Amberley Publishing - Transport, Military, Local and General History

Tag Archives: Triumph

  • Triumph 1300 to Dolomite Sprint by Kevin Warrington

    For as far back in history as I can discover, my family’s heritage has had some connection with transport; originally with horses and for the last one hundred years, what is now usually called “The Motor Trade”. Even though my own career choice took me into the high tech realms of computers, I’ve always had an interest in motor vehicles that seems to have stalled with the models from my youth and which are now cherished classic cars. Passing my driving test in 1974 at the first attempt and almost the earliest opportunity, my choice of transport was limited to the banger end of the market, but my attention was quickly drawn to some of my more affluent friends who were running models produced by Triumph. This was to be the beginnings of an enthusiasm that has now lasted for over forty years.

    The front quater view of the 1300 shows the family resemblance with the larger 2000. (Triumph 1300 to Dolomite Sprint, Amberley Publishing)

    With the aid of Hire Purchase, I stretched my apprentice’s wage to buy myself a slightly used Triumph 1300; somewhat more prestigious than the cars driven by my friends. Of course, I couldn’t afford it so the car stayed in my ownership for a very short period, but the seeds of enthusiasm for the products from Triumph were sown. Along the way, I have owned a couple of classic Triumphs from the 1970s and found myself editing club magazines which led to an approach from Amberley initially to create a book on the Triumph “big saloon” – the 2000 / 2500 (Triumph 2000 – Defining the Sporting Saloon). Clearly, Amberley were happy with the result as they were quickly back asking me for a further title. It would be a second Triumph model range and the one that had always fascinated me was the middle market 1300 which morphed into the Toledo and Dolomite, staying in production for far longer than the planners could ever have considered.

     

    With substantially more power, the Vitesse filled the market requirement for a quality two-door car, thus allowing the 1300 to focus on the four-door market. (Triumph 1300 to Dolomite Sprint, Amberley Publishing)

    Triumph as a brand and company itself is a fascinating story of sequentially grasping success from the jaws of failure and clever engineering innovation developed on a shoestring. The first iteration of the company went out of business in 1939, was rescued by the Standard Motor Co. in 1945, it nearly went bust again at the beginning of the 1960s and was rescued by Leyland Motors who were later encouraged into a mega merger with BMC to create British Leyland. And we all know how that ended.

    But the 1300 was a success story that deserves to be told. Taking a different approach to the mechanical layout for front wheel drive as defined by Alec Issigonis with his Mini and 1100 designs for Austin and Morris, Triumph employed the leading Italian stylist Giovanni Michelotti for the overall design of the car which resulted in an attractive package that sold at a premium in the market for medium sized family cars. A larger engined model was soon offered and then something most unusual happened. With the market heading towards front wheel drive, Triumph converted their car to rear wheel drive with the launch of the Toledo model.

    The convertible option was always popular. (Triumph 1300 to Dolomite Sprint, Amberley Publishing)

    In parallel, development work was taking place on a new range of engines to power Triumph models into the future. One of these was a modular four-cylinder engine that was, in essence, half of the engine that provided power for Triumph’s flagship model, the Stag. This engine was first used by Triumph in a revision of the 1300 / Toledo model range that was launched with a model name that was borrowed from Triumph’s heyday in the 1930s – Dolomite. In the background, the business was in turmoil following the British Leyland formation with Triumph managers being moved to the volume Austin – Morris division and senior staff from the former rival Rover Company taking control at Triumph. The designers knew that the new engine had the capability to develop more power and investigated ways in which to achieve this. Multiple inlet and exhaust valves had been used by other car makers to extract more power, but such installations were expensive to implement and in the case of the Triumph engine would have required extensive redesign. Instead, an ingenious solution was adopted by Triumph in the engine that would power the famed Dolomite “Sprint” model and an explanation of how this was achieved is contained in the book.

    With the model range having now long exceeded its original design life, some commentators thought the car was looking decidedly old fashioned but it continued to sell in volumes acceptable to the management. Despite a series of aborted attempts, there was no funding to provide a replacement model with the Dolomite range soldiering on to remain as one of the last Triumph designed models to be built.

    The first 2000 Dolomite Sprint cars were finished in Mimosa Yellow, a colour more usually associated with Triumph's sports car range. (Triumph 1300 to Dolomite Sprint, Amberley Publishing)

    Triumph as a brand name suggests sporting success and while one might normally consider the more overtly sporting models such as the TR or Spitfire to take the honours in this arena, the original 1300 had great success, although only for a short time, in the new sport of Rallycross but it was the Dolomite that was to gain sporting honours for Triumph both in rallying and saloon car racing.

    Triumph 1300 to Dolomite Sprint tells the whole story from a brief background on the origin of the business, the route from rescue in 1945 to the introduction of the 1300 model and the full story of the evolution into the final “Dolly Sprint” models. Lightly interwoven within the model evolution is the inevitable business politics that help to understand with hindsight the issues that confronted the British car industry during the 60s and 70s. We look at the abandoned plans to replace the model and conclude with a section on the success of the cars in motor sport. Each model type is illustrated with photographs of cars on display at various shows across the country and interspersed with reproductions of Triumph’s original press and marketing material, the motor sport section also includes a selection of images from the collection of former Triumph works driver, Brian Culcheth.

    Kevin Warrington's new book Triumph 1300 to Dolomite Sprint is available for purchase now.

  • Triumph 2000: Defining the Sporting Saloon by Kevin Warrington

    Is a simple form of transport a reflection of one’s personality?

    For many people a motor car is not just a simple means of personal transport, it is a reflection of who they are and of their status in life. Today, the prestige market for “executive” saloon cars is dominated by three German manufacturers: BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. But in the early 1960’s, certainly in the United Kingdom, the market was very different with local manufacturers having a near monopoly on supply and the market segmented very differently. Small family cars, a result of the helter skelter, stop go economy and fuel crisis brought on by the Anglo-French “Suez Adventure” were becoming popular. At the high end, well-appointed large motor cars with engines of around 3 litres and interiors finished more like country house drawing rooms than a car. In the middle sat a range of unadventurous and mundane models that, by repute, rusted before they left the production line and while they performed the task demanded of them, were neither adventurous or stylish.

    triumph-2000-1 Shown here is a Mark 2 model, a car that was to gain a slightly undesirable reputation as being the 'get away' car of choice for armed robbers. (Triumph 2000, Amberley Publishing)

    All this was to change in 1963 when the rival businesses of Standard -Triumph and The Rover Car Company each announced a new model that would create a paradigm shift in the motor trade by providing a new model that would offer the style and appointment of the existing three litre class, the performance of a sports car (certainly in the case of the Triumph), but be priced in the middle market area. That rival manufacturers were about to launch a new model that would turn upside down the established market segments and compete with each other was well known to each company for there had earlier been attempts to merge both businesses and historically, there were close family connections between the senior management of the two businesses.

    triumph-2000-2 Very early cars featured a two-tone dashboard covering that in certain colours was attrative, but could be quite garish with boled colours. (Steve Parkin, Triumph 2000, Amberley Publishing)

    “TRIUMPH 2000 – Defining the Sporting Saloon” tells the story of the Triumph model and how it established the market. The book starts with the origins of the Triumph company, one that like so many businesses that were to settle in Coventry had its foundations in sewing machines, bicycles and motor cycles before entering the world of motor cars. It tells of the perilous finances of the business leading to insolvency and eventual sale to the Standard Motor Company in 1945 where the Triumph name would be used to great success, initially on a range of highly successful sports cars and ultimately on the entire output. The chance meeting between senior executives of what was then called Standard – Triumph with Italian styling genius Giovanni Michelotti lead to a distinctive house style of cars that immediately suggested quality and sporting prowess. To the middle manager or professional looking for a suitable form of transport, the new Triumph or Rover was the solution. While the Rover 2000 expressed traditional “Britishness” and featured an innovative style of construction, the Triumph made great play of the company’s sporting success, which in the early 1960s was at its Zenith with multiple class wins both on the circuit at Le Mans and in rallying.

    triumph-2000-3 Inside the main assembly hall at Canley, saloons and estates are being assembled. (c. BMIHT, Triumph 2000, Amberley Publishing)

    Featuring many new and previously unpublished photographs, this book describes in detail the evolution of the car and Triumph’s efforts to substantially increase its performance through the addition of petrol injection. The first UK manufactured saloon car to feature such a system at a time where any form of fuel delivery other than by carburettors was restricted to the race track or exotic machinery with prices orders of magnitude more expensive than the Triumph. Such innovation was typical of Triumph; not always successfully.

    The book concludes by pondering whether had the Triumph brand survived the upheavals of the motor industry in the 1970s and the mergers with the volume car business of BMC not taken place. Would the aspiring successful business person of today now be considering the purchase of a Triumph rather than a BMW?

    About the Author:

    “TRIUMPH 2000 - Defining the Sporting Saloon” has been written by Kevin Warrington who has been Editor of the Triumph 2000 / 2500 / 2.5 Register club magazine “SIXappeal” for seven years and is actively involved in the management of the club. He is an enthusiastic writer and photographer, having started to take pictures when he was given his first Kodak 127 Brownie camera as a gift for his 7th birthday. “After 53 years, I think I am just about getting the hang of it”, he frequently says. Kevin’s family background has been in the motor and transport business for many generations, but prior to embarking on a writing and photographing career, he made his life in the computer industry where he did, as he describes if “just about everything”, starting as a designer, then a service engineer before moving into product management and eventually sales. A change of management and business strategy led to him leaving a very senior international management position in one of the largest software companies to pursue his own interests.

    9781445655635

    Kevin Warrington's new book Triumph 2000: Defining the Sporting Saloon is available for purchase now.

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