Triumph Motor Company

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Triumph Motor Company
FateMerged, continuing as a division of Leyland Motors Ltd
HeadquartersCoventry, England
Key peopleSiegfried Bettmann, Moritz (Maurice) Schulte (founders)

The Triumph Motor Company had its origins in 1885 when Siegfried Bettmann (1863-1951) and Moritz (Maurice) Schulte from Germany founded Bettmann & Co and started selling Triumph bicycles, from premises in London and from 1889 started making his own machines in Coventry, England.


The Triumph Cycle Company

From bicycles, the Triumph Cycle Co. Ltd., as the company was named in 1897 [1], branched out in 1902 into making Triumph motor cycles at their works in Much Park Street. At first these used bought-in engines but the business took off and they soon started making their own and in 1907 expanded into a new factory in Priory Street taking over the premises of a spinning mill. Major orders for the 550 cc Model H came from the British Army during World War 1 and by 1918 they were Britain's largest motor cycle maker.

In 1921, Bettmann was persuaded by his general manager Claude Holbrook (1886-1979), who had joined the company in 1919, to acquire the assets and Clay Lane premises of the Dawson Car Company and start producing a 1.4 litre model called the Triumph 10/20 which was actually designed for them by Lea-Francis to whom they paid a royalty for every car sold.[2] Production of this car and its immediate successors was on a moderate scale but this changed with the introduction in 1927 of the Triumph Super 7 which sold in large numbers through to 1934.

The Triumph Motor Company

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1934 Triumph Gloria Six
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1936 Triumph Gloria Southern Cross 10.8 HP (four, 1,232 cc)
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1937 Triumph Dolomite Roadster

In 1930 the company changed its name to the Triumph Motor Company.[1] It was clear to Holbrook that there was no future in pursuing the mass manufacturers and so decided to take the company upmarket with the Southern Cross and Gloria ranges. At first these used engines made by Triumph but designed by Coventry Climax but from 1937 they started to make them to their own designs by Donald Healey who had become the company’s Experimental Manager in 1934.

The company hit financial problems however and in 1936 the Triumph bicycle and motorcycle businesses were sold, the latter to Jack Sangster of Ariel to become Triumph Engineering Co. Ltd. [1]. Healey purchased an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 and developed an ambitious new car with an Alfa inspired Straight-8 engine called the Triumph Dolomite.[3] However the eight-cylinder engine was not used in the production car with the same name.

In July 1939, the Triumph Motor Company went into receivership and the factory, equipment and goodwill were offered for sale. [2] T.W. Ward purchased the company and placed Healey in charge as general manager, but the effects of World War II again stopped the production of cars and the Priory Street works was completely destroyed by bombing in 1940.

Standard Triumph

In November 1944 what was left of the Triumph Motor Company and the Triumph brand name was bought by the Standard Motor Company[4] and a subsidiary "Triumph Motor Company (1945) Limited" was formed with production transferred to Standard's factory at Canley, on the outskirts of Coventry. The pre-war models were not revived and in 1946 a new range of Triumphs starting with the Triumph Roadster was announced. Because of steel shortages these were bodied in aluminium which was plentiful because of its use in aircraft production. The same engine was used in the 1800 Town and Country saloon, later named the Triumph Renown, which was notable for the razor-edge styling chosen by Standard-Triumph's managing director Sir John Black. A similar style was also used on the subsequent Triumph Mayflower light saloon. All three of these models prominently sported the "globe" badge that had been used on pre-war models. When Sir John was forced to retire from the company this range of cars was discontinued without being directly replaced.

In the early 1950s it was decided to use the Triumph name on sporting cars and the Standard name on saloons and in 1953 the Triumph TR2 was launched, the first of a series that would run through to 1981. Curiously the TR2 wore a Standard badge on its nose and the Triumph globe on its hubcaps.

Standard had been making a range of small saloons called the Standard Eight and Ten and had been working on a replacement for these. The success of the TR range meant that Triumph was seen as a more marketable name than Standard and the new car was launched in 1959 as the Triumph Herald; the last Standard car to be made in the UK was replaced in 1963 by the Triumph 2000 .

Leyland and beyond

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Triumph TR3

In December 1960 the company was bought by Leyland Motors Ltd with Donald Stokes becoming chairman of the Standard Triumph division in 1963. Further mergers led to the formation of British Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Triumph sold a succession of Michelotti-styled saloons and sports cars, including the advanced Dolomite Sprint, which, in 1973, already had a 16-valve four cylinder engine. It is alleged that many Triumphs of this era were unreliable, especially the 2.5 PI with its fuel injection problems. In Australia, the summer heat caused petrol in the electric fuel pump to vapourise, resulting in frequent breakdowns of the 2.5 PI and TR6 models. While the injection system had proved itself in international competition, it did lack altitude compensation for the adjustment of mixture at altitudes greater than 3000 ft (1000 m) above sea level. The key reason for the Lucas system's unpopularity, was that Lucas was not inclined to further develop it on the one hand allied to the unwillingness of Standard-Triumph dealers to attend factory and field-based training courses dedicated to this propulsion method.

For most of its time under Leyland or BL ownership the Triumph marque belonged in the Specialist Division of the company which went under the names of Rover Triumph and later Jaguar Rover Triumph apart from a brief period in the mid 1970s when all BL's car marques or brands were grouped together under the name of Leyland Cars.

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Triumph Spitfire

The only all-new Triumph model launched under Rover Triumph was the TR7, which had the misfortune to be in production successively at three factories that were closed - Speke, the Leyland-era Standard-Triumph works in Liverpool, the original Standard works at Canley, Coventry and finally the Rover works in Solihull. The four-cylinder TR7, its eight-cylindered derivative the TR8, and its still-born fastback variant the Lynx, were dropped when the Solihull plant ceased making road-going cars (the plant continues to build Land Rovers.)

The last Triumph model was the Acclaim which was launched in 1981 and was essentially a rebadged Honda Ballade built under licence from Japanese company Honda at the former Morris works in Cowley, Oxford. The Triumph name disappeared in 1984, when the Acclaim was replaced by the Rover 200, which was a rebadged version of Honda's next generation Civic/Ballade model. The BL car division was by then called Austin Rover Group which also sounded the death knell for the Morris marque as well as Triumph.

The trademark is currently owned by BMW, acquired when it bought the Rover Group in 1994. When it sold Rover, it kept the Triumph marque. The Phoenix Consortium, which bought Rover, tried to buy the Triumph brand, but BMW refused, saying that if Phoenix insisted, it would break the deal. The Standard marque was transferred to British Motor Heritage Limited, along with Austin, Morris, and Wolseley marques. The Austin, Morris and Wolseley marques were later sold to MG Rover Group Ltd, on the 10th December 2003. The Standard marque is still retained by British Motor Heritage who also have the licence to use the Triumph marque in relation to the sale of spares and support of the existing 'park' of Triumph cars.

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1974 Triumph GT6 Coupé

The MG marque was sold to Phoenix along with the sale of the Rover brand images and a licence to use the Rover name. The Rover name was later sold to Ford, with Nanjing Automotive gaining the rights to the brand image. The Triumph name has been retained by BMW along with Riley, Rolls-Royce and Mini. In late 2007, Auto Express, on the back of continued rumours that Triumph might return under BMW ownership, ran a story showing an image of what a new version of the TR4 might look like. BMW has not commented officially on this.

Triumph car models


Model Name Engine Year
Triumph 10/20 1393 cc inline 4 (1923–1925)
Triumph 13/35 or 12.8 1872 cc inline 4 (1927–1927)
Triumph 15/50 or Fifteen 2169 cc inline 4 (1926–1930)
Triumph Super 7 747 cc inline 4 (1928)
Triumph Super 8 832 cc inline 4 (1930)
Triumph Super 9 1018 cc inline 4 (1932)
Triumph Gloria 10 1087 cc inline 4 (1933)
Triumph 12-6 Scorpion 1203 cc inline 6 (1931-1933)
Triumph Southern Cross 1087/1232 cc inline 4 (1932)
Triumph Gloria ('12' / '12') Four 1232/1496 cc inline 4 (1934-1937)
Triumph Gloria ('6' / '6/16') Six 1476/1991 cc inline 6 (1934-1935)
Triumph Gloria 14 1496/1767 cc inline 4 (1937-1938)
Triumph Dolomite 8 1990 cc inline 8 (DOHC) (1934)
Triumph Dolomite Vitesse 14 1767/1991 cc inline 4/6 (1937-1938)
Triumph Dolomite 14/60 1767/1991 cc inline 4/6 (1937-1939)
Triumph Dolomite Roadster 1767/1991 cc inline 4/6 (1937-1939)
Triumph 12 1496 cc inline 4 (1939-1940)

Post war

Model name Engine Year Number built
Triumph 1800 Saloon 1776 cc inline 4 1946–1949
Triumph 1800 Roadster 1776 cc inline 4 1946–1948
Triumph 2000 Saloon 2088 cc inline 4 1949
Triumph 2000 Roadster 2088 cc inline 4 1948–1949
Triumph Renown 2088 cc inline 4 1949–1954
Triumph Mayflower 1247 cc inline 4 1949–1953
Triumph TR1 / 20TS 2208 cc inline 4 1950
Triumph TR2 1991 cc inline 4 1953–1955
Triumph TR3 1991 cc inline 4 1956–1958
Triumph TR3A 1991 cc inline 4 1958–1962
Triumph TR3B 2138 cc inline 4 1962
Triumph Italia 1991 cc inline 4 1959–1962
Triumph TR4 2138 cc inline 4 1961–1965
Triumph TR4A 2138 cc inline 4 1965–1967
Triumph TR5 2498 cc inline 6 1967–1969
Triumph TR250 2498 cc inline 6 1967–1969
Triumph GT6 1998 cc inline 6 1966–1971
Triumph Dove GTR4 2138 cc inline 4 1961-1964
Triumph TR6 2498 cc inline 6 1969–1976
Triumph TR7 1998 cc inline 4 1974-1981
Triumph TR8 3528 cc V8 1979-1981
Triumph Spitfire 4 (Spitfire Mk I) 1147 cc inline 4 1962–1965 45,763[5]
Triumph Spitfire Mk II 1147 cc inline 4 1965–1967 37,409[6]
Triumph Spitfire Mk III 1296 cc inline 4 1967–1970 65,320[7]
Triumph Spitfire Mk IV 1296 cc inline 4 1970–1974 70,021[8]
Triumph Spitfire 1500 1493 cc inline 4 1974–1980 95,829[9]
Triumph GT6 1998 cc inline 6 1966–1973
Triumph Herald 948 cc inline 4 1959–1964
Triumph Herald 1200 1147 cc inline 4 1961–1970
Triumph Herald 12/50 1147 cc inline 4 1963-1967
Triumph Herald 13/60 1296 cc inline 4 1967–1971
Triumph Vitesse 6 1596 cc inline 6 1962–1966
Triumph Vitesse Sports 6 (US version of Vitesse 6) 1596 cc inline 6 1962–1964
Triumph Vitesse 2-litre and Vitesse Mark 2 1998 cc inline 6 1966–1971
Triumph 1300 1296 cc inline 4 1965–1970
Triumph 1300 TC 1296 cc inline 4 1967–1970
Triumph 1500 1493 cc inline 4 1970–1973
Triumph 1500 TC 1493 cc inline 4 1973–1976
Triumph Stag 2997 cc V8 1971–1977
Triumph Toledo 1296 cc inline 4 1970–1978
Triumph Dolomite 1300 1296 cc inline 4 1976–1981
Triumph Dolomite 1500 1493 cc inline 4 1976–1981
Triumph Dolomite 1500 HL 1493 cc inline 4 1976–1981
Triumph Dolomite 1850 1850 cc inline 4 1972–1976
Triumph Dolomite 1850 HL 1850 cc inline 4 1976–1981
Triumph Dolomite Sprint 1998 cc inline 4 1973–1981
Triumph 2000 1998 cc inline 6 1963–1975
Triumph 2.5 PI 2498 cc inline 6 1968–1977
Triumph 2500 TC & S 2498 cc inline 6 1974–1977
Triumph Acclaim 1335 cc inline 4 1981–1984 133,625[10]

Triumph-based models

Vale Special (1932–1936) very low built two-seater based on Super 8 and Gloria
Swallow Doretti (1954–1955)
Amphicar (1961–1968) used a Triumph Herald engine
Bond Equipe GT (1964–1967)
Fairthorpe Cars
Saab 99 used Triumph engines when the supply of German Ford V-4s ended.
Lotus Seven (1960–1968) the Series 2 had many Standard Triumph parts.
Daimler SP250 used many Standard Triumph running gear and suspension parts
Jensen-Healey Mk. I used TR-6 front brakes.
MG Midget 1500 (1975–1979) Rubber-bumpered Midgets used the 1493cc L-4 and gearbox borrowed from the Triumph Spitfire.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Robson, Graham (1972). The Story of Triumph Sports Cars. Croydon: MRP. ISBN 0-900549-23-8. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Georgano, N. (2000). Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile. London: HMSO. ISBN 1-57958-293-1. 
  3. "Alfa Romeo 8C 2300". Retrieved on 2007-08-16. 
  4. Robson, Graham (1982). Triumph Spitfire and GT6. London: Osprey Publishing Ltd. pp. 8. ISBN 0-85045-452-2. 
  5. Robson, Graham (1982). Triumph Spitfire and GT6. London: Osprey Publishing Ltd. pp. 187. ISBN 0-85045-452-2. 
  6. Robson, Graham (1982). Triumph Spitfire and GT6. London: Osprey Publishing Ltd. pp. 187. ISBN 0-85045-452-2. 
  7. Robson, Graham (1982). Triumph Spitfire and GT6. London: Osprey Publishing Ltd. pp. 187. ISBN 0-85045-452-2. 
  8. Robson, Graham (1982). Triumph Spitfire and GT6. London: Osprey Publishing Ltd. pp. 187. ISBN 0-85045-452-2. 
  9. Robson, Graham (1982). Triumph Spitfire and GT6. London: Osprey Publishing Ltd. pp. 187. ISBN 0-85045-452-2. 
  10. "The Unofficial Austin-Rover Web Resource". 

External links