Triumph, one of Britain’s great sporting-marques-for-the-masses, will be celebrated at this year’s Canadian International AutoShow with an extensive display of rare early models, its still-cherished sports cars of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, vintage racers that keep its competition flame burning brightly and rare hand-built British and Italian Triumph-based Grand Touring versions.
The classic component of this year’s CIAS – always a popular fixture with show-goers and presented this year by Castrol lubricants and Hagerty Silver Wheel insurance – can be found under the banner, “Triumph! The History? The Glory?” And organizers claim it will be the largest indoor display of historic Triumphs ever presented.
More than 40 Triumphs will be parked on the 700 Level Classic Concourse with Room 718 serving as the focal point with an in-the-metal history of the company’s sports cars from their beginnings in the 1930s to their final hurrah in the 1980s.
Providing a fitting centrepiece will be three Triumph vintage racers campaigned by Ontario-based members of the Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada, a TR4, a GT6 and a TR8 sporting Group 44 bodywork.
On display in the lobby will be examples of both sporting Triumphs and other models that bore its badge over the years. The club area will be populated by cars owned by enthusiastic members of the Toronto Triumph Club.
The Triumph name first appeared on badges attached to bicycles imported by a German into Britain in the 1890s and then on motorcycles the company began to produce in 1902. The first Triumph cars arrived in the early 1920s and were modestly successful, but by the mid-1930s the company was in trouble and sold off its motorcycle division. Despite building some respected sporting models that did well in international rallying, under the guidance of Donald Healey (later to build sports cars under his own name) it went into receivership just before the Second World War.
The Standard Motor Company picked up the pieces as the war ended and created a subsidiary called the Triumph Motor Company, with which it intended to get into the sporting car business. And it didn’t hang around, first launching a saloon and then the Triumph Roadster in 1946.
But for most British car enthusiasts the magic in the Triumph name was created by its post-war sports cars that began with the TR2 of 1953 and continued through a succession of models up into the early 1980s, that included the smaller Spitfire introduced in 1961.
Triumph became part of British Leyland Motor Corporation in the 1960s and continued to build sedans and sports cars through the 1970s, including its last the TR7 and derivative TR8. The final car to carry the Triumph name was the Acclaim of 1981, a rebadged Honda, which lasted until 1984. Today the Triumph brand is owned by BMW.
Triumph’s sporting reputation was established by cars like the Gloria Southern Cross, a 1935 example of which is a highlight of the exhibit.
The rakish Southern Cross was one of a number of open two-seaters, powered by four and six-cylinder engines, created as part of the more up-market Gloria line introduced in the early 1930s and which Healey drove to success in events such as the Monte Carlo Rally. The Southern Cross name was homage to rally wins in Australia and New Zealand.
The first model with sporting pretensions post-war was the Triumph Roadster and a 1948 example can be found on the 700 Level. With styling considered dated for its time – it might have been the last car in the world to have a “dickey” seat built into the tail – it nevertheless got the ball rolling and led to the TR2.
The TR2, the first of a long and cherished line of sports cars, was shown in prototype form in 1952 and would soon foster a great rivalry with well-established MG. They were powered by tuned versions of the tough 2.0 litre Standard Vanguard four-cylinder engine that also saw service in Ferguson tractors.
The TR2 soon evolved into the TR3 and its variants and then into the TR4 of 1961, which was followed by the short-lived six-cylinder-engined TR5 and TR250 and then the TR6 in the late ’60s. The controversially styled and wedge-shaped TR7 arrived in 1974, followed by the V-8-engined TR8 – examples of these models, owned and restored by local Triumph enthusiasts, are on display.
But not to be missed are three Triumph-based specialty cars; one built in Britain the others in Italy.
The Dove GTR4 of the early 1960s was built by the Harrington coach building firm, which re-bodied a TR4 with unique fastback bodywork similar to the later MGBGT, to create a comfortable grand touring car. The company had already worked its magic on the Harrington Sunbeam Alpine. The GTR4 would be marketed by London Triumph distributor L. F. Dove, with an accent aigu added to the “e” in Dove to make it sound posh. Only about 50 were built.
The stylish Triumph Italia 2000 Coupe was the brainchild of the company’s Italian distributor who believed there was a market for a more stylish car with basic TR3 mechanicals underneath. The design was penned by Italian master Giovanni Michelotti (who soon after did the TR4) and the bodywork was made and fitted to a TR3 rolling chassis by Alfredo Vignale’s craftsmen.
The first Triumph Italia was built in 1959 with a run of 1,000 planned, but the scheme fell apart and only 329 were completed by 1962.