Triumph Sports Cars

Triumph 1800/2000 Roadster

This handsome example of the one-year-only Triumph 2000 Roadster shows few external changes from the earlier 1800 model.

Triumph of Coventry began with pedal cars and progressed to motorcycles before building its first proper cars in 1923. After severe financial problems during the Depression, it went into liquidation, was briefly taken over by a Sheffield concern, then sold in 1944 to Standard Motor Company, Ltd., under Sir John Black. Though Triumph would live on for another three decades, its postwar models, such as the Triumph 1800/2000 Roadster, had no links at all with prewar products (some of which were quite splendid sporting cars).

Predictably, the first postwar Triumphs were based on existing Standard components, including suspension, running gear, and a new chassis. Spring 1946 brought two very different models: a four-door sedan with Rolls-like razor-edge styling, and a fulsome roadster that Sir John hoped would outgun Coventry rival Jaguar (though he didn't know about the forthcoming XK120). Both used the same overhead-valve Standard four of 1776 cc and were thus logically designated "1800."

As in America, getting back to production was Standard's top postwar priority, so both models were simply engineered to avoid costly, complex tooling. This meant a straightforward ladder-type tubular chassis, to which was grafted the transverse-leaf independent front suspension of the Thirties-era Standard Flying Fourteen sedan. The Standard-built engine, also used by Jaguar for its late-Forties 11/2-Litre sedans, teamed with a 4-speed column-shift gearbox.

In concept and appearance, the Roadster was a throwback to the mid-Thirties. The styling, which could be termed "Early Streamlined," was actually the work of two Standard draftsmen: Frank Callaby, who did the front, and Arthur Ballard, who labored aft of the cowl. "Modern" touches like roll-up windows were balanced by the world's last production rumble seat, easily the car's most striking feature and one Sir John had insisted upon. It even had a flip-up secondary windshield. Access was a matter of clambering over the rear quarters and bumper, not the most dignified arrangement for milady. In the best British tradition, the body comprised a light-alloy "skin" over an ash frame, the panels being produced on wartime rubber "stretcher" tooling used for military aircraft parts.

The 1800 Roadster neither looked nor acted like a sports car. With just 65 horses to pull some 2,500 pounds, it was hard pressed to beat 70 mph, and its gearchange was ponderous and none too precise. But a war-weary, car-starved public would buy almost anything in those days, so the sporty tourer sold reasonably well (though the stablemate Town & Country sedan did better).

Standard's postwar design policy was evident by 1948, when old models like the Flying Fourteen were swept away in favor of a new "world car," the Standard Vanguard. This provided a new set of running gear for the Roadster (and the sedan a bit later), which became a 2000 via substitution of the Vanguard's 2088-cc four and 3-speed gearbox. The latter retained the vague steering-column control but was now fully synchronized. Equally welcome were the Vanguard's more modern coil-and-wishbone front suspension and new rear axle.

The Triumph 2000 was somewhat quicker, if still no sports car, thanks to a torquier 2.0-liter engine.

Despite a mere 5 extra horsepower, the 2000 Roadster was up to 7 mph faster than the 1800. It still wasn't a true sports car, but it now had plenty of competitors that were, including Jaguar's sensational new XK120 and MG's updated TC. Sales languished, and the model was discarded after a single year.

Standard considered a Roadster replacement, the futuristic TRX, but decided not to proceed. A good thing, too, because it hastened the development of a real Triumph sports car. The first of the memorable TRs was at hand.

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