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
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.