Jump to content

Triumph Motor Company

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Triumph Motor Company
Founded1885; 139 years ago (1885) (as S. Bettmann & Co. Import Export Agency)
Defunct1984 (1984)
FateAcquired by Leyland Motors (1960)
marque retired (1984)
marque acquired by BMW (1994)
HeadquartersCoventry, England, UK
Key people
Siegfried Bettmann, Moritz Schulte (founders)
ParentStandard Motors Ltd, Leyland Motors Ltd., British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd, BL plc

The Triumph Motor Company was a British car and motor manufacturing company in the 19th and 20th centuries. The marque had its origins in 1885 when Siegfried Bettmann of Nuremberg formed S. Bettmann & Co. and started importing bicycles from Europe and selling them under his own trade name in London. The trade name became "Triumph" the following year, and in 1887 Bettmann was joined by a partner, Moritz Schulte, also from Germany. In 1889, the businessmen started producing their own bicycles in Coventry, England.

Triumph manufactured its first car in 1923.[1] The company was acquired by Leyland Motors in 1960, ultimately becoming part of the giant conglomerate British Leyland (BL) in 1968, where the Triumph brand was absorbed into BL's Specialist Division alongside former Leyland stablemates Rover and Jaguar. Triumph-badged vehicles were produced by BL until 1984 when the Triumph marque was retired, where it remained dormant under the auspices of BL's successor company Rover Group. The rights to the Triumph marque are currently owned by BMW, who purchased the Rover Group in 1994.



Triumph Cycle Company (1897-1930)


S. Bettman & Co. was renamed the Triumph Cycle Co. Ltd. in 1897.[2] In 1902 they began producing Triumph motorcycles at their works in Coventry on Much Park Street. At first, they used engines purchased from another company, but the business prospered and they soon started making their own engines. In 1907 they purchased the premises of a spinning mill on Priory Street to develop a new factory. Major orders for the 550 cc Model H were placed by the British Army during the First World War; by 1918 Triumph had become Britain's largest manufacturer of motorcycles.

In 1921 Bettmann was persuaded by his general manager Claude Holbrook (1886–1979), who had joined the company in 1919, to acquire the assets and Clay Lane premises of the Dawson Car Company and start producing a car and 1.4-litre engine type named the Triumph 10/20 designed for them by Lea-Francis, to whom they paid a royalty for every car sold.[3] Production of this car and its immediate successors was moderate, but this changed with the introduction in 1927 of the Triumph Super 7, which sold in large numbers until 1934.

Triumph Motor Company (1930-1944)

1923 Triumph 10/20
1931 Triumph Super 9, 4 Door Tourer
1934 Triumph Gloria Six
1936 Triumph Gloria Southern Cross 10.8 HP (four, 1,232 cc)
1937 Triumph Dolomite Roadster

In 1930 the company's name was changed to Triumph Motor Company.[2] Holbrook realised he could not compete with the larger car companies for the mass market, so he decided to produce expensive cars, and introduced the models Southern Cross and Gloria. At first they used engines made by Triumph but designed by Coventry Climax, but in 1937 Triumph started to produce engines to their own designs by Donald Healey, who had become the company's experimental manager in 1934.

The company encountered financial problems however, and in 1936 the Triumph bicycle and motorcycle businesses were sold, the latter to Jack Sangster of Ariel to become Triumph Engineering Co Ltd.[2] Healey purchased an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 and developed a new car model with an Alfa inspired straight-8 engine type named the Triumph Dolomite.[4] Three of these cars were made in 1934, one of which was used in competition and destroyed in an accident. The Dolomites manufactured from 1937 to 1940 were unrelated to these prototypes.

In July 1939 the Triumph Motor Company went into receivership and the factory, equipment and goodwill were offered for sale.[3] The Thos. W. Ward scrapping company purchased Triumph, and placed Healey in charge as general manager, but the effects of the Second World War again stopped the production of cars; the Holbrook Lane works were completely destroyed by bombing in 1940.[5]

Standard Triumph (1930-1960)

1946 Triumph 1800 Roadster
1950 Triumph Mayflower
1954 Triumph TR2
1955–57 Triumph TR3

In November 1944 what was left of the Triumph Motor Company and the Triumph trade name were bought by the Standard Motor Company[6] and a subsidiary "Triumph Motor Company (1945) Limited" was formed with production transferred to Standard's factory at Canley, on the outskirts of Coventry. Triumph's new owners had been supplying engines to Jaguar and its predecessor company since 1938. After an argument between Standard-Triumph managing director, Sir John Black, and William Lyons, the creator and owner of Jaguar, Black's objective in acquiring the rights to the name and the remnants of the bankrupt Triumph business was to build a car to compete with the soon to be launched post-war Jaguars.[7]

The pre-war Triumph models were not revived and in 1946 a new range of Triumphs was announced, starting with the Triumph Roadster. The Roadster had an aluminium body because steel was in short supply and surplus aluminium from aircraft production was plentiful. The same engine was used for the 1800 Town and Country saloon, later named the Triumph Renown, which was notable for the styling chosen by Standard-Triumph's managing director Sir John Black. A similar style was also used for the subsequent Triumph Mayflower light saloon. All three of these models prominently sported the "globe" badge that had been used on pre-war models. When Sir John was forced to retire from the company this range of cars was discontinued without being replaced directly, sheet aluminium having by now become a prohibitively expensive alternative to sheet steel for most auto-industry purposes.

In the early 1950s it was decided to use the Triumph name for sporting cars and the Standard name for saloons and in 1953 the Triumph TR2 was initiated, the first of the TR series of sports cars that were produced until 1981. Curiously, the TR2 had a Standard badge on its front and the Triumph globe on its hubcaps.

Standard had been making a range of small saloons named the Standard Eight and Ten, and had been working on their replacements. The success of the TR range meant that Triumph was considered a more marketable name than Standard, and the new car was introduced in 1959 as the Triumph Herald. The last Standard car to be made in the UK was replaced in 1963 by the Triumph 2000.

Leyland and Beyond (1960-1984)

1960 Triumph Herald 948cc Coupe
1970 Triumph Vitesse Mk.2 Convertible
1971 Triumph 2.5PI
1973 Triumph Spitfire
1973 Triumph Dolomite Sprint
1974 Triumph GT6 Coupé
1976 Triumph TR6
1982 Triumph TR7 cabriolet
1978 Triumph Lynx

Standard-Triumph was bought by Leyland Motors Ltd. in December 1960; Donald Stokes became chairman of the Standard-Triumph division in 1963. In 1967 Leyland Motor Corporation bought the Rover company and in 1968 Leyland Motor Corporation merged with British Motor Holdings (created out of the merger of the British Motor Corporation and Jaguar two years earlier) which resulted in the formation of British Leyland Motor Corporation. Triumph set up an assembly facility in Speke, Liverpool in 1960, gradually increasing the size of the company's most modern factory to the point that it could produce 100,000 cars per year. However, only a maximum of 30,000 cars was ever produced as the plant was never put into full production use, being used largely as an assembly plant.[8] During the 1960s and '70s Triumph sold a succession of Michelotti-styled saloons and sports cars, including the advanced Dolomite Sprint, which, in 1973, already had a 16-valve four-cylinder engine. It is alleged that many Triumphs of this era were unreliable, especially the 2.5 PI (petrol injection) with its fuel injection problems. In Australia, the summer heat caused petrol in the electric fuel pump to vapourise, resulting in frequent malfunctions. Although the injection system had proven itself in international competition, it lacked altitude compensation to adjust the fuel mixture at altitudes greater than 3,000 feet (910 m) above sea level. The Lucas system proved unpopular: Lucas did not want to develop it further, and Standard-Triumph dealers were reluctant to attend the associated factory and field-based training courses.

For most of its time under Leyland or BL ownership the Triumph marque belonged in the Specialist Division of the company, which went by the names of Rover Triumph and later Jaguar Rover Triumph, except for a brief period during the mid-1970s when all BL's car marques or brands were grouped together under the name of Leyland Cars. The only all-new Triumph model initiated as Rover Triumph was the TR7, which was in production successively at three factories that were closed: Speke, the poorly run Leyland-era Standard-Triumph works in Liverpool,[8] the original Standard works at Canley, Coventry and finally the Rover works in Solihull. Plans for an extended range based on the TR7, including a fastback variant codenamed "Lynx", were ended when the Speke factory closed. The four-cylinder TR7 and its short-lived eight-cylindered derivative the TR8 were terminated when the road car section of the Solihull plant was closed (the plant continued to build Land Rovers.)

Demise of Triumph Cars

1983 Triumph Acclaim

The last Triumph model was the Acclaim, introduced in 1981 and essentially a rebadged Honda Ballade built under licence from the Japanese carmaker Honda, at the former Morris Motors works in Cowley, Oxford. The Triumph name disappeared over the summer of 1984, when the Acclaim was replaced by the Rover 200, a rebadged version of Honda's next generation Civic/Ballade model. This was the first phase of a rebranding of the Rover Group which would also see the Austin and Morris brands disappear by the end of the 1980s and the Rover brand dominate most of the company's products. The BL car division had by then been named the Austin Rover Group, which also retired the Morris marque in 1984 as well as the Triumph brand.

Current ownership and possible revival

2023 Makkina Triumph TR25 Concept

The trademark is owned currently by BMW, which acquired Triumph when it bought the Rover Group in 1994. When BMW sold Rover, it retained the Triumph and Riley marques. The Phoenix Consortium, which bought Rover, attempted to buy the Triumph brand, but BMW refused, saying that if Phoenix insisted, it would break the deal. The Standard marque was transferred to British Motor Heritage Limited. The Standard marque is still retained by British Motor Heritage, who also have the licence to use the Triumph marque in relation to the sale of spares and service of the existing 'park' of Triumph cars.

Proposals were reportedly made in the early 2000s for BMW to market a cheaper, four cylinder, rear wheel drive car based on the Z4 Roadster to rival the Mazda MX-5. This new car was speculated to be branded as either an Austin-Healey or a Triumph. Development of the car took place, although production did not commence.

In 2005, it was reported that BMW's Designworks studio in California proposed reviving the Triumph brand for use on the new Mini Roadster, branding and styling it as a Triumph. The idea was rejected by Mini dealers, averse to selling a second legacy brand and adding extra showrooms.

In late 2007, the magazine Auto Express, after continued rumours that Triumph might be revived with BMW ownership, featured a story showing an image of what a new version of the TR4 might look like. BMW did not comment officially on this.

In 2011, BMW applied for a European trademark to use the Triumph laurel wreath badge on vehicles, as well as a wide variety of merchandise. The application was published in late 2012, and further stirred rumours regarding the revival of the Triumph brand.[9] Piers Scott, head of corporate communications for BMW Australia stated in an interview with Drive that:

"[The Triumph brand] is always there to be rejuvenated should we choose, I don't think people realise we have Triumph in our stable, but I struggle to see a place for it . I can't think of anything that is in the production timeframe that would not be wearing a BMW badge - be it 'i' or just BMW."[10]

In 2023, automotive design house Makkina (with permission from BMW) revealed the Triumph TR25 concept car for its 25th anniversary, as well as to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Triumph Cars itself. Based on the BMW i3S, the TR25 pays homage to the Triumph TR2 MVC575 'Jabbeke' of 1953, featuring many design cues from the record breaking car.[11] Speaking with Auto Express, Makkina director Michael Ani stated that the TR25 is intended as a concept, although the BMW platform and powertrain provide scope to bring the car to production should the opportunity arise.[12]

Triumph car models



Model Name Engine Year
Triumph 10/20 1393 cc inline 4 (1923–1925)
Triumph 13/35 or 12.8 1872 cc inline 4 (1927–1927)
Triumph 15/50 or Fifteen 2169 cc inline 4 (1926–1930)
Triumph Super 7 747 cc inline 4 (1928)
Triumph Super 8 832 cc inline 4 (1930)
Triumph Super 9 1018 cc inline 4 (1931)
Triumph Gloria 10 1087 cc inline 4 (1933)
Triumph 12-6 Scorpion 1203 cc inline 6 (1931–1933)
Triumph Southern Cross 1087/1232 cc inline 4 (1932)
Triumph Gloria ('12' / '12') Four 1232/1496 cc inline 4 (1934–1937)
Triumph Gloria ('6' / '6/16') Six 1476/1991 cc inline 6 (1934–1935)
Triumph Gloria 14 1496/1767 cc inline 4 (1937–1938)
Triumph Dolomite 8 1990 cc inline 8 (DOHC) (1934)
Triumph Dolomite Vitesse 14 1767/1991 cc inline 4/6 (1937–1938)
Triumph Vitesse 1767/1991 cc inline 4/6 (1935–1938)
Triumph Dolomite 14/60 1767/1991 cc inline 4/6 (1937–1939)
Triumph Dolomite Roadster 1767/1991 cc inline 4/6 (1937–1939)
Triumph 12 1496 cc inline 4 (1939–1940)

Post war

Model name Engine Year Number built
Triumph 1800 Saloon 1776 cc inline 4 1946–1949
Triumph 1800 Roadster 1776 cc inline 4 1946–1948
Triumph 2000 Saloon 2088 cc inline 4 1949
Triumph 2000 Roadster 2088 cc inline 4 1948–1949
Triumph Renown 2088 cc inline 4 1949–1954
Triumph Mayflower 1247 cc inline 4 1949–1953
Triumph 20TS 2208 cc inline 4 1950 1 (prototype)
Triumph TR2 1991 cc inline 4 1953–1955 8,636[13]
Triumph TR3 1991 cc inline 4 1956–1958
Triumph TR3A 1991 cc inline 4 1958–1962
Triumph TR3B 2138 cc inline 4 1962
Triumph Italia 1991 cc inline 4 1959–1962
Triumph TR4 2138 cc inline 4 1961–1965
Triumph TR4A 2138 cc inline 4 1965–1967
Triumph TR5 2498 cc inline 6 1967–1968 1161 UK Spec
Triumph TR250 2498 cc inline 6 1967–1968
Triumph Dove GTR4 2138 cc inline 4 1961–1964
Triumph TR6 2498 cc inline 6 1969–1976
Triumph TR7 1998 cc inline 4 1975–1981
Triumph TR8 3528 cc V8 1978–1981
Triumph Spitfire 4 (Spitfire Mk I) 1147 cc inline 4 1962–1965 45,763[14]
Triumph Spitfire Mk II 1147 cc inline 4 1965–1967 37,409[14]
Triumph Spitfire Mk III 1296 cc inline 4 1967–1970 65,320[14]
Triumph Spitfire Mk IV 1296 cc inline 4 1970–1974 70,021[14]
Triumph Spitfire 1500 1493 cc inline 4 1974–1980 95,829[14]
Triumph GT6 1998 cc inline 6 1966–1973 40,926[14]
Triumph Herald 948 cc inline 4 1959–1964
Triumph Herald 1200 1147 cc inline 4 1961–1970
Triumph Herald 12/50 1147 cc inline 4 1963–1967
Triumph Herald 13/60 1296 cc inline 4 1967–1971
Triumph Courier 1147 cc inline 4 1962–1966
Triumph Vitesse 6 1596 cc inline 6 1962–1966
Triumph Vitesse Sports 6 (US version of Vitesse 6) 1596 cc inline 6 1962–1964
Triumph Vitesse 2-litre and Vitesse Mark 2 1998 cc inline 6 1966–1971
Triumph 1300 1296 cc inline 4 1965–1970
Triumph 1300 TC 1296 cc inline 4 1967–1970
Triumph 1500 1493 cc inline 4 1970–1973
Triumph 1500 TC 1493 cc inline 4 1973–1976
Triumph Stag 2997 cc V8 1970–1977
Triumph Toledo 1296 cc inline 4 1970–1978
Triumph Dolomite 1300 1296 cc inline 4 1976–1980
Triumph Dolomite 1500 1493 cc inline 4 1976–1980
Triumph Dolomite 1500 HL 1493 cc inline 4 1976–1980
Triumph Dolomite 1850 1850 cc inline 4 1972–1976
Triumph Dolomite 1850 HL 1850 cc inline 4 1976–1980
Triumph Dolomite Sprint 1998 cc inline 4 1973–1980
Triumph 2000 Mk1, Mk2, TC 1998 cc inline 6 1963–1977
Triumph 2.5 PI Mk1, Mk2 2498 cc inline 6 1968–1975
Triumph 2500 TC & S 2498 cc inline 6 1974–1977
Triumph Acclaim 1335 cc inline 4 1981–1984 133,625[15]



Triumph-based models

Vale Special (1932–1936) very low built two-seater based on Super 8 and Gloria
Swallow Doretti (1954–1955)
Amphicar (1961–1968) used a Triumph Herald engine
Bond Equipe GT (1964–1967)
Susita 12 (1968–1970) Made in Israel car, manufactured by Israeli Autocars Company LTD. The Susita 12 station wagon, and sedan (named Carmel), used the Triumph Herald 12/50 engine.
Susita 13/60 (1970–1975) Made in Israel car, manufactured by Israeli Autocars Company LTD. Manufactured as 2 doors station wagon, sedan (named Carmel Ducas), and pick-up versions. Built on the Triumph Herald's chassis, and used the Herald 13/60 engine and gearbox.
Panther Rio (1975–1977) based on the Triumph Dolomite
Fairthorpe Cars
Saab 99 used Triumph slant-four engine before the parent company Scania developed its own version of it.
Lotus Seven (1960–1968) the Series 2 had many Standard Triumph parts.
Daimler SP250 used various Triumph parts in its gearbox and suspension,[16] gearbox was a copy of a Triumph unit.[17]
Jensen-Healey Mk. I used TR-6 front brakes.
MG Midget 1500 (1975–1979) Rubber-bumpered Midgets used the 1493cc L-4 and gearbox borrowed from the Triumph Spitfire.
Triumph Italia (1959–1962) Designed by Giovanni Michelotti, the TR3 chassis and mechanical components were supplied by the Triumph Motor Company in the United Kingdom, and built by Alfredo Vignale in Turin, Italy.




Pre-war Triumphs carried a stylised Globe badge, usually on the radiator grille, and this was also used on the first three models produced under Standard's control.


Standard had introduced a new badge in 1947 for their own models, first seen on the Vanguard, a highly stylised motif based on the wings of a Griffin.[18] With the introduction of the TR2, a version of this badge appeared for the first time on the bonnet of a production Triumph, while the Globe continued to appear on the hubcaps. This same double-badging also appeared on the TR3 and TR4, the 2000 and the 1300.

However, the original Herald, Spitfire, Vitesse and GT6 models all carried only the Griffin badge on their bonnets/radiator grilles, with unadorned hubcaps.

The TR4A appeared with a Globe badge on the bonnet, apparently signifying a return to the original Triumph badging. This was short-lived, as a policy of Leylandisation mean that neither Globe nor Griffin appeared on subsequent models from the TR5 onwards, or on later versions of the Spitfire, GT6 and 2000.


Leyland's corporate badge, a design based on the spokes of a wheel, appeared on the hubcaps of the 1500FWD, and next to the Triumph name on the metal identification labels fitted to the bootlids of various models. It was also used for the oil filler cap on the Dolomite Sprint engine. However it was never used as a bonnet badge, with models of that era such as the TR6 and the second generation 2000 carrying a badge simply stating the name "Triumph".


The Stag model carried a unique grille badge showing a highly stylised stag.

Laurel wreath

The last versions of the TR7 and Dolomite ranges received an all-new badge with the word Triumph surrounded by laurel wreaths, and this was also used for the Acclaim. It was carried on the bonnet and the steering wheel boss.

Films and TV series featuring Triumphs


See also



  1. ^ "Triumph celebrates 50 years of civilised motoring". Autocar: 9. 3 May 1973.
  2. ^ a b c Robson, Graham (1972). The Story of Triumph Sports Cars. MRP. ISBN 0-900549-23-8.
  3. ^ a b Georgano, N. (2000). Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile. London: HMSO. ISBN 1-57958-293-1.
  4. ^ "Alfa Romeo 8C 2300". rickcarey.com. Archived from the original on 27 August 2007. Retrieved 16 August 2007.
  5. ^ Langworth, Richard M. (1973). "Trundling Along With Triumph – The story thus far...". Automobile Quarterly. 11 (2). Automobile Quarterly Inc.: 128–129. LCCN 62-4005.
  6. ^ Robson, Graham (1982). Triumph Spitfire and GT6. London: Osprey Publishing Ltd. p. 8. ISBN 0-85045-452-2.
  7. ^ "Goodbye Standard long live Triumph". Motor. 15 May 1976. pp. 39–40.
  8. ^ a b Marren, Brian. "Closure of the Triumph TR7 Factory in Speke, Merseyside, 1978: 'The Shape of Thingsto Come'?". Academia.edu. Archived from the original on 30 August 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  9. ^ Holloway, Hilton (29 February 2012). "Triumph revival on again". Autocar. Retrieved 4 December 2023.
  10. ^ "BMW to revive Triumph cars?". Drive. 29 February 2012. Retrieved 4 December 2023.
  11. ^ Holding, Joe (13 July 2023). "Please raise your door if you're a Triumph-inspired concept car". Top Gear. Retrieved 5 October 2023.
  12. ^ Katsianis, Jordan (13 July 2023). "Triumph roadster to be reborn in form of TR25 concept". Auto Express. Retrieved 5 October 2023.
  13. ^ Original Triumph TR, Bill Piggott, ISBN 1-870979-24-9
  14. ^ a b c d e f Robson, Graham (1982). Triumph Spitfire and GT6. Osprey Publishing. p. 187. ISBN 0-85045-452-2.
  15. ^ "The Unofficial Austin-Rover Web Resource". Archived from the original on 8 October 2007.
  16. ^ Long, Brian (2008). Daimler V8 S.P. 250 (2nd ed.). Veloce Publishing. p. 168. ISBN 978-1-9047-8877-5. Clearly based on a Triumph unit, the SP's manual gearbox is rather weak for such a powerful engine. First gear has a tendency to strip if misused by the driver, but most gearbox parts are replaceable with Triumph components.
  17. ^ Robson, Graham; Bonds, Ray (2002). "Daimler SP250 ('Dart')". The Illustrated Directory of Sports Cars. MBI Publishing. p. 129. ISBN 0-7603-1418-7. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. The new car, which Daimler wanted to call the 'Dart' until Dodge complained that it held the trade mark rights to that name, had a chassis and suspension layout which was unashamedly and admittedly copied from that of the Triumph TR3A (both cars were built in Coventry, England), as was the gearbox.
  18. ^ The Standard Car Review January 1947

Further reading