An amazing find of a March 1959 Triumph Herald Coupe.
With the official launch of the Triumph Herald to the general public on 22nd April 1959, a few select main dealers held evening ‘pre-launches’ on the 21st for invited guests, VIP’s and the local press.
Directors from a well-known London Stock Exchange business were keen to see the new car and promptly placed an order, with the buyer a WW2 RAF Pilot now Stock Broker, with a home address of Sloane Square, Chelsea, London. A Monaco Blue and Sebring White Triumph Herald coupé was ordered making it one of the very first Herald’s purchased, and would have been seen later in some of the most fashionable districts of swinging sixties London.
Home Sales Director, F E Higham assured dealers that “The new Triumph Herald would be in the showrooms and available for sale by May 13th.” Straight away Standard Triumph had a problem: There were simply no stocks of cars to supply the anticipated early demand.
Let’s put some accurate figures in.
By the time the car was delivered there were just 460 coupés in existence, of which, most were needed to sell the Herald and were in showrooms throughout the UK. A few were being readied for rallies and even one was chopped in half ready for the Earls Court show in the Autumn. Another handful were press cars, including several for Earls Court again, and those for shows overseas in Belgium, Portugal, Canada, France and Germany. Focus was now directed on production of the Herald Saloon, with just 16 coupés being built in the whole of May.
Clearly some strings were pulled for this important client with even Standard Triumph Company directors such as Alick Dick and Kenneth Aspland having to wait for May builds for their coupés and even the great Stirling Moss couldn’t get his May build car until 2nd June! So with the car delivered to the Stock Broker on May 14th, it would have been one of the first privately owned coupés registered and on the road.
The company Director sold the coupé to a young up and coming employee, John in 1963. John can be seen in the period photo with his coupé on the Isle of Wight in the mid-sixties.
Remarkably, the car still exists today.
The car was parked in John’s garage in London, in 1984 and has been there ever since.
John said he would never sell his beloved Triumph Herald coupé and, true to his word, he never did.
John passed away on Christmas Eve, 2022.
Advertised as probate the car was filthy in a rather cramped, dilapidated garage with a roof but open to the elements, with the remains of a wooden garage door. Despite the exposed position, albeit hidden via a small service road, the car remained secure, intact and has survived the long slumber amazingly well. Upon first inspection, the car could be seen with four flat tyres and a smashed front windscreen (thanks to a pushbike falling from the ceiling). All four wheels hubs were stuck but the car moved very freely with the brakes removed and new tyres and wheels. Out in the open the car could be seen better.
The car is incredibly original to pre-production spec – all original panels, including a boot-lid that was produced before the final pressings were complete.
Original bonnet, valances, the front grill with the clever electrical plug-socket junction, original (no engine side valances) configuration. Everything just covered in muck.
The fibreboard dash, with the early switch layout, is immaculate with the original pre-production plastic-effect finish rather than the painted portafleck introduced around May 59, perhaps offering some sort of water resistance?
The steering wheel retains the early silver ‘flashes.’
The quarterlights have the funny little rain channels only found on the very earliest of cars, the interior (Phantom Grey) has the vinyl door pull, there is even a good covering of the original carpet!
The car has covered just 34,614 miles.
One of nine coupés built on 24th March (the other eight were all Lichfield Green), it becomes the third oldest surviving Triumph Herald coupé behind Y8 (the cutaway Coffee coupé at the Coventry Transport Museum) and Y128. There are a couple of surviving coupés numbered in between but our www.triumph-herald.com records show as the very first CKD they were simply assigned numbers but did not actually exist at the time. This car was the c400th built with the body and engine numbers supporting this figure. Just to show how early the car is, one of the Albert Hall launch cars on 2nd April was just two away on the production line to this one – so they would have almost certainly been alongside each other!
The engine dynamo, painted in the distinctive early car gold, is dated 2nd February 1959!
The keys are the original configuration; one key for the ignition, glovebox and boot and another for both doors.
Chassis, floors – including the front footwells – and ‘normal’ corrosion places are superb.
Amazingly, hidden away in the boot was all the original paperwork, including the launch literature, colour swatches, accessories and letter from the Berkeley Square main dealer. This has survived in pristine condition. The handbook is the undated – pre-launch first edition – and is in perfect condition. There were a whole host of remarkable finds hidden in the car.
Inside the glovebox were John’s Cool-Ray designer sunglasses (as worn by Sean Connery, as James Bond in the 1965 film Thunderball!), AA and RAC handbooks to match the badges still on the front of the car, ferry sailing times for the Isle of Wight as John also had a home there, guides to the best real ale pubs and even his darts! A car radiator mascot featuring a de Havilland Vampire, one of the RAF’s first jet fighters, was also found, possibly belonging to the WW2 pilot, who was flying from (at least) 1940.
There are a couple of mods – a period Motorola radio, some auxiliary switches (thankfully not in the dashboard) and dials and a trio of menacing-looking air-horns lurking under the bonnet albeit with the original horns still hooked up! The original front seats have been replaced with later versions in red – with one seat found at the back of the garage – so if you know of a good Phantom Grey 948 seat please let me know!
The infamous original gear knob had been replaced with the later-type round black ball – but the knob itself was found with several new and used spares within the car.
It’s John’s funeral this morning, where he will be laid to rest alongside his parents. John never married or had children. He has left a remarkable piece of Triumph history and later today we’ll raise a glass for him and show his car to you all in due course. See here for more on this very early Triumph Herald Coupé.