Triumph Herald car 1959-1971.
In 1953, Standard introduced their new Eight model, a compact four door saloon that replaced the pre-war inspired cars, and was designed to take the scrap to BMC, with their Morris Minor and, more directly, the diminutive two and four door A30. Like the A30 it had a smooth new overhead valve engine, of 803cc just like the Austin. The overall dimensions of the two cars were very similar, the Standard offering better accessibility to its engine, but falling down by not offering an exterior bootlid to access the rear luggage compartment. As with the A30, the Standard had a four speed gearbox, driving the rear wheels, and unibody (monocoque) construction. In 1954, the Ten was introduced and sold alongside the Eight, very similar in appearance but having a slightly improved level of trim, and more importantly an engine enlarged to 948cc.
By the late 1950s the Eight and Ten were looking somewhat 'old hat', and the Ten was given a makeover which resulted in the more angular Pennant arriving in the dealerships, keeping S-T's small-car range alive until the new Triumph Herald was on sale. Little of the old car was carried over into the new Herald, although the old car's 948cc was fitted under the bonnet, and continued to be so throughout production, stretched first to 1147cc then later 1296cc. The two seater Spitfire would continue using a variant of the same engine until the early 1980s, by now in 1500cc form.
Whereas the Standard had been an in-house design, the decision was made to outsource the styling of the new car to Michelotti of Italy. The chosen design was a sharp-suited two door saloon, spacious internally and with excellent visability. Despite the outgoing car having a monocoque, the Triumph Herald was to revert to a separate chassis, something that no doubt raised a few eyebrows back in 1959. Issues with the supply of a built-up monocoque bodyshell forced S-Ts hand in this, but it did at least give the company great flexibility with adapting the basic Herald's platform for other uses, as will become obvious. Accessibility to the engine was superb, thanks to the one-piece front end (bonnet and wings panels together) being hinged at the forward end. The bulkhead, rear bodywork, and roof, were all bolt-on items too. The four cylinder Herald engine was mounted longitudinally within the chassis, and breathed through a Solex carburettor. Independent suspension featured on all four corners. Coil springs were used up front, and a single transverse leaf spring was used at the rear. Rack and pinion steering was fitted as standard, and gave the car a superb turning circle to rival that of the London taxi.
The Herald Saloon and Coupe are launched.When the 948 Herald went on sale in 1959 for 702 GBP, the customer could choose from either a two door saloon, or rakish two door coupe. The introduction of the latter was a hint at what was to come, with S-T modifying sub-assemblies of the bolt-together structure, thus enabling variations of the basic Herald theme to be offered. The Coupe differed from the saloon in a number of ways, primarily with the fitment of a different roof assembly bolted to the Triumph's tub. For the record, early Coupes had a smooth roof, later examples had a roof with ribs on the side. The dashboard in the early Heralds was a pressed cardboard affair, something that would be switched to veneered wood before too long. The earliest cars also had a large chrome handle in the middle of the bonnet panel, something that would not feature on later Heralds.
It wouldn't be long before another variation of the Herald theme arrived in the showrooms, this time a nifty two door convertible. The same front end tinwork was used, but the tub was modified to accomodate a folding soft-top, and the screen modified to accept the hood's catches. Improved door catches were also fitted, to reduce the risk of doors flying open due to the chassis flexing during high speed motoring. It was also around this time that motoring magazines were picking up on certain handling traits caused by the simple rear suspension design. In normal use the car negotiated bends as well as any other car. However if the driver was of the press-on variety, keen on lunging into corners with gay abandon and then backing off the throttle quickly, the car could switch from being a friendly, easy-going family car, into a wayward-handling tail-happy headache in the blink of an eye. The number of Heralds that had to be towed out of farmer's fields and extricated from dry stone walls bore testament to the car's suspension shortfalls. Of course most motorists never drove in such a way that encouraged such tail-happy behaviour, but it was a criticism that neither the Herald or Spitfire derivative would every fully shake off.
In April 1961 the engine was enlarged to 1147cc for the standard Herald range, although the back-to-basics 948S Herald would soldier on as the cheapest car in the range, making do with the old engine. The new 1200 also received a number of updates to trim and specification - the sturdy chrome handle in the bonnet centre was now a thing of the past, and the smart wooden dashboard was now standard equipment. The styling of the car would remain unchanged, although the bumpers now had white facings to them.
In 1963 the 12/50 Herald was born. As before it had the 1147cc engine (also now in use in the Spitfire 4), but offered the driver some wind-in-the-hair fun thanks to a full-length folding sunroof fitted to the roof section. Some Heralds have had their standard roof section unbolted, to be replaced with a unit from a scrap 12/50, instantly making the car more pleasant to drive during the long balmy summers (!) we enjoy in the UK. More enterprising owners have sourced the complete back end from a convertible and bolted it to their own Herald, in place of the saloon rear end, although many haven't bothered to replaced the door catches, so watch out if buying a soft-top Herald today! But anyway, back to the 12/50 - another big benefit seen on this version was the introduction of disc brakes to the front end, something that had already been seen on the Spit in 1962.
The following year would see the 1200 Coupe and 948S banished from the sales catalogues for evermore, leaving the 1200 and 12/50 models on sale. The six cylinder Vitesse was sold alongside the Herald and offered much improved ooomphhh, thanks to a six cylinder engine under the bonnet, but is out of scope of this site. The Herald range would now settle down for a few years, continuing to sell well for the Triumph brand, positioned below the much larger 2000 and 2500 saloons, and as a family alternative to the sporting Vitesses, Spitfires and GT6s.