In 1959 both Rock n Roll and the fins and chrome of American cars reached their height. Cadillac’s looked like sci-fi rocket ships, and even run-of-the-mill saloons had gaudy jukebox dashboards. British cars had no such styling excesses. However, we did have something new with the arrival of the uncommonly snazzy Triumph Herald.
This new Triumph’s smart suit of clothes was styled by an Italian consultant, Giovanni Michelotti. It was a dramatic departure from the boring old standard 10 it replaced; perhaps no surprise as signor Michelotti had penned quite a few Ferraris. You got chrome-hooded headlamps and small fins at the back as part of a neat package that was as sharp as an American saloon and just right for the swinging Sixties.
There were various models of Herald including saloons, coupes, convertibles and estates. The Triumph Vitesse was introduced on 25 May 1962, re-using a name previously used by the pre-Second World War Triumph company from 1936–38, and was an in-line 6-cylinder performance version of the Triumph Herald small saloon.
Technologically, the new car was a backward step. Standard-Triumph couldn’t afford to tool-up for a mass-production monocoque body/chassis, so it reverted to an old style separate chassis. The 948cc Standard 10 engine had to suffice, too, plus all round drum brakes. However, compensations included a 25ft turning circle, rack and pinion steering and the first all-independent suspension on a small British car.
The Herald was on sale until 1971, by which time a separate-chassis car was an almost prehistoric idea but thanks to progressively bigger engines, the Herald always felt competent and it was always chic.
The Coventry-based Triumph firm began by making bicycles in 1887. Motor-cycles arrived in 1902 and by the end of World War II the marque had a first class reputation. Until the early 1930’s the manufacture of motor cycles remained more important than that of cars, which first appeared in 1923.
The Earliest Triumph cars were mainly conventionally engineered and conservatively styled small and medium sized saloons, although sports tourers arrived in the late 1920s and in 1925 a Triumph became the first British car to have hydraulic brakes. However, Triumphs first noteworthy car was the Super Seven, a high quality small family saloon. The Herald was Triumph’s first car to have mass appeal and during peak production over 100000 units were being built each year to compete with the Morris Minor and Ford Anglia.
There are currently 2500 Heralds left in the UK either licensed or SORN and around 2000 cars of the faster, larger engined Triumph Vitesse variant.
The smaller engined Heralds offer great value for owners with great mileage, cheap insurance, low maintenance costs and widespread availability of spare parts, making it an affordable starter car for both new and young drivers as well as established classic enthusiasts and collectors.
If you own a Herald or Vitesse, see how much you could save with our classic car insurance.