Friday January 4, 2019
‘I wanted to prove a point – that what matters with a concurs restoration is how the job is carried out. That applies to the most basic of cars – and a grey van as basic as it gets!’. As the 60th birthday of the Herald looms we pay tribute to Chris Gunby’s 1964 Courier. It may not be the most luxurious of vehicles, but it looks better than when it left the factory and has a sense of style that puts not a few “supercars” in the shade. Regarding performance, it is not quite the equal of a TR250 or a Stag, but it is certainly one of the most exclusive Triumphs you are ever likely to encounter.
The Courier debuted in April 1962 as a replacement for the Standard 10 7 CWT van and its specification was ‘near enough the same as the basic Herald S saloon; rubber floor mats and a black fibreboard dashboard. The grille was from the Standard Ensign’. The list of standard equipment included two wing-mirrors and a boot light; a heater cost an extra £10 and windscreen washers were a further twenty shillings. As with the estate, power was from the 1,147cc unit, and the Courier’s payload was 5cwt, with the independent suspension was augmented by heavy duty springs with a load bay covered by a plywood floor panel. Some customers would also fit a rear seat and replace the side panels with glass - thus creating an home-built Herald Estate that was free of Purchase Tax.
Standard-Triumph highlighted ‘only one garage service needed for 3,000 miles motoring’ and a body with ‘eight separate sections for quick repair jobs’. They also highlighted the Courier’s appearance as a major selling point claiming, with a wonderful local of modesty, that it was ‘the best-looking van on the road today’. Chris points out that the Triumph was also famously manoeuvrable and with this combination of advantages it looked set to be an ideal light commercial to enhance a fashionable high street shop – ‘it says a lot for your business and does a lot for your public image. People notice the Courier’ boasted the sales copy.
Commercial Motor magazine was impressed by the Courier – ‘the name Triumph will be seen on a British production goods vehicle for the first time…it is probably the most luxurious commercial vehicle yet made’. A test report of the 16th February 1962 opened with the glowing praise ‘if appearance, finish, fittings, manoeuvrability and performance are the main considerations in deciding the right van to buy, the new Triumph Courier 5-cwt. van, introduced this week, should sell very well’.
Alas, the Herald may have offered a quite incredible motoring experience to many a van driver and its looks captured the early 1960s zeitgeist as much as wearing sun-shades in a coffee bar - but it was also smaller and more expensive than its predecessor. Commercial Motor tactfully hinted about the former issue – ‘the attractive styling of the body results in disadvantages as far as the load space is concerned; the sides taper appreciably from above the waist line and the sharp slope at the rear will prevent the end foot or so of the floor being used for carrying anything at all bulky’.
The Courier certainly looked up-to-the-minute, but it was not as adept as conveying goods as the older design while the cost was made even more acute by its major rival from Dagenham. Ford’s Anglia 105E-derived Thames 307E 5cwt and 7cwt vans which debuted in 1961, had a taller body than the Triumph and, as Chris observes ‘was £130 cheaper. If the Courier had cost even £100 less, I think would have stood more of a chance but, as it was, the Herald was just too pricey for the average customer’. Initially, Standard-Triumph had justifiable hopes for its success but by 1963 sales were plummeting. The Courier ceased to be available in the UK in 1964 although very small-scale CKD production continued in Malta for a short period
Chris thinks ‘Rumour has it that Triumph made about 5,000 and many of them were used by dealers, but my van was originally a factory runabout at Canley’. This meant that the Gunby Courier wears a “VC” registration ‘that just looks so right on a Coventry vehicle! After three to four years the Courier left the plant ‘via an employee’, and the famous Triumph enthusiast Chris Allan later owned it. Our narrative now moves to 1988, when a 17-year-old Chris attends a Triumph rally at Lampton Hall in Northamptonshire where ‘I saw my first ever Courier, and I fell in love! Its registration was 315 PWL, and it had been restored by Shaun Ogborn.’
For the next two decades Chris sought and craved a Herald van, but 1678 VC was eventually sold on. However, when he was at the TSSC rally in Stafford around 15 years ago he heard the news ‘Rob is selling Chris Allan’s Courier’. Despite having just bought a house and ‘having less than no money’. Mr. Gunby became the owner of ‘an old well-used, faded grey Courier’ which Chris drove ‘all the way back from Somerset to Lincolnshire’. It was used for ‘the next 11 months until the MOT ran out’, but when Chris took it to a garage, he received the unwelcome news that it ‘was not worth bothering to test it’.
Mr. Gunby then ‘took the Herald to bits’ and, as is so often the case with a classic, his initial investigation unearthed further issues ‘underneath there was a lot of corrosion and I thought that the Courier needed to be restored properly’. Chris thought that Paul Cull at Triumph Auto Classique http://triumphautos.co.uk - was the ideal candidate to be entrusted with the job and ‘my photograph of 315 PWL was the template; I wanted my Courier to look even better than that’. Incredibly, Shaun Ogborn was now ‘working for Paul, and it was he who rebuilt the Herald’.
The whole process took ‘nearly three years’, and the Courier’s winning the TSSC Masterclass was a testament to Triumph Auto Classique’s skills – ‘people were saying it was the best restoration they had ever seen’. Tragically, ‘Shaun passed away on that very day, and every event the Herald takes part in is dedicated to his memory’. Chris regards the Herald Courier as ‘my favourite car – I’m never going to sell it!’ - and it truly fulfils Triumph’s claims that here was a van possessing ‘good looks without the “goods look”’.
WITH THANKS TO: