Still one of the best classics for charm, practicality and DIY simplicity...
With a maximum of 61bhp from the later 13/60, the Herald is a rather genteel, but accurate steering and a good gearchange allow you to pootle around without too much bother. Even the earliest Heralds can nudge 70mph, though 1200s introduced disc brakes, which are preferred. Refinement isn’t a huge strong point, but it’s all part of the Herald’s charm, although the high gearing doesn’t suit all tastes or driving styles. Stay away from the limits and you can corner briskly and safely. Indeed, bends can be taken quickly by employing the racing type drift corner, a technique to which the Herald adapts itself beautifully and gives absolute safety, together with a certain amount of thrill for both driver and passengers. Convertibles offer the benefit of sun-worship for four in comfort, which is a real boon on warm summer days. If you fancy a bit more go, the number of Spitfire tune-up goodies comes in handy, but consider suspension and braking modifications if you intend to boost the power output significantly.
Power (bhp@rpm) 51bhp@5200rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 63lb ft@2600rpm
Top speed 78mph
Gearbox 4-spd manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
Check for rust on the leading edge of the bonnet, the wheelarches and around the headlamps. With the bonnet open, check the bulkhead, especially around the brake and clutch fluid reservoirs. Spillage here strips the paint and allows rot to gain a foothold. The front of the chassis is usually sound, often helped by regular drips of engine oil.
The engines are surprisingly hardy, but watch for blue smoke and a regular knocking that suggests a worn bottom end. Be especially wary if a 1500 engine has been fitted, as they offer more power, but a weaker crankshaft. Check the engine starts well from cold and that it pulls well during a road test. Gearboxes can get noisy with age. If it all goes nice and quiet in fourth, suspect worn layshaft bearings. Watch for jumping out of gear, especially when you release the throttle after accelerating. Synchromesh can fail too – second is usually the first to go. First gear never had synchromesh. A reconditioned gearbox will set you back around £250. A wobbly gearlever might just be worn bushes – a cheap and easy fix if that’s the case.
The steering allows that famous turning circle of 25ft. It should be direct and free of play, so if you have to fight to keep the car in a straight line, something is probably amiss. Wear can develop in the trunnions, which need regular lubrication with a heavy oil. Ask the seller whether this is carried out and how often - every 1000 miles is the recommendation. Ideally, you should jack the car up and try to wobble the front wheels. The front suspension is simple coils and wishbones, but worn dampers will make the car very skittish and bouncy.
The rear suspension is the weak point. Pushed hard, a Herald may suffer wheel-tuck, which brings in severe oversteer. Some fit Spitfire-type swing-spring kits, but with Herald power, the chance of you upsetting the back end are fairly remote. Tired dampers can make the back end feel very unsettled, but more of an issue is a tired road spring allowing the back end to sag and upset the balance of the car.
Check the state of the interior. They can get very dog-eared if neglected and are surprisingly expensive to put right. Rimmer Brothers sells complete interior re-trim kits – for doors, side panels and seats, from £1220. It also includes sound insulation, seat foam and a new headlining. Water ingress is the main issue. Tired windscreen and door seals won’t help, but nor does the bolt-together construction. A well-constructed Herald should not bang and rattle unduly on the road, so avoid ‘loose’ examples.
The Herald is still remembered fondly as one of the best small cars built in Britain. It may have lacked sophistication compared to its rivals, but it was well conceived given the limitations forced upon Triumph at the time. The pretty coupé is rare but stylish, the convertible surprisingly practical and not too hard to find. Estates and vans are very rare – most led hard lives – but the saloon is by far the most common. Yes, you can unbolt the roof if you trust to good weather, though make sure a convertible is genuine. The rear body was stiffened on the latter, so check that any converted saloons have had the requisite adjustments made during the process.
But it’s that swing-up bonnet and sheer simplicity that are a large part of the appeal. Few classics are easier to work on. The Herald is the ultimate in Meccano-like construction, and that does little to diminish its appeal.