The Triumph Herald burst onto the scene in 1959 and instantly became a family favourite. Especially popular with women drivers and driving schools, the Herald struck a chord with those who wanted something stylish, cheap to buy and run, comfortable and manoeuvrable into the bargain.
With a choice of two-door saloon, coupé, convertible and estate bodystyles, there was something for everyone, and while performance wasn’t gut-busting thanks to the 948cc engine, from 1961 there was also an 1147cc powerplant for those wanting more go – later on there would be a 1296cc unit.
While the Herald made a great new buy back in the 1960s, it makes great classic transport now thanks to superb parts availability, easy maintenance and excellent practicality. With independent suspension all round, a turning circle tighter than a London taxi’s plus disc brakes on most models, the Herald is more capable dynamically than its reputation would have you believe.
Which one to buy
No Herald is sporty, as the largest engine offers just 61bhp. But upgrades for a bit more go are simplicity itself – it’s easy to slot in Spitfire mechanicals, tune a Herald engine or you could go for the six-cylinder edition instead, the Vitesse. Mechanically similar to the Herald, you’ll need slightly deeper pockets to secure a Vitesse, but the premium isn’t that great.
All Heralds featured the same four-speed manual gearbox, with synchromesh on all gears except first. No Herald was available with overdrive from the factory, but there are plenty of cars about that have been converted to a Spitfire transmission – it’s worth seeking out one of these.
With its Meccano-like chassis-based construction, it’s common for a Herald to consist of parts from multiple cars, so don’t worry about Spitfire engines or gearboxes, Vitesse back axles, or even a Vitesse chassis underneath a Herald bodyshell. Some cars have been converted into dropheads, and it’s no problem if done properly and you’re not paying genuine convertible money. On that note, it’s a myth that the convertible has a stronger chassis than the saloon; they’re interchangeable, but the Vitesse features slightly bigger brakes up front.
Tech spec - Triumph Herald 13/60 convertible
Engine 1296cc/4-cyl Power 61bhp @ 5000rpm Torque 73lb ft @ 3000rpm Top speed 84mph 0-60mph 17.7sec Consumption 34mpg Gearbox Four-speed manual
What to look for
• The bodywork is essentially cosmetic, so tatty cars can be safe and strong if the chassis is sound. The main chassis rails rot below the diff as do the outriggers; replacing the latter properly means removing the bodyshell.
• Other rot spots include the door bottoms, floorpans, rain gutters and the front lower corners of the bonnet along with the spare wheel well and front valance.
• Don’t be alarmed if panel fit is poor, especially if the car has seen a body-off rebuild. Getting everything properly lined up from scratch is a nightmare.
• The engines are durable, but a filter with a non-return valve must be fitted, or the big-end bearings will wear quickly, betrayed by rattling at start up. Once this has happened, a bottom-end rebuild is the only solution.
• The 1296cc engine can suffer from worn thrust washers, given away by excessive fore-aft movement of the crankshaft; push and pull on the front pulley. Any detectable movement means the crankshaft and block could be wrecked if the thrust washers fall out.
• Gearboxes are reasonably durable, but the synchro wears, so check for baulking. Also listen for whining, indicating worn gears, or rumbling, signifying duff bearings.
• The front suspension can give trouble, but it’s all cheap and easy to fix. The nylon bushes in the brass trunnions wear, while the trunnions themselves wear if they’re not regularly lubricated with EP90 oil. Without this, water gets in and corrodes the lower portion of the vertical link, weakening it so the suspension collapses.
• The rubber suspension bushes perish, the anti-roll bar links can break while the wheelbearings wear along with the track rod ends, plus the steering rack and upper ball joints – but they’re all easily and cheaply replaced.
• The rubber steering rack mounts also perish after being marinaded in leaked engine oil. Feel for play by getting underneath, but when driving the car it’ll be obvious if things are really bad.
• The rear wheelbearings wear out and are a pain to remove as a press is needed. The bearings act directly on the driveshaft, so if left, the half-shaft can be scrapped as well as the bearings.
1959: The 948cc Herald saloon and coupé debut. 1960: The 948 convertible arrives. 1961: The Herald 1200 (with 1147cc engine) replaces the 948 edition, although the entry-level Herald S continues with the smaller engine. In the same year, an estate is introduced with the 1147cc engine. 1962: There’s now a Herald van, called the Courier, with an 1147cc engine. 1963: The Herald 12/50 arrives, with cloth sunroof and higher-output (51bhp) 1147cc engine. 1964: The coupé and Courier are dropped. 1967: The Herald 13/60 goes on sale, with 1296cc powerplant. 1971: The Herald is killed off.