LIMO IN MINIA­TURE

The Mayflower is a bit of an odd­ity in the Tri­umph line-up, with grown-up ra­zor-edged styling scaled down around a Stan­dard Ten en­gine. But we reckon this baby boomer has charm aplenty

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Driving - WORDS Richard Bar­nett PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Magic Car Pics

There’s no mis­tak­ing the Mayflower’s dis­tinc­tive sharp-edged looks – they cer­tainly ap­peal to buy­ers want­ing some­thing just a lit­tle dif­fer­ent to the norm. With styling that apes the Bent­ley MkVI, the Mayflower was clearly tar­geted at wealth­ier buy­ers – those who per­haps might have fore­gone a chauf­feur and big­ger car as a re­sult of in­creas­ingly strin­gent tax hikes levied by the post-war gov­ern­ment.

Open the gen­er­ously pro­por­tioned door, slide into the bench seat and you’re struck by how much room there is in the front. A colum­n­change gear­lever and small trans­mis­sion tun­nel com­bine to cre­ate a lot more floorspace and el­bow room than the Mayflower’s com­pact di­men­sions might sug­gest, and arm­rests built into the doors take the strain off your el­bows dur­ing longer jour­neys.

Longer jour­neys aren’t quite so pleas­ant for those sit­ting in the back. They’ll need to get on well too, be­cause they’re fairly well hemmed-in back there, but Tri­umph thought­fully pro­vided open­ing rear quar­terlights to help alle­vi­ate any stuffi­ness. And be­sides, there’s none of the forced in­ti­macy you’d get in, for ex­am­ple, an Austin A30 or A35.

All-round vis­i­bil­ity is pretty good; and while the metal dash­board isn’t ex­actly a thing of beauty, it’s rea­son­ably at­trac­tive and there’s plenty of room on the shelf for maps and a few pack­ets of sweets – which would, of course, have been ra­tioned dur­ing the Mayflower’s pro­duc­tion run.

But what’s it like to drive? Is it as dowdy as the nay-say­ers sug­gest? Or is there a hid­den heart of gold wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered?

Ad­just your mind­set to a slower pace and the Mayflower re­ally does come into its own and scores for all the right rea­sons. It isn’t quick by any means, but tak­ing into the ac­count the 1247cc pre-war side­valve en­gine, that’s hardly sur­pris­ing. Turn the ig­ni­tion key, pull the starter and the en­gine parps into life al­most im­me­di­ately, of­ten with­out the need for much choke. Once it’s un­der­way with the choke pushed in, the lit­tle flat­head en­gine of­fers more torque than you might have ex­pected.

The three-speed col­umn-change gear­box is pretty good too. It’s not quite as slick as a wellad­justed Ford Ze­phyr MkI/II Ford Ze­phyr’s set-up and the driver’s changes need to be ac­cu­rate to avoid graunches, but it’s easy to change up and down rea­son­ably quickly once you’ve got used to the feel of it.

The brakes don’t dis­ap­point ei­ther – they’re not quite up to the fric­tion forces gen­er­ated by most small 1960s cars, but they’re ef­fi­cient enough and and sur­pris­ingly re­sis­tant to fade af­ter re­peated use. The handbrake’s strong too, mean­ing hill starts don’t have to be a del­i­cate jug­gling act on the pedals.

So, it’s not quick and many con­sider its looks to be rather con­tro­ver­sial, but this lit­tle slice of Eng­land is a joy­ously com­pact treat. It’s not dy­namic – it was never meant to be – but it’s an en­dear­ingly com­pe­tent all-rounder and makes a first-rate com­pact clas­sic.

Well-made in­te­rior may be short on space and lux­ury, but it’s a charm­ing and prac­ti­cal place to be on longer jour­neys.

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