Trum­pet­ing for Tri­umph

New Zealand Classic Car - - READERS' WRITES -

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.

Clas­sic Tri­als

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.

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