Compared with the dumpy Standard Eights and Tens which it replaced, the Triumph Herald was a totally different type of car. Stylish where the old Standards had been dull, and technically exciting where old Standards had been boring, the Herald was the first of a big family of saloons and sports cars which sold hugely for more than ten years.
In 1957 the Herald’s design (which was masterminded by Harry Webster) came together quickly, and by happenstance. Standard-Triumph wanted to build a conventional replacement for the Standard Eight/Ten using the same running gear but could find no supply of unit-construction body shells.
Electing to revert to separate-frame construction, they then hired the prodigious young Italian, Giovanni Michelotti, to style the car, which he did, with great flair. From there, it was a short step to adopting all-independent suspension, an unbeatable tight turning circle (which could match the best of London taxis), to decide to construct the body from bolt-up major sections, and to engineer a whole series of derivatives – saloon, coupé, estate car and van – on the same basis.
In their class, the original Heralds had competitive performance, but it was their styling which gave them a marketing advantage over their rivals, where cars like the Ford Anglia and (soon) the Vauxhall Viva looked ordinary by comparison; the major rival, of course, was the Mini, which no other car in the world could match.
Eventually, there would be more variety: somehow a six-cylinder engine was shoe-horned into place, producing the Vitesse, while a shortened chassis, with impeccable Michelotti styling, became the Spitfire (4-cylinder) and GT6 (fastback 6-cylinder) sports cars. This was an entirely new venture for Standard-Triumph, and early problems were inevitable. Original 948 cc Heralds were perhaps overweight, and too expensive, their handling often seeming suspect, but steady improvement produced the larger-engined Herald 1200 in 1961, the car became increasingly popular in the mid-1960s.
Although the Herald saloons and convertibles were always the best sellers in this range, it was the Spitfire (for glamour) and the Vitesse (for the smooth six-cylinder character) which added the gloss to an already successful image. Since this was also a time when the TR sports car was at the height of its fame, Triumph had an extremely good image in the 1960s, which the Herald did much to support.
Lasting fame was assured even before the final Heralds were made in 1971, for by this time they were 13/60s with 1.3-liter engines, and were the last separate-chassis cars on UK sale. In later years, particularly in sporting form, they became much-loved classics.
- Years in production: (all types) 1959-1971
- Structure: Front engine/rear-drive. Fiberglass monocoque body/chassis
- Engine type: 4-cylinder, overhead-valve
- Bore and stroke: 63 x 76 mm
- Capacity: 948 cc
- Power: 34.5/45 bhp @ 4,500/5,800 rpm
- Fuel supply: Single Solex/two horizontal SU carburetors
- Suspension: Independent front, independent rear
- Weight: 1,764 lb
- Top speed: 71 mph/79 mph