Probably the most quintessentially British of classic cars (after the Mini and Minor), the Herald continues to beguile generation after generation of buyers, says MIKE LE CAPLAIN
Everyone reckons that the Mini and Volkswagen Beetle were the ultimate people’s cars. But for sheer all-round appeal, the Triumph Herald is very hard to beat. As flamboyantly stylish and modern as its Standard Eight/Ten predecessor was restrained and sensible, the Michelotti-styled Herald range seemingly had a variant for everyone, be it the humble saloon, the rakish convertible and coupé, or the practical estate and van, most with a variety of engines from which to choose.
TRIUMPH HERALD 1200
Top speed 77mph
Gearbox 4-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
Like the Spitfire and GT6, the Herald uses a separate chassis construction, so the perimeter rails hidden behind the sills are key to the car’s structural integrity. Rusty sills and rails can technically be repaired with the body in situ, but the almost total lack of room in which to work makes the removal of the body the only really viable way of doing this job properly. If you’re a beginner DIY-er, then, a car with a sound chassis and tatty body – not the other way around – is the way to go.
The tilt front may give clear access to the engine, but also gives you a good view of the front chassis rails – evidence of frontal damage here is also revealed by obvious misalignment with the doors.
The rugged simplicity of these cars’ engines is key to their enduring popularity. The earlier 948cc and 1147cc models run little risk of triggering many speed cameras, but the 13/60 saloon, estate and convertible can more than hold their own in modern traffic. However, earlier engines do tend to run noticeably cooler than their successors. All enjoy substantial specialist parts back-up, and all sport that extremely handy tilt front end.
It’s worth remembering that there’s a significant amount of crossover design between the Herald and Spitfire (and, to a lesser extent, the Triumph 1300), and enthusiast drivers craving considerably more
get-up-and-go can – and do – transplant the 1600cc and 2000cc six-cylinder engines from the slant-fronted Vitesse with relatively few problems.
That said, don’t use spark plugs from one engine in another – fitting a 1200 with plugs from a 13/60, for example, is inadvisable and can, in extreme circumstances, result in a holed piston.
One of the Herald’s most notorious weaknesses concerns its all-independent suspension. The front suspension, in particular, will simply collapse if the bearings are not oiled on a regular basis – preferably every 3000 miles or so. Specifically, lack of lubrication wears the stub axle threads prematurely where they attach to the lower trunnion, and eventually causes them to part company. The net result of this is a wheel jammed up into the arch, a lower wishbone embedded in the road and a complete loss of steering.
There’s not a great deal you can do about the Herald’s other suspension-related issue, other than to temper your driving style: the rear suspension is of a leafspring/swing axle design, which may have cut down on design and manufacturing costs, but can also cause one of the rear wheels to tuck into the wheelarch under vigorous cornering, ultimately leading to snap oversteer. As ever, buyer beware.
All Heralds (van excepted) are spacious four-seaters with good-sized boots. Best of all, though, these non-Vitesse models have simple interiors, and replacements for the all major parts that do wear – seats, carpets, door cards, headlinings, etc. – are readily available. Avoid cars whose interiors are beyond help, however – re-trim kits for the front and rear seats alone will set you back by more than £400, with full carpet sets at least half that amount again. Don’t be too put off by a car with a shoddy hood, though – even double-duck affairs cost around £300, with mohair hoods in excess of £400.
If you buy wisely and keep on top of the periodic suspension lubrication, a good Herald will provide years of pleasure. They’re all good looking, spacious, practical, easy to work on and blessed with exceptional aftermarket and owner’s club support. The popular money tends to go on saloons and convertibles, but a 13/60 estate must surely rate as the ultimate practical classic.