Trumpeting for Triumph
Thank you for making my weekend with the July issue, where my tome on the Chevette scooped Letter of the Month. Your welldone piece on the Triumph 2000/2500 ( Nzclassiccar, August 2015) was also an interesting read and again, there are some interesting facets of this model series that keener readers may wish to know.
As anyone with even the faintest interest in classic cars is aware, these Triumphs were launched in the same year as their archrival, the Rover 2000.
What is less known is that Standard Triumph (ST) was actually holding talks about a possible merger with rival Rover in 1959, which would have made Harold Webster and his team at ST aware at least of the Rover and its tentative specification.
When these talks fell through, both companies decided to press ahead with their respective junior executive models. The funding for these Triumph models — along with the smaller Herald, that appeared four years before in 1959 — was only made possible by ST selling its tractor operations to Masseyferguson.
The project code for the 2000 was Zebu, and the first inhouse styling proposal featured a reverserake rear windscreen akin to the Ford Anglia. Unsurprisingly, it failed to garner management enthusiasm or approval.
The next attempt was a lengthened and widened model with Herald styling cues and four doors. This, too, failed to convince ST management, and Michelotti was called in, taking the project in a different direction.
His first proposal was for a clean but anonymous European look with straightedged lines akin to the Morris Oxford Series VI / Peugeot 404 from Pininfarina. This failed to impress ST, by that time fast running out of money despite the sale of the tractor operations, as the Standard Vanguard was dead in the market, and the Herald had yet to make its mark.
Saviour came by way of Leyland’s acquisition of ST in May 1961, and the total rework from Michelotti into the shape that we know today in saloon and estate forms. The code for this was Project Barb.
Aside from the estate, a fourdoor fastback 2000 was also built as a running prototype. Although it failed to see series production, it was used as a company car for some years, probably as a management runabout.
The original dashboard echoed the scalloped headlight recess in the instrument area, and was not well liked by customers. This would be attended to with the MKII models that came along in autumn 1969, coded Innsbruck.
The responsibility for the design update again fell to Michelotti, who topped himself with the look of the MKII. This, by the way, preceded the Stag, which was introduced in mid 1970, so the article stating that the MKII echoed the Stag’s styling cues is in error.
Along with the freshened exterior came a revamped interior with a dashboard that was much improved over the MKI cars. This features a curved area in front of the driver housing the instrumentation and the new Triumph allsystemsgo dial with the warning lights clustered in a circular pattern directly in the driver’s line of sight.
The MKII soldiered on through the 1970s, as this was an era when UK industry was in great turmoil, and British Leyland was far from profitable as compared to Ford.
Engineering effort and cash was thus placed on the Rover SD1, and a followup was to be the SD2 — essentially a notchback saloon version of the Rover SD1 wearing Triumph badges. This would have been the replacement for the 2000/2500 models.
Alas, the SD2 was not a happylooking car, and by this time British Leyland was bleeding cash at a tremendous rate, thus cancelling any hopes of a Triumph executive contender.
The last new car to bear the Triumph badge was the Honda Ballade– based Acclaim, after which the Triumph name was laid to rest..
For those keen to brave the chilly conditions, the annual Brass Monkey was an opportunity to test any new machinery purchased over the off-season. It was also a good excuse to race around the track with like-minded people testing skills against one another. The event was hosted by the Historic Racing Club, and held at Hampton Downs in uncharacteristically sunny but extremely frosty conditions on July 12, and the card featured PPG Classic Trials, Over 1min 25sec, Sub 1min 25sec and Singleseaters. Also included in the card were cars from the Hampton Downs Playday — an event set up for anybody who wishes to take their car onto the track in a non-racing environment. Although some of the cars in the mix did appear rather racy!
The racing started off with the Over 1min 25 class, this being won by Robert Pakes in a Triumph TR8. The Sub 1min 25 class in the morning was won by Simon Lucas in a BMW M125i, a creditable achievement as this is only his first season of racing. However, as this class only had 10 other entrants and the day was getting shorter, it was decided at lunchtime to merge the two categories. Simon Lucas continued on his winning ways, to take out the remaining three races of the day for this category.
The winner’s champagne was handed out to Simon Lucas for winning the Sub 1min 25 class and Paul Smith for winning the Over 1min 25 class in his Honda Integra.
This event also saw the Winter Championship for the PPG Classic Trials. As always, the rules for classic trials meant all drivers must nominate a lap time before the race starts, and must try to stay as close to this nominated time as possible. The PPG Classic Trials winner on this round was David Tolhurst driving a Ford Capri GT, with second place going to Alan Horner in his Austin-healey Sprite, and third place to Brent Middlemiss in his Mini 1275GT. The winner of the championship for the last two seasons in his Mazda MX-5, Paul Couper, has since bought a beautiful new toy — a Westfield Eleven. Brass Monkey was therefore effectively a test day for him and his car. When it came to the single seaters, it was more about demonstration laps than racing as there were just two entrants — the Ermolli Alfa Formula Boxer of Andy Drummond, and Chris Watson’s rare 1972 Mclaren M18 Gardos OR2, the latter, built by mechanic Jamie Gard, consists of ‘left-over’ components from a Mclaren M18. The Gardos competed in the Australian Gold Star and Tasman events, with its highest placing being sixth in the 1979 AGP. Chris originally acquired this car — in poor condition — way back in 2001 from the collection of Max Warwick. Over the intervening years, the Gardos has been subject to a complete restoration. As the last sound of racing engines drifted across the surrounding countryside, the cold but entertaining day’s racing was over, and it was off home to the warmth of heaters and fireplaces — with a whisky (or champagne if you were a class winner) in hand, contemplating the ‘to-do’ list for the upcoming summer classic race season.