Matters of moment, May 1959

At last, at last…

We promised that when one of the big British manufacturers produced a car that is a real breakaway from stereotyped design we would give it a big hand and, if it proves successful, publicise it as much as we publicise advanced Continental cars. At last this seems about to come about with the introduction by The Standard Motor Company of the Triumph Herald which has independent rear suspension and other advanced features, the first time any of Britain’s “Big Five ” have discarded the rigid back axle.

For this bold move Mr. Alick S. Dick, the Standard/Triumph Managing Director, is to be warmly congratulated. Naturally, because we are writing this before the release of the Herald and before inspecting this new car, we propose to be cautious in our enthusiasm, until such time as Mr. Dick’s publicity department permits us to drive a Herald. But on the face of it the introduction of a new British car which is different from other inexpensive quantity-produced vehicles deserves the highest praise.

Admittedly the swing-axle i.r.s. of the Triumph Herald is on the old-fashioned transverse leaf-spring system, shared only by A.C. and Skoda, the spring mounted comparatively high and the driveshafts possessing external universal joints. But a British mass-production car with i.r.s. is, nevertheless, an event of the greatest importance and no doubt dull thuds will be heard in Birmingham, Dagenham, Luton and Ryton as engineers in other great factories kick themselves for having been beaten to it by the Standard/Triumph Company. Albeit the psychology of Englishmen discussing i.r.s. is difficult to comprehend  —  Mr. Dick, in announcing this considerable advance, finds it necessary to remark that  “Continental cars with rear-mounted engines are forced  to have independent rear suspension,” which, while true, nevertheless conveys outstanding advantages and gives no trouble. It would have been fairer had Mr. Dick emphasised that these Continental cars share with the Herald improvements in riding comfort and road-holding which only i.r.s. provides. In any case, front-engined Continental cars such as Mercedes-Benz, Citroën, Borgward, Renault Fregate, D.B. and Skoda find i.r.s. worthwhile. Just recently two British engineers, Bernard Winter of Rootes, and John Wyer of Aston Martin/Lagonda have disparaged i.r.s. on various grounds. The Triumph engineers must have carried out comparative tests betweeen the old Standard Ten rigid back axle and the new Triumph Herald i.r.s and we hope they will produce facts and figures relating to the “increased riding comfort and road-holding of a quality found only in sports/racing cars” that they claim for the Herald, in reply to Messrs. Winter and Wyer.

Just as we propose to withhold comment on the merit of the Herald’s handling qualities until we have road-tested the new Triumph, so must we reserve judgment on the Michelotti-styled bodywork until we have seen the car “in the metal.” From pictures we confess to disappointment, for, to us, Italian-styling conveys thoughts of clean, eager Ferrari and Maserati coupés of an earlier era, lines perpetuated in such modern cars as the Abarth Zagato and Lotus Elite — we are not fond of the tail fins, slab fronts and flat areas around which the Farina/ Michelotti styling battle revolves. However, photographs do not always do justice to new cars and the main thing is that the Triumph Herald is an advanced new British product   in design and appearance.

Apart from the Herald’s i.r.s. it has other commendable features, such as new styling, complete absence of greasing points, remote-control central gear-lever, a taxi-like turning circle, safety items, 13 cubic feet luggage space and stalks controlling lighting and direction flashers. We are also pleased to find rack-and-pinion steering, which is usually light, accurate and impervious to wear, in spite of which one eminent motoring writer has done his best to disparage it since the B.M.C. has abandoned it!

The Triumph Herald was conceived in January 1957 and the project was completed two years later, after prototypes had been tested for six months at Lindley and then driven over corrugated roads, jungle tracks and across the Sahara back to Coventry. The Italian-styled bodies will be made in a new £2-million Canley factory which will be completed early next year, Standard having acquired Mulliners for the purpose.

The well-tried rugged o.h.v. 948-c.c. Standard Ten power unit is retained for the Triumph Herald two-door four-seater saloon, and in two-carburetter form for the Herald sports coupé. Performance claims are, respectively, 33 m.p.g. at 50 m.p.h., a speed of 68/70 m.p.h. and 0-50 m.p.h. in 20 sec., and 41-1/2 m.p.g. at 50 m.p.h., 78/80 m.p.h. and 0-50 m.p.h. in 16 sec. These figures we hope to be able to endorse in due course.

Prices are modest  — £702 7s. 6d. for the saloon, £730 14s. 2d. for the coupé, inclusive of p.t.

We recommend most highly this ambitious step taken by the Standard Company, just as elsewhere, we commend Daimler’s introduction of a V8 plastic-bodied sports car. These are truly “matters of moment”… When others of the “Big Five” wake up as Standard-Triumpli have done we shall accord them similar praise. But at present Alick Dick is way out ahead of his competitors.


Photo: Something refreshingly new from Britain…

The two-carburetter coupé version of the 948 c.c all-independently-sprung Triumph Herald referred to on page 305 (web version page 15). The introduction of this new Coventry-built car should have those glamorous “Miss Triumphs”, who helped to publicise TRs at the last Earls Court Show, working overtime. Judging by other hand-out pictures of this sensational new car, the female fashion which will be associated with them is sweaters and skin-tight trousers, of which we also approve.


Mercedes-Benz and Ford successes in Coronation Safari

In the past we have proclaimed the almost virtual monopoly of the tough E. African Coronation Safari by Volkswagen, conclusive proof of the roadworthiness. dependability and durability of these famous cars. This year, in an even tougher event, the outright winner was a Mercedes-Benz 219, and British Fords  —  two works Zephyrs and a Zodiac  —  won the Team Prize.  Class winners were a Peugeot 203, D.K.W. and the victorious Mercedes-Benz.


Prices down

Although interest in all forms of old cars is at a high ebb, the reduced cost of new cars and the impending compulsory tests of old vehicles is forcing down the prices of pre-war cars, with the exception of genuine pre-1905 veterans. There are signs that dealers and others are finding it increasingly difficult to dispose of the older models, so now is the time for vintage-car lovers to acquire suitable machinery. But you should refuse to pay absurdly high prices for old cars.


VWs sweep the board in Circuit of Ireland Rally

Volkswagen took the first six places in the International Circuit of Ireland Rally at Easter, the first time this event has been won by other than sports cars. The Austin-Healey Sprites were, in fact, beaten by the VWs, the first saloon-car victory in 23 years.


Imitation is…

The Dunlop Rubber Company has introduced a new Duraband tyre with metallic tread, similar to the well-known ” X” tyre made for many years by Michelin.


Savage motoring sentences

Following our Editorial comment last month on savage motoring sentences imposed in Ayr by Sheriff James Frame, which received favourable publicity in the Sunday Express , we have been pleased to receive many congratulatory letters, from readers who dislike injustice to motorists as much as we do. With some of these letters have come cuttings from other newspapers describing further savage treatment of drivers by Magistrates. including a remarkable account how the Bridgewater County Magistrates’ Court fined a clean-licence driver, who collided with the back of another car, £10 and £15 4s. 11d. costs, and, returning from lunch, the same Bench imposed a total penalty of £1 14s. 6d. on a man with a Borstal record who threatened and then shot in the leg an eleven-year-old girl. It must have been a good lunch! We are glad to be kept informed of such glaring examples of injustice so that publicity can be given to the worst cases.


The price of the Mercedes 220SE

In the report, published last month, on a visit to the Daimler-Benz factory at Stuttgart, there was a price error. The correct price of the fast, accelerative quiet and luxurious petrol injection Mercedes-Benz 220SE saloon is £2,638 19s. 2d.