Triumph: First Class
The company that would eventually go on to make some of the most elegant and classiest cars out of the British Isles began life making bicycles. By the time the Great War erupted in 1918, Triumph was the biggest manufacturer of bicycles in Britain. The shift to cars came in 1921. By that point, the car was the "big thing", and Triumph was unfortunate to arrive at a party already in full swing.
The 1800 roadster: built to stand out
In order to set itself apart from other automobile manufacturers of its time, Triumph had to do something that no other company did. So, taking a completely different track, Triumph decided to focus on luxury cars. One of the best examples of this was the 1800 roadster. It was not the first roadster in the world-the famous Ford Model T preceded it be a full decade-but it was refreshingly different.
It simply looked different-more rounded curves, the bulging fender, the many lights adorning the front, the distinctive tall grille, and, of course, the elegant spirit of triumph proudly standing on the hood. At the time, many people chided that it was an ugly look. Today, however, it can be said that Triumph's radical design represented the first true step towards true diversity and elegance in design.
The Spitfire: legacy of speed
Looks alone do not make a car, however. So, in 1962, the Triumph Spitfire rolled of the company's production lines. Ironically, for a brand that wanted to distinguish itself for luxury, the Spitfire was a relatively inexpensive car to manufacture. That fact only made it more impressive that, with only a 1147 cc inline 4 engine, it could achieve over 92 mph and acceleration from 0-60 took only 17.3 seconds!
That may not be an impressive spread of numbers today, but back in the day, it made the Spitfire the perfect vehicle of choice for serious competition-minded motorists. In fact, this tidy little racer, humble as its build might be, performed well in the 24-hour Le Mans endurance race. The Spitfire proved that one could, indeed, balance performance with affordability.
The No-Nonsense Guide to Getting a Vintage Triumph
The thing to love about the Triumph is that it is elegant-looking enough to be called a "classic", but not too old that people think that you stepped too far back in time. Now, shopping for an oldie-but-goodie like a Triumph can be tricky business. Get it wrong, and you are in for a lot of unwanted expenses. Now there are no real hard-set rules to "get it right", but there are few smart steps you can use to better tip the scales in your favor.
Beauty is skin deep
At least it is when you are talking about getting a vintage Triumph. Normally, the first thing that you ask is whether it works. A fair question, to be sure, but here's something that experience has taught us: body work is far more expensive than mechanical repairs. You read that right. Those hours of sand-blasting and polishing really add up! A good rule of thumb is "more rust, less worth."
Always tote a flashlight and a handy screwdriver to check for rust. Where to check? Everywhere, but most especially where two metal components meet and where water collects-check out the place where it is stored. Take your time and never let the seller addle you. Another important "tool" is an effective line of questioning.
When did you purchase this?
Was it brand new?
How much did it cost?
How did it drive?
What was your best experience with this Triumph?
Notice that we didn't include a line of questioning about what trouble it had. Even the most honest of salesmen wouldn't just up and open up about product defects-subtlety is key
The truth is that it falls to you to check the mechanical components of that Triumph. Now, yo u can't conceivably check everything, so here are the important bits:
If the car is drivable, drive it around and test gear shifting and listen for in-engine noises.
Corollary to the above, test the braking.
Test oil pressure with your own gauge.
Test radiator water for exhaust gases.
Repeatedly engage the clutch to check for slipping-do it slowly and carefully.
Look out for weld marks that might indicate impact damage.
Above all, however, you do must the research. Join forums and talk to owners, visit the local library and grab a few books, join a mailing list-the point is to stock up and be armed with the right kind of information.