This year’s annual mid-winter Toronto car show attracted a record 316,751 visitors and one very keen American Triumph enthusiast who took on something of a pied piper role.
David Freeman had “Follow me to the Toronto International AutoShow” emblazoned on the sides and rear of his car hauler before packing it with his collection of four tiny and all but forgotten members of the Triumph family he felt still deserved recognition.
He then set out from his North Carolina home base to take part in the auto show’s classic car display, which this year honoured that British brand, better known to North Americans for its 1950s, ’60s and ’70s sports cars.
Last fall, The Toronto Triumph Club, which helped organize the display, was looking for “one of everything” to be part of the “Triumph! The History! The Glory!” homage to its favourite make. And it was counting on members to provide cut-away-doored TR3s, chunky chrome-wire-wheeled TR4s, more mod-ish TR6s, cheese-wedge shaped TR7s and TR8s, and whatever else they might have with the right badge on it in their garages. But with gaps remaining in the model lineup, an e-mail wish list was sent further afield, eventually finding its way to High Point, N.C.
“My cars weren’t on the list,” says Freeman who, mildly miffed, replied to the e-mail “a little sarcastically” suggesting that, if the club didn’t already have any Triumph 10s, he’d be happy to bring his along. No slight was intended to his rare North American-market-only offshoots of the brand, of course, and Freeman and his cars were welcomed to the family gathering with open arms by the club’s David Fidler and the auto show’s Jon Rosenthall.
With the result that he and his company (store fixtures firm Freeman Sets & Service) mechanic Allen Leggette spent almost three weeks travelling to and from and participating in, what was claimed to be the largest indoor display of Triumphs ever staged.
“We were at the show every day,” Fidler says. And, it should be noted, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. “There was a lot of interest and we talked to a lot of people. And it was heartwarming to be thanked so many times by the general public for bringing the cars up.”
“The cars” included the Triumph 10 Estate Wagon Freeman’s grandmother purchased new in 1958 and which remains in original condition, a 1959 Triumph 10 Sedan purchased on eBay and now restored, and a pair of all-in-the-family and recently completed Standard 10s, a pickup and a van, purchased in England.
The family ties between the Standard and Triumph names that link the four vehicles were created at the end of the Second World War when Standard Motor Co., founded in the auto’s pioneering days, acquired the remnants of the original Triumph brand and created an offshoot called Triumph Motor Co. – which went on to build the now famous TR3 and its successors.
But these were the tasty butter on Standard’s daily-bread fare of family style sedans with the all-new and appropriately named Vanguard leading the way in the late 1940s. In 1953, the ultra-Spartanly equipped Standard 8, a small saloon with an 803-cc, 26-hp overhead valve four (that would go on to serve as the basis for the power plants of various Triumphs), was added to the range, and this was joined a year later by the Standard 10.
The first prototypes of what would become the Triumph TR3 were built on a shortened Standard 8 chassis fitted with the 2.0-litre Vanguard engine.
The Standard 10 was based on the 8’s underpinnings but fitted with a 948-cc four-cylinder version of the engine and equipped with more amenities. And the now 40-hp engine provided a major boost in performance with acceleration to 60 mph, taking 38.3 seconds according to a contemporary road test, and top speed now pegged at a heady 69 mph. Not surprisingly perhaps, its sole competition win of any note was a first in the 1955 RAC Rally, mainly due to favourable handicapping rules.
It was fairly frugal though, with average fuel economy of 8.2 litres/100 km, which appealed to commercial users to whom it was made available as a mini-pickup-truck and a delivery van.
The Standard 10 was a modest success at home and soon ventured into export markets, including North America, where it was felt the Standard name might be misconstrued to mean basic (which it most definitely was). And so it was promptly badge-engineered into a Triumph 10, which also allowed it to piggyback on the popularity of the TR3. It was sold in sedan and estate (wagon) versions only on this side of the Atlantic, until replaced by the Triumph Herald of the early 1960s.
It was a Triumph 10 estate that caught the eye of Freeman’s grandmother, a schoolteacher in the New Orleans area, who likely paid the $1,696 asking price, adding another $40 for an optional heater but resisting the $72 radio.
It was the only car she ever owned, and it stayed in the family after her death, eventually ending up with Freeman a dozen years ago. Having seen little use, it was still in original condition with 30-something thousand miles on its odometer and with the sticker his grandmother needed to get into the local naval base to teach piano lessons still attached.
Where it remains. Freeman, after getting it tidied up and running in 2003, decided to keep it just as he remembered it as a youngster on visits to his grandmother’s home to help his father work on it.
After attending a few local car shows, Freeman says he became aware just how rare the Triumph 10 was and this spurred his interest in acquiring the other examples that now make up the unique collection he so generously shared with Toronto auto show patrons this past winter.
Don't forget to check out our gallery: In pictures: A triumphant group of 10s