I read with interest your impressions of the new Triumph 1500 as I have one here in South Africa. Not many of your readers are probably aware that the old 1300 was produced with the 1500 engine, identical in most respects to the new model in Britain, here in South Africa.
I personally have mixed sentiments of this car. I might list its good points first. The interior is out of this world for a car of this size and the finish matches the luxury. The car is a delight to drive and develops few rattles.
The engine, however, is a mixture of good and bad. It is probably the strongest four-cylinder motor on the road and in addition to being long-lived is extremely reliable. After 45,000 miles no attention has been required for the engine, clutch or gearbox. The bad side of the engine is apparent from its specifications. The stroke is far too long for the bore. I have no idea what effect the lesser stroke on the 1300 had but on the 1500 the effect is remarkable.
Hot starting is difficult and the noise from the exposed starter does not help much. The engine tends to tire after being pushed and the oil pressure can drop to about 15 lb. per square inch after a few miles at 60 m.p.h. The engine fortunately endures these hazards, much to its credit, and will idle smoothly provided the distributor and carburetter settings are spot-on.
One does not like giving a dog a bad name but I am afraid that the front-wheel-drive of this car has ruined its sales out here. Whether the 1300 or 1500 models in Britain are an improvement I do not know but our models are a wretch under the fenders.
Chief complaint here is the design. The angled side shafts might take off a few feet while turning but a new set of constant-velocity joints every so often is a high price to pay for such a small luxury. Most 1500s here have suffered this fate within 30,000 miles. Recently one set on my car literally fell out after being replaced about two months beforehand but I would rather put the blame on faulty garage workmanship here.
This car delights in throwing its own wheels out of alignment and this probably adds to the universal and shock-absorber troubles one experiences. One of my front shocks broke after 35,000 miles. While in the vicinity I might mention the requirement of a new half-shaft recently.
While evaluating the South African 1500 I might add that the prime failing of this car is its f.w.d. for two reasons. Firstly I would blame the angled shafts and secondly the fact that the designers simply took the Herald motor, turned it around and tried to match it to f.w.d. The best front-drive cars have their transmission designed first with the engine tailored to the case of the drive. The opposite is the case in this Triumph.
Triumph rarely produce a dud and perhaps this car might have been the best light car on the road had the designers stuck to rear-wheel-drive and been a little more discretionate with the engine design. As it is now it is a bit much to advertise it alongside a Rolls-Royce and certainly an unjustified indication of its class.
[Perhaps BL were wise, after all, to give the ADO 28 Morris Marina rear-wheel drive! —Ed.]