A great sporty starter classic for surprisingly little outlay
Designed to give British buyers an alternative to sporty continental competition such as BMW’s 2002, the Dolomite replaced both the front-wheel drive 1300 and the rear-drive 1500, sticking to the latter’s layout and sharpening up the chic Michelotti styling.
Inside it offers a more comfortable twist on the compact sports saloon formula – instead of the 2002’s sturdy but dour sea of black trimmings, the Dolomite sports an airy interior brightened up by the wood door cappings and the sporty three-spoke steering wheel.
Fire it up and you’re greeted with a pleasant rasp from the exhaust, and the traditional front engine, rear-drive set up offers pleasingly neutral handling which shouldn’t get you into trouble unless you really push it.
The most sought after Dolomite of all is the 127bhp Sprint model – the first British four cylinder production car to offer sixteen valves and alloy wheels as standard to its go-faster buyers.
Power (bhp@rpm) 127bhp@4650rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 111lb ft@5200rpm
Top speed 116mph
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
There are plenty of spots for rot to take hold on a Dolomite so double check the wings, the boot floor, the sills and the rear arches for any tell-tale signs, and be prepared to haggle accordingly, depending on what you find. The good news, however, is that replacement parts are easily available, meaning that it isn’t the end of the world if there are any panels which need replacing.
The vinyl roof is one of the visual tricks Triumph employed to give the Dolomite its sporty looks, but it can also cover up corrosion. It should be completely smooth throughout, and any bubbles or dips could indicate that rust has taken hold on the metal beneath.
The Dolomite’s ‘Slant Four’ unit – essentially, a four-cylinder engine with the cylinders tilted at a 15-degree angle – is tried and tested Triumph technology, and a car that’s been looked after shouldn’t give you any major problems. There are two basic variants in the Dolomite range – the standard version, available in 1300cc, 1500cc and 1850cc varieties and notably used by Saab in its 99 model, and the racier 1998cc version developed for the Sprint, which uses a 16 valve cylinder head in a bid to extract extra power. Make sure to check that there’s evidence of the engine being looked after, with, for instance, a history to show it’s been serviced regularly.
If your Dolomite’s been fitted with the optional overdrive system, take the car for a run and make sure it’s working correctly – problems are usually related to either the relay, the wiring or there not being enough gearbox oil. Be more worried, however, if the gearbox is crunching or jumping back into neutral, which could indicate it needs a rebuild.
Dolomites should prove a sharp steer – if yours isn’t, chances are it’s down to perished bushes in the rack mounts, which are inexpensive to replace. It’s worth double checking both the front and rear suspension bushes for corrosion, both of which will show up in off-kilter handling but can be easily replaced by parts from a wealth of Triumph specialists.
Rot is the Dolomite’s enemy, and if corrosion’s taken hold it may well lead to damp in the interior, particularly in the driver and passenger footwells. Make sure you lift up the footwell carpets to check for any signs of leaks or corrosion, and check the trim for any signs of water ingress.
The interior trim including those fetching wood door cappings, are generally hard wearing, but it’s well worth checking inside the car carefully for any signs of scratches, tears or marks, as interior trim and parts in good condition is usually trickier to find than many of the mechanical components. Common faults include discoloured headlining caused by exposure to sunlight – replacements can take a while to track down, while the lacquer on the woodern door cappings is prone to flaking off.
The Triumph Dolomite offers plenty of style, charm and character and is also great value, making it a superb starter classic.
Dolomite owners are also well catered for in terms of parts and there’s a wealth of knowledge available from the various Triumph clubs, meaning there’s help at hand to deal with any mechanical maladies or bodywork issues.