M.T. Tustin, H.S. Weale, M. Whitfield and L.A. Woodall to retire from the Board of Standard-Triumph International, some of whom will be retained with the company in an executive capacity.’

Two of the three Directors who remained on the Board of Standard-Triumph were Sidney Baybutt and Donald  Stokes, who were also Directors of Leyland Motors. This was the end of the pretence that the Leyland – STI tie up was an amicable merger. By the end of the month the Leyland men were announcing numerous cutbacks in non-productive expenditure, including the firing of some 300 managers, with Stanley Markland to the fore.

Stanley Markland takes the reins

By the end of the year there were further revisions to the Leyland Directors’ areas of responsibility to enable Stanley Markland to focus entirely on Standard-Triumph full time. Certainly, the influx of new management (and the removal of most of the existing Board) brought renewed vigour to Standard-Triumph. Faced with the prospect of developing the new 2.0-litre saloon (Leyland had stipulated a 1600cc version as well, but this was soon dropped), cash was soon made available to Harry Webster to get it into production as quickly as possible.

Excited by this situation, Webster set about developing a new car.

Donald Stokes came into the picture at this point in time, as Leyland’s Director of Finance, and he made his mark on the new project by laying down strict costing requirements for the new car. As a result, many of the Zebu’s parts were carried over and, although the concept was broadly similar, an alternative and equally bold style would need to be created. New features were a move to monocoque construction (as opposed to the Herald-like separate chassis) and a conventional gearbox layout.

Zebu morphs into Project Barb

The project’s change in direction and its new impetus were denoted by a new project name: ‘Barb’. The intention was that the new car would be sold as a Triumph, as the Leyland management clearly saw that Triumph was on the ascendency (following the successes of the Herald and TR4). Standard, it would seem, would bite the dust when the new car appeared.

By January 1962  Sir Henry Spurrier, in his annual statement to Leyland shareholders, was claiming that the truck maker had saved Standard-Triumph from financial meltdown. ‘In taking this concern under our wing we have almost certainly saved it from bankruptcy,’ he wrote.

In February, Sir Henry told shareholders: ‘I do want to assure you that, as soon as we can get this Standard organisation on a paying basis, it will in the end make a great contribution to the Leyland Group.’ Donald Stokes commented on Standard-Triumph in 1968: ‘To be honest it was ghastly. The place was badly run and top management was not good.’

Strikes in Speke cause setbacks

Rather ominously for the future of the Triumph brand, the new Speke factory began to experience labour disputes in April 1962. On 5 June 1962 a proposed merger between Leyland Motors and Associated Commercial Vehicles (ACV) which would form the biggest manufacturing group of heavy commercial vehicles in the world, with combined total assets of nearly £117m., was announced in London. It was the outcome of what Sir Henry Spurrier, Chairman of Leyland Motors, described as, ‘completely confidential and secret negotiations’. Its object: ‘To meet the challenge of world competition.’

The announcement came as a surprise with the news that the Directors of the two companies had agreed in principle to recommend a merger to their shareholders. Both Boards said they were of the opinion that integration benefits shareholders and workers and would be, ‘in the national interest’.

Their announcement added: ‘Both companies will continue to manufacture and sell as separate entities, and in particular will intensify their already forceful export drive.’

More corporate developments

Sir Henry Spurrier thought that the standing separately of the groups over the years had been, ‘a good thing for Britain and our individual concerns. But conditions are changed today, and are changing rapidly. If we are to develop overseas to the extent that before long we may be manufacturing 75% of our total output in the export market, we must put ourselves in a position where we can sell these vehicles from strength rather than weakness.’

Lord Brabazon of Tara, Chairman of ACV, disclosed that talks had been going on for two months. Together the groups manufactured some 60% of heavy vehicles of over four tons unladen weight. Sir William Black, Managing Director of ACV, put the combined sales of vehicles at  £150m. including cars. The joint group represented 46,000 workers in Britain.

STI was now part of a large and expanding company. In September Sir Henry Spurrier commented: ‘We are extremely optimistic about the benefits which will accrue to both organisations from the merger and particularly from the integration of our manufacturing, research and development facilities. This will constitute a pool of knowledge and experience which is unrivalled in the field of heavy lorries and passenger transport.

‘In Great Britain, however, we intend to operate our organisation independently and indeed competitively as we feel that this provides a stimulant to both companies and is ultimately of great benefit to our customers. In overseas markets the merger will enable us to take advantage of the considerable combined facilities for assembly and local manufacture which have been established over a number of years, and also to present a united front against the tough and ever-growing foreign Competition in our ceaseless efforts to obtain bigger and better export orders.’

Leyland merges with ACV

By 20 September 1962 the Leyland-ACV merger was formalised as Leyland Motors Limted. Sir Henry Spurrier was Chairman with Stanley Markland as Deputy Chairman and Donald Stokes as the new Managing Director. Lord Brabazon of Tara and Sir William Black from ACV were also on the Board.

Stanley Markland continued as Managing Director of Standard-Triumph International and of Albion Motors, while Donald Stokes retained his position of Managing Director of Scammell Lorries and Sales Director of the group. By early 1963, it was revealed that STI had sold 50% more cars in the important American market in 1962 than in the previous year. The company was selling its way back to financial health.

Barb starts to take shape

This sketch by Michelotti was intended as a proposal for the Herald - However, the beginnings of the Triumph 2000 can clearly be seen in its lines. When the lines are right, stick with the concept - and Harry Webster did just that, seeing that the design theme made it into production in 1963.
This sketch by Michelotti was intended as a proposal for the Herald. However, the beginnings of the Triumph 2000 can clearly be seen in its lines. When the lines are right, stick with the concept – and Harry Webster did just that, seeing that the design theme made it into production in 1963

While all this corporate manoeuvring was going on the men at Canley worked away on Project Barb. With a healthy influx of cash and management enthusiasm, development of the Barb progressed more rapidly than it did with Zebu – that was just as well because, at Leyland’s insistence, the finished product was to be exhibited at the London Motor Show at the end of 1963.

The entire team knuckled down and worked hard to keep the project on track. Because the mechanical layout (engine, gearbox, suspension) was reasonably familiar to the company, it was a relatively straightforward process translating the car from paper to production line. The overall process may have been straightforward, but it certainly was not easy: Barb was not the first large monocoque car to be produced by Standard, but it did pose quite a few new questions regarding suspension and engine mounting. Given the tight schedule imposed upon them, Harry Webster’s team amassed as many testing miles as possible, and the Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA) proving grounds at Nuneaton became extremely familiar to the Coventry-based Engineers.

Giovanni Michelotti also knuckled down and, within the astonishingly short period of three months, produced a completely new style for the car – from scratch. A handsome, six-light style was proposed, banishing memories of all the incarnations on Zebu. Webster accepted the design following a few minor modifications, and committed the shell to production.

Michelotti's sketch of Barb indeed shows many similarities with the earlier proposal, but translated into a four-door, six-light scheme. The first full-sized model of the car produced by Michelotti looked remarkably similar to this rapidly produced sketch. The tail was lengthened, and a "peak" was added over the rear window (by Standard-Triumph) at the insistence of Harry Webster.
Michelotti’s sketch of Barb indeed shows many similarities with the earlier proposal, but translated into a four-door, six-light scheme. The first full-sized model of the car produced by Michelotti looked remarkably similar to this rapidly produced sketch. The tail was lengthened, and a peak was added over the rear window (by Standard-Triumph) at the insistence of Harry Webster

Testing towards launch

A pre-production Triumph 2000 undergoing final testing at MIRA in the months leading up to its launch.
A pre-production Triumph 2000 undergoing final testing at MIRA in the months leading up to its launch

Throughout 1962 and 1963 Barb was tested with a view to being unveiled at that year’s London Motor Show, and admirably, this tight deadline was met, despite some teething problems with the semi-trailing arm rear suspension layout. It cannot be overstated just how astonishing an achievement it was to get the car into production in such a short time – in all, just over two years (even more so when one considers the fact that there really were not many carryover parts from existing production models).

Because of the short amount of time at hand, the launch of the new car (the Triumph 2000 name was attached to Barb in the summer of 1963) would be followed by a pause before the car became fully available to the public. Knowing that Rover were also launching a radical 2.0-litre car at the same time, Triumph decided that the company needed to get its cars into the hands of hand-picked customers, and operators as well as journalists. This would allow their new car to gain significant exposure, to get further and vitally important test data and compensate for an early release date, allowing for the production build-up process.

It was a practice that British Leyland would use again (for entirely different reasons) with the Austin 3 Litre in 1968…

Donald Stokes takes charge

In January 1963, Sir Henry Spurrier requested that Stanley Markland gave up the post of Leyland Deputy Chairman in favour of ACV’s Sir William Black. Markland acquiesced. By February 1963 it was revealed that the parent company was changing its name to the Leyland Motor Corporation and that Jim Slater, Commercial Director of AEC Limited, had been appointed deputy to  Donald Stokes. There were more boardroom movements in March when it was announced that Sir William Black had now joined the Board of Standard-Triumph International.

Then, on 20 June 1963, Sir Henry Spurrier announced that, due to ill health and his reaching the age of 65 years, he was resigning as Leyland Chairman. His replacement was the even older Sir William Black and not Stanley Markland. By October, Donald Stokes was confirmed as Managing Director and Deputy Chairman.

Triumph 2000 is launched

Triumph 2000 at launch

The Triumph 2000 was officially unveiled on 15 October 1963 and the press and public alike took it to their hearts in a big way. On 6 November 1963, Jaguar Chairman Sir William Lyons wrote to Sir Henry Spurrier, former Chairman of  Leyland Motors.

‘I was so pleased to see that Donald Stokes has been put into the position I know you always planned for him. I am sure he will make a great success of it, and it must be a comfort to you to know that Leyland is still in good hands. I think the new Triumph 2000 is going to be a winner. I had a good look at it at the Show and was very impressed. At its price I think it has the edge on its competitors. It looks as though your worries about Standard are over.’

The Jaguar Chairman seemed blissfully unaware that both the Rover and Triumph and 2000s would eat into sales of the 2.4-litre Jaguar Mk2 saloon, and were more modernistic in styling. Jaguar saloon production stagnated in the 1960s while both Rover and Triumph conquered new markets with their compact executive saloons. It would seem that the presence of both the new 2.0-litre cars proved intensely stimulating for the executive market sector as a whole, and sales of the new Triumph took off in a big way when sales commenced in earnest in January 1964.

Triumph 2000 at launch

The road testers love it

Autocar magazine summed up the Triumph 2000 most favourably after their first encounter: ‘All in all, the Triumph 2000 seems to have golden prospects; its modern technical specification, full equipment, roominess and pleasing proportions show no vestige of insularity, so that it should penetrate deep into export markets with the extensive backing of Standard-Triumph International and the Leyland parent.’

The conclusion that Autocar drew following its first road test was even more glowing: ‘The Triumph 2000 will not cause a flutter of excitement if one is looking for scintillating performance, but the more it is driven, the more one likes it, particularly the good suspension and freedom from noise which contribute to an overall high degree of comfort.’

Of course, in these more civilised times, car magazines (except for, perhaps, Motoring Which?) had yet to latch on to anything so vulgar as back-to-back testing against a competitor, but had they put the Triumph against its deadly rival from Rover then it would have come out on top in terms of insulation from road noise, engine smoothness and top-gear acceleration. That is not to say that the Triumph was decidedly better; it simply offered a different mix of qualities and gave the customer a genuine choice.

More management changes

Leyland and STI ended 1963 with yet more management changes. Donald Stokes, Managing Director and Deputy Chairman of the  Leyland Motor Corporation, was appointed Chairman of Standard-Triumph International in succession to Sir Henry Spurrier. Stanley Markland, Managing Director of Standard-Triumph International, quit the parent company at the end of  the year after 43 years service, having lost out badly in the power game with the top job promised to him by Spurrier remaining elusive.

Sir William Black, Chairman of Leyland, said: ‘As Mr Stokes is assuming full executive control of Standard-Triumph, it is not proposed to appoint a Managing Director. The present Director and General Manager, Mr George Turnbull, however, will assume broader responsibilities under Mr Stokes.’

It was Stanley Markland who had knocked Standard-Triumph into shape, cutting out waste and extravagance. Harry Webster later described Markland as, ‘the finest boss I ever knew.’ Donald Stokes was to reap the benefit of Markland’s hard work at STI, but the super salesman was more of a diplomat by nature and lacked the ruthless qualities demonstrated by Stanley Markland at STI, the kind of qualities that would be needed in the decade ahead. Stanley Markland retired to his farm and died in June 1986, the same year as the man he fired, Alick Dick.

Triumph marches forwards

In January 1964 Donald Stokes revealed how STI had performed in 1963. Standard-Triumph International had built a total of 109,200 cars and light commercial vehicles in 1963, an increase of 30% over 1962.

He said they had increased home sales by 40%, while exports had gone up by 10% on 1962. In the United States the company sold over 20,000 vehicles in 1963, 12.5% more than in 1962. Saying the prospects for 1964 were even better, Mr Stokes added: ‘We are currently working on production schedules as high as those of last summer, an unprecedented situation for the motor industry.’

The new Triumph 2000 went on sale on 8 January and orders were already high enough to indicate that the car would be a clear leader in its class – production was already running at over 350 a week and would increase to about 400 a week.

Stokes and Triumph are the industry’s golden boys

Donald Stokes now had a high media profile. His recent success in selling buses to Cuba had angered many in the American political establishment and turned him into a minor folk hero in Britain. There were more corporate changes in the spring when Jim Slater departed the Leyland Board, but was replaced by Lewis Whyte and Dr Albert Fogg.

On June 17 1964 former Leyland Chairman Sir Henry Spurrier died from a brain tumour. He was 66 years old. By October 1964 STI was expanding production at Malines in Belgium. Donald Stokes stated that the parent company was to spend £8m. on expansion at Coventry during 1965, hoping to reach a record output of 140,000 units a year, and would introduce at least three new models to supplement its range of saloons and sports cars next year.

1964 had been a good year. STI had experienced a good relatively strike free run with only couple of disputes marring the firms overall performance. Jaguar, Rover and BMC’s Cowley plant had all been plagued with disputes. The Rover P6 may have been voted Car of the Year 1963, but could you get one?

Production builds, but there are problems

In 1964, STI manufactured 18,490 Triumph 2000s but, in 1965, the company was not so lucky on the dispute front with niggling disputes interrupting production, albeit nothing like as frequent as those besetting Rover. On 24 September 1965, Standard-Triumph International Limited announced that a factory was to be built on a 100-acre site at Speke, Liverpool close to the factory of Standard-Triumph (Liverpool) Limited. It employed more than 1500 men on the manufacturing and assembly of car bodies.

The first phase would cost £3m. More than £1m. would be spent during 1966. The first buildings would be for a Paint and Trim Shop and a Shop for body manufacture. George Turnbull said: ‘This is a most significant development for our company and will lift us from our current output rate of 150,000 vehicles a year to the 200,000 a year category, and with every possibility of expanding beyond this figure, if market conditions require it.’

STI believed that now was the time to expand, so that the company would be able to cope with the expected growth in world demand.

Triumph 2000 range expands

Triumph 2000 poses outside London's Aldwych Theatre (picture kindly supplied by Graham Arnold)
Triumph 2000 poses outside London’s Aldwych Theatre (picture supplied by Graham Arnold)
The interior was a sumptuous place to be, as the model clearly demonstrates, but its dashboard design clearly lacked cohesion. This situation would be rectified in the Innsbruck.
The interior was a sumptuous place to be, as the model clearly demonstrates, but its dashboard design clearly lacked cohesion. This situation would be rectified in the Innsbruck

After a brisk start, Triumph 2000 sales continued to gain momentum, and exports were strong. The range was expanded through the years, with the first variant – the estate version – arriving in October 1965. This model had been developed alongside the saloon but, understandably, less resources were given to it, meaning a delayed launch. Because of the excessive costs of putting it into large scale production, and its perceived limited sales potential, Triumph entrusted the job of assembling the estate bodyshells to Carbodies Limited of Coventry.

Actually, it was not quite as simple as that – partially-completed shells were shipped from Pressed Steel in Swindon to Carbodies, where the estate panels were added at the rear. These completed shells were then shipped to Triumph’s main production line for final assembly and painting.

The Triumph 2000 Estate had one undoubted advantage on the marketplace: Rover did not produce an official estate version of the P6, the only way buyers could get hold of a P6 estate was via the Crayford-engineered version. Triumph, it seemed had the upper hand. In October 1965, STI had also launched the acclaimed Triumph 1300. With Triumph 2000 production for the year now increasing slightly to 19,087 and its UK rivals dogged by industrial strife, the Triumph brand was on a roll.

Changes are coming

1966 was the year of the BMC-Jaguar merger, a dockers’ strike and a credit squeeze instigated by the newly re-elected Labour Government. Standard-Triumph went to a four-day working week, reducing output of models for the domestic market and actually increasing production of the 1300 model. At a time when BMC sailed into a major public relations disaster by announcing a drastic 10,000 redundancies to cut back production, Leyland and STI sailed on serenely, producing 23,431 Triumph 2000s in 1966. At the end of the year Leyland’s Chairman, Sir William Black, announced that the group was purchasing Rover for £25 million. Now the rival Rover P6 would join Standard-Triumph as part of the Leyland family.

By the spring of 1967, STI was back to full-time working. By late April 1967, Sir Donald Stokes was celebrating record business. Not only were truck sales scaling record heights, but its car business was booming, too. In March, Standard-Triumph’s share of the home market jumped to 8%, the highest for six years. This meant that, together with Rover (2.6%), the Leyland Corporation currently held 10.6% of the UK car market. This was shortly after British Motor Holdings had announced losses of £7.5m. It seemed at the time that the men at Leyland could do no wrong.

Stokes commented: ‘We are particularly gratified by the progress we have made on the home market, because this has been achieved since the Government brought in their restrictions against the purchase of motor vehicles. We have concentrated on selling our cars to the more discriminating buyers and this seems to have paid dividends.’

Stokes is now undisputed top dog

At the same time Sir William Black retired as Leyland Chairman to be replaced by Sir Donald Stokes. Two new Deputy Managing Directors were appointed to aid Sir Donald. They were Dr Albert Fogg, formerly Group Director of Engineering and  Jack H. Plane, who would have special responsibilities for Leyland’s overseas operations.

George Turnbull, General Manager of Standard-Triumph International, was appointed to the group’s Board. The elevation of Turnbull, a Standard-Triumph man who had survived the Leyland purges to prove himself to his masters, now showed what an integral part the Coventry concern was to the parent company’s operations.

In the summer of 1967, Standard Triumph went over to short-time working to reduce stocks of unsold cars. Full-time working was resumed in the autumn as secret merger talks between Leyland and British Motor Holdings began. The short-time working would explain the drop in Triumph 2000 production to 19,820 for the year.

British Leyland is formed

In January 1968, the Leyland-BMH merger was announced as the British Leyland Motor Corporation and in a sense this was where it started to go wrong for the Triumph brand, with STI executives being despatched to Longbridge away from their comfort zones that had brought success, to the most strike prone part of the British motor industry, BMC.

In May 1968, the British Leyland (Motor Corporation Combined) Trade Union Committee (BLTUC) was formed, jointly led by Dick Etheridge from Longbridge and Eddie McGarry from Standard-Triumph’s Canley plant. This organisation would prove a thorn in the side of British Leyland management in the years to come.

By September George Turnbull was running the rump of the old BMC as the Austin-Morris division and Harry Webster had joined him at Longbridge, usurping Alec Issigonis as Technical Director. They were replaced respectively by Cliff Swindle and Spen King, with the latter being imported from Rover.

Triumph 2.5PI launched

Meanwhile, quietly in October 1968, the 2.5PI (petrol injection) Mk1 was launched – this new model featured a Lucas Automotive mechanical fuel-injection system. Performance was impressive, but the PI models (along with the TR6 models) gained a reputation for unreliability and poor fuel economy which would take years to recover from in terms of image and reputation.

Development of the Barb/2000 continued and, following competition proving, the 2498cc version was launched in 1968. The 2.5PI model was interesting for its use of fuel injection and, allied with the larger capacity engine, it gave the big Triumph’s performance a real shot in the arm.

New Technical Director Spen King was a stickler for build quality, and it cannot have made him comfortable to see just how unreliable the Lucas injection system actually was. However, Triumph persisted with the troublesome system and tried – unsuccessfully in the end – to iron out all of its deficiencies, realising just what benefits it brought to the car.

Standard-Triumph announced on 12 February 1969 further expansion plans for their new Liverpool body-finishing plant. The new extensions, covering a further 500,000sq ft., would cost £10.5m. and were part of a plan to double the company’s labour force in Liverpool to more than 3000. Expansion at the Speke Hall Road site had been brought in two phases. The total cost of the extensions was estimated at £20m and would raise car production to between 175,000 and 200,000 units a year.

A rather odd looking proposal for the Innsbruck facelift - it was rejected.
A rather odd-looking proposal for the Innsbruck facelift – it was rejected

Expansion in Liverpool, trouble in the Midlands

Phase one, already partially operative, covered another 500,000sq ft, and provided body phosphating and priming facilities for up to 100,000 bodies and finish painting and trimming facilities for up to 50,000 bodies annually.

Cliff Swindle, Director and General Manager of Standard-Triumph International, said: ‘During the past two years the demand for Triumph cars has steadily increased and we look forward to the time when both phases of this new Liverpool plant are fully operative so that our supply can keep pace with demand.’

The summer of 1969 for British Leyland proved a grim one with a five-week strike at its Lancashire truck plants to the fore. Then strike action hit Triumph 2000/2.5 PI production at Canley in August. The Times newspaper reported on 8 August 1969: ‘Leaders of three unions are to visit British Leyland’s Standard-Triumph plant at Coventry in an effort to settle the dispute over who should tighten screws on car dashboards. The dispute has halted production of Triumph 2000 cars. But they will do so only if 200 members of the National Union of Vehicle Builders return to work immediately, it was announced in York last night.

‘The men walked out yesterday after a ruling that the two other unions, the Transport and General Workers’ Union and the Amalgamated Union of Engineering and Foundry workers, should do the work.’

It took three days to resolve the dispute and production was soon halted again by a delivery drivers’ strike and a stoppage by the body pressing plant on Merseyside. The unofficial strike at Speke lasted 11 long weeks, cost £11 million in lost production and made 11,000 men idle.

Triumph 2000 given Innsbruck facelift

Triumph 2.5 Pi

1969 saw the launch of the brutish-looking (but undoubtedly very stylish) Mark II versions of the Triumph. As with the original version, the styling was handled by Michelotti, and was initially worked on from 1967 under the project name ‘Innsbruck’. Michelotti had already impressed Harry Webster with the Triumph Stag, so it was logical that the new version of the car would move forward to match the look of the new grand tourer.

There was not enough money in the company coffers to afford anything more substantial than a major facelift but, as the basic car was still perfectly competitive, this was not the problem it could have been. The new style offered a longer nose and tail, and managed to make the car look more elegant (in the author’s eyes) and much more contemporary. Like the TR6 model, the body engineering was undertaken by Karmann in Germany, as Pressed Steel turned the job down – on the grounds that they were unable to complete the task within the timeframes stipulated by Triumph.

The picture for Standard-Triumph as the 1960s ended seemed to be changing rapidly. The relatively tranquil industrial relations the company had once enjoyed now seemed to have disappeared forever and the company now seemed to be a backwater in the British Leyland empire with the main focus and finance directed at the loss-making Austin-Morris division. The decade had seen great progress in establishing Triumph as a premium quality brand. This hard-won reputation would be undone in the next decade, resulting in the effective extinction of the brand and the end of car production at Canley.

The strikes begin to take a hold

The year of 1970 would be chronic for strikes in the motor industry, with components manufacturers being particularly hard hit, resulting in shortages of parts at assembly plants followed by the shutdown of vehicle production. Consumers confronted by shortages of cars at dealers simply went elsewhere and imported cars gained ground in the British market.

On 18 August 1970 there was more corporate change at British Leyland. Standard-Triumph was renamed simply as Triumph and Bill Davis, George Turnbull’s  deputy at Austin-Morris, became Chairman and Chief Executive of Triumph. His predecessor there, Cliff Swindle, joined the BLMC headquarters team in Berkeley Square, London as Director of Facility Planning. Bill Davis was the former BMC Director of Production with a seat on the Board of the defunct company. Only a day later Triumph became the first battleground in the struggle for lay off pay as The Times of 20 August 1970 reported.

‘British Leyland car plants throughout the country are threatened by strikes in support of a guaranteed lay-off pay for workers made idle by stoppages in outside component plants. First to be hit was the Coventry factory of Triumph. Seven thousand five hundred workers stayed away yesterday because 1300 of their fellow workers had been laid off due to the 11-day-old strike at GKN Sankey at Wellington, Shropshire.

‘The men are fed up’

‘Shop stewards at Triumph have told the company they will repeat the walk-out every time there are lay-offs. The unofficial British Leyland Combined Shop Stewards’ Committee, which claims to represent the corporation’s 180,000 employees, gave a warning last night that similar action will be taken at other plants in the group.’

‘A spokesman said: ‘The men on the shop floor are absolutely fed up with management’s refusal to pay men laid off through no fault of their own. There are so many strikes at outside firms these days that we have forgotten what a full pay packet looks like. Make no mistake about it this issue is easily the most explosive British Leyland has seen for a long time.’

The GKN Sankey strike went on until the end of September resulting in further strikes at Canley over lay off pay. At the end of November the new boss of Triumph, Bill Davis, sent a letter to its 15,500 employees. Mr Davis said: ‘Triumph has for many years been in the forefront with good models of universal appeal and competitively priced. We can keep it there by our joint efforts. I accept that for me this is a seven-days-a-week job but this in itself is insufficient. I need your goodwill.’

He said Triumph was going through rough weather when he took over and this was still the case. Intermittent working, the introduction of a new and complex range of models, many thousands of vehicles unfinished because of lack of components, all presented a very hazardous situation. The age of management cracking the whip had gone. His attitude was to give the facts for an intelligent assessment of the situation. With better communications, progress, whether good or bad, would in future be reported, together with other information of topical interest.

‘Making motor vehicles is not all smooth running. In fact, I think this is the attraction almost like a drug, which makes it so appealing when there must be many easier ways of obtaining job satisfaction,’ he said.

800,000 out on strike

In December 1970, Triumph endured another strike over lay off pay. The Times reported: ‘800,000 Triumph car workers, the entire manual labour force, went on strike at Coventry yesterday because 350 colleagues had been laid off without pay. It cost the firm 600 cars urgently needed to meet deliveries held up by the GKN-Sankey strike more than two months ago. The strike was called by Shop Stewards acting on a mandate from a mass meeting earlier this year which decided on a “one out, all out” policy whenever a section of the plant was laid off without pay through no fault of its own.’

A spokesman for the Shop Stewards said: ‘We have done this before and we intend to do it again until British Leyland falls into line with other car firms and introduces a proper system of lay-off pay. British Leyland has said that it is only willing to discuss lay-off pay as part of a new pay system for its car plants. Main change is the ending of piece-work.’

A Triumph spokesman said: ‘We had to lay off 350 employees in the trim shop at Coventry because of a shortage of car bodies from our Liverpool plant where men joined the one day strike against the new Bill on Tuesday. We expect the strikers to return tomorrow.’

The figures are very bad

At the end of the year Triumph workers in Coventry were told that they must produce 3000 cars each week to overcome losses estimated at several million pounds – so far in the financial year, their best had been 2457. In a personal message to the 11500 employees,  Bill Sanders Triumph’s new Director and General Manager, said that to lift the company out of trouble they must produce 170,000 cars in the current financial year, which began in October 1970.

‘The figures for October were frankly very bad and in November and December the deficit has continued but at a lower level. This unfortunately means that we have to wipe out the bad months first before we can regain our rightful position as one of British Leyland’s leading companies. It would be foolish to pretend that everything will go smoothly in 1971 but the coming 12 months can be a year of opportunity for the company and the people in it.’

The disputes at Triumph’s plants in Coventry and on Merseyside continued into 1971. In the meantime, thoughts now turned to replacing the Triumph 2000/2.5 PI series. Now Rover and Triumph were bedfellows in British Leyland there was, of course, no chance of each company developing its own independent replacements for their respective executive saloons.

First thoughts on Triumph 2000 replacement

Triumph Puma clay model, which for many years was misidentified as a proposal for Rover by Michelotti. (Picture: The Rover SD1 story, by James Taylor).
Triumph Puma clay model, which for many years was misidentified as a proposal for Rover by Michelotti. (Picture: The Rover SD1 story, by James Taylor)

On 11 February 1971, the BLMC Board met at Solihull to view scale models of the proposed replacements for the Rover P6 and Triumph 2000/2500. David Bache of Rover had produced six scale clay models, five hatchbacks and a notchback, for consideration by the Board. Triumph had been working on a replacement for their own 2000 saloons codenamed Puma.

Both projects were bought together for assessment, but the Board opted for the Rover P10. The Triumph Puma (above) was thought to be too conventional in style. The Rover P10 was developed into the SD1 saloon launched to great fanfare in 1976. However, it was decided that the Triumph brand’s future was as a manufacturer of smaller premium saloon cars such as the Triumph SD2, the TR7/8 sports car and its Lynx coupe derivative.

The existing Triumph six-cylinder engine was to be developed into an overhead camshaft unit for these planned future models. Triumph may have lost out against Rover in the battle to design and produce British Leyland’s corporate executive car, but that is not to say a great deal of Triumph thinking did not go into the Rover SD1: the inline-6 cylinder OHC engines were pure Triumph, and the 77mm gearbox was also designed by Triumph Engineers at Canley. The SD1’s suspension system as designed by Spen King was closer to the Triumph 2000 in its philosophy than it was the Rover P6 and, in many ways, the SD1 was the world-beating product that it was because of its amalgamation of the engineering excellence of Rover and Triumph.

Spen King returns to Solihull

At the end of July 1971 Rover’s Technical Director, Peter Wilks, was forced to retire with ill health. Spen King duly returned to Solihull to take his cousin’s place. The new Technical Director of Triumph was John Lloyd, who had served as deputy to both Harry Webster and Spen King.

1971 was the year when the Triumph workforce at both Coventry and Speke were well and truly infected with militancy. Strikes proliferated like never before as the labour movement squared up to the Heath Government’s Industrial Relations Bill. This and the long-running sore over lay off pay took priority over supplying the market with shiny new Triumph cars. Triumph was now losing money, the only BLMC division to do so. In hindsight, 1971 was the beginning of the end for the Triumph marque.

In March 1972, Rover and Triumph officially merged under the control of Sir George Farmer. The 12-man Board consisted of seven from Rover and five from Triumph. In May the SD2 concept was approved by Triumph management, at a time when the Canley plant endured a three-week lay off thanks to a strike by axle builders.

Trying to repair industrial relations

In December 1972, in an effort to improve the industrial relations situation within Triumph, the company announced that Mr Cyril Morris, a former Convener of Shop Stewards for the National Union of Vehicle Builders at Canley and the former secretary of the BLTUC, had been taken on by the management as an Industrial Relations Officer at Triumph. Mr Morris, who used to be a production worker at the Triumph plant, gave up his convenership some time before he was appointed by the company.

British Leyland said that, with his background Mr Morris, would be a useful addition to Triumph’s industrial relations team. The year had been another difficult one for Triumph with the Shop Stewards strongly resisting management attempts to change the wage structure from piecework to Measured Day Work. Moreover, the Triumph plants on Merseyside were now proving to be a liability rather than an asset to the company because of seemingly interminable industrial disputes.

By January 1973, Triumph in Coventry was the last bastion of piecework in the British Leyland empire. Bill Davis, Triumph’s Managing Director, stated: ‘I have made it clear that it is my intention to introduce a new pay system similar to those now operating at sister companies. But we have not wasted the 12 months since we put our original proposals to employees. A tremendous amount of work has gone on to improve communications between management and the shop floor, to increase the ability of supervisory grades to cope with the new system and, most important of all, we have been learning from the teething troubles of the other companies. It is the completion of this vital preparatory work which will determine when we make the next move.’

Repositioning Triumph away from Rover

Eventually the management prevailed and piecework was discarded at Canley. Bill Davis had impressed his masters enough to earn promotion to Managing Director of Rover-Triumph in May, replacing Sir George Farmer who retired. Also in May 1973 British Leyland Chairman Lord Stokes outlined his future plans for Triumph.

‘Triumph, will eventually cease to compete directly with Rover and will concentrate its energies on smaller but refined four-seater saloons in the luxury high-performance category to compete with the types of cars which certain Continental companies have sold so successfully in recent years. These developments will also attract large investment funds to our Triumph plant at Canley.’

In September the styling of the projected SD2 was approved and the model looked set for production. George Turnbull suddenly resigned from BLMC on 6 September 1973 prompting a reshuffle. Bill Davis was promoted to the firm’s main Board as Director of Production, a similar position to the one he had occupied at BMC. Bernard Jackman was now promoted to the role of Managing Director of Rover-Triumph.

Investment in Triumph and Rover

In November Jim Slater returned to the fold when he joined the British Leyland Board. In early 1974 the Three-Day Week brought more misery for British Leyland. The Managing Director of Rover-Triumph, Bernard Jackman, gave an interview to Motor magazine in February 1974. Talking of the future of Rover-Triumph, Mr Jackman said they had an enormous expansion programme over the next four years. They would be spending something like £200 million on Rover-Triumph, around £50m a year.

‘By 1978 we are due to be producing about 470,000 vehicles a year, compared with around 230,000 we built in 1973,’ he said. ‘If the present industrial crisis goes on for some time, obviously we will have to stretch our capital spending over six years instead of four to four and a half years because the money won’t be there in the quantity I have been talking about. But expand we shall. I am determined that when another upturn in sales comes in a years or twos’ time when Britain should be in a much better position than we are now for energy we shall not at that time be caught without an outstanding range of models to sell, or without the means to build them in quantity.

‘We are very flattered at Rover-Triumph that the British Leyland Corporation have the confidence in us to invest this amount of money. Certainly, they have given us a far bigger share of the total cake than I dared hoped for a couple of years ago… But if we can get our new models out despite the Energy Crisis and the fuel economy drive we are really sitting on a pot of gold.

‘We have got the right range of models in Rover-Triumph, the best range in any sector of the corporation. Austin-Morris have much bigger outputs, but they cannot command the profit margins on their low-priced cars that we can on a more specialist grade of car.’

Future model plans take shape

The existing model line up was to be drastically reduced. By 1978, the intention was to have four basic models, two sports cars and two executive saloons with the usual variants – presumably, these were the SD1, SD2, TR7 and Lynx. The labour force of 32,000 produced some 200,000 cars a year, although there was nominal capacity for 280,000. The intention was to double production with a minimal addition to the pay roll. Although there was no official confirmation, the plan for Triumph seemed to call for the Coventry factories to concentrate on engines, gearboxes and saloons while complete sports cars would be assembled at Liverpool.

With the Rover SD1 earmarked for annual production of up to 140,000 per year, one can see that a great chunk of Rover-Triumph’s projected output would be the smaller SD2 and TR7/8/Lynx cars. The future looked bright for Triumph.

In terms of sales, the Triumph 2000 continued to perform strongly, but did begin to lose out to the Rover P6, thanks to that car’s new V8 variant. Triumph did shoehorn in a Stag V8 engine into one 2000 bodyshell as a riposte to this model but, beyond becoming the Sales Director’s company car, it did not progress any further, unfortunately. A mid-range 2500TC was then introduced, featuring a carburetted and somewhat less powerful version of the 2500PI’s engine. This car proved to be a popular addition to the range, as tales of the PI’s unreliability had spread throughout the trade, leaving Triumph with a car that buyers mistrusted in a big way.

More developments: 2500TC and 2500S launched

The car’s equipment levels were progressively improved as the years passed by and sales remained healthy – even if they were overhauled by the Rover P6. Throughout the remainder of its life, the Triumph remained admired by a great many buyers, despite reliability wobbles encountered by the PI version.

In 1974 a late-model facelift was introduced, when all models received a Stag-style radiator grille and increased ride heights amongst other detail changes. However, the most significant addition was the introduction of a 99bhp, SU HS4-carburetted 2500TC, which sold alongside the PI for about a year. It was the popularity of this car which finally killed off the PI in 1975 and led to the ultimate rationalisation of the range with the introduction of the 2000TC, the 2500TC, the 2500S and the 2500S Estate. The latter three cars all had the same specification engine, having a revised cylinder head and long-branch inlet manifold from the US-spec TR6 and SU HS6 carbs, delivering 106bhp.

The 2500S was effectively a fully-loaded ‘bells-and-whistles’ job, distinguishing itself by having Stag-style alloys, front anti-roll bar coupled with softer front springs, more comprehensive instrumentation and Sundym glass as standard – in all other respects, including performance and gearing, it was identical to the second-generation 2500TC. That car’s 14-inch wheels and anti-roll bars being noteworthy additions. It was this range: 2000TC, 2500TC and 2500S that remained in place until the model’s death in 1977.

Triumph 2500TC
The interim, first generation Triumph 2500TC
That's more like it: the Innsbruck facelift also saw the introduction of a new dashboard.
That’s more like it: the Innsbruck facelift also saw the introduction of a new dashboard

Triumph’s future in doubt

In the aftermath of the Ryder Report, Bernard Jackman quit as Rover-Triumph boss. In the summer of 1975 Triumph production was hit by an eight-week strike at the former Alforder Newton components plant in Hemel Hempstead. This was the company bought by Standard-Triumph back in 1959.

By September 1975 the SD2 project was hitting the rocks and was renamed the TM1 or Triumph Morris 1. The first six months of state ownership of British Leyland were a disaster. There were more man hours lost than in any other six-month period since the formation of British Leyland in 1968. There was not enough money to pay the wages bill. With such a nightmare scenario, financial cutbacks had to be made. The SD2/TM1 saloon was canned and, with that. went the long-term future of Canley. When its current range of models reached the end of their production lives, the future of the Triumph marque lay with the TR7/8/Lynx cars that were to emerge from Speke. This was confirmed on 29 April 1976.

On that day British Leyland revealed this in a letter to all 8000 employees at Canley. As part of Leyland Cars big re-organisation programme, assembly of Triumph cars would be transferred to other centres, and the Canley plant was intended to become a giant central workshop turning out engines and gearboxes for future model ranges.

Triumph superseded by Austin and Rover

The Leyland Cars proposals, which had been put to union and shop floor representatives through the company’s new worker participation machinery, envisaged the phasing out of car production at Canley beginning the next year, to be completed by 1980. At a news conference in Coventry Geoffrey Whalen, Leyland Cars’ Personnel Director, was at some pains to stress that no large-scale redundancies were expected to result from the scheme, although he did concede that there would have to be an ‘interim period’ during which the workforce at Canley would be reduced.

He said many assembly workers would be offered the chance to transfer to other plants, like the new one at Solihull, which would be taking over production of Triumph models, including the Dolomite range and others yet to be announced. There would also be a major re-training programme to equip workers for new jobs in the proposed workshop complex at Canley. Understandably, perhaps, Mr Whalen would not be drawn into any discussion of the complicated inter-union issues that might arise from this. He said the company plans had so far met with ‘an encouraging response’ from Shop Stewards at the Canley plant.

However, he and his colleagues would be ‘kidding ourselves’ to suggest that there might not be ‘an emotive response from some people to the ending of car making at Canley.’

Mr Whalen said the move did not in any way mean that the Triumph grand image was on its way out. Production of sports cars and light saloon cars under the Triumph label would continue. In its letter to the Canley workers, signed by the two Plant Directors, Mr Fred Young and Mr Maurice Andrews, Leyland Cars said: ‘In the long term this will mean as many, or more, jobs at Canley, with more stable prospects. We are confident that we will be able to employ everyone who wishes to remain with Leyland Cars. We do not see ourselves facing compulsory redundancy during the period of change we will be offering opportunities to continue in vehicle assembly when models transfer and when other recruitment needs develop.’

Triumph 2000 fades from view

During 1976, British Leyland lurched from crisis to crisis as strikes prevented the company from supplying the car market. That year Ford overtook British Leyland as UK market leader. The strife continued into 1977. While a strike at the Castle Bromwich body plant crippled the rest of Leyland Cars, 350 Paint Shop workers at Canley struck, shutting down Triumph production for a month. Then the toolmakers walked out.

The Labour Government told the British Leyland workforce that they were destroying their employment prospects, the opposition Conservative Party claimed BL was a bottomless pit consuming vast quantities of taxpayers’ money and the Leyland Shop Stewards accused the Government of blackmail at a time of chronic inflation and pay restraint agreements.

It was against this background that the final Triumph 2000/2500 car was built on 20 May 1977. Once seen as a quality premium brand, Triumph was now on its last legs. Up on Merseyside the final nails in the coffin were being administered by the militant and undisciplined TR7 workforce at Speke. Canley produced its last car in 1980 as planned. The TR7 lingered on until 1981, unloved and unwanted and, excepting the Anglo-Japanese Acclaim, it was the end of the now tarnished Triumph marque.

The Triumph 2000 was a case of being the perfect product at the right time – throughout its 13-year life, the model demonstrated perfectly that the British could build a car of enduring quality and timeless style in a package that customers actually wanted. The decline of the Triumph marque during the late 1970s was in no way attributable to the 2000/2500, but simply because there was no space for it in Leyland Cars’ range, given the company’s declining market share. The stylish 2000/2500 was first of a line of distinguished Triumph executive cars. Criminally, and SD1 notwithstanding, it was also the last of that very same line…

Keith Adams


  1. Will keep this brief. The original 2000 looked great for its times and the only let down was that 2500Pi version. The later Innsbruck models looked even better for a facelift car and I agree the dashboard was a huge improvement. If I could go back to those days, a nice mid 70’s 2500TC or S would suit me.

  2. Lokking back pretty much all facelifts never seem to be as succesful or coherant as the original design (MGB/Jaguar XJ/Rover 75 being just 3 examples that spring to mind).
    With the 2000/2500 however, this provides an exception in my view, where the Michelotti influence takes the rather ungainly MK1 to a sleek, dynamic, and subtley aggressive saloon.

  3. Was the Triumph 2000/2500 the car that set the template for the BMW 5-series? Similar size (well, at least market segment – Triumph seemed to appeal to a younger buyer than the Rover P6), similar engine size, great Michelotti styling, sporting feel……interesting actually how Triumph pre-empted the BMW 3 and 5 series in the 60s/70s with the Dolomite and 2000/2500 – another great ‘what if’ of the British car industry…..

  4. “the Michelotti influence takes the rather ungainly MK1 to a sleek, dynamic, and subtley aggressive saloon.”

    Both Mk1 & Mk2 saloons were styled by Michelotti. In fact, all Triumphs from Herald (1959) onwards, apart from TR6, 7 & Acclaim, were styled by him.

  5. I’ve seen a couple of the Innsbruck models on the roads recently and was amazed by how small and top-heavy they looked, low waisted with a high roof they look better photographed in isolation. I owned a 1300, 1850HL & Sprint in the eighties and always hankered after a 2500, really shocked at how odd the car now looks amongst modern metal. The SD1, on the other hand, still stands out on the roads today.

      • He’s been confused for nearly 10 years !!! But I agree with you , they were splendid looking, and somehow better balanced than the Mark 1, even though that was a nice looking car in its day

  6. An interesting article that reflects that not everything build by British Leyland suffered from poor quality or reliability issues. The Triumph 2000/2500 is a great car that is criminally cheap to buy in the classic car market in comparison to the equally impressive Rover P6.

    On the subject of the estate version of the Rover P6, I thought it was engineered and built by FLM Panelcraft, not Crayford?

  7. Delorean’s Accountant is right… all Triumph 2000/2500’s were designed by Michelotti. Also agree with Yme402 that sometimes “facelifted” cars never look any better than the originals. Luckily the T2000 series seemed to buck that trend. The MKII car appears in re-runs of “The Professionals”, usually in a Police car guise

  8. Back in ’73 my Dad bought a Mk2 2000 auto, trading in his Mk1 Capri as its boot was too small for the growing family (my baby sister & myself).
    Dad hung onto his 2000 through to 1978, decided the SD1 was not for him and moved over to big V6 Fords for a decade…

    Sad really, as this was a lost opportunity to BL and of course Ford and the rest won back (and kept customers) that BL (Triumph) had fought so hard for in the first place with decent products!

  9. British Leyland had everything to be successfull on the worlds market. It was neither engineering nor style nor management, – it was the worker on the line infected by a strike disease which fortunately did not leave the island. This is the reason why the german car producers took a big share of cars production over to their plants.
    It’s a shame that stupidity ruled the working class for such a long time until a whole industry was bloodless. The Triumph 2000 / 2500, especially the stylish Series 1 was a perfect car. With constant refinement, an OHC engine and raising product quality the startup of a new segment at BMW , the 2500 – predecessor of the 5 Series, could have been massively disturbed.

  10. Not the place, but have to reply to Vitesse’s ‘blame the workers’ rant. Did the workers decide to waste money on a new V8 when Rover already had one? Or take on the Cortina with 1948 Morris Minor suspension? Or ditch the rack & pinion Oxford in favour of the wobbly Cambridge – and then carry on building it until 1971? I could go on. I remember Allegro workers being interviewed on Nationwide in the 70s. They had no pride because they KNEW they were building duff designs that nobody wanted. Who (but the blinkered) can blame them?

  11. My Dad had a 2000 Mk2 in 1973: French blue with grey cloth and overdrive. Looked great, but as a growing teenager not old enough to drive it was a bit of a disappointment:

    – Leg room in the back was poor.
    – In the 2000 version they made you realise you’d not been able to afford a PI as there was not a full instrument set.
    – If you sat in the back you could always hear the petrol sloshing about.
    – It was pretty slow for the time -95 mph maximum?

    My Dad replaced it with a Pinto engined Ford Consul 2000L in 1975: gold with a brown vinyl roof. In theory a lesser car, but I know what I would rather be a passenger in.

    The best version they made of the Mk2 was the later 2500 TC withouth the pesky “petrol injection”.

  12. Great account – very well put together. The PI in the Mk 1 was not that bad. A family member had one and the PI never caused any problems. It put it the car up another whole league from the 2000.

    August 1961 – Alan Dick asked to resign and “…..Further, Leyland Motors have asked Messrs. K. Aspland, E. Brimelow, M. T. Tustin, H. S. Weale, M. Whitfield, and L. A. Woodall to retire from the board of Standard Triumph International, …..’

    Wonder job – anyone still confused about where the seeds for failure really lie ? Speke and Canley had both ceased production by 1980 – they were the first major plants to be shut.

    Sir John Black had taken Standard from insolvent basket case in 1933 to number 4 in the UK behind Austin, Morris and Ford and ahead of Vauxhall and Rootes in terms of No of cars produced. He had also created a fantastically profitable business building tractors to Harry Ferguson’s design, making use of the spare capacity at Banner Lane.

    How many of those above were present at Black’s house when his butler made the killer announcement, “the Board of Standard Triumph to see you Sir” – and they gave him the sack. That was 1954.

    In 1959 the Board sold the Tractor business for £14.9 million.

    They needed the cash to develop the car business. Were the products so bad ? Designs produced under Black had won two RAC Rallies in succession, with the TR2 in 1954 and the Standard 10 in 1955, equaling Jaguar’s two wins with the XK120. How was wine being turned into water ?

    In 1960 Leyland bought Triumph and all its Worldwide assets for £20 million – ie a valuation of £5 million and the cash for the tractor business.

    Post the event and possibly a little wiser – 1961 – “Sir Henry Spurrier – Chairman of Leyland‘In taking this concern under our wing we have almost certainly saved it from bankruptcy,’ he wrote.” Can’t be straighter than that – he approved the purchase – I translate that as “we bought a dud lads”.

    “In February (1962) Sir Henry told shareholders, ‘I do want to assure you that as soon as we can get this Standard organization on a paying basis it will in the end make a great contribution to the Leyland Group.’ Again pretty solid talking – “its not making us a bean right now”.

    “Donald Stokes commented in 1968 on Standard Triumph: ‘To be honest it was ghastly.The place was badly run and top management was not good.’

    Summary – 1954 – No 4 car-maker in the UK and mega profitable tractor business. 1960 – basket case, despite a windfall of £15 million in cash (not assets). And the Board thought they could do a better job of running Standard Triumph than a guy who had a bedroom in “the cottage” and slept at the plant, when needs must. Pride and arrogance of a few individuals who had no idea of the concept of “commitment” did for the place.

    Perhaps Lord Simpson (GEC) saw 6 years as some sort of record he had to beat. Top 10 FTSE company to zero in how long…..?

    Why isn’t this taught at schools ?

    Sir William, Sir John, Lord Nuffield, Lord Austin, you can look in the mirror with pride.

    Oh the reason why the Board sacked Black. He made a decision without consulting them. And just what good would have consulting them done ?

    • @Tony C

      You are conveniently forgetting in 1954 Standard did not have a body plant, and in due course had to build the Herald on a separate chassis when no body maker could be found to build the new car.
      Some of the investment from the sale of the tractor business bought the body plant, also it built the new assembly hall at Canley. Both expensive but worthwhile investments.

  13. Loved the mkII.

    A rare achievement – a facelift which improves on the original.

    The Estate was cool too – saw one the other day in what looked liked good, but un-restored condition.

    Like the interior – especially the light coloured ‘woodwork’ and concave instrument panel.

  14. Brilliant car – my Dad had three of them -a white Mk1 Saloon, SUO 392G, and two MkII’s – the later one being a Brown Saloon PDV 165M I think – which was trashed when it was parked up, and he replaced it with an automatic Maxi – he did return for the fold later with a 2600 SD1 – I agree with you David 3500 – they are the unsung heroes of the classic market – here am I with a P5B and a MkII Stag (which I know strictly speaking isn’t a MkII as they never sold them as that – so I’m told), and as each day goes by, I feel the need for a 2000 estate! That and an SD1 (and a Humber! – how about some more about Humbers on the site Keith?, Just need the dosh to buy the repair garage up the road, and I’d have somewhere to park the fleet (but no money then!) ho hum…..

  15. An uncle had a pale blue 2000 (after a Herald) which I remember loving it as a kid – but was it nicer than Dad’s Maxi?!

    Someone above pointed out you could hear petrol sloshing about – well my Cavalier does that (so did other similar vintage Vauxhalls I’ve had before…) I find its a most welcoming sound, since the fuel gauge is a bit “erratic”.

  16. Hinschelwood – probably should be £20m. Just looking elsewhere. In 1963, 4 years after Leyland bought Triumph for £20m, Mettoy, makers of “Corgi” floated on the stock exchange for £40m. Mettoy had 3,500 employees. Seems like it was probably far easier and more profitable to put how many components together , 2 x castings, 2 x axles, 4 x wheels, 2 x bits of wire for “suspension”, 1 x interior moulding, 1 x “glass”, = 12 plus several paint opperations.

  17. I have fond memories of these cars, my parents owned several over the years when I was growing up. My father had a 1967 MK1 2000 saloon in Maroon, then a 1975 MK2 2000 saloon in British Racing Green. My Mother had an early MK2 2.5PI saloon in white, it was an ex police car, manual with overdrive, no PAS and uprated suspension. Sadly the PI components kept playing up and it was eventually converted to carbs, it still went pretty well though! I learned to drive in that car, happy memories!

    A few years later I bought a Royal Blue 2500S manual estate as a runaround, great looking car but everything was worn out on it, otherwise I would probably have kept it. I would still be tempted today if a nice 2.5PI MK2 saloon came along at the right price…

  18. I also think that the Innsbruck facelift improved the looks.

    The original was too bad either, at least when compaired to the Anglia-ish early ideas.

    It’s interesting that BL kept both the 2000/2500 & Rover P6 model in production for almost a decade. There’s not too much between the 2 apart from the lack of a V8 Triumph & P6 estate.

    I don’t know which one I would choose.

  19. You know, it’s a real crying shame that Leyland never developed a proper replacement for the 2000 / 2500. I know the SD1 was supposed to kill 2 birds with one stone, but in many ways the Triumph ahead of it’s time and a car that should have not been killed off with no replacement.

    The independent rear suspension setup meant that with a little fettling this car could truly handle like a dream. I had one back in my younger days in NZ and I fitted it with Nitro / Air shocks at the back, new stiffer dampeners at the front and an antisway bar. After these modifications the car was a dream to drive – all of the 70’s rolly polly handling was eliminated and I was left with a modern feeling sports sedan.

    Even today, I am reminded of the similarity the 2500 shared with the 5 series and the Dolomite with the 3 series BMW ranges. Leyland should have picked up on idea and developed Triumph into a sporting executive RWD range and let Rover be a luxury focused brand that sat a little below Jag.

    I still to this day wonder why Leyland simply didn’t take the floorpan and give it some new sheet metal on top to make a more modern looking version. I am pretty sure it would have sold in big numbers. The 2000 / 2500 was so popular in New Zealand that BL actually produced extra CKD kits for assembly after it was supposedly discontinued to meet customer demand.

  20. Well I’ve just been looking on Trademe. Our Ebay down under.There’s a reasonably nice 2500S for sale. Shall I , should I, I don’t know. It’s not the money, it’s the time. Will I have time to tidy it up so it’s how I would like it to be. It’s still a lot of “Time” doing the work. I don’t want a Tidy 2500S, I want it to be “Really” nice, you know, like it was three or four years old. Why, why a 2500S, well years back I had a Mk11 2000-OD, Then a 2.5PI-OD rebuilt the motor and played with it a bit. Not to TR6 spec. but close, my Mum could drive it! It was a nice car, Quick, back then you just knew you could have anyone else on the road. Got a few “Tickets” too. A cop told me once, “Had a bit of trouble catching you, Oh, it’s a Bloody PI.” So I look up “Triumph” on the net, and here I am, still no better off. Shall I buy it or not, it’s “Red” too, auto, but thats OK, the wife will love that. Will I or won’t I, it’s the “Time”. Have I got the time???

  21. Just to add my twopenny worth to thecomments. My dad had a brown 2.5 PI back in the early seventies, and it was his favourite car of all the cars he ever drove. We had it when I was maybe six, seven and eight, so I don’t rememeber it too well (although I was always fascinated by the round warning light cluster !!!)…but I do recall that it never broke down and we had three 3 week long touring holidays around Europe in it, driving to Vienna one year and Venice another. Alway sseemed very fast and comfortable, he traded it in for a Daimler Sovereign 4.2 whih he never liked nearly as much…not sure what that proves really, but I know he loved that Triumph !!!!

  22. My dad had three 2000/2500 cars in the early 1970’s. (One being TPT 94E) Our facelifted 2500 PI models were the superior cars. Despite being only 15 when I drove them (on private land), I particularly liked the gearshift overdrive system. (Even though when my mam was driving she often forgot to disengage it!).

    We had pre and post facelifted cars, with the instrumentation on the facelifted version illustrating the progress made between the models. I loved the revised dashboard, with the circular warning cluster being real quality and way ahead of its time.

  23. Should have said the 2500’s were both PI’s . Both went at some speed from what I remember. The old man really knew what the right pedal was for!

  24. For my money, I prefer the Mk 1 as like most Mk1s of anything it has a purity of line. I have to admit to detesting the wide grin of the Mk 2 – just another reason why I also don’t appreciate anything about the Stag. In fact, I could rattle off at least 100 classic cars I would rather own than a Stag!
    Good job we are all different eh?
    There’s probably 69 million people in this country who wouldn’t want my Wolseley 9 – and if I don’t get the bloomin thing back on the road in a few weeks I’ll be another one!

  25. These cars age so well,i cant think of another car that sounds as good and looks beautiful as a Stag,that creamy woofle from the tailpipe is as legendary as a Miles Davis trumpet solo.
    And boy,those PI’s were a fast car!

  26. A properly set-up pre-73 PI on four-star leaded petrol could reach nearly 125-mph and hit 60 in just under 8-seconds, (tested with GPS), and 80 to 100 in direct top a total revelation; far quicker than my later BMW 540i 4.4 V8 at this range. Total nonsense stats in journals that they only do 106mph. One wonders how much better they would go on the then recommended 5-star fuel. My best car ever, my ’72 ice blue body/powder blue int. PI; owned from ’88 until 2000. I have just bought a mint ’71 sienna brown body/orange tan int. (rare finish), 2000 and intend to keep it garaged and for dry use only. Absolutely beautifully designed cars. Play a bit of Burt Bacharach derived Herb Alpert numbers from ’69 and you could pretend to be Lord Brett Sinclair on a budget!

  27. #30 : I should get your GPS checked ! Your figures are frankly so unrealistic that there is clearly something wrong with them. That is not to say that the 2.5 PI was not a throughly lovely car with excellent performance with a torque spread that was unrivalled amongst saloon cars of the era . I had 3 , 2 manual OD and 1 automatic , and loved them, but oh how |I wish the fuel pump in the boot had been properly cooled and sorted

  28. My dad had a Triumph 2000TC, JML891P which he felt was a very comfortable, smooth and lovely looking car. I also liked it as a ten year old, appreciating its lovely lines and smooth straight six. However it was one of those Friday afternoon or strike day cars which always had something wrong with it. Although it never broke down it did leak a lot of oil and it had very twitchy handling, which I believe was down to Triumph’s famous axle/spline twitch and lack of antiroll bar. There were always creaks coming from the back axle. Even so I loved the car and always enjoyed cleaning and washing it for him !Yes you could hear the petrol sloshing around in the back! I would love to own a Triumph 2500s today, if I could find a nice one.

  29. @32 Glanville… your Dad’s car sounded great from your description. A mid 70s TC or S would suit me also. Despite the current trend of complex shaped car headlamp lenses, I still think the traditional round twin headlamps like the Triumph’s and so many other cars had back in those days still looks good.

  30. The GPS was not at fault. Unlike many cars driven, mine was completely rebuilt, including the engine and gearbox, but using sports coil and electronic ignition with various ‘improved’ parts fitted such as oil cooler radiator, oil filter, anti roll-bar, and so on. No nonsense at all and the stability of that car was quite amazing compared to other cars of that era when moving at speed. Only the quarterlight windows giving reminder of the car’s vintage with wind noise.

    A properly restored PI (or well looked after original) is quite capable of these speeds on high-octane fuel, provided an expert engineer calibrates the metering unit and all other parts in the system (all highly inter-dependent) are working to exact spec., including using a rebuilt distributor; most important, along with full ‘matched’ cylinder compression stats.

    Ken Mills was the expert engineer (now retired) who fettled the metering unit at his laboratory in Fulham with his assistant, Steve, who now runs KMI in Herts with the same attention to detail.

  31. Do tell me how an anti roll bar , recalibration of the metering unit etc improves the maximum speed by some 15 to 20 mph. BTW, my metering units were always recalibrated by Lucas, but I suppose you will tell me Lucas knew nothing about their own system . As I indicated before, I had 3 of the cars, all new , and they were wonderful cars to drive, and fast on acceleration for their era , but the performance was nothing like you claim, and you do the cars a disservice with your frankly ridiculous claims

  32. Wow, what might have been if it wasn’t for those unions.
    I notice the drums are beating at Jaguar Land Rover. At least now, the owners can simply shut down the factory and ship the plant abroad if British workers can’t be arsed turning up for work.

  33. Everyone is entitled to express their views on here Mr Storey, but I will not be drawn into your disputes as this is a forum for people’s experiences. Not a platform for asserting oneself with repudiation or validity of other contributors’ comments with provocative and intolerant overtones.

  34. Only weeks after production of the 2000/2500 ceased BMW introduced a new 2 litre 6 cylinder engine in the 520, a car of almost identical size and similar style to the triumph. I wonder how many of them were sold over the next 30 years? Another great BL decision!

  35. I had four Triumphs. A G reg. 1969 Mk 1 2500 Pi that I bought for £100 in 1980 that was converted to twin strombergs and still had enough power to spin its rear wheels in 1st 2nd and 3rd(admittedly in the wet).
    From this I graduated to an M reg. 1974 2500TC in white with blue interior and a full length Webasto sun roof. This car had overdrive on 3rd and 4th, no PAS but seemed to lack the urgency and feel of the Mk 1 Pi. The rear drive shafts had gone dry on the splines so an interesting kick from the back-end became a characteristic that quickly became annoying until re-greased.
    Being a real Triumph fan I went the petrol injection route after this car with a brown N reg.1974-75 2500 Pi, again no PAS but with overdrive. It must have been one of the last of the Pi’s and really flew but was herendously thirsty even in normal use so I had it converted to twin-strombergs. Not as quick but still swift enough for the day. The rear diff on this car blew, literally, leaving me stranded with a red hot piece of axle glowing in the middle of the road. After replacing this and with some body rust taking hold I sold it on.
    My final hurrah with Triumphs was an R.reg 1977 honeysuckle yellow 2500S with Stag alloys and overdrive again, bought at auction for what I thought was a good price but later realised reflected the condition of the engine. A lack of power and leaked oil like it had shares in Castrol. A new engine(from a breakers yard) sorted this and it ran well until I PX’d it for a Vauxhall Cavalier. But this wasn’t the last I saw of this car as shortly after buying the Cavalier I started a new job and my (as it turned out) future supervisor came driving into the car park one morning in the S but minus the Stag alloys. He’d bought the car from the same dealer who sold the wheels separately. So somewhere out there those S wheels are probably stil giving service on a Stag.
    For the most part fond memories of these stylish cars.

    • The 2 litre VX 4/90 was quite a desirable car 50 years ago, being based on the very good looking Victor FD, but with more equipment, 100 mph top speed and overdrive to make long journeys more relaxing. Sadly, the badge and poorer quality than rivals like the Triumph put many buyers off, even if the VX was quite a good driver’s car. The FE VX 4/90 was a better car, using the smooth and potent Vauxhall 2.3 and being capable of 110 mph, but still couldn’t win over the Rover and Triumph market.

      • I don’t think the badge was a big a problem, I think it was the vauxhall’s ability to rust within 3 years of manufacture. My great Uncle Reg, although biased as a Ford man at work and home, attacked my Uncle when he purchased a Viva saying what a rust bucket it was, which he was right. My Uncle replaced it with a Fiat Super Miafiori! Guess what happened next!

        • I also owned a Viva HC (1976 to 79) and had rusting wing problems. it was a better looking car when I sold it though. I guess Triumph & Rover build quality was better overall in those days

        • The FE seemed more resistant to rust and better built than the FD, but buyers were still wary and sales were mediocre. Always considered the FE VX 4/90 to be a decent car, almost Chevrolet like from the front, and the 2.3 slant 4 could power it to 110 mph. Also very seventies in its design with its vinyl roof, fake wood interior and nylon seats that has a nostalgic appeal.

          • I think the reputation and its rather mid Atlantic looks probably put people off. Shame they did not do the planned facelifts which are on Vauxpedia which would have given it a boost.

          • I concur Glenn. But wasn’t it the Ventora & later VX2300GLS that got vinyl roofs and wood interior? In 1977 the VX490 returned with oblong headlamps and check interior plus 5 speed box

          • The VX 2300 GLS was Vauxhall’s top model after the sluggish and very slow selling Ventora was axed at the end of 1975. Quite a car as the 2.3 was given an increase in power and the interior was a masterpiece of seventies chintz with fake wood everywhere and some loud interior colours. Worth considering just to embarass your Rover owning neighbour.

  36. A friend of my parents had a MK11 2.5PI the same colour as the 1st picture though I always wanted the estate version (My personal preference is for estates where possible) I also loved the P6 3.5 Rover we used to borrow in (I think) Sahara Red, My most reliable cars in the past have been BL and also cheapest to repair on the rare occasions they needed it.

  37. I have FOL 361L a metallic blue Triumph 2000 Mk2. This car was registered to Austin Rover on the 1st Dec 1972 and remained there for eight years. The car has now been mechanically restored and drives beautifully. Everything underneath the mk 2 body is pure Stag – engine,suspension, brakes,power staeering,oil cooler,battery box and air scoop. Was this car by any chance the 2000 with the stag engine which was the sales directors car? The suspension modifications make this a more driveable car than the standard 2000. If only they had built these for sale I believe it would have sold. The car now needs some tidying up to the body and interior to bring it back to its original pristine condition.

  38. How would a full production 120 hp 2-litre 4-cylinder Sabrina Twin-Cam engine have compared to the existing 6-cylinder Triumph 2000/2500?

  39. As FWD was said to have been considered for the Triumph 2000, one wonders how they would have mated the Triumph I6 engine to the FWD layout.

    If using the same engine/gearbox layout as the FWD Triumph 1300/1500, it seems a FWD layout would have only worked for the Triumph 2000 had it featured a 2-litre 4-cylinder engine like on the Rover P6. Unfortunately neither the 2-litre Slant-4 or hypothetical 2-litre 4-cylinder version of the SD1 Six / PE166 were available options in the early/mid-1960s.

    • Triumph could have probably used some productionized version of the 120 hp 1985cc Sabrina Twin-Cam engine for a FWD Triumph 2000, since the power (and any further increases via fuel-injection) would be offset by the relative lack of torque compared to the Triumph I6.

      Apparently Triumph even looked at pneumatic suspension for the 2000/2500.

      • Conflicting stories about the Sabrina engine. There are those who claim that the engine was designed to be a road going engine to replace the old Fergus on based lump in the TR3, however there are those that say it was not actually able to be used as a road engine as it was too complex and unreliable for the road.

        Had the engine been developed, Triumph’s 60s cars might have been very different. The 6 cylinder cars we all know may never have happened, as well as the slant 4.

        I was always chuckle about the name Sabrina, as it was named after a certain Norma Ann Sykes assets!

        • Sabrina might have had a better chance had it shared more with the Wet-Liner beyond the latter’s construction, another would have been had the Standard-Triumph Wet-Liner design been developed earlier on to roughly resemble the later Citroen DS (along with even the CX petrol / diesel) engines given the Wet-Liner engine reputedly drew inspiration to quite an extent from the Traction Avant engine (whose distant post-war relations include the DS and CX units).

          Rover in turn were influenced to produce the 2-litre Land Rover diesel in 1957 a few years after possible merger talks with Rover and Standard-Triumph were called off, which itself spawned 4/5/6-cylinder variations by Santana and MWM International (the latter a 2.8-litre MWM Powerstroke engine). Meaning Standard-Triumph copied Citroen’s wet-line, followed by Rover copying Standard-Triumph’s diesel for Land Rover (albeit making it worse).

          The reason for bringing up the Citroen DS engine would be due to the unbuilt Twin-Cam 16-valve engines (130 hp 2-litre / 125 hp 2.2-litre) in the DS Sport prototypes would appear to resemble a more viable alternative to Sabrina, another would be the fact that Citroen not only historically looked at a pre-war V8 derived from the Traction Avant but also a post-war V8 derived from the DS engine.

          • The Sabrina was designed to replace the wet liner engines, and itself had wet liner cylinders, but was the only similarity. You could see the idea behind the Sabrina, a twin cam engine which other British manufacturers were developing(although with mixed results) which was reputedly lighter and in lemans spec was producing 150bhp. Imagine if they had been able to make it reliable enough, and been converted to 16v with a pent head like the slant 4, where it could have taken Triumph? I know the slant 4 could be tuned to over 170, but wasn’t use able on the road, but maybe it would have been more.

          • Strangely have heard the Sabrina engine was almost as large/heavy as the Triumph I6 (possibly even heavier/taller IIRC), making it very difficult if not impossible to fit such an engine into a Dolomite-sized car.

            Do like the idea though of Triumph opting for a more compact DS/CX-like family of 4/5/6-cylinder and V8 engines, though the 6-cylinder and V8 engines would have likely been much larger compared to the existing Triumph I6 (later PE166) and Stag V8 (plus Saab V8) engines.

          • I think where you read about the engine says something different. The engine was cast iron block, with the rest aluminium held together by bolts in a sandwich. Most said it was slightly larger than the 1997cc wetliner, with some saying it was just a bit lighter, while other accounts say it was quite a lot lighter. They had a lot of trouble with the su’s which was resolved, but it wouldn’t start in the cold. I think your right about a new range of engines, which I think Webster had in mind with the slant 4 and related v8.

          • Can see why Triumph decided to develop the Slant-4 / V8 family, instead of taking a Citroen DS/CX-like (along with Land Rover/Santana/MWM-like) approach to the Wet-Liner.

            Despite the flaws of the Slant-4 / V8 as well as the later PE166, both had some merits. It is a bit disappointing the Standard-Triumph SC / Triumph I6 engines did not evolve differently prior to being replaced with the 4-cylinder avoiding becoming the Floppy Crankshaft motor, while both 4/6-cylinder units managed to find some extra capacity (to 1.6-litres SC and 2.7-litres I6 respectively) as well as a low-cost OHC conversion (mated to Brico fuel-injection system).

  40. The Rover V8 in the engine bay of Triumph 2000 is still a mystery? Can’t find something more relevant and recent in the internet though 🙁

    • All I can find is people’s conversions, which sound difficult due to issues with the exhaust manifolds having to be modified and one go out the front as the steering box was in the way to go out the back!

      I know that Triumph had one prototype with the Triumph V8 fitted which was last sold in 2003 – Think it was cancelled by BL before it really got looked at properly, which with respects to the issues that the Stag had was probably lucky. Shame as Tony Hart shown they are great engines if looked after, and very adaptable.

  41. In 1967/68 I was groom to the Master of the West Kent Foxhounds – he had a Ford Thunderbird, I had a Mk VII Hillman Minx, and I drove the hunt’s Bedford TK horsebox. One day a member of the hunt asked me to drive his Triumph 2000 around the lanes of Kent. What I recall was the smoothness of the gearbox, and ease with which I drove the car. Some memory to last that length of time.

    • A neighbour had a yellow 2500 TC with black interior from 1976. Loverly car which he was still running as his daily wheels in 1991, and towing with it. He moved away so don’t know what happened with it. My brother was sick in the back on his way back from footie training in 88!

  42. I love that bizarre photo at the top of the page!

    Did the Triumph and Rover 2000s REALLY invent a new segment? The P6 may have been a departure for Rover, but the Triumph was a direct replacement for the Vanguard Six, and had the same engine. Yes the Triumph was massively more appealing, but both cars seem to be aimed at a similar buyer

  43. The father of a school acquaintance of mine owned a very early Innsbruck facelift car which had an ARW ***B registration in the 1970’s. It had the Mk 1 dashboard and was originally monotone maroon or it was when I recall first seeing it.

    He managed to set fire to it whilst doing some repair/restoration work on it in the mid 1970’s. It lived again and emerged painted a bright white; not that long after he managed to set fire to it again and I think that was the end of it.

  44. Great memories shared by people remembering their Dad’s cars etc. I have owned four Triumphs over the years starting with a 1970 British racing green Mk II one, then a 1974 Mk II 2500 TC in Almond, followed by a 1977 light green Mk II with the early Stag hubcaps. I loved those cars but had to give up on Triumphs when child No 4 came along and I bought a Falcon wagon with a bench seat to fit us all in. Now days I have a NZ assembled 1979 2500S in red with 14″ Stag mag wheels as my hobby car. Great fun but I have been spoiled by driving more modern and efficient cars so going back to the Triumph does spoil ones rose tinted memories a bit.

    Driving one of these vehicles today after being used to modern vehicles like my MB E550 is a great lesson in how far forward car design has evolved. I drive the Triumph today and it feels slow, noisy and very thirsty. It makes me wonder how I used to cover distances so quickly that I did in my Triumphs when I was younger. Don’t get me wrong. I love the old girl but its not a car I would want to drive from A to B in a hurry today. That’s for sure. It is now a classic and I look after it as such getting great comments from people who stop and talk about when I’m out in public with it. It is such a shame Triumph came to such an ignominious end when it did.

    The SD1 Rover was a big step backwards from the P6 Rover and 2500 Triumph. No where near as sophisticated and nothing like as good looking.

    I’ve seen Triumphs in NZ fitted with the Rover V8 which fits in snugly. Now, if that could have been done in the factory as an option instead of using the Stag V8, maybe the reputation of Triumph that was lost with the Stag motor problems in the early days, then that could have been another very different story. Imagine Rover keeping with the large barge of the SD1 and Triumph continuing on with a mid size 2500 replacement with the 2.6 Triumph straight six and the 3.5 V8 which grew in size to 4,997 cc in the TVR Griffith and Chimaera. Being light and with the sort of power a 5 litre V8 produces the Triumph 5000 would have been a very different beast in deed.

  45. Here is what I cannot get over – a car company that is experiencing cash crunch decides to build a modern new model to replace two successful old models. How then did they reach the decision to give the new car an all new jurassic suspension? If money and cost was the issue, would it not have made more sense to adopt, adapt and carryover with few modifications, the existing, successful and might I add, very competent chassis of the Triumph 2500?? How do you go from independent all round suspension to using coil spring over live axle for a car that is suppose to fight the world’s best in the nearest future? The Triumph 2500’s suspension was ahead of its time, even if it lacked the expensive sophistication of the Rover P6’s De-dion suspension. I tend to believe the entire essence of a new model is to move forward technologically and if that objective could be attained by using an existing technology that has already been paid for, why delve into an unnecessary, expensive and retrogressive solution that would only end up being ineffectual?? Sometimes you wonder what demon was driving the decision making in BLMC?

    • Yes it seems a backwards step, but from what I remember the De-dion suspension took up a lot of space, which made the boot floor higher than it should have been.

      • Just watched Car SOS tonight on More4. As they said it was a brilliant car made bad by bean counters. Instead of taking what was good from both the old cars, they built a car to take the Granada on, not a quality motor test both the P6 and the 2000/2500 was.

  46. One thing puzzles me: the later Triumph 2000/2500 seem to have ridiculously low power outputs.

    The last 2500TC delivering a pathetic 106bhp. Compare that to a similar-era 2-litre Ford Pinto OHC as used in the Cortina/Granada/Capri/Escort, which made 98 or 101BHP depending on the exhaust manifolding.

    The Ford 1600 Pinto did 75BHP in Capris, Cortinas – the Escort Mexico Mk.2 got 90BHP from it, the Triumph 2000 only managed a smidgin over 80BHP.

    BMW’s E12 models – the 520 M20 ‘six’ did 122BHP and the 525 M30 145BHP. That’s on carbs, not injection.

    I know that the first 2000/2500 engines needed 5-star petrol, and that was phased out in the 70s – so were the later Triumph engines running with ‘soft’ valve timing and lower compression to cope?

    It seems odd…where did Triumph’s horses go?

  47. I seee..

    It does seem odd to me that Triumph went backwards in terms of power-output whereas other manufacturers went forwards.

    Think about it: The Maxi 1750 twin-carb E4 engine did 91BHP. The Landcrab/18-22/Princess 2.2 litre E6 did 110BHP. Neither of these were exactly examples of ‘aggressively sporty’ design or tuning, let’s face it.

    The Triumph engines therefore seem utter dullards in comparison with even Maxis and Landcrabs, which really explains why ‘sporting executive saloon’ buyers switched allegiance to 3- and 5-series BMWs.

    • I think it is because the I6 engine was an extremely old engine design, however when you think the same engine versions were more powerful in their sports cars. However they were probably tuned for performance I the sports car, while the saloons received a detuned version to improve fuel economy, which is not really a requirement in a sports car.

    • Perhaps Triumph were hoping a combination of the Slant-Four / V8 as well as fuel-injection for it and the I6 engines would solve their problems?

      Removing Rover from the equation at Leyland and its influence in the merged SD1 project, it does raise the question of what Triumph’s initial plans were for the I6. Did they plan to discontinue it in favour of the V8 or intend a low-cost OHC conversion that together with fuel-injection would prolong its life while they think up a replacement?

      If the latter would those two developments from the I6 have filtered down to updating the SC 4-cylinder for a similar stay of execution to cover the 1300-1500cc range (or lower if in position to pursue Ajax hatchback and supermini project)?

  48. I think that in the market where the 2000/2500 sat, going back to a 4-pot engine [even fuel-injected and/or OHC] would be seen as a prestige-downgrade; after all, when the Triumph and Rover 2000s were competing in the mid-60s the Rover engine [4-pot, OHC] was frequently criticised for its roughness compared to the Triumph I6.

    I could actually have seen a slant-six Triumph engine using Dolomite Sprint style four-valve technology and a capacity range of 2.0 to 2.6 litres having been an alternative development path to the PE166 “Triumph” engine in the SD1. They could probably have had it in production in the very-early-70s, to give a bit of stretch to the market life of the Innsbruck 2000/2500 which was starting to show its age by then. And done properly it could have both added some extra CCs and some extra verve to the TR7 (particularly in the US markets where the desmogged 2-litre Triumph engine’s power was rather wimpy) and salvaged the appalling reliability reputation the Stag V8 soon acquired.

    Think about the Nissan straight-six as used in the 240/260/280 cars-and how they became the natural successor for people who had once bought TRs.

    Fuel-injected/electronic-ignition [Bosch please not Lucas] 2600 4-valve-per-cylinder should be good for an easy 150-160BHP. Could have possibly also found its way into a version of the Dolomite Sprint in the same sense as the BMW 323i from the era.

    The idea of a V8 version using two slant-4 blocks [in essence] would be unappealing to me: I never really understood the ‘small V8’ mindset; you end up with lots of additional friction for a start, then there’s the increase in the number of component-parts needing to be sourced, machined, assembled, adjusted – all of which increases costs both in manufacture and subsequent servicing.

    The same goes for the Issigonis idea of small sixes in downmarket cars; the idea just doesn’t make practical sense. Triumph did a 1.6-litre six-cylinder version of the SC engine in the first Herald Vitesse. They soon realised that the cost of making a 1.6 was the same as that for making a 2.0 and the 2.0 could be sold for more!

    • I have been a passenger in a Datsun 280C Estate car in Iraq in 1979. Was spacious and comfortable on long journeys and interior engine sound was a nice rumble! The 280ZX (140bhp) was always an aspirational car for me… though seemingly not popular among motoring journalists

  49. It boils down to uncovering documents and anything else confirming Triumph were actually considering a six-cylinder derivative of the Slant Four / V8 family.

    The idea makes sense and perhaps it got lost in the chaos surrounding the takeover of Rover and merger with BMC, leaving only the first beginnings of PE166 as being most cost-effective when it was first conceived as a low-cost OHC conversion of the I6?

    The V8 was designed with a 4-litre limit that Saab used to develop its distantly linked Saab V8 decades later. Saab also enlarged the H engine to 2.3-litres equating to a 4.6-litre V8, with max total 93mm bore and 90mm stroke taking that to 2445cc equating to a 4891cc V8, would not be surprised to learn if there was potential for growth to 2.5-litres+ for the H engine from a brief look at the Saab forums.

    Maybe the likely rationale for why Triumph settled for a 2.5-litre (with FI) later 3.0-litre V8 was because they did not want to make a big leap from the 2500 to 4000 and were perhaps hoping to replace the aging SC with short-stroke FI-equipped 1.25-1.5-litre Slant Fours (instead of having to develop the floppy crank motors), which would have encroached on marques like Rover and to a lesser degree Jaguar.

    If the Austin Seven influenced Issigonis’s thinking with the 9X OHC engine, it is logical to assume he would have known how BMW used basically Seven tooling to create the BMW 3/20 OHV that soon evolved into the BMW 309 4-cylinder OHV and BMW M78 6-cylinder engines.

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