Nurnberg, Germany, 1885. Siegfried Bettman began to import European bicycles to his German factory. He re-badged them `Triumph` and re-exported them to London UK. So began the Triumph Cycle Company. Bettman formed a partnership with Moritz Schulte and opened a factory in Coventry in the English midlands.
In 1902 they produced their first motorcycle, a great success. By the beginning of WW1 (1914) they were supplying great numbers of the 550cc type H to the British army. At war`s end they were the biggest motorcycle maker in UK. The British market was now flooded with ex-army motorcycles so Triumph turned to car production in 1921. The company acquired the Dawson Car Company.
Their first car, the Triumph 10/20 was introduced, designed by Lea-Francis with achieving moderate success. In 1927 the 10/20 was replaced by the Triumph Super 7, a much better car. It sold in great numbers until it was replaced in 1934.
In 1930 the company name was officially changed to Triumph Motor Company. In 1936, due to financial problems, Triumph Motor Company sold the bicycle and motorcycle businesses to Ariel. Triumph could not compete with the big car-makers and so a decision was made to build expensive, specialist cars. This was to prove a really good strategy. Early engines were designed by Coventry-Climax though Triumph started using their own engines after a short time.
In 1937 engine design was in the capable hands of the great Donald Healey. Healey joined the company in 1934 and immediately became the `Experimental Manager`. Healey bought an Alfa-Romeo 8C 2.3 litre sports-car to play with and study. The result was a prototype Triumph with a `straight 8` motor, christened `Dolomite`. Three were built but all were destroyed in an accident. However, in 1937 Triumph launched a new Dolomite, owing nothing in similarity to the prototype. This was a very successful sporting car and put Triumph on the map. Just when things started to work out for Triumph, WWII began and Triumph ceased car production in favour of war production. Unfortunately, the Coventry factory was bombed-out in 1940 and the company collapsed.
In November 1944 Standard Motor Company owned by Sir John Black bought the remains of Triumph and re-launched it. In the 1930s Standard had started supplying engines to SS/Jaguar. This was an important part of Standard`s production. William Lyons of Jaguar made it clear to Standard that future Jaguar plans did not include Standard`s engines. The top-secret XK engine was ready for Lyon`s new car. Amid much acrimony the association dissolved and Sir John Black had to re-think the future of his company. He re-launched Triumph as Triumph Motor Company (1945) and proceeded to design and build a car to compete with Jaguar, which would become the Triumph 1800 Roadster.
Black`s strategy was to use Standard to build saloon cars and devote Triumph to the manufacture of sports-cars. That particular plot was doomed to failure. He didn’t know that the Jaguar XK120 was on it`s way. However, the Roadster was a fine car, though out of date before the first car left the factory in 1946.
And so begins our story of some of the most successful Triumph sport cars. Read on for the legendary TR’s and Spitfiers coming up next.
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- Bristol 403 1953-1955: Bristol With Reduced Brake Efficiency - 22. June 2015
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- Aston-Martin DB2/4 1953-1957: The First Hatchback - 18. May 2015
- AC Aceca 1954-1963: Car That Should Have Been The AC Cobra - 28. April 2015
I was born in Hereford UK in 1948 and brought up in Gloucester UK. I played Rugby football internationally as a schoolboy. At the age of 17, a new and wet driving license in my paw, I entered motor racing. I was supported and financed by my parents and so my journey began.
In 1965 I bought a 1293cc Mini-Cooper `S` and campaigned it for a season. Having quickly made some good friends in the racing fraternity, several interesting opportunities came my way. I joined a sports-car team and raced in the Le Mans 24 hours in 1968 and 1969 in a Lola T70. Mechanical failure defeated both efforts. During that period I owned and raced a `D type` Jaguar and an AC Cobra. In those days cars like that were available and not too expensive, now they reside in museums and private collections. I had a chain of interesting cars through my youth including Jaguars, Minis, Mustangs and Lotus-Cortinas.
As a young driver I had my share of accidents too. Often the car would only be worth scrap-metal value by the time I got it home! I worked for an Aston-Martin/Jaguar dealership for a while, which enhanced my experience and gave me the opportunity to sample some very exotic machines, Ferrari, Facel-Vega, Iso and Maserati to recall a few of them.
At the end of 1969 I moved to South Africa to work on my uncle`s farm but the S.A. government had other ideas and drafted me into the army. After five years had passed I was thanked and released from the service. While I was there I bought a beige Cadillac Eldorado, previously the property of Marilyn Monroe. While I was away on a patrol my girlfriend had it re-sprayed pink! I was unimpressed by both the joke and the bill for the work!
When I returned to UK in 1974 I left it behind. On my return I found that the once-mighty British motor industry was in decline and was headed for oblivion. Motor racing was now very expensive so I turned to commercial transport. Driving large trucks gave me freedom and a chance to see some of the world. I don`t remember ever making a career choice but for the next thirty years a truck was my home. For about ten years in that period I owned two trucks of my own.
I also owned a famous MGB-GT, known as `Lucky`. If you`d like to read `The Story of Lucky` there is an article in Inopian`s archive. I finally retired, due to ill-health, in 2008. Since I had varied knowledge and many experiences on our subject I decided to share the stories of the cars I enjoyed (and hated) with the new generation.
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