There are fewer more cost-effective ways into classic car ownership than with something British, old and a little bit unloved. The Triumph Toledo is a prime example of cheap classic motoring, and it's generally overlooked and overshadowed by its Dolomite replacement. With plenty of character, this early 1970s small saloon has quite a lot to offer for a very small outlay.
Introduced in 1970 as a cheaper alternative to the 1300, the two- and later four-door saloon was actually a huge sales success for Triumph, with a total of 119,182 manufactured over a six-year period.
It’s a perfect car for any classic car newbie to start with – it’s cheap to buy, easy to fix and running costs are minimal. If something goes wrong, parts prices are low, and due to the vast numbers produced in period, second-hand spares are generally straightforward to source.
It’s fun to drive, too. Unlike the 1300, the Toledo sent its power to the rear wheels via a live axle. We’re not saying that you should expect BMW E30 M3 levels of rear-wheel drive fun, but the precise steering and compact dimensions make the task of eking every last horsepower from the 1296cc engine’s modest output an enjoyable experience.
The interior is fairly basic, with a couple of round dials set into a wooden dashboard flanked by the bare minimum of switches. It’s all pleasingly simple, and cabin space is fairly generous front and rear.
Which Toledo to buy?
During its six-year life, the Toledo was offered in two body styles and with two engine capacities. Launch models were all two-door saloons powered by a 58bhp 1.3-litre four cylinder, while the larger 1.5-litre joined the UK line-up one year later. The larger unit was available with either single or twin carburettors (known as SC and TC), and improved performance considerably: TC models delivered 64bhp, enough to drop the 0-60mph time relative to the 1300 by 3.5 seconds (to 13.6), and improve top speed by 5mph. 1.5 models are considerably rarer – fewer than 6000 were sold.
At the same time as the 1.5’s release came the introduction of the four-door saloon. Aside from the obvious changes, the four-doors featured wraparound bumpers – a feature which would be added to the two-door in 1973. The extra bodywork of the four-door added approximately 50kg to the overall weight. All Toledos were initially equipped with drum brakes all round, but from 1972 onwards disc brakes were fitted at the front.
Many of the significant changes to the Toledo came in 1975, when the two-door model was dropped. At the same time, the four-door underwent a heavy facelift. The TC engine gained a higher compression ratio, which bumped power to 71bhp. Cosmetically, the Toledo now featured side body trims, a black front grille, and a little extra brightwork on the roof guttering. Standard equipment no consisted of a driver’s side door mirror, a seat belt warning light, twin reversing lights and reclining front seats.
Performance and specs
||58bhp @ 5500rpm
||68lb ft @ 3300rpm
Dimensions and weight
• While values for the Toledo remain low, many major mechanical fixes and restoration aren’t yet financially viable, unless you are planning on undertaking it all at home. Try to buy an example in the best possible condition regardless of your plans though.
• Some Toledos suffered from poor-quality flaking paint from the factory, so rust was –and still is – is a common problem. The door bottoms, bonnet, bootlid and rear wheel arches should be thoroughly inspected – especially keeping an eye out for filler (use a magnet to ensure there’s actually metal below a shiny-looking fresh respray). All are fairly easy (and cheap) to remedy with replacement body panels.
• Care should also be taken to examine the structural areas, starting with the sills, which might have been badly patched up for MoT work. Take a look beneath the battery, which might have leaked in the past, for any corrosion to the inner chassis.
• A little oil smoke on start up isn’t a disaster – it’s to be expected – but make sure it goes away once the engine is warmed through.
• 1500 models are known to suffer from bottom end troubles. It wasn’t the most refined when it was launched, so some noise at start up is okay, but listen out for any grumbling on a longer test drive.
• The Toledo’s steering should be sharp and accurate. Any play is likely down to worn bushes, which is a cheap fix, although it could be the rack itself. Less likely, but a rack rebuild or full replacement will be a little more pricey.
August 1970: Triumph Toledo unveiled in two-door saloon form
March 1971: Four-door “Special Export” model revealed for overseas markets
August 1971: Four door sales began in the UK
1972: Front disc brakes becomes standard across the range
1974: Heated rear window becomes standard-fit item
March 1975: Two door dropped. Four door receives a range of cosmetic upgrades. Clutch and gearbox improved across the range, and TC models gain a higher compression ratio to raise power output
1976: Toledo phased out, replaced by Dolomite
Owners clubs, forums and websites
• www.triumphdolomite.co.uk – Club for all ‘60s/’70s Triumph compact saloons, including the Toledo
• www.club.triumph.org.uk – Owners club and forum for all Triumph models
• www.rimmerbros.co.uk – Parts specialist for British classics. Based in Lincoln
Summary and prices
Relative to its successor, the Dolomite, the Toledo is seen as the less desirable alternative. This means that prices remain very low – even cars in good to excellent condition will only fetch around £1500. Search for long enough, and restoration projects will be available for barely a couple of hundred pounds. While the Dolomite is the better machine, a Toledo still represents fantastic value and is an interesting alternative to the much more expensive (and arguably no better) Ford or Vauxhall alternatives.