Yet the Triumph 2000’s record sheet in trials was perhaps even more impressive. Kerry Lay’s 2000 won the 1968 Castrol Gold Star trial in the North Island, finishing second only to Blair Robson’s 3.0-litre Zephyr for the season, while the 2000 of Ron Perillo finished eighth. Perillo won the 1970 Levin Gold Star trial and the Tisco Gold Star event the same year. Another Triumph 2000 in the hands of Ross Haldane won the Tisco event in 1971, while Noel Curtis joined the trials competition in his Triumph 2000. Curtis won the Otago Gold Star trial and Canterbury Gold Star, emerging winner of the 1971 Gold Star trials and rallies championship for the season after Perillo’s Triumph dropped a valve with just 80km to run in the 644km (400-mile) final round. Haldane took third overall, making it a onetwo-three for the Triumph 2000.
Haldane continued to campaign his 1965 model 2000, winning the 1972 Tisco rally and Northern Sports Car Club Castrol Gold Star, despite brake failure. Neil Johns took his 2.5 PI to tenth in the 1972 Heatway Rally, but by
Enthusiasm for the Triumph began right from the unveiling of the Giovanni Michelottistyled 2000 — a real advance on the old Standard Vanguard. Rover may have stolen some of Triumph’s thunder by announcing its radical 2000 sedan in England in October 1963, one week before the Triumph broke cover, but the latter boasted the advantage of six-cylinder power, and it would be five years before Rover introduced its V8-powered version of the P6.
UK production of the Triumph did not commence until early 1964, with the first examples arriving in New Zealand later the same year.
Typical of local buyers was my father, who wanted to trade out of his Ford Zodiac MKIII and looked at both the then new Triumph and Rover. The Rover 2000 was more difficult to acquire, since it remained a fully imported model until 1968, when a local CKD programme was implemented. At £1900 ($3800) the Rover also cost more than the £1485 ($2970) Triumph. However, it was the attraction of the six-cylinder engine that finally enticed my father, and a locally assembled Triumph 2000 MKI won the day. His passion for the model resulted in the later purchase of a new MKII.
In 1964 a new Zephyr 6 retailed for £1228 ($2456) so the Triumph was never considered cheap — but this didn’t deter buyers.
Australia and South Africa ran a localassembly programme for the 2000, but New Zealand was arguably the most successful export territory. A limited number were assembled at the Standard–triumph plant in Christchurch before Motor Assemblies Ltd, the manufacturing division of Leyland Motor Corporation of New Zealand, bought the uncompleted building at the Nelson cotton mill site in 1964, and began assembly of the 2000 MKI in October 1965. Some 7070 MKI saloons were built at Nelson until December 1969, with assembly of the MKII commencing the following month. Between October 1965 and March 1979, the Nelson plant assembled 29,903 examples (of which 22,833 were MKIIS), the most popular version, the 2500TC MKII, accounting for 10,776 units.
half of all 2000 sedans built in Nelson were manuals, with an additional 15 per cent fitted with a manual gearbox and overdrive, leaving just 35 per cent as automatics.
In 1971 the 2500 PI was just on $5000, with the 2500TC about $700 cheaper. The fuel-injected model was phased out early in 1976, and the last of the 2500s in 1979 were $11,972 or $12,674 for the auto. The 2500S model introduced in 1978 came with a heated rear window, tachometer, power steering and sports wheels.
When Neil Johns was campaigning his 2.5 PI he fitted a TR6 camshaft with more overlap, adjustable shock absorbers and a limited slip differential from his faithful Triumph 2000 MKI in which he did well over 50,000 miles (over 84,467km). The 2.5 PI had no rattles or clunks after the rugged roads and pounding of the Heatway rally.
Rewind to 1964 and the launch of the 2000 with an individual specification that included a well-sorted independent rear suspension — and when I tested one of the first locally assembled 2000s 50 years ago, the standard of finish was excellent and the car’s handling was deemed far better than rival sixes of the day.
The market quickly warmed to the car’s Italian styling and British embellishments such as wood cappings on the dashboard and doors. Buyers compared the car to the more costly Jaguar 3.4, Daimler 2.5-litre, Humber Hawk and Wolseley 6/110 plus, of course, the Rover 2000 and liked the car as it was not too large or ostentatious, representing a fine balance between austerity and excessive luxury.
Using the Vanguard engine — the only direct legacy from the old Standard — power
was upped from a modest 80bhp (60kw) to 90bhp (67kw), with a higher compression ratio and a pair of Stromberg 150 CD carburettors.
There were changes to the cylinder head and improved breathing, and the engine was inclined 10 degrees to the right. When the MKII came on stream the range was extended with the 106bhp (79kw) 2500TC and similarly powered 2500S. As the first British saloon fitted with fuel injection, the car really came alive with the arrival of the 2500 PI option, although the long-stroke pushrod engine could hardly have been classed as cutting-edge technology.
Minor cylinder-head modifications were applied to the 2000 MKII that developed the same power as its predecessor, but ironically overheating and head problems were frequent when the car first arrived here. My father’s MKII was not as reliable as the MKI that he ran for five years, coming to a halt with a leaking clutch cylinder when just two days old. The clutch continued to give trouble, being replaced within the initial 1600km, only to be replaced a second time. This same car was also dogged with oil leaks fore and aft of the gearbox, plus an intermittent misfire finally traced to a faulty ignition coil.
There were numerous other problems with this MKII, and I was amazed my father still considered the Triumph a top-quality car — but hark at the devaluation of money and the seemingly frugal costs of running a new Triumph 2000 in 1972: the annual licence was $21.40, a six-monthly warrant of fitness cost $2 and comprehensive annual insurance was $37, while depreciation amounted to just over $700 for the year.
When testing the MKII model on local roads in 1970, a complaint about performance prompted British Leyland to provide me with a second car, which had a slipping clutch. The problem was resolved with a third 2000, but my experience raised raised questions over reliability.
The 2000 marked the end of the Standard name, and was seen on the home market as a modern counterpart to the 2.0-litre Triumph Renown that ran from 1946 until 1955. Half a century ago the Triumph 2000 was reckoned to hold golden prospects with its modern technical specifications, full equipment, roominess and pleasing proportions, and to a large extent it achieved these aspirations. Prime Minister Robert Muldoon had at least two of these Triumphs, including a blue 2500 and a white 2500S.
Today’s BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-benz C-class sedans are less affordable equivalents to the long-gone Triumph 2000 but, in a far less restrictive modern era, the German challengers can scarcely hope to make the same impression as the British car.
New Zealanders enjoyed a 15-year love affair with the Triumph 2000, and these cars are still remembered with warmth by many motoring enthusiasts.