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1962 Triumph Herald: Hark, the Herald Axles Swing!

1962 Triumph Herald

Yes, Triumph Heralds have swing axle rear suspension, although this one certainly has a much lower stance than it left the factory with. My wife happens to own and cherish a 1963 Herald 1200 Convertible (whose name is Robbie), so this is one car I have personal experience with. Thanks goes to Robert J for finding this one here on craigslist in San Jose, California, where it’s on offer for $2500.

Triumph Herald

The Triumph Herald debuted in 1959 with some very original features for cars in its price range.  With what was considered fancy Italian styling by Michelotti, fully independent suspension, a flip-up front end for easy access and fairly luxurious interior fitments, the Herald was considered state of the art at the time.  One of the interesting features of the car is the seam down the middle where the two halves (front/rear) of the body tub are joined on the backbone chassis.  This made the car easy to assemble in what was known as “knock-down” form to take advantage of tax and local content laws.  Heralds were assembled in both Australia and New Zealand, as well as South Africa, Ireland, Malta, Peru, and India.

Triumph Herald Saloon

Ah, but what’s this?  It has a hardtop!  Yes, this Herald actually left the factory as a coupe, although many owners have taken advantage of the bolt-on construction of the roof as an easy way to make the car into a roadster.  Unfortunately, I’ve heard that this can lead to troubles with the unreinforced body (the convertibles have a different, stronger rear cockpit).  By the way, those little white spots where bumpers should be are the remnants of the white rubber bumpers, as you can see from the picture below, courtesy of the Vintage Triumph Register site, vtr.org, who offers a great deal of support for Herald owners on this side of the pond.

Restored Herald

Heralds were powered by small 4-cylinder engines, versions of which were used to power Spitfires and other Triumphs.  The seller thinks that this one has been replaced by a Spitfire engine, which looks to be an 1147cc version with twin SU HS2 carbs, and what looks like a Mk. I Spitfire exhaust manifold.

Triumph Herald Motor

Although it’s said not to run, these cars and engines are not very complex, and if worst came to worst, it is straightforward to substitute a later Spitfire engine and even transmission (my wife’s has a fully synchronized Spitfire tranny courtesy of the previous owner).  You can even adapt Spitfire front disc brakes and other performance features.

Triumph Herald Interior

Unfortunately, the interior has seen better days, with some trim and carpet missing.  The dash top and transmission tunnel were laminated cardboard from the factory, so don’t expect them to hold up that well.  The seller says they have the original door panels; even if they are in poor shape, they wouldn’t be terribly hard to reproduce.

My wife loves her Herald, and I have to admit it gets more waves and smiles than any of our other collector cars when we’re out in it.  My first experience in a Triumph was in the back seat of a Herald when I was 10; I remember even then being impressed with the road-holding.  Are you impressed enough to pursue this one?


  1. Randy Rush

    I owned one for 3 years. Bought it from a body shop . The body shop did a cheap paint job on it and the owner didn’t pay. So they decided to sell it. Couldn’t get it started. I bought it painted for $375 , towed it home, took me 5 minutes to fix it. The 2 rod between the 2 carbs wasn’t tightened. That was the only maintenance I did for 3 years, Sold it for $1700.

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  2. James M

    This looks like a solid Hearld Saloon (the hard top was secured with bolts) rather than a coupe. I’d consider buying a Coupe, however the one to have, if it could be found, would be a nice (at what price) Brabham conversion with the 1218cc Coventry Climax SOHC engine along with chassis and performance mods.


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  3. RickyM

    Brilliant title for this article – inspired!

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  4. That Guy

    I did exactly this with my Herald sedan – removed the roof and drove it as a convertible. I can’t advise it, really. The body flexed so much that the passenger door frequently flew open around left-hand turns. I don’t recall that happening with the driver’s door, but maybe I’ve just blocked the memory. :-)

    The styling may have been state-of-the-art, but the body-on-frame construction was actually a retrograde step, made necessary by the fact that Triumph couldn’t secure a contract from the body manufacturer Pressed Steel to supply unit bodies. They had to design a car they could construct in their own, less-advanced facilities.

    That flip-front is wonderful from a maintenance perspective. I can’t think of another car which has better access to the mechanicals. Even the transmission can be accessed from inside the car, because the transmission tunnel is basically a piece of pressed cardboard which can be unfastened and lifted out.

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  5. Tirefriar

    Hey, thanks posting this little car. I have general familiarity with Vintage British sports cars but not really a penchant for one. However I always like to see and learn new things and this posting wash perfect example. As for this or any other project that has been owned for a very short time with the owner loosing interest- beware. The actual reason may be “gotten in way over my head”. From the above comments, this particular car, although a rare bird in the wild, is nothing special among its own flock. In need of ground up resto, including body and mechanical, with a non-running non-original engine to boot – all that at $2500?! Pass…

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  6. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    James, you’re right about the Coupe reference; should have said Saloon :-) A friend has one of the Brabham-Heralds in extremely original condition; I’ve never been out in it but he says it’s fun to drive!

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  7. jim s

    i think a lot of these were parted out even when they were still running because so many of the parts fit the sportscars. nice find.

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  8. Paul B

    These were sweet little cars to drive unless you got going too quickly around a curve, in which case the swing axles could do a number on you, just as with the Spitfire. Also, anyone thinking of buying this needs to look carefully at the frame. Rust was a definite problem with the frames on these things. I like the overall look of this car but have no illusions about the economics: it’s either a labor of love restoration, a beater driver, or a parts car. All good and worthy possibilities, and all money pits.

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  9. William Henshaw

    Somebody buy this car for your kid, something to keep him busy and you amused.

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  10. Murray Mitchell

    The handling of the Herald, and its stablemate the Spitfire along with the Chevrolet Corvair is greatly exaggerated. I have driven both the Herald and the Spitfire, sadly not the Corvair.

    The Herald is like any of the small cars offered at the time, mostly under powered but adequate for the road conditions of the time. I was never in a position to push the Herald to its limits but cannot say I was ever in fear of the rear wheel tucking under and flipping the car.

    I did, however, push the Spitfire to its limits and found it way more fun than it reputation would have you believe. Pushing the tail out was relatively easy and it felt safe at all times even on opposite lock.

    Remember that the VW Beetle was also swing axle and no one seemed to be claiming it was dangerous at any speed.

    If I had the facilities I’d go for this one. Make sure the gearbox cover is in good condition, as stated its pressed cardboard and finding a good replacement could be next to impossible.

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  11. james reynolds

    I owned a triumph TR3a 1961, for about 15-18 years, this was the most fun car of my life, I loved the exaust sound, I lived in a small town & could rattle the windows on main street, as I drove by. It was a battle fighting rust, much money over the years spent on body repairs, my wife said it was a hole to throw money in, but as vices go it was about the only one I had, so she staid reasonably happy. I am 75 yrs old & the TR3 still gives me many good memories

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  12. Catfishphil

    Just cover that cardboard transmission cover with strips of fibreglas, paint it black and keep it rolling.

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