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Triumph Herald

The Triumph Herald was a small two-door car began in 1959 by the Standard-Triumph Company of Coventry. Designed by the Italian Michelotti, the car was offered in saloon, convertible, coupé, van and estate forms./


Triumph Herald

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Towards the end of the 1950s, Standard-Triumph were enjoying success with their range of 2-seater Triumph sports cars which they offered alongside their range of Standard saloons.

The small cars in the range were the Standard 8 & 10, powered by a small (803 cc or 948 cc) 4-cylinder engine and competing with the Morris Minor, Ford Popular and Austin A35. However, the plain-looking but innovative Standard 8 and 10 models were never a huge success, and by the late 1950s were due for an update; Standard-Triumph therefore started work on the Herald.


Michelotti was commissioned to style the car, and he quickly produced designs for an up to date in looks, two-door saloon with a large glass area. Due to difficulties with Fisher & Ludlow their body suppliers, having become part of an uncooperative BMC, the company decided from the start that the new small car should have a separate chassis rather than a monocoque construction, even though this method was becoming outmoded.

Green Triumph Herald 948cc Coupe with the hood up


Triumph Herald 948cc Coupe. About 1960

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, in addition to the original coupé and saloon models, a van, convertible and estate versions were all on offer within two years of the release.

Mechanically, the new Herald was a mixture of traditional and modern engineering. The Standard 10's 4-cylinder 948 cc OHV engine was used, mated to the same model's 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 feet 0 inches (7.6 m) 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 bolted to the top of the final drive unit and swing axles.

The styling was modern and the interior bright, thanks to the large glass area, which gave 93% all-round visibility in the Saloon variant. Instruments were confined to a single large speedometer with fuel gauge in the saloon (a temperature gauge was available as an option), and the dashboard of grey pressed fibreboard. The coupé dashboard was equipped with 3 gauges: Speedometer, fuel, and temperature gauges, together with the refinement of a lockable glovebox.

Triumph Herald Convertable


1962 Triumph Herald 948cc Convertible

The car was well equipped with standard loop-pile carpeting and heater. The Herald was offered in a variety of bright contemporary colours and number of extras were available, including twin carburettors, leather seats, a wooden veneered dashboard, Telaflo shock absorbers and paint options. The choice of the "Herald" name suggests that the car was originally intended to be marketed as a Standard, as the name fits the model naming scheme of the time (Ensign, Pennant, and of course Standard itself). By 1959, though, it was thought that the Triumph name had more brand equity, and the Standard name was phased out in Britain after 1963.

The new car was launched at the Royal Albert Hall, London on 22 April 1959, and was fairly well received, but it was not an immediate sales success, due to some extent to the cost approaching £700 (including 45% Purchase Tax) which made it more expensive than most of its competitors. Additionally, the separate chassis initially resulted in noises from the flexible structure as well as problems with water leaking into the car. In standard single-carburettor form the 38 bhp (28 kW) car was no better than average in terms of performance, with 60 mph (97 km/h) coming up in about 31 seconds and a maximum speed of 70 mph (110 km/h). The new rear suspension was also criticised for leading to tricky handling on the limit. However, the car was considered easy to drive with light steering and controls and excellent visibility, and very soon became highly popular with driving schools, ease of repair being a strong plus. Owners enjoyed preferential insurance premiums because of the Herald's perceived safety.


The Herald 1200

Standard-Triumph had staked a lot on their new car; the company was experiencing financial difficulties at the beginning of the 1960s, and was taken over by Leyland Motors Ltd in 1961. This released new resources to develop the Herald, and the car was re-launched with an 1147 cc engine as the Herald 1200. The new model featured numerous detail improvements, including white rubber bumpers, a wooden laminate dashboard and improved seating; quality control was also tightened up. The twin carburettors were no longer fitted to any of the range as standard equipment, although they remained an option, the standard fitment being a single down-draught Solex carburettor. Disc brakes also became an option shortly after the 1200 was introduced. The new car was much more pleasant to drive than previous Standard Motors saloons, and sales picked up, despite growing competition from the BMC Mini and the Ford Anglia.

Triumph Herald 1200 Saloon Car


Triumph Herald 1200

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 Minor Traveller. The Triumph Courier van, basically a stripped-out Herald estate minus the rear seats with steel side panels, was produced from 1962 until 1964, when it was dropped following poor sales. The coupé was also dropped from the range in late 1964: by then the Triumph Spitfire had taken away most of its market share.

A sportier version, the Herald 12/50, was offered from 1963-1967 and featured a tuned engine with a claimed output of 51 bhp in place of the previous 39, along with a sliding (Webasto) vinyl-fabric sunroof and standard front disc brakes. The power output of the 1200, which itself remained in production alongside the 12/50, was subsequently boosted to 48 bhp.[1]

Performance test

A saloon was tested by The Motor magazine in 1959 and found to have a top speed of 70.9 mph (114.1 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 31.1 seconds. A fuel consumption of 36.4 miles per imperial gallon (7.76 L/100 km; 30.3 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £702 including taxes of £207.[2]

The Herald 13/60

In October 1967, the range was updated with the introduction at the London Motor Show of the Herald 13/60.[1] The Herald coupé having by now been discontinued, the 13/60 was offered in saloon, convertible and estate bodied versions. The sunshine-roof remained available for the saloon, but was now an optional extra rather than a standard feature. The front end was restyled using a bonnet similar to the Triumph Vitesse's to give a sleeker, more modern appearance and the interior substantially revised, though still featuring the traditional wooden dashboard. Interior space was improved by recessing a rear armrest in each side panel.

Triumph Herald 1360 Convertible Car


Triumph Herald 13/60 Convertible

The engine was enlarged to 1296 cc, which essentially involved fitting the unit already employed since 1965 in the Triumph 1300, and fitted with a Stromberg 150D carburettor, offering 61 bhp (45 kW) and much improved performance; front disc brakes became standard. In this form (though the 1200 saloon was sold alongside it until 1970) the Herald lasted until 1971, by which time it was severely outdated in style if not performance. It had already outlived the introduction of the Triumph 1300 Saloon, 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 large British Leyland line-up. Also, due to its labour-intensive method of construction, each car was selling at a loss.

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, coupé and van were only a part of the Herald's total contribution to the Standard-Triumph range: the Triumph Vitesse, Triumph Spitfire and Triumph GT6 were all based around modified Herald chassis and running gear with bolt-together bodies and were hugely successful for the company. The Vitesse front suspension was used as the basis of 1960s Lotus cars.

Today, there remain a large number of surviving Heralds in the UK, with keen enthusiast support. The most common are the saloons and convertibles; estates are now getting rare, and the coupé is extremely scarce. Rarest of all is the Courier van, with only a handful of known survivors.

Production figures

  • Herald 948 saloon: 1959–1964, 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
    • van: approx 5,000
  • 12/50: 1963–1967, 53,267
  • 13/60: 1967–1971, 82,650

International production

Heralds were assembled in a number of countries in addition to the United Kingdom, the separate chassis being used as a jig to assemble kits exported from Coventry.

In the 1960s, Standard Motor Products of Madras, India manufactured Triumph Heralds with the basic 948cc engine under the name Standard Herald, eventually with additional four-door saloon and five-door estate models exclusively for the Indian market. In 1971 they introduced a bodily restyled four-door saloon based on the Herald called the Standard Gazel, using the same 948cc engine but with a different rear axle, avoiding the Herald's "swing-arm". The Gazel was discontinued in 1977.

Estate Version of the Triumph Herald 13/60 Car in 1970


Triumph Herald 13/60 Estate Car 1970


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