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Triumph Herald

Triumph Herald
Manufacturer: Standard-Triumph
Production: 1959-1971
Predecessor: Triumph 8/10
Successor: Triumph Dolomite
Body style: Two-door saloon, estate, van and coupe
Engine: 948cc OHV I4
1147cc OHV I4 (Herald 1200)
1296cc OHV I4 (13/60)
Transmission: Four-speed manual, RWD
Length: 3270 mm (convertible), 3886 mm (others)
Width: 1524 mm
Height: 1320 mm
Curb weight: 725 kg (1200 convertible) to 865kg (13/60 estate)
Fuel capacity: 41 litres (estate), 32 litres (others)
Related: Triumph Vitesse, Triumph Spitfire
Similar: Ford Anglia
Designer: Michelotti
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Triumph Herald

The Triumph Herald was a small two-door car introduced in 1959 by the Standard-Triumph Company. Body design was by the Italian stylist Michelotti and the car was offered in saloon, convertible, coupe, van and estate variants.

A new small car

Towards the end of the 1950s, Standard-Triumph were enjoying great success with their range of 2-seater Triumph sportscars which they offered alongside their range of Standard saloons. The small car in the range was the Standard 8/10, powered by a small 4-cylinder engine and competing with the Morris Minor, Ford Popular and Austin A35. However the rather plain looking but remarkably innovative Standard 8's & 10's (earliest folding flat floor for shopping?), had never been a huge success, and by the late 1950s was due for an update; Standard-Triumph therefore started work on the Herald.

The Italian designer Michelotti was commissioned to style the car, and he quickly came up with designs for a pretty two-door saloon with a large glass area. The Company decided from the start that the new small car should have a separate chassis rather than a monocoque construction, even though this was beginning to look outmoded by the late 1950s. The main body tub was bolted to the chassis, and the whole front end hinged forward to allow access to the engine. Every panel - including the sills and roof - could be unbolted from the main car. This method of construction had certain advantages, not least that different body styles could be easily substituted on the same basic chassis: accordingly, coupe, convertible and estate versions were all on offer within two years.

Mechanically, the new Herald was a mixture of traditional and modern. The Standard 10's 4-cylinder 948 cc OHV engine was used, mated to the same model's 4 speed gearbox with synchromesh on the top three gears and driving the rear wheels. The excellent steering was by rack and pinion (affording the car a 25-foot turning circle), with coil and double-wishbone front suspension. The rear suspension was a brand new departure for Triumph, offering independent springing via a single transverse leaf spring.

The styling was sharp and modern and the interior light and airy, thanks to the large (93%) glass area. Instruments were confined to a single large speedo with fuel gauge in the Saloon (a temperature gauge was available as an option), and the dashboard of grey pressed fibre. The Coupé dashboard was equipped with 3 clocks - Speedometer, fuel & temperature gauges, together with the refinement of a lockable glovebox. The car was well equipped with standard carpeting and heater. The Herald was offered in a variety of bright modern colours and number of extras were available, including twin carburettors, leather seating, a wooden dashboard and Telaflo shock absorbers.

The new car was fairly well-received, but was not an immediate sales success, probably due to the high cost approaching £700 including the 45% Purchase Tax and thus more expensive than most of its competitors, and the separate chassis resulted in lots of creaks, groans and thumps from the flexible structure. In standard single carburettor form the 38 bhp car was no better than average in terms of performance, with 60 mph coming up in about 31 seconds and a maximum speed of 70 mph.. The new rear suspension was also criticised for leading to tricky handling on the limit. On the plus side, the car was considered easy to drive with light steering and controls, and excellent visibility, becoming very soon highly popular as a driving-school car, ease of repair of the innovative integrated bumpers being a strong plus.

The Herald 1200

Standard-Triumph had staked a lot on their new car; the Company was in serious financial trouble at the beginning of the 1960s, and were taken over by the expanding Leyland organisation in 1961. This released new resources to develop the Herald, and the car was re-launched with an 1147 cc engine as the Herald 1200. The new model featured numerous detail improvements, including white rubber bumpers, a wooden laminate dashboard and improved seating; quality control was also tightened up. The twin carburettors were no longer fitted to any of the range as standard equipment, however they remained an option. Disc brakes also became an option shortly after the 1200 was introduced. The new car was much more pleasant to drive, and sales picked up, despite growing competition from the BMC Mini and the Ford Anglia.

The other versions of the Herald were also selling well; the convertible was popular as a genuine 4-seater with decent weatherproofing, and the estate made a practical alternative to the Morris Traveller, despite its somewhat boxy styling. The Triumph Courier van - basically a stripped-down Herald estate with steel side panels was produced from 1962 until 1964, when it was dropped following poor sales. The Coupé was also dropped from the range in late 1964, by now the Spitfire had taken away most of it's market share. A sportier version, the 12/50, was offered from 1963-1967 and featured a tuned engine, sliding fabric sunroof and standard front disc brakes.

The Herald 13/60

In 1967, the Herald range was updated with the introduction of the 13/60. The front end was restyled using the bonnet deck of the Vitesse to give a sleeker, more modern appearance and the interior substantially revised, though still featuring the traditional wooden dashboard. A clever space-creation, was by recessing a rear armrest in each side panel. The engine was enlarged to 1296 cc, offering 61 bhp and much improved performance; front disc brakes became standard. In this form (though the 1200 Saloon was sold alongside it until 1970) the Herald lasted until 1971, by which time it was severely outdated in style but not performance. It had already outlived the introduction of the Triumph 1300, the car designed to replace it, and was still selling reasonably well, but it no longer had a place among the range of newer cars in the Leyland line-up.

The decision of Triumph to build a new small car in the late 1950s paid off handsomely. Total Herald sales numbered well over 300,000, thanks in no small part to the number of variants made possible by its separate chassis design. Saloon, convertible, estate, coupe and van were only a small part of the Herald's total contribution to the Standard-Triumph range: the Triumph Vitesse, Triumph GT6 and Triumph Spitfire were all based around modified Herald chassis with bolt-together bodies and were hugely successful for the company. The Vitesse front suspension was used as the basis of the 1960's Lotus cars

Today, there remains a large number of surviving Heralds in the UK with keen enthusist support.The most common surviving Heralds are the saloons and convertibles; estates are now getting rare, and the coupe is extremely scarce. Rarest of all is the Courier van, with only a handful of known survivors. Always popular with driving schools, the cars evoke a strong nostalgia from the great many people who learned to drive or drove everyday in the little Triumph. Though it came too late to save Standard-Triumph as an independent company, the Triumph Herald story forms an important chapter in Britain's motoring heritage.

Production figures

  • Herald 948 saloon: 1959–1964, 76,860
  • 948 convertible: 1960–1961, 8,262
  • Herald coupe: 1959–1961, 15,153
  • Herald 1200: 1961–1970, 289,575
    • saloon: 201,142
    • coupe: 5,319
    • convertible: 43,295
    • estate: 39,819
    • van: approx 5,000
  • 12/50: 1963–1967, 53,267
  • 13/60: 1967–1971, 82,650

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