Wednesday December 4, 2019
‘The Sprint must be the answer to many people’s prayers’. That is what Autocar thought of the latest Triumph back in July 1973, as the scribe raved about the ‘quite impeccable’ manners and how it was a ‘tremendously satisfying car to drive’. Today, thousands of enthusiasts would agree with those words.
The Dolomite was introduced in 1971 as the heir to the Vitesse; a very clever blend of the Toledo rear suspension and the 1500 bodyshell, with power from a “Slant-4” engine.
Meanwhile, British Leyland was hard at work developing a version that would, in the words of Bill Davis, the Managing Director of Rover/Triumph, ‘dispel the myth that the Continental manufacturers have a virtual monopoly of fast, medium-sized cars’.
The flagship Dolomite would be powered by a 1,998cc engine that was developed in collaboration with Coventry Climax.
The Stromberg carburettors of the standard model were replaced by twin SUs and Sprint was to be the world’s first mass-produced car with a multi-valve engine.
And when the Triumph that was ‘luxurious, quiet and utterly civilised’ made its bow in 1973, it would be fair to say the motoring press and public were equally impressed.
For just £1,786.84, the motorist gained a Triumph with a 16 valve engine, alloy wheels, a vinyl roof and a top speed of 116 mph with a 0-60 mph time of 8.7 seconds.
Overdrive and Sundym glass were very worthwhile extras, and the first 2,000 examples were finished in the very distinctive shade of Mimosa Yellow, and one of the Sprint’s many selling-points is how Triumph upgraded the familiar 1300 bodyshell without succumbing to 1970s flamboyance.
As Motor Sport put it, the ‘Dolomite Sprint is a car I liked from the moment I moved out of the office car-park, and it becomes more likeable the further and faster you drive it. There is very little to fault’.
Motor found its lines ‘a mite old-fashioned with its chunky lines’ but also noted ‘the Dolomite Sprint doesn’t have a rival in sight’. The Ford Escort RS2000 Mk. I and the Hillman Avenger Tiger were different forms of sports saloon.
The Triumph was aimed at the motorist in the Alfa Romeo Alfetta/BMW 2002 category, as illustrated by this Thames TV Drive In programme - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C275VY9AQsM.
Tinted windows and overdrive were standardised in 1975, with the Sprint gaining head restraints, a laminated windscreen and the option of limited-slip differential in the following year.
By December 1977 the Sprint gained television stardom in The Professionals although its time with CI5 was to be sadly limited to seven episodes.
Mark One Productions was already frustrated with BL, and so the ace agent with the Harpo Marx hairstyle replaced the Triumph with a RS 2000 Mk. II.
Production ceased in August 1980, and it was never to be replaced: the Acclaim was a very different form of Triumph. The Sprint was, to quote the brochure from 1974, ‘a car that makes people look. And look again’.