Triumph’s history was an interesting one but, following bankruptcy on the eve of World War II, it was left to The Standard Motor Company to pick up the baton and shape Triumph’s brave new world…
A potted history
(Picture, Our Warwickshire, copyright Graham Richardson)
Triumph was a relatively late entry into the arena in 1923, but the company had been a successful producer of motorcycles since 1901. The entry into car production was facilitated by the purchase of the recently defunct Dawson factory in Coventry and soon the first Triumph road car was launched.
It was the 1.4-litre Triumph 10/20 which lasted two years before the 1.9-litre Triumph 13/30 replaced it, in 1925. This car was notable for being the first British production car to be fitted with Lockheed external contracting hydraulic brakes.
The 832cc Triumph Super Seven was launched in 1928, which was a light and well-designed car, as was its replacement, the 1931 Scorpion, powered by an unusual 1.2-litre six-cylinder engine.
Triumphs get Coventry Climax power
The following year, the first Triumph powered by a Coventry Climax engine was launched, the Triumph Super Nine. The power unit used in this car was interesting for being overhead-inlet-side-exhaust configuration. After that, the Triumph Ten joined the Super Nine.
In 1934, Donald Healey joined the company as Chief Experimental Engineer and he pushed ahead with the two-litre, eight-cylinder, double overhead camshaft Dolomite sports car. It was noted by contemporaries that this car was an obvious plagiarism of the Alfa Romeo.
Whatever, the specification of this car was exceptionally advanced for its day. Unfortunately, this car did not prove popular and was only produced in small numbers, but it did lead to a family of Triumph engines, which were made available alongside the Coventry Climax unit.
Dolomite and Gloria expand the range
In 1937, the range had expanded to include the 1.5-litre Gloria and the four and six-cylinder variants of the Dolomite, which shared only their name with the Healey-designed straight eight of a couple of years before.
On the eve of the War in 1939, Triumph was declared bankrupt and it was not until 31 December 1945, that the Standard Motor Company paid £75,000 for the Triumph name (and goodwill). Now, Triumph amounted to little more than a defunct nameplate owned by the Standard Motor Company.
Once production resumed, all subsequent Triumph-badged cars built at the Standard factory in Canley were Standards through-and-through. The engineering behind the next generation of Triumphs was down to Harry Webster, who rose to prominence within the Standard Motor Company. The cars that initially sported the Triumph nameplate were the razor-edge 1800 saloon and roadster (the latter being infamous for being the last series production car to feature a dickey-seat).
Standard-Triumph’s brave new Vanguard
It was not long before the Standard Vanguard engine supplanted the Triumph units and, in 1949, these wet-liner engines were standardised across the range. In 1953, a 1991cc version of this was used in the first of the long line of Triumph TR sports models, the TR2.
Decendents of this car remained in production until the Harris Mann-penned Leyland devised TR7 took over the mantle in 1975. The 2.1-litre engine remained as part of the TR line until 1967, when the (ex-Vanguard) 2.5-litre straight six from the Triumph 2500 saloon replaced it.
Triumph saloon car production faltered in 1955, when the Razor-edged Renown saloon was phased out (but Canley was still occupied with the production of Standard Eights, Tens, Vans, Pickups and Companions).
Heralding a new start
The Triumph side of the business did not really pick up again until Standard’s replacement for the Eight – the unconventionally engineered Triumph Herald – was launched. Thankfully, this car was a great success and this popularity would lead to the adoption of the Triumph badge for all future Standard cars.
Triumph’s rise to prominence continued and, in 1959, a holding company called Standard-Triumph International was formed (where Standard was the manufacturing subsidiary). In 1961, Leyland engulfed Standard-Triumph and continued the policy (that was defined following the launch of the Herald) to badge all future products Triumphs, thereby laying to rest the Standard name…
…except, of course, in India!
Post-War Standard and Triumph models
This six-light four-door razor-edge saloon was introduced in 1946. Called the 1800, it was powered by an ohv version of the pre-war Standard 1.8-litre engine. In 1949, the model was named Renown and a long-wheelbase version remained in production until 1955. The wet-liner Standard Vanguard engine was fitted from 1949.
The first of many Vanguards – a car that has been described as the UK’s first attempt at a World car.
Little sister to the 1800 and Renown razor-edge saloons, this quality-built and individual car doesn’t yet seem to have achieved the cult car status predicted for it by some. The side-valve engine was donated from the pre-War Standard Flying 10.
First in a long line of Harry Webster-designed roadsters.
|Standard Vanguard II
Updated version of the long-running Vanguard line.
|8hp Standard Saloon
An economy Standard designed to compete against the Austin A30.
The Standard mainstay – although this new Ten sported a 948cc engine and higher equipment level. This bodyshell was also used for the Standard Eight De Luxe. Pennant (a restyled Ten) appeared in 1957.
|Standard Vanguard III/Ensign
The Vanguard became the Vanguard III when it adopted a monocoque body. Down-specced 1.6-litre Ensign appeared in 1957. Vanguard Six introduced in 1960.
A revised version of the Triumph TR2. The TR3A appeared in 1958.
Replacement for the Standard Eight, Ten and Pennant. Michelotti-styled and sporting a separate chassis, the Herald marked the point in Standard history where the cars would stop being marketed as Standards. Vitesse Six (Herald plus Vanguard Six engine) launched in 1962.
As per the TR3A, but with an enlarged 4 cylinder 2138cc engine and bodywork changes.
The Spitfire was Triumph’s answer to the Austin-Healey Sprite and MG Midget sports cars. Mechanically, it was based on the Triumph Herald. It had an 1147cc engine which produced 63bhp. GT6 derivative sported a pretty hardtop and in-line six-cylinder engine from the Triumph 2000.
Long-lived six-cylinder executive saloon car – Michelotti-styled replacement for the Standard Vanguard, using its in-line six-cylinder engine.
Compact luxury saloon, continuing the Michelotti/Webster theme so successfully employed across the rest of the Triumph range.
Six-cylinder version of the TR4A.
Karmann restyle of the TR5.
BLMC’s corporate sports car – Styled by Harris Mann, engineered by Spen King.
The first fruit of the collaboration between BL and Honda. Proved to be the last Triumph-badged car and was replaced by the Rover 200.
Written by Keith Adams, with reference to the Standard Motor Club’s website and Phil Seed’s Virtual Car Museum.
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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