The Triumph is one of the English brands that used to be very popular but has been condemned to oblivion by now. This company was founded in 1890 by two Germans – Siegfried Bettmann and Moritz Schulte, who started with manufacturing of bicycles. Later in the beginning of the 21st century the Triumph line-up was complemented with motorcycles. The first car under this brand saw the light in 1923 only.
The manufacturing of efficient and non-expensive cars not only turned the small plant in Coventry into a prosperous enterprise, but also allowed to launch luxurious Gloria and Dolomite models into production. These models were notable for the impressive exterior design and high behavior patterns. Nevertheless it turned out to be a wrong decision and the development and production costs didn’t pay off. As a result in1939 the Triumph company was about to go into bankruptcy. The only thing that allowed the company to survive were government contracts for military equipment production and in 1944 the plant and trade mark rights were purchased by the Standard company, that both produced cars and supplied the other manufacturers with engines (including Jaguar). It was a pivot for the Triumph’s history, featured by production of such open cars as roadsters and cabriolets that were extremely popular at that time.
The first post-war cars produced under the Triumph brand were 1800/2000-series sedans and cabriolets, which looked quite old-fashioned, but were fitted with pretty up-to-date and reliable accessories. Considering the increasing demand in open cars both in Great Britain and America, which had the main export market for Great Britain, Sir John Black, boss of the Standard-Triumph, trusted designer Walter Belgrove creation of a car that was supposed to compete on equal footing with such models as Jaguar ХК120 and MG TD.
In the meanwhile the number of the English two-seaters was constantly growing. Allard, Alvis, Aston Martin, Austin-Healey, Jowett, Riley, - everybody wanted to earn some money. One of such companies, who had already been manufacturing two-seaters for some time, was the Morgan that used to buy power packs from Standard. Sir Black considered this to be a “sky-sign” and tried to acquire the Morgan, but its owner and founder Henry Morgan gave an outright denial to him. Then the design engineering department of the Triumph involved a number of skillful engineers, which were supposed to get the TRX project into shape. At London showroom of 1952 the Truimph introduced its nice-looking roadster. Its design combined such conventional elements as long jacket, fantastic elbow cut-aways in the car sides, spare wheel in rear baggage compartment, stylish semiflush lamps and “tusky” chromium-plated bumper. Later this car was informally called as TR1.
In winter 1952-1953 the chassis was brought up to date. The revision was performed by one of the best specialists in this field – Ken Richardson, who had prior worked at the British Motors corporation. The old-fashioned exterior of the rear body was replaced with the extended aerodynamic baggage compartment with “aggressive” look of stop light spoilers. It resulted in great success of Triumph TR2, when it was featured in Geneva showroom of 1953. It was really well acclaimed, especially as it was the cheapest car, which was able to reach more than 160 km/h.
For two production years from August 1953 to October 1955 the Triumph plant had manufactured 8 628 TR2 cars. The sales were extremely high, but their main competitors had already upgraded their line-ups and TR2’s design, which actually had some faults, was rapidly getting out of date.
The fall of 1955 was marked with Triumph TR3. The new model generally speaking, was as like as the prior model as two peas. It had the same shape and dimensions. However the front exterior of the car was decorated with a wider radiator grille, which was abundantly chrome plated to fit the tastes of the oversea customers. Under its jacket the 95HP heart was beating and the front brakes had been replaced with disc brakes (for the first time on the British cars).
Amazingly but the popularity of the Triumph TR3 hadn’t decreased in the course of the years and it actually experienced larger and larger sales. After this car had appeared on the cinema screen in Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” with Marcello Mastroianni driving that same TR3, its popularity exceeded all expectations: by 1961 when TR3 was finally withdrawn from the production, there had been 58 236 cars manufactured. It was more than the amount of all prior Triumphs and Standards together manufactured. Unfortunately one car couldn’t have backed two companies at once and in April 1961 both of the trade marks passed into the ownership of the Leyland Motors Corporation.
The new owner didn’t handle the company with kid gloves and Standard model went down to history as soon as in two years. As far as Triumph was concerned, it had better luck. However the exterior of the car had changed greatly and the former image of the truly British car had completely been blown away. The design of TR3’s successor was trusted to the rising “star” of the Italian design school – Giovanni Michelotti. He did the task brilliantly and one could hardly recognize the famous TR3 in that modern, box shaped body, which looked useable, spacious and had an easy-access baggage compartment. Still it was the TR3 since the designer kept the tube frame, suspension and engine all the same! However in order to avoid the misunderstandings and confuse from the car fans, the car was renamed as TR4. They had changed the exterior and obviously the car couldn’t have the same name.
The second half of the 1960-s was featured by profound crisis of the British car manufacturing industry. The outdated exterior and design of the cars “made in England” couldn’t compete with the sophisticated, more efficient, useable and after all having modern design cars manufactured in Germany, France and Italy. The oversea English exotica fashion was losing its popularity and in Great Britain more and more people preferred to buy imported cars. In this struggle for survival the strong ones as always devoured the weaker ones and the weaker ones were trying to join forces and stand against the threat to be eaten. As a result two powerful industrial companies were formed – the British Motors Holding and the Leyland Motor Corporation which joined together in 1968 to create an incredibly large corporation called the British Leyland. Among a dozen of trademarks that belonged to it, was Triumph as well.
Its new owners first of all finished what the former ones hadn’t managed to do –line-up revision. Triumph TR6 differed from the previous model greatly: temperate exact styling, big prominent side blinkers, up-to-date solid wheels. However things are not always what they seem. The body facelift made by the German Karmann brought in sober fact little difference into the body, designed by Michelotti, which meant that it looked pretty much the same as the TR produced in 1953!
The management of the British Leyland understood the fact that since TR6 was just another version of the previous models it wouldn’t stay on the top for a long time. So as soon as possible, they had to design a substitution for it. The designers and engineers were given a blank check: the 7th representative of the TR family was to have the most stunning exterior ever and the most advanced mechanical components (supposing that as many components as possible should fit the other corporation models, otherwise the price would have been too big).
Triumph TR7 rolled off the production line in 1975 and it exploded like a bomb. The wedge-shaped body with Italian-like retractable lights by any stretch of imagination couldn’t be called nice-looking – they rather resembled of a chisel. The impression was redoubled by huge plastic bumpers, which were supposed to be a pass to the American market with its advanced passive safety measures. The front MacPherson strut and rear semi-independent suspension was so soft and long-stroke that one could hardly understand whether it was a sports car or an executive limousine for leisure travelling. The engine also matched the whole concept: 4-cylinder 1998 cm3 Saab 99 engine gave 105HP and could accelerate the 1060-kg sockdolager up to 175 km/h. On the top of that all for the first time ever a TR wasn’t an open car! It was a closed coupe type TR7. Roadster saw the light in 1979 only, as the curtain fell so to say.
At the end of 1984 after a brief flirtation with the Japanese Honda, which Ballade model used to be produced under the Triumph Acclaim trade mark in Great Britain, the famous brand crossed the Great Divide.