It was funny seeing the Triumph SD2 in the metal again after all these years, rather a case of ‘hello again old friend’. Back in the early days of AROnline, when life was a lot simpler and it was called www.austin-rover.co.uk, I remember the joy I had in researching this car, meeting the people behind it and poring over the internal documents that costed its production down to the last penny. It was – I like to think – the signature car for this young and growing website as it represented one of those many lost opportunities that have been presented along the way.
After documenting the history of the SD2, I remember, back in 2004, organising our stand at the BMC/BL Rally in Peterborough – and deciding that we definitely positively had to have the that car as the centrepiece. I called BMIHT at Gaydon and explained my wishes: I wanted the SD2 on our stand and was it at all possible? Well, according to John Bishop it was – and, so on a hot summer’s day in August, we had the car on our stand and the crowds came flooding in. That’s when I realised that I wasn’t the only one to find the true intrigue of our story didn’t lie in the cars that you could buy, but the ones that never made it into your showroom.
Yes, I’d obsessed about cars like the SD2 and others such as the Issigonis 9X or Austin AR6, but I thought I was pretty much alone – a bit of a head case. Thanks to this website and, ultimately the community that built up around it, reassuringly I found I wasn’t alone. Of course, the irony of Peterborough 2004, and the guest appearance of the Triumph SD2 (as well as my Midas Gold SD1) was that it coincided with my annual family holiday, so I didn’t actually get to see the car on the field despite being so obsessed by the damned thing.
Still, Alexander Boucke and Declan Berridge looked after it perfectly well and photographed the car – while Brian Gunn took care of my SD1 – and when I returned home, it was good to see the web report already online and an inbox full of images. Luckily, on one of my then-regular trips to the Heritage Motor Centre, I was lucky enough to see the SD2 for myself and have a good poke around it in the process. Like most unfamilar or new cars, it looked a little disproportioned, disjointed and clumsily styled, and I did wonder how the hell it would ever have sold – especially as it was intended to replace the elegant Dolomite. However, the more I looked at it, the more I took time to accept and get used to its styling, the more I realised that this car really did have a lot of potential.
The next time I saw it was in the infamous ‘Gaydon by the bins’ incident, in 2007, when I stumbled across a number of priceless prototypes left out back to rot. Of course, they were there while new accommodation was found for them, but the sight of an AR6 (which none of the community knew existed at the time), ECV3 or 6R4 number one left outside, windows open, subjected to the full fury of the British weather, was too much to bear. I made a fuss in the press, upset Gaydon, and saw the cars’ transit into safe storage hastened. SD2 was one of those cars and, once again, I had a good old poke around, taking many more pictures at the same time. Again, I found myself really liking the look of that strange green hatchback.
But since then, I’ve not seen the Triumph SD2. So being reunited with it today was a fairly interesting experience – I guess, because it represents a major symbolic figure my last ten years’ work on this website. More than that, though, the emotions were mixed because, shining under the sun, in better condition than I’d ever seen it before, it looked like a winner that never was. I overheard some in the crowd criticising its gawkiness and felt close to telling them to take time to let it grow on them – because that’s how car styling generally works. First sight, followed by recognition, then familiarity – which, in the case of the SD2, was something I’d been through a decade ago.
Anyway, as I said, it was funny seeing that car again – it brought back many, many memories of what is undoubtedly a funny old world.