Friday November 10, 2017
It would be fair to say that the 1300 is one of Triumph’s most significant post-war models – it was their first front wheel drive car and it was a prime example of their saloons, which were as important to their brand image as their sports cars.
And it spawned a long and complex line of successors, from Toledos to Dolomite Sprints, one encompassing front wheel drive and rear wheel drive.
The 1300 began its life in 1962 as Project Ajax and it was originally intended as a Herald replacement.
Two years later, Triumph's management made the decision that Ajax would instead occupy a new position in the market as a form of scaled down 2000.
Harry Webster decided on a FWD layout – albeit with ‘North-South’ engine rather than the ADO16’s transverse set-up - while Giovanni Michelotti created the distinctive and elegant coachwork.
September 1965 marked the debut of the 1300 and it was one of the stars of the London Motor Show although in this Pathe footage, Peter Sellers opts for a Ferrari.
£797 was a fairly large price for a small car and at that time the new Triumph offered the discerning motorist a multi-adjustable driver’s seat plus a steering column that could be adjusted for height and reach.
Add to that a rear folding armrest and a wood veneered fascia and you have luxury beyond the dreams of most Anglia or Viva drivers.
Another clever detail that many owners will remember are the recessed window winders and the 1300 was the first Triumph to feature their circular ‘All Systems Go’ dial of eight warning lamps.
Deliveries commenced in early 1966 and in the following year the TC was an even more attractive car, with its twin carburettor Spitfire engine giving an extra 14bhp.
In 1970, the 1300 was succeeded by two models, the cheaper of which was the Toledo. This combined a shorter version of the Michelotti body (in either two or four-door guise) with the 1.3-litre engine driving the rear wheels and a simplified trim level to create an heir to the Triumph Herald.
By contrast, the 1500 was the 1300 formula writ large – a FWD saloon with a longer boot, a 1,493cc engine and new frontal treatment with quad headlamps although, rather surprisingly, the older model's independent rear suspension was replaced by a live axle.
For a price of just £1,113 6s 5d (a wonderful reminder that it was launched in the last days prior to decimalisation), the 1500 had a cabin with ‘all the spacious advantages of limousine ownership’.
There was also an enhanced level of equipment including a cigar lighter, reversing lights, two-speed wipers, reclining front seats and a rather smart new dashboard with fresh air vents.
Autocar thought that ‘For the family man who can afford it, the car will appeal as much for its comfort as for the prestige it brings’ – i.e. the Triumph was well-suited to those who thought themselves above Viva HC SL or Cortina 1600XL ownership.
The 1971 London Motor Show saw the launch of the Dolomite as a successor to the Vitesse and this also meant that the 1500 was isolated as the sole FWD car in the line-up.
In late 1973, the 1500 was replaced by the RWD 1500TC but it would not be until 1976 that the entire range would receive the same body and Dolomite name.
Perhaps the final word on the 1300 should go to Motor Sport who said in 1966 that it was ‘certainly top of its class and with a little further development should be a very significant car indeed. If it was built abroad and had a foreign-sounding name you would be loudly proclaiming its many merits’.
And indeed, familiarity with those lines sometimes makes the classic enthusiast overlook what an accomplished vehicle the 1300 is - ‘the car with built-in everything’ as the advertisements put it.