Thursday March 28, 2019
‘For most people, it brings them back to when they were learning to drive’ is just one response to the 1972 Triumph owned by Andrew Pringle’s father John. The other near inevitable questions they regularly face are ‘Is it a Toledo?’ or ‘is it a Dolomite’? In fact it is none other than a now uber-rare 1500, the last FWD car to bear the Triumph badge before the launch of the Acclaim.
As almost any enthusiast of British Leyland cars knows only too well, the compact Triumph saloon range of 1965 to 1980 is one of mind-melting complexity. The 1300, the company’s first ever front wheel drive car, debuted 54 years ago and by 1970 it was effectively replaced by two models.
The Toledo featured an entry-level specification and RWD to ensure it would also appeal to former Herald 1200 owners, while the 1500 retained the FWD layout combined with an elongated boot and bonnet, plus a 1,493cc power plant.
The ‘1 ½ litre limousine’, as the adverts modestly described the latest four-door Triumph, was nicely equipped; for his/her £1,127 6s 5d, the proud owner, gained a car with a telescopic steering column, a multi-adjustable driver’s seat, quad headlamps, two-speed wipers and a cigar lighter as standard.
It was also rather elegant and understated, with looks that were a world apart from its Cortina Mk. III contemporary. If the Ford appealed to the motorist who aspired to be Roger Moore in The Persuaders!, the 1500 was more for drivers whose role model was Terry Scott in Carry On Loving.
Autocar noted the ‘prestige’ bestowed on the owner of a 1500, and it did occupy a distinctive niche within the British car market. Of its BL contemporaries, the Austin/Morris 1300GT and the Wolseley 18/85 were both aimed at very different customer bases while neither Ford, Vauxhall nor Chrysler UK had a comparable front-wheel-drive offering.
However, when the Dolomite made its bow at the 1971 Earls Court Motor Show, the 1500 looked somewhat isolated within the marque’s hierarchy. By October 1973 the original model was replaced by the RWD 1500TC which was facelifted as the Dolomite 1500 HL in March 1976.
By the late 1980s, the 1500 was already a fairly unusual sight, and the Pringles came across their example seven years ago. Andrew recalls that although the Triumph had resided in a garage for a considerable period ‘there wasn't much work to do – just cosmetics. My dad says he likes the drive of it and the fact of its easy maintenance and what I like is its recognisable, unique shape’.
Andrew is aged 22 and regarding the mental adjustments he had to make when taking the wheel of a car from the days of Alice Cooper singing School’s Out. ‘As with driving different vehicles, you tend to turn on wipers instead of indicators. The turning circle is a bit wider than other cars, and these are just little things you pick up on, but the car is simple to drive and has minimal controls’.
Most importantly, Andrew finds the 1500 to be a ‘comfortable car and an all-round pleasure to drive’ – which was Triumph’s original intention nearly five decades ago.