Concepts and prototypes : Triumph 1300

The 1300 was a vitally important car for Triumph.

It is clear from the number of attempts to get the styling right that the company wasn’t taking any chances – and Michelotti obliged by producing a fantastic looking product.


Michelotti styling sketches

The styling of the bottom model clearly made it to the full-scale stage (see below), but the top model didn't - but that car bears a striking resemblance to the Stag at the rear...
The styling of the bottom model clearly made it to the full-scale stage (see below), but the top model didn't - but that car bears a striking resemblance to the Stag at the rear...
Conceptual drawings bear a striking resemblance to the TR sportscar range...
Conceptual drawings bear a striking resemblance to the TR sportscar range...

Nearing completion

Ajax was drawn up in a very short amount of time by Michelotti, and as can be seen from this early proposal, a rather TR4-like front end was investigated.
Ajax was drawn up in a very short amount of time by Michelotti, and as can be seen from this early proposal, a rather TR4-like front end was investigated.
The rear view of the clay Ajax shows many similarities to the final, production Triumph 1300. At this stage in development, a two-door version was still on the cards. As it was initially drawn up as a replacement for the Herald, the two-door bodywork was deemed important to the model.
The rear view of the clay Ajax shows many similarities to the final, production Triumph 1300. At this stage in development, a two-door version was still on the cards. As it was initially drawn up as a replacement for the Herald, the two-door bodywork was deemed important to the model.

Thanks to Ian Nicholls and Graham Arnold for the pictures

Keith Adams
Latest posts by Keith Adams (see all)

6 Comments

  1. The original project was code named “Manx” due to the lack of a tail. Later in life there was an AP 4 speed auto prototype built, I’ve not seen that reported anywhere!

    • Have heard of the dealer networking requesting an automatic version in Triumph 1500 form that was ruled out as impossible without substantial modifications to the car, though nothing about using the AP Automatic transmission.

      Also read of a hotter version of the 1500 or Toledo being considered before til it was canned though it is not clarified whether it would have received the 71 hp 1500 Spitfire spec engine, some significantly more potent version of the 1500cc Triumph unit or a version of the 1709cc Triumph-Saab Slant-Four used in the Saab 99 (perhaps even a Sprint spec 16-valve variant putting out some 105+ hp).

      • When the Saab 1700 engine was being developed an Ajax was fitted with one. The block had the same ‘footprint’. The Saab, of course, also had a version of the Ajax transaxle, albeit turned through 180 degrees. I briefly travelled in the auto 1300, and have vague memories of smooth changes – but then it was being driven by my father, Harry, who was a development engineer at Triumph. He could make most cars feel good! He also took an Ajax fitted with a 70X motor from a Le Mans Spitfire to the car’s launch, but journo Barrie Gill was unable to keep it running for long (it oiled plugs if revs were allowed to drop). That WAS a hot variant, with around 110hp but entirely unsaleable. Finally, the Le Mans Spits were fitted with the first 8 port heads, developed for the 1300

        • Interesting, was it feasible for the 1700 engine to be mounted in the FWD Ajax or only in RWD form like on the Dolomite? Additionally did Triumph ever investigate a Dante Giacosa inspired transverse / end-on gearbox arrangement for the FWD 1300/1500?

          While the Triumph/Saab engine was reputedly capable of displacing around 1250-2000cc in 4-cylinder form (other sources say 1200-1300cc) and 2500-4000cc in V8 form, am fascinated by how much scope was left in further developing the 2.5-litre Triumph inline-6 and 1.5-litre Triumph inline-4.

          Apart from the proposed low-cost OHC conversions for both that led to the PE146/PE166, in the case of the inline-6 have read claims there was unrealised potential for it to be enlarged from 2.5-litres to 2.7-litres.

          While in the case of the inline-4 it could have reputedly been capable of further enlargement to 1.55-1.6-litres had it not been a victim of cost-cutting via downgraded steel used in crank (from EN40B to EN16U), featuring recessed bores (thereby limiting the safe over boring to 20thou) and sharing a heavier crankshaft with larger diameter yet narrower bearing and other elements shared with the 6-cylinder engine in order to rationalise machining operations and create the infamous floppy crank engines.

          One could argue about the necessity of the 1300-1500 Triumph inline-4 growing to 1600cc even without being hamstrung by the floppy crank motors and other questionable developments, yet it could see it playing a valuable role.

          That said there were apparently plans to develop 4-cylinder versions of the PE146/PE166 inline-6 in place of the cost-cutted and underdeveloped Slant-Four which would have potentially replaced by the 1300-1500 Triumph engines though that came to nothing.

  2. “The Saab, of course, also had a version of the Ajax transaxle, albeit turned through 180 degrees.”

    This was mentioned some time ago in a Classic and Sportscar article on the Saab 99.

    It was mentioned again in this more recent article:

    https://www.classicandsportscar.com/features/separated-birth-saab-99-vs-triumph-dolomite

    Thought it must have been a mistake. It had been my belief that the transmission was considered weak in the 1300 and later fwd 1500 and that Saab would hardly have used it in a heavier car with a larger capacity engine, especially one that was later to feature a turbocharged 2-litre unit. I asked about it on a Saab forum. Nobody on that forum thought it likely, either.

    Now I know the truth. Such a shame that BL didn’t make use of the slant four in a longitudinal fwd arrangement.

    • Given the FWD Triumph 1300/1500 was a product in need of replacing by the late-60s to early-70s (notwithstanding Bobcat) and Saab themselves needed a smaller more Escort-sized equivalent of the Saab 99 to replace the aging Saab 96, could both parties have come to a further agreement on a joint replacement powered by smaller displacement versions of the Slant-Four as low as 1200-1300cc+ (chaos at BL aside) or would it have been more expedient to utilize modified FWD Triumph 1300/1500 underpinnings (with some carryover from the Saab 99) adapted for Slant-Four engines as the basis for such a car?

      Sixten Sason drew up a design proposal in the 1960s for a new smaller 99 theme car to presumably be a direct replacement for the 96 in Lance Cole’s book on Saab, which opens up a potential opportunity to develop a joint-project with Triumph.

      One thing that is perplexing regarding the smaller Slant-Fours would be how earlier prototype versions by Ricardo/Saab at 55 hp 1300cc and 68 hp 1500cc displacements do not appear to be an improvement over the existing 58-71 hp Triumph 1296/1493cc engines in terms of power, despite hearing rumours of a 1500cc Slant-Four later being developed for the Triumph SD2.

Add to the debate: leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.