Concepts and prototypes : Triumph-Morris TM1 (1975)

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

The Triumph-Morris TM1 was the last throw of the dice for the ill-fated SD2 platform, and the overall concept was extended to replace both the Morris Marina and Triumph Dolomite saloons in 1980.

Here’s a big update to our story, including a deep dive into the original product planning documents which were presented to the BL Board and upon which the decision on whether to put this interesting car into production would be based.


Triumph-Morris TM1: too little, too late

The Triumph SD2 was dead – long live the SD2. Well, almost… In September 1975, both this model development from Solihull and the ADO77 Morris Marina replacement programme from Longbridge had been canned in the interests of cost-cutting.

Post-Ryder Report, the Specialist Division of BLMC (Jaguar, Rover and Triumph, formed in 1968) and separate Austin-Morris divisions would fall into abeyance, after much early promise. They both became part of the all-encompassing ‘Leyland Cars’ division in 1975.

The Triumph-Morris TM1 project was the result. It was a car to replace both the Morris Marina and Triumph Dolomite. In essence, the car was almost pure SD2, a car close to Engineering Director, Spen King‘s heart, but in cheapened form, it would make an eminently suitable, conventionally engineered Marina replacement.

Triumph-Morris TM1: A life of just three months

History relates that the TM1 did not make it much further than the internal planning document (above) and, certainly, we have not been able to uncover any styling schemes for the Morris version of the car (the Triumph would have been almost pure SD2), let alone clay mock-ups or prototypes.

The decision to axe the TM1 was taken by Mark Snowdon in the closing months of 1975. He considered that the risk of introducing a technically conventional car in 1978/79 (assuming the project remained on schedule) and having BL fall behind its rivals was not acceptable.

The main conflict between the Austin-Morris and Rover-Triumph model ranges was around the Allegro/Marina/Dolomite/Maxi mid-market. This wasn’t helped by the fact there was already a front-wheel-drive Maxi/Allegro replacement in development at the hands of Gordon Bashford and Spen King.

According to the product planning document, under timings, the TM1 would hit the market in 1980.

Giving way to the Longbridge LC10 programme

However, in the event, Snowdon’s decision to kill the TM1, and the idea of separate engineering autonomy for Solihull, was fundamentally correct. Even the most pessimistic Product Planners within BL would never have believed that the front-wheel-drive car would take so long to appear, though.

That car was known as the ADO99, which became the LC10, which became the LM10, and eventually emerged in March 1983 as the Austin Maestro – almost eight years after it was conceived.

Here are extracts from the model range document, as published internally in September 1975 – if nothing else, they give a fascinating insight into the development of new model concepts.


TM1 model range concept: Introduction

British Leyland now offers two rear-wheel-drive saloons of much the same size – the Marina and the Triumph Toledo/Dolomite range. Both have serious product deficiencies compared to competition and neither sells in significant volume outside of the UK.

Under the earlier BLMC organisation, Rover-Triumph and Austin-Morris divisions separately identified their requirements for replacement models. Both proposals were for very similar vehicles, especially in size and package.

Proposals were made to develop these vehicles with some commonality, but no firm plan was adopted and the development of the Triumph replacement (SD2) went ahead on its own. Nevertheless, the case for commonality has remained a strong one, even though in the United Kingdom the current models compete in largely different market sectors.

Moreover, recent events have made it clear that resources do not exist to develop two separate models in reasonable time. The proposal has, therefore, been made that a joint programme (TM1) be undertaken to give the Marina and Triumph small car replacements. This paper describes the proposal.

Strengths and weaknesses of current model ranges

Competition between BL models

Only in the low-volume specialist sector is British Leyland represented by a single model line, the Dolomite Sprint. In the intermediate and High-Line sectors (representing in 1975 over 37% of TIV) BL has four model lines competing directly.

Strength of Marina in A and B sectors

Super Marina models have been the best-selling cars in the intermediate sector since 1973. The DeLuxe model is also strong in sector A though outsold by smaller models such as Viva and Escort.

Illogical Allegro/Marina relationship

Although the Allegro is a smaller car than the Marina with a lower base price for the range, Allegro Highline derivatives actually outsell Marina by more than 2 to 1. By contrast, in 1.3 DeLuxe form, Marina heavily outsells the Allegro.

Triumph models competing in volume sector

The Triumph Toledo has held a healthy share of sector B (the 1975 figures being depressed by supply problems) competing directly with the Austin Morris products.

Failure of Marina TC in High-line sector

Marina is the only BL car that can be regarded as a direct competitor to the Cortina in sector C but has achieved less than 10% of Cortina volume.

By product actions prior to TM1 announcement (Triumph small car realignment and ADO73 Marina facelift) some of the UK market weaknesses summarised above will be reduced. However, it requires a new model programme to make a major improvement in BL’s place in the medium saloon market.


Sales performance – Export

Neither the Marina nor the Triumph small cars have made any significant impact in export markets, often despite the extremely competitive market prices that have been set. In Europe, low volumes are partly due to general weaknesses in the BL marketing organisation.

In addition the Triumph marque name has a very poor reputation due to historic service and quality problems. The overlap of Marina with Allegro is also more significant in Europe where a one-franchise system is in operation.

In overseas territories the unsuitability of the Marina under arduous operating conditions has restricted its volume to markets where good road conditions prevail. In the USA, Marina cannot be sold at a satisfactory profit and will be withdrawn by the end of the 1976 model year at the latest.

Product Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths Weaknesses
Marina Good performance with 1300 engine, good fuel economy with all models, good luggage capacity. Handling and ride improved with ADO73 introduction, but still below competitive standards, large gap between 1.3 and 1.8 engine, less modern style than competitors.
Triumph
small cars
Very complete specifications especially on Dolomite models, good interior design and driving position, good performance – Dolomite, exceptional performance – Sprint, good economy – all models. Dated styling, limited interior space and poor boot volume, suspension performance not particularly good for class of car (particularly Sprint).

This table summarises the major strengths and weaknesses of the current model range which a replacement model must either develop or overcome. In addition to these design items, a very real improvement in quality and reliability will be necessary for the full potential of a new model to be fulfilled. This is particularly vital for export territories where the current products have a bad reputation in this respect.


Proposed strategy for TM1

From a consideration of product strengths and weaknesses of the Marina and Triumph small cars, and of competitive developments, a strategy has been evolved for the replacement of medium saloon model range (TM1) to meet the needs of British Leyland through the 1980s.

The proposal for a joint development of the Morris and Triumph models, with a high degree of commonality, using the work so far done on the Triumph model as a basis. The major points of strategy are:

Larger size and improved package

The proposed overall dimensions for the TM1 are 168-inches in length and 68-inches in width (which compares with 169×64.5-inches for the ADO73 and 162×62-inches for the Triumph). The reasons for setting these dimension targets are:

  • To be competitive in all general aspects of size.
  • To provide a substantial increase in rear shoulder room, which now compares unfavourably to the competition.
  • To provide a viable model in the 1.6 – 2.0 higher-specified range, where the Marina is currently very weak.
  • To provide overall interior space and luggage room fully competitve with other specialist saloons.
  • To provide the basis for a competitve style.
  • To make a visually larger car to reduce overlap with the Allegro.

Requirements for increased mechanical sophistication

It is proposed that the TM1 range should be engineered to very high standards of refinement, safety, ride, handling and roadholding. The reasons for setting high standards, and consequent acceptance of additonal design costs, are to address the weaknesses of the Marina and Triumph small car range.

This strategy implies that the Morris version should match the standards required for Triumph and would be expected to be in advance of current volume competition. However, recent new model introductions show that, in the volume markets of the 1980s, high standards should be designed into the model from the beginning.

Higher standards of quality and reliability are a major requirement for both models, as current products do not have a high reputation in these respects. Improvements are included as a major item in the product strategy because they are so critical to the acceptance and success of the new model. It is proposed that the same standards should be applied to both Morris and Triumph versions.

Reduced overlap with Allegro

It is apparent that a more logical range structure avoiding direct price competition between models of similar specification levels is necessary to give British Leyland its most effective market position. This shift in position is very important for British Leyland in several respects:

It gives a complementary model range, important whatever the franchise structure, but vital if a move is eventually made to a single line franchise in the UK.

With a single franchise already operational in export territories, a complementary product line up is a vital requirement for gaining new business and for reducing operating costs (spares stocking etc.), particularly in relation to the limited dealer network and selling effort required.

The opportunity is given for the Allegro and its successor to attain the sales volume which potentially exists for such a model.

Richer model mix

By making the new Marina a more viable model in 1600-2000cc higher-specified versions, considerable opportunities exist for carrying existing owners upmarket and for conquest business from owners of competitive models currently in that sector. This will more than compensate for the probable loss of some sales in the lower profit 1300 sector, although even here the loss should not be substantial and the Allegro can be expected to absorb some of the volume, since removal of price competition with the Marina will allow more selling effort in Allegro in this market segment,

The profit potential of this move in the UK market can be illustrated by comparison of BL’s penetrations with Cortina. Although the Cortina price band is similar to the current BL models, the majority of its sales occur at higher prices within the range. The average selling prices are: Marina and Triumph, £1631, Cortina, £1731.


Opportunities in Export markets

International division marketing have identified substantial volume opportunities for the new range both in markets where Marina or Triumph small cars are currently exported, and in new markets where the vehicle potential would justify a new marketing effort.

In Europe, potential sales, as with the whole British Leyland range, will depend on the success of efforts being made to raise British Leyland’s image and dealer strength. Provided this can be achieved, the concept of TM1, its marketing position, competitiveness and model range should give the corporation a major opportunity to reduce its dependence on the UK market.

In Rest Of World territories, TM1, particularly with its much improved suspension, is seen as having far more potential than Marina, provided that the required durability standards under arduous operating conditions can be maintained. The new model will allow BL to enter new markets where the current Marina is unsuitable.

In the major territories of Australia, Canada and South Africa, TM1 is also seen as a very competitive addition to the BL line-up. In the United States, the sub-compact sector is expected to be very strong in the 1980s with all the US domestic manufacturers offering small saloon models. It is planned to offer the Triumph TM1 model as a specialist alternative to domestic offerings and also to provide a potential trade up for TR7 owners seeking a four-seater saloon.


Risks involved in the new strategy

Required product standards not achieved

It is vital that TM1 meets 1980s standards of ride, handling, refinement, comfort and styling. Achievement of conquest sales, particularly in export territories, depends on the expectations of the model being fulfilled. The next section describing in detail the TM1 specification includes an analysis of the areas where there are some risks in not achieving the standards.

Improvements in quality and reliability not achieved

As outlined in previous sections, major improvements over current models are crucial to the success of TM1. Again, these factors are particularly important in export markets.

Retention of existing Marina and Toledo owners in the UK

The upmarket movement of TM1 in size, sophistication and model range implies that the loyalty of the owners of the cheapest Marina and Toledo models will be severely strained by the jump in price required to purchase a new Morris or Triumph TM1 equivalent.

The TM1 strategy assumes that losses at the lower end of the range will be more than countered by a considerable increase in strength at the top end, but a reasonable degree of carryover business will reduce the risks associated with gaining volume from competition.

It is particularly important that product and marketing actions on Allegro should be taken to strengthen its position in the cheaper end of the 1300 market left by TM1.


Adoption of SD2 as a basis for TM1

This paper has so far outlined the market and product background, and evolved a strategy for an ideal corporate medium car line for the 1980s. A Triumph small car replacement, SD2, has been under development for three years and possesses the following major features:

  • Overall length 167.5in
  • Overall width 67.9in
  • Five-door fastback style
  • Engine range 1500cc-2000cc, 16-valve, fuel injection
  • Refined suspension system using MacPherson struts and well-located live rear axle

It is considered that this vehicle possesses all the basic characteristics required for a new Marina replacement as outlined in the strategy paper. The adoption of the existing SD2 design as the basis for the Marina replacement involves an assessment of the advantages and disadvantages discussed above.

With regard to the fact that the SD2 was originally designed as a specialist car, the following point should be noted: considerable redesign of the body shell has already been undertaken to make it suitable for high-volume production, using a multi-welded floor structure and gateline body assembly.

The advantages are considered to far outweigh the disadvantages. It is considered that the SD2 can form the basis of a new corporate medium car line which will meet the required model strategy in a cost effective way, and that the adoption will have significant advantages in timing and use of resources.


Exterior Styling

Triumph five-door

Style as already approved for the SD2 range: overall styling has a ‘family’ resemblance to the SD1, but maintains a distinctive appearance. Very low bonnet line (lower than TR7) and high penetration nose shape with integral front spoiler.

Lower and wider car than current models giving a more modern sporting appearance and improved rear seat width. Deep front and rear bumpers integrated into the shape of the car. Six-light hatchback with unique rear-end treatment incorporating enclosed wheelarches.

Morris four-door and Estate

Triumph-Morris TM1: Purely speculative computer image of how the TM1 saloon may have looked when considering the description of the car detailed below. The Triumph TM1 would have been pure SD2. Given the way the styling scheme for the car has been devised, it may have proven difficult for the Morris version to have looked vastly different from the Triumph variant
Purely speculative computer image of how the TM1 saloon may have looked when considering the description of the car detailed below. The Triumph TM1 would have been pure SD2. Given the way the styling scheme for the car has been devised, it may have proven difficult for the Morris version to have looked vastly different from the Triumph variant

Common sheet metal with the Triumph version from the B/C post forward. Common roof panel. Unique four-door notchback and estate car rear ends. Unique front grille, headlamp and bumper treatments.

Dependent upon the achievement of an acceptable Morris style, it is considered that this proposal will provide the best compromise between maintaining a high level of differentiation for Morris and Triumph models and achieving major advantages in reducing build complexity and body tooling costs.

The striking appearance of the cars combined with the functional advantages of a low drag co-efficient should enable the styles to remain competitive with 1980s competition, and establish a distinctive ‘high-style’ image for British Leyland RWD saloons.


Engine usage

Morris TM1 versions – engines and trim variations

The Morris range will comprise of:

  • 1.3 four-door Base
  • 1.7 four-door Base
  • 1.8 four-door Diesel
  • 1.3 four-door Super
  • 1.7 four-door Super
  • 1.7 TC four-door HL
  • 2.0 TC four-door HL
  • 1.7 Estate Base
  • 1.7 Estate Super

The engine range will comprise of:

  • 1300cc uprated A-Series
  • 1700 and 2000cc O-Series in twin-carburettor form
  • 1700cc single-carburettor
  • A federalised single-carburettor 2000cc version will be offered
  • 1800cc B-Series diesel

The 1800 Diesel will provide an important additional model in the range, but its inclusion will be subject to a separate justification dependent on the engine build capacity available.

Triumph TM1 versions – engines and trim variations

The Triumph range will consist of:

  • 1.5 five-door
  • 1.7 TC five-door
  • 2.0 TC five-door
  • 2.0 16V five-door

The engine range will comprise of:

  • 1500cc Triumph OHV
  • 1700 and 2000cc O-Series in twin-carburettor form
  • Triumph slant-four 2000cc 16V with Bosch fuel injection

The 1500cc Triumph version is proposed as an interim model only to assist in retaining current small car owners after the Triumph version is launched. Alternative specifications using the 1700 O-Series will be investigated.


Triumph-Morris TM1: Performance

Project TM1 0-60mph 30-50mph (in top) Maximum speed
Morris 1.3 16.7 secs 11.3 secs 92 mph
1.7 13.4 secs 8.6 secs 100 mph
1.7 HL 12.8 secs 8.7 secs 102 mph
2.0 HL 11.6 secs 8.8 secs 106 mph
1.7 Est 13.7 secs 8.9 secs 100 mph
Triumph 1.5 14.2 secs 10.5 secs 98 mph
1.7 12.8 secs 8.7 secs 102 mph
2.0 TC 11.6 secs 8.8 secs 106 mph
4v PI 8.1 secs 8.6 secs 122 mph

Most TM1 models offer competitive performance, but the following points must be raised: the proposed 1300 model is fully competitive in performance, but it is essential that the uprated A-Series engine meets its 67bhp target.

The Triumph 1500 model is somewhat uncompetitive, but it is proposed to be phased out after a relatively short time. The 2000 16-valve PI Triumph is unlikely to be equalled at its price. To continue the current model policy the larger-engined models will feature high gearing for maximum fuel economy.


Triumph-Morris TM1: Timing Plan

Triumph Lynx
Triumph Lynx

A study of the timing implications show that the earliest date by which a UK and European public announcement could be achieved is March 1980. The originally identified public announcement date of September 1979 is now not achievable for the following reason:

The re-introduction of the Lynx programme as priority over both Triumph and Morris versions of TM1 necessitate a six-month delay in completing the engineering programme for the Triumph version, due to limitations in resources. These same engineering resources are also required for the Morris version which there cannot be completed until 12 months after the Triumph car. This 12-month interval will obviously be reflected in the timing of all other critical path activities.

Engineering has advised parameters to achieve this programme, the main factors being:

  1. That no major changes or slippage occurs in the Lynx programme
  2. That no major specification changes or slippage occurs in the TM1 Triumph programme – ie., continues to the currently identified specifications
  3. That outstanding details of the specifications are finalised by the end of April 1976
Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
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21 Comments

  1. Maybe this model should have been launched around 1978? That would have given time for ARG to develop the Maestro/Montego with Roy Axe in charge of styling. Also the model may have been the basis for a continuation of a rear drive model to compete with BMW 3 series into the 90’s? If SD1 had been rebodied as a 5 series competitor in 1986 then Rover Triumph would have had 2 rear drive platforms. Maybe a better bet than the 800 seruies although I liked that car a lot!

  2. This is a fascinating document – a real insight into product planning, and into the quest to resolve the issues created by the 1968 merger

  3. yes like the Talbot Tagora, and a bit of Peugeot 305. Presumably computer generated by the author and possibly nothing like it might have been.

  4. Interesting read, would it have cut it alongside the Sierra/Cavalier etc in the 80s? If thats the intened market.

    No projected performance figures for the 1.8 B Diesel, however… slow I’d imagine, but a few years later maybe the Prima could’ve slotted in nicely.

  5. Would have been a waste of time launching this car in the early 80’s, the Cavalier and Sierra would have had it for breakfast. If they could have got their fingrs out and brought it to the market in 76/77 – at the same time as the MK4 Cortina, it would have been competitive. It would also have made sense to can the in-between Princess and let TM1 attack the Cortina and the Rover SD1 attack the Granada.

  6. Re #7:

    You got the Ital because every last bean had been thrown at the SD1. By the time that was finished, there was only enough money left for one new body – Edwards decided we’d rebuild the range from the bottom, so you got the Metro. The ADO 73 had to soldier on until we could afford the Montego. Hence, the ADO 73 1980 F/L aka Ital.

  7. I have to say the ADO77 photo looks nicer than the TM1. Also the ADO77 would have looked better than the ITAL, even in its preliminary form.

  8. The real sad part of all of this is that Leyland Australia already had a Marina replacement (P82) well on the way featuring an all alloy V6. Shame the powers to be couldn’t see what great work the Aus factory had done with rear wheel drive.

  9. Two Questions about the TM1 project.

    1) Regarding the Morris TM1 why did they omit the 1.5 E-Series unit from the line-up, which had TM1 been given the go-ahead would have left a gap between the 1.3 A-Series and 1.7 O-Series Morris-badged models?

    Was it simply to prevent the 1.5 E-Series (at least in 77 bhp form) from overshadowing the (65-71 bhp) 1.5 Triumph OHV unit that was to power Triumph’s TM1 or was the company still operating from the delusional belief that there was still not enough spare E-Series units available?

    2) Regarding the Triumph TM1, what alternative specifications did the company look into with the 1700 “O” Series?

  10. “History relates that Snowdon’s decision was fundamentally correct”
    I’m not sure that’s the case. A 1979 rwd Cortina/Cavalier rival would have been very competitive, and the rwd Sierra wasn’t replaced until the early 90s.

    Moreover, the likes of the 3 series BMW are still RWD 40 years later! Jaguar’s new compact saloon will also be RWD

  11. Dolomite weaknesses:

    “suspension performance not particularly good for class of car (particularly Sprint).”

    That’s a bit rich when comparing it to the Marina which was totally lambasted by almost everyone who ever drove one! Without a doubt the worst handling and roadholding on any car I have ever driven was my dad’s Marina 1.3HL on 145 section tyres. Laughable roadholding and the handling so bad that you were never sure which end of the car would go through the hedge first. It would have been funny if the damn thing hadn’t tried to kill me three or four times in the wet at very moderate speeds.

    Just to put this in perspective, while my dad had a Marina 1.3, I had a Dolomite 1500HL, and given the choice, I would never drive the Marina.

    Also, the Dolomite was always a significantly smaller car than the Marina. The Dolomite was a full 4″ shorter and 2″ narrower than the Marina although the wheelbase was identical.

    Typical BL 70s bodgery trying to mate an apple and a banana to make a kumquat.

  12. Always thought the Marina was quite a poor chassis. Was my first regular drive. In 1984, I shared my mothers 1976 1.3 series 2 Estate in Brooklands Green with brown vinyl seats. Was properly slow and didn’t ride or handle particularly well. Having said all that I don’t recognise it as dangerous.

    I moved on to an ’82 mark 3 escort and it certainly was on a different planet.

    2 years later I was dropped back into the Marina. It hadn’t improved with age…..

  13. Triumph was allowed to die in the late seventies, which was a real shame considering such excellent cars they had at the start of the seventies like the 2000, which was as well loved as the Rover 2000 and a quieter car to drive. The Dolomite was also a fine car in the early seventies, but by the end of the decade was very out of date, even if it was a better car than its Austin Morris siblings.

  14. Should have been launched in 1980 instead of the Ital. The Sierra was RWD & lasted until 1993 so even if TM1 would have put back development of an FWD replacement, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.
    Maybe it would have run until AR17 (montego with Rover 800 dtyling cues) was introduced. That way we wouldn’t have had a Montego with styling compromised by its Maestro underpinnings nor a Rover 400 saloon pretending to be a Montego successor until the 600 came along.

    • Maybe you should have given us the money? You clearly have little idea of just how much it cost to design, tool, and produce, a new body. We simply didn’t have any money. We just about managed LC8 – and that was with a largely carry-over powertrain. Anything beyond that was out of the question.

  15. Considering that development of SD2 had started in 1972 (i.e. 3 years previously) I really don’t understand why it would take another 5 years to get the first version of TM1 into production, when it would look the same as SD2 anyway!

    It’s not as if it would introduce radical new technology, most of the oily bits needed already existed or would be ready by 1978 (the O series engine), SD1 and TR7 had RWD chassis to steal from etc

  16. I agree if this had been launched in 1980 it would have been behind then curve, although as noted above not that much relative to cars like the 82 RWD Pinto engined Sierra. But why would it have taken that long to bring it to the market from 1975? The Marina went from zero to launch in only 2 years. With TM1 they had the platform and power train all sorted and the benefit of several years SD2 development. Why couldn’t they have done another Marina in 2 years from that point? Launched in 1977 it would have hit the market at more or less the same time as the Mk4 Cortina and would have been exactly what the market was looking for at that time.

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