Triumph Mayflower – 1949

The Watch Charm Rolls Royce sounds impressive but what a name to live up to. Sadly, the car air question didn’t. The Triumph Mayflower was a postwar curiosity, with its side-valve engine and angular bodywork. This was a conscious attempt to produce a luxury small ear that would ring up valuable American sales.

There was a rapid increase in US car product ion as the 1950s loomed but demand still exceeded supply and a willingness to take wafer-thin profits in exchange for desirable dollars made British exporters competitive.

The Mayflower was conceived to exploit this situation, with a resonant name boldly borrowed from American history. And knife-edge styling was intended to put potential transatlantic buyers in mind of coachbuilt luxury cars like the Rolls-Royce that were so prestigious in the USA — though by way of insurance lip service was paid to the envelope style that had become all the rage in the late 1940s, with integral headlamps and flowing wings.

It was not (despite positive press coverage following the Mayflower’s launch at the 1949 Earls Court Motor Show) a happy marriage. The car had a reasonable trim level but was woefully underpowered, had an awkward gearbox and rolled dramatically when cornering at anything near its modest maximum speed. Unsurprisingly, Americans hated it and Triumph threw in the towel after four painful years.

The world was then (and is now) sharply divided between a minority who love the Mayflower and those who believe it is the ugliest car ever made — the latter cruelly suggesting that 34,000 were sold only because there was such a shortage of cars that a soapbox with a lawnmower engine would have sold well. There’s one positive aspect to this polarized thinking — the Mayflower is a very affordable entry-level classic car for weekend drivers, especially those who can’t afford a real Roller.




1949 (until 1953)

ENGINE: 1,247 cc Straight Four

PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 63 mph (101 km/h)


Despite aiming squarely at the American market, Triumph actually managed to ship more Mayflowers to relatively undeveloped Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) than they ever managed to sell in the United States.


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