Monday September 2, 2019
We never learned if the Miss Marples of the Margaret Rutherford series of films for MGM-British owned a motor-car – but if she did, it was likely to have been a well-polished Triumph Renown Limousine. A top speed of 75 mph meant that she was unlikely to arrive at the scene of the crime before Inspector Craddock’s Wolseley, but a Renown was always more concerned with good manners than mere performance.
Triumph’s post-war range of large saloons was marketed as a car for a true gentleman or the lady of the manor. ‘It gives the discerning motorist the satisfaction that he has chosen well, while appraising glances will confirm his good taste and judgement’. Car brochures really have lost a certain flair since the late 1940s and early 1950s.
The Standard Motor Company acquired Triumph in 1944, and the 1800 Town & Country Saloon (what a splendid name) of 1946 combined the 1.8-litre engine of the Flying Fourteen with a tubular chassis. Mulliners of Birmingham constructed the razor-edged bodywork, and the interior included such pleasant detailing as adjustable armrests on the front doors and a blind for the rear screen that was controlled by the driver. Your choice of colours ranged from the ever sensible black to dark metallic grey or – if you were feeling ever so slightly caddish – maroon.
The 2000 TDA succeeded the 1800 in 1949, the latest Triumph featuring the Standard Vanguard’s 2,088cc engine and three-speed steering column gearchange. By the end of that year, the Renown combined the now-familiar coachwork with front coil springs and the chassis from the Vanguard Phase 1. The latest model was just what the Triumph customer demanded - it was also cheaper than a Riley RM, and more “traditional” in appearance than a Wolseley 6/80, Humber Hawk or Ford V8 Pilot.
1951 saw the Renown available in limousine form, and the longer-wheelbase body was offered sans a glass division in 1952. In that same year, Triumph displayed their 20TS sports car prototype at the London Motor Show, and the debut of the TR2 in 1953 not only transformed the marque’s image, it also made the Renown appear redolent of a vanishing world. Production ceased in 1954, although S-T initially planned that their 1956 Vanguard Sportsman to be Triumph-badged - hence the grille and the “globe” logo.
However, it would not be until late 1963 that S-T re-entered this sector of the market with the 2000. It is nearly impossible to believe that a mere nine years separate the Michelotti-styled “junior executive” transport from the last of the Renowns – the former belongs in a realm of office blocks and motorway services while the latter is redolent of thatched cottages and James Robertson Justice.
My favourite memories of this elegant and understated Triumph – somewhat predictably – derive from the silver screen. Peter Cushing’s 1950 Renown fell afoul of irate (and low-budget) alien invaders in 1967’s Night of the Big Heat, and the final series of Sapphire & Steel were dominated by a mysterious couple in an 1800 saloon. And I still maintain that if Miss Marple did not own a Renown Limousine in Murder She Said (and with Sam Kydd as her part-time chauffeur), then she really should have done.
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