Triumph 1800 G.T. History

1946 TRIUMPH 1800 G.T.
By Geoff Wheatley

1946 Triumph 1800 Roadster

1946 Triumph 1800 Roadster: Image Submitted by Rick Feibusch 2012

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 1946 Triumph 1800 Roadster

John Black CEO of the Standard Motor Company in the UK purchased the Triumph Motor Company in 1939 after it went bankrupt.

The history of Triumph went back to 1884 when a German engineer came to Britain at the ripe old age of 21 to make his fortune. This young man, Siegfried Bettermann , like Ford and William Morris was smart enough to see that the age of private transport was moving beyond the horse and buggy. He soon obtained an agency to sell bicycles and he chose the name Triumph as his trademark. By the early 1900s he was producing motor cycles and a few years later one of the first three wheel Tricars were offered by his company.

The 1903 Triumph Tricar was a modest success, a combination of a three wheel motor cycle with seating for two people at the front. By 1914 Triumph was building motor cycles and cars for the government and like so many other early manufacturers the first world war enhanced the ability of Triumph to become a serious vehicle manufacturer. However, the depression forced Triumph to sell off there successful motor cycles business and by 1938, despite the production of some of the most attractive pre-war vehicles the company went broke.

Why, one may ask did John Black, CEO of the highly successful Standard Motor Company, third in size to Morris and Austin in Britain and of course the British Empire, want a bankrupt company like Triumph? Simple, his intention was to design a touring vehicle that would rival the then popular SS Jaguar range. In the prestige British market and the name Triumph was associated with both quality and achievement. Triumph had won honors at the 1935 and 1936 Monte Carlo Rally. Donald Healey later to be known the world over for his Healey Sports cars drove for Triumph and won several European events under the Triumph banner.

1946 Triumph 1800 Roadster: Image Submitted by Rick Feibusch 2012

1946 Triumph 1800 Roadster: Image Submitted by Rick Feibusch 2012 1946 Triumph 1800 Roadster

Triumph had a quality reputation but no secure market for their cars despite their achievements in the International world. John Black wanted to break into the quality market and he saw Triumph as the entry. The Standard Motor Company was just what the name implied, a successful manufacturer catering for the low cost mid size owner like Ford and Morris. Successful because they also made engines, engines that the majority of British Motor Manufacturers used in their vehicles.

Black had a working relationship with William Lyons the owner of Jaguar and had supplied the power units for the SS since its first production in 1932. Within a few weeks of the purchase of Triumph by Standard the Second World War broke out in September 1939 and all plans were put on hold and manufacturing was directed towards war production. Standard did their part towards the war effort producing a sterling range of vehicles for the government, in fact as a result of this John Black became Sir John Black in recognition of his services to the crown.

Around 1944 Black decided that he would design his own vehicle to compete with Jaguar in the post war era. In reality he simply drew a few sketches of the car that he desired and then gave the drawings to two of his staff. One to work on the front section and the other on the rear. This may seem strange but his idea was to keep the eventual product a secret and therefore only he would decide on the final concept.

1946 Triumph 1800 Roadster: Image Submitted by Rick Feibusch 2012 1946 Triumph 1800 Roadster

Standard Motors had the rights to the several of the SS Jaguar engines as they had designed them back in the 1930s for the then new Jaguar company. Before Jaguar could get back into post war production Sir John told Lyons that they could no longer supply the popular two liter high performance prewar engine and Jaguar would have to look elsewhere for a supplier.

It would seem that Lyons was not over concerned by this announcement as Standard would still supply the larger six cylinder units. Which became the power base for the Jaguar marquee.

By the summer of 1946 Standard Triumph was ready to launch its new quality vehicle equipped with a revamped 2 liter prewar SS Jaguar engine. The new Standard Triumph 1800 was presented at the 1947 Earls Court Motor show. To say that the media were not impressed would be the understanding of the century. The Triumph 1800 incorporated a rumble seat and two huge front fenders with equally large headlights! Its performance was less than dramatic. 60 mph in about sixteen seconds.

However, the quality of the vehicle was certainly outstanding with Hand Dressed Hide interior, fitted carpeting and a full walnut dash. The four speed column gear change, installed in hopes of attracting the US purchaser, did little to improve the performance, while the total weight of almost 4000 pounds clinched the deal!

Not quite a post war performance car! The model struggled on for about three years although sales were poor and the price was high. The new dynamitic Jaguar XK120 launched in 1948 killed any hope that the 1800 might succeed and after a run of just 2,500 followed by a further production run of around a 1000 with the slightly larger Vanguard engine that did nothing to help sell the car, production ceased in October 1949. The total export figures over its three years of life was 184, not exactly a British success story.

There is no record of how many came to the USA but as the steering wheel remained on the right hand side I would assume very few! Not many of these cars survive as they were difficult to repair when involved in any type of accident and the repair costs were excessive. The car featured in this review was purchased by the first owner in 1947 then given to his son who kept the car under covers until I found it six years ago and completed the restoration work in 2004.
© 2012 Geoff Wheatley

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