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Triumph

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Contents

The Triumph Cycle Company

From bicycles, the Triumph Cycle Co. Ltd., as the company was named in 1897,[1] branched out in 1902 into making Triumph Motor Cycles at their works in Much Park Street. At first these used bought-in engines but the business took off and they soon started making their own and in 1907 expanded into a new factory in Priory Street taking over the premises of a spinning mill. Major orders for the 550 cc Model H came from the British Army during World War 1 and by 1918 they were Britain's largest motor cycle maker. In 1921, Bettmann was persuaded by his general manager Claude Holbrook (1886–1979), who had joined the company in 1919, to acquire the assets and Clay Lane premises of the Dawson Car Company and start producing a 1.4 litre model called the Triumph 10/20 which was actually designed for them by Lea-Francis to whom they paid a royalty for every car sold. Production of this car and its immediate successors was on a moderate scale but this changed with the introduction in 1927 of the Triumph Super 7 which sold in large numbers through to 1934.

The Triumph Motor Company

In 1930 the company changed its name to the Triumph Motor Company. It was clear to Holbrook that there was no future in pursuing the mass manufacturers and so decided to take the company upmarket with the Southern Cross and Gloria ranges. At first these used engines made by Triumph but designed by Coventry Climax but from 1937 they started to make them to their own designs by Donald Healey who had become the company’s Experimental Manager in 1934. The company hit financial problems however and in 1936 the Triumph bicycle and motorcycle businesses were sold, the latter to Jack Sangster of Ariel to become Triumph Engineering Co Ltd. Healey purchased an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 and developed an ambitious new car with an Alfa inspired straight-8 engine called the Triumph Dolomite. However the eight-cylinder engine was not used in the production car with the same name.

In July 1939, the Triumph Motor Company went into receivership and the factory, equipment and goodwill were offered for sale. T.W. Ward purchased the company and placed Healey in charge as general manager, but the effects of World War II again stopped the production of cars and the Priory Street works was completely destroyed by bombing in 1940.

Standard Triumph

In November 1944 what was left of the Triumph Motor Company and the Triumph brand name were bought by the Standard Motor Company and a subsidiary "Triumph Motor Company (1945) Limited" was formed with production transferred to Standard's factory at Canley, on the outskirts of Coventry. Triumph's new owners had been supplying engines to Jaguar and its predecessor company since 1938. Following a "considerable argument" between Standard-Triumph Managing Director, Sir John Black, and William Lyons, the creator and owner of Jaguar, Black's objective in acquiring the rights to the name and the remnants of the bankrupt Triumph business was to build a car to compete with the soon to be launched post war Jaguars.

The pre-war Triumph models were not revived and in 1946 a new range of Triumphs starting with the Triumph Roadster was announced. Because of steel shortages these were bodied in aluminium which was plentiful because of its use in aircraft production. The same engine was used in the 1800 Town and Country saloon, later named the Triumph Renown, which was notable for the razor-edge styling chosen by Standard-Triumph's managing director Sir John Black. A similar style was also used on the subsequent Triumph Mayflower light saloon. All three of these models prominently sported the "globe" badge that had been used on pre-war models. When Sir John was forced to retire from the company this range of cars was discontinued without being directly replaced, sheet aluminium having by now become a prohibitively expensive alternative to sheet steel for most auto-industry purposes.

In the early 1950s it was decided to use the Triumph name on sporting cars and the Standard name on saloons and in 1953 the Triumph TR2 was launched, the first of a series that would run through to 1981. Curiously the TR2 wore a Standard badge on its nose and the Triumph globe on its hubcaps.

Standard had been making a range of small saloons called the Standard Eight and Ten and had been working on a replacement for these. The success of the TR range meant that Triumph was seen as a more marketable name than Standard and the new car was launched in 1959 as the Triumph Herald; the last Standard car to be made in the UK was replaced in 1963 by the Triumph 2000.

Leyland and beyond

In December 1960 the company was bought by Leyland Motors Ltd with Donald Stokes becoming chairman of the Standard-Triumph division in 1963. Further mergers led to the formation of British Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Triumph sold a succession of Michelotti-styled saloons and sports cars, including the advanced Dolomite Sprint, which, in 1973, already had a 16-valve four cylinder engine. It is alleged that many Triumphs of this era were unreliable, especially the 2.5 PI (petrol injection) with its fuel injection problems. In Australia, the summer heat caused petrol in the electric fuel pump to vapourise, resulting in frequent breakdowns of the 2.5 PI and TR6 models. While the injection system had proved itself in international competition, it did lack altitude compensation for the adjustment of mixture at altitudes greater than 3000 ft (1000 m) above sea level. The key reason for the Lucas system's unpopularity, was that Lucas was not inclined to further develop it on the one hand allied to the unwillingness of Standard-Triumph dealers to attend factory and field-based training courses dedicated to this propulsion method. For most of its time under Leyland or BL ownership the Triumph marque belonged in the Specialist Division of the company which went under the names of Rover Triumph and later Jaguar Rover Triumph apart from a brief period in the mid 1970s when all BL's car marques or brands were grouped together under the name of Leyland Cars.

The only all-new Triumph model launched under Rover Triumph was the TR7], which had the misfortune to be in production successively at three factories that were closed - Speke, the Leyland-era Standard-Triumph works in Liverpool, the original Standard works at Canley, Coventry and finally the Rover works in Solihull. The four-cylinder TR7, its eight-cylindered derivative the TR8, and its still-born fastback variant the Lynx, were dropped when the Solihull plant ceased making road-going cars (the plant continues to build Land Rovers.)

The last Triumph model was the Acclaim which was launched in 1981 and was essentially a rebadged Honda Ballade built under licence from Japanese company Honda at the former Morris works in Cowley, Oxford. The Triumph name disappeared in 1984, when the Acclaim was replaced by the Rover 200, which was a rebadged version of Honda's next generation Civic/Ballade model. The BL car division was by then called Austin Rover Group which also sounded the death knell for the Morris marque as well as Triumph.

The trademark is currently owned by BMW, acquired when it bought the Rover Group in 1994. When it sold Rover, it kept the Triumph marque. The Phoenix Consortium, which bought Rover, tried to buy the Triumph brand, but BMW refused, saying that if Phoenix insisted, it would break the deal. The Standard marque was transferred to British Motor Heritage Limited, along with Austin, Morris, and Wolseley marques. The Austin, Morris and Wolseley marques were later sold to MG Rover Group Ltd, on the 10th December 2003. The Standard marque is still retained by British Motor Heritage Limited who also have the licence to use the Triumph marque in relation to the sale of spares and support of the existing 'park' of Triumph cars.

The MG marque was sold to Phoenix along with the sale of the Rover brand images and a licence to use the Rover name. The Rover name was later sold to Ford, with Nanjing Automotive gaining the rights to the brand image. The Triumph name has been retained by BMW along with Riley, Rolls-Royce and Mini. In late 2007, Auto Express, on the back of continued rumours that Triumph might return under BMW ownership, ran a story showing an image of what a new version of the TR4 might look like. BMW has not commented officially on this.