The Triumph Herald
was a small two-door car introduced in 1959 by the Standard-Triumph Company. Body design was by the Italian stylist Michelotti and the car was offered in saloon, convertible, coupe, van and estate variants.
A new small car
Towards the end of the 1950s, Standard-Triumph were enjoying great success with their range of 2-seater Triumph sportscars which they offered alongside their range of Standard saloons. The small car in the range was the Standard 8/10, powered by a small 4-cylinder engine and competing with the Morris Minor, Ford Popular and Austin A35. However the rather plain looking Standard but remarkably innovative 8's & 10's (earliest folding flat floor for shopping?), had never been a huge success, and by the late 1950s was due for an update; Standard-Triumph therefore started work on the Herald.
The Italian designer Michelotti was commissioned to style the car, and he quickly came up with designs for a pretty two-door saloon with a large glass area. The Company decided from the start that the new small car should have a separate chassis rather than a monocoque construction, even though this was beginning to look outmoded by the late 1950s. The main body tub was bolted to the chassis, and the whole front end hinged forward to allow access to the engine. Every panel - including the sills and roof - could be unbolted from the main car. This method of construction had certain advantages, not least that different body styles could be easily substituted on the same basic chassis: accordingly, coupe, convertible and estate versions were all on offer within two years.
Mechanically, the new Herald was a mixture of traditional and modern. The Standard 8's 4-cylinder OHV engine was used in 948cc form, mated to a 4 speed gearbox with synchromesh on the top three gears and driving the rear wheels. The excellent steering was by rack and pinion (affording the car a 25-foot turning circle), with coil and double-wishbone front suspension. The rear suspension was a brand new departure for Triumph, offering independent springing via a single transverse leaf spring.
The styling was sharp and modern and the interior light and airy, thanks to the large (98%) glass area. Instruments were confined to a single large speedo with fuel gauge (a temperature gauge was available as an option), and the dashboard of grey pressed fibre. The car was reasonably well equipped with standard carpeting and heater. The Herald was offered in a variety of bright modern colours and number of extras were available, including twin carburettors, front disc brakes and a sunroof.
The new car was fairly well-received, but was not an immediate sales success, probably due to the high cost approaching £700 including the 45% Purchase Tax and thus more expensive than most of its competitors, and the separate chassis resulted in lots of creaks, groans and thumps from the flexible structure. In standard single carburettor form the 38BHP car was no better than average in terms of performance, with 60mph coming up in about 22 seconds and a maximum speed of 80mph. The new rear suspension was also criticised for leading to tricky handling on the limit. On the plus side, the car was considered easy to drive with light steering and controls, and excellent visibility, becoming very soon highly popular as a driving-school car, ease of repair of the innovative integrated bumpers being a strong plus.
The Herald 1200
Standard-Triumph had staked a lot on their new car; the Company was in serious financial trouble at the beginning of the 1960s, and were taken over by the expanding Leyland organisation in 1961. This released new resources to develop the Herald, and the car was re-launched with an 1147cc engine as the Herald 1200. The new model featured numerous detail improvements, including white bumpers, a wooden dashboard and improved seating; quality control was also tightened up. The new car was much more pleasant to drive, and sales picked up, despite growing competition from the BMC Mini and the Ford Anglia.
The other versions of the Herald were also selling well; the convertible was popular as a genuine 4-seater with decent weatherproofing, and the estate made a practical alternative to the Morris Traveller, despite its somewhat boxy styling. The coupe was withdrawn soon after the introduction of the 1200 however, having been somewhat less successful. The Triumph Courier van - basically a stripped-down Herald estate with no rear side windows - also fell from the range after extremely poor sales. A sportier version, the 12/50, was offered from 1963-1967 and featured a tuned engine, sliding fabric sunroof and standard front disc brakes.
The Herald 13/60
In 1967, the Herald range was updated with the introduction of the 13/60. The front end was restyled using the bonnet deck of the Vitesse to give a sleeker, more modern appearance and the interior substantially revised, though still featuring the traditional wooden dashboard. A clever space-creation, was by recessing a rear armrest in each side panel. The engine was enlarged to 1296cc, offering 61bhp and much improved performance; the gearbox was updated with an all-synchromesh unit and front disc brakes made standard. In this form (though the 1200 was sold alongside it until 1970) the Herald lasted until 1971, by which time it was severely outdated in style but not performance. It had already outlived the introduction of the Triumph 1300, the car designed to replace it, and was still selling reasonably well, but it no longer had a place among the range of newer cars in the Leyland line-up.
The decision of Triumph to build a new small car in the late 1950s paid off handsomely. Total Herald sales numbered well over 300,000, thanks in no small part to the number of variants made possible by its separate chassis design. Saloon, convertible, estate, coupe and van were only a small part of the Herald's total contribution to the Standard-Triumph range: the Triumph Vitesse, Triumph GT6 and Triumph Spitfire were all based around modified Herald chassis with bolt-together bodies and were hugely successful for the company. The Vitesse front suspension was used as the basis of the 1960's Lotus cars
Today, there remains a large number of surviving Heralds in the UK with keen enthusist support.The most common surviving Heralds are the saloons and convertibles; estates are now getting rare, and the coupe is extremely scarce. Rarest of all is the Courier van, with only a handful of known survivors. Always popular with driving schools, the cars evoke a strong nostalgia from the great many people who learned to drive or drove everyday in the little Triumph. Though it came too late to save Standard-Triumph as an independent company, the Triumph Herald story forms an important chapter in Britain's motoring heritage.
- Herald 948 saloon: 1959–1962, 76,860
- 948 convertible: 1960–1961, 8,262
- Herald coupe: 1959–1961, 15,153
- Herald 1200: 1961–1970, 289,575
- saloon: 201,142
- coupe: 5,319
- convertible: 43,295
- estate: 39,819
- 12/50: 1963–1967, 53,267
- 13/60: 1967–1971, 82,650