Monday October 7, 2019
‘Admiration as it is so different from a Euro box – but you do get the odd critic!’. These are some of public responses to Nicholas Jervis’s 1958 Standard Vanguard Sportsman, which is now one of the most exclusive British saloons of the 1950s.
The coachwork is as respectable as the BBC Home Service, mugs of Ovaltine or Richard Dimbleby presenting Panorama while that elaborate grille, together with the “globe” badges, is a clear indication that the Sportsman was first intended to be Triumph-badged.
The agreeably formal Renown had ceased production in 1954, but Canley believed that a replacement, based on the forthcoming Vanguard Phase III, would appeal to Riley Pathfinder drivers as much as the Ford Zephyr-Zodiac/Vauxhall Cresta sector of the car marker.
Power would be from a modified TR3 unit, with twin SU carburettors, resulting in 90 bhp and a top speed of over 98 mph.
The lavish specification included overdrive, duotone-paint, a reversing lamp, leather trim, full instrumentation including a clock, a heater, windscreen washers, folding armrests fore and aft, a cigar lighter and ultraviolet panel lights.
Nicholas wryly observes ‘when working!’ on the last-named feature.
The ‘car that breathes prestige in every gracious pore’ made its bow in August 1956, bearing the Standard marque name; due to a last-minute decision on the part of management.
The Motor noted ‘Improved performance goes with greater refinement’, and Motor Sport rather liked the Sportsman ‘For those seeking a medium-sized car of reasonable economy and outstanding performance, and who can tolerate a steering-column gear-lever in a sports saloon, the Standard Vanguard Sportsman is worthy of careful consideration’
But sales were limited, with just 968 Sportsmans leaving the dealerships. Some enthusiasts believe that regular manufacture ceased as early as 1957, long before official sales of the Sportsman ended in March 1958.
One issue was at £1,231 7s it was an expensive machine, costing far more than a Zodiac Mk. II or the Austin A105 Westminster, to name just two very strong rivals.
Another issue was the flagship Vanguard looked too flamboyant to appeal to a Renown driver, while Riley, Rover and Wolseley owners tended to mutter the phrase ‘wide boy’ whenever they glimpsed a Sportsman in the managers’ car park.
By the end of 1963, S-T would perfect the “executive saloon” formula with the six-cylinder 2000, the model that ironically marked the demise of the Standard marque.
But the Sportsman deserves to be appreciated a bold and ambitious attempt to expand the Vanguard’s customer-base.
Nicholas has owned his example since 2002 – ‘it came from Bath’. He enjoys driving the Sportsman ‘for the same reason as I enjoy driving a Buick... It is different’.
As for the previously mentioned critics – ‘I have done shows where people have said "my mate has one of these but in better condition" When in fact they haven't got one! One bloke said he had a two-door!’ In other words, ‘You get a lot of YouTube trolls in person!’ - but this is sometimes a part of the price of owning such a splendidly offbeat classic.
With Thanks To: Nicholas Jervis