AROnline is obviously fixated on the past. This is probably understandable, given that the site was conceived to recall the history of Austin, Rover, Triumph, Jaguar et al and view their cars, not from how we consider them now, but how we rated them when new. So, you know the drill – the company’s products were often controversial, but it’s the cars that weren’t made that are truly interesting. I mean, here’s one worthy of conversation – the Triumph Bobcat.
First thing’s first – we don’t know an awful lot about this one as it stands right now. The image appears in the Giovanni Michelotti: A Free Stylist book, and it depicts a mid-sized four- or five-door fastback, very much in the mould of the Lancia Beta or Citroën GS/CX. What makes this particularly interesting is what this design was set to be.
According to site correspondent ‘Nate M’, this was a styling proposal for the short-lived Triumph Bobcat project. It was conceived in the late 1960s to replace the 1300/1500/Toledo as well as the upcoming Dolomite 1850HL and Sprint. He said: ‘I sent an email to Giovanni Michelotti’s son Edgardo, who runs the Archivio Storico Michelotti regarding the image and he pretty much confirmed the yellow prototype is indeed the Triumph Bobcat.’
So, what was Bobcat?
As you can probably guess given its feline-derived codename, it was conceived a little time after the Puma and original Lynx projects and would have been based on a platform which utilised elements from both of these cars. Former Triumph Engineer, Nigel Garton, confirmed that the Bobcat’s design process started in 1967, about a year after the Puma, and it didn’t progress very far beyond the drawing board.
‘We wanted to clean up the model range and rationalise it down to just three basic cars: Bobcat (1300 replacement), Puma (2000 replacement) and Lynx (GT6 replacement). They would have modern, Italian, styling, be conventionally engineered and powered by a new range of engines that had been developed from existing Triumph units.’
As the firm had moved away from front-wheel drive with the demise of the 1300, it’s logical to assume that it would be powered by an evolution of Triumph’s still-competitive 1300/1500cc ohv power unit as well as the upcoming slant-four being developed for the upcoming Dolomite 1850HL.
Where did the Italian style come in?
Given the close relationship between Triumph’s technical chief, Harry Webster, and Michelotti – as well as an impressive back catalogue of successful previous models, the Italian Designer was given an open invitation to work on a proposal for the Bobcat.
Working from a rough brief, the Italian came up with this interesting looking design which would have been a progressive offering from British Leyland to fight the upcoming onslaught of imports to land in the UK during the 1970s. Given its interesting styling (arguably better resolved in this very early proposal than what followed) and solidly capable underpinnings, it would be interesting to contemplate how a production version would compete against European rivals such as the Audi 80, Lancia Beta and Saab 99 had it made it into production, sometime around 1973.
Alas, though, that wasn’t to be. The Bobcat project was an early casualty of Triumph and Rover’s merger and subsequent absorption into the lumbering British Leyland empire. Once it was clear that the two companies would be pooling their model programmes under the auspices of the Specialist Division, the spirit of the Bobcat project could be revisited as the basis (at least in concept) as the Triumph SD2.
Do you think it could have saved Triumph had it gone into production?
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