By the late 1950s Standard-Triumph was experiencing financial difficulty, though TR sports cars were thriving, as the company’s small Standard saloons had never sold well. So the Triumph Herald was introduced to replace those ageing Standards.
Italian Giovanni Michelotti designed the pretty little two-door saloon with lots of glass, which had an old-fashioned rolling chassis to which the body was bolted. This had the advantage of allowing different body styles to be used without much difficulty and a coupe, convertible, estate car and van soon appeared.
If there was one problem, it was that the Herald — with its small engine — was not the zippiest of performers. Standard-Triumph’s answer was to create the Vitesse 6. Also by Michelotti, it mostly used Herald body panels and had a distinctive front with two pairs of slanting headlights. Power was supplied by a 1.5 litre straight six, modified from the Standard Vanguard Six engine. Saloons and convertibles were offered and the level of interior trim was high. The compact Vitesse 6 appeared in 1962 and was soon being uprated. The first big evolution was the Vitesse 2 Litre of 1966, but the more powerful car highlighted a generic weakness in Triumph’s performance models — rear suspension that caused serious oversteer under hard driving.
Triumph finally solved this problem — and created an excellent car — with the Vitesse Mk II, launched in 1968. The new suspension system guaranteed leech-like roadholding and the tweaked engine delivered performance that could put the enhanced handling to a proper test. Again, there were both saloon and convertible versions, and it was the latter that represented terrific value for the sporting motorist who liked the thrill of open-top driving. It was a handsome four-seater that could easily outperform contemporary sports cars like the MGB, and remains very collectable to this day.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1968 (until 1971)
1,998 cc Straight Six
Top speed of 100 mph (140 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 11.2 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Just over 9,000 Vitesse Mk IIs were produced in four years, with the saloon selling around 5,600 and convertible some 3,500 – and there is a definite scarcity of earlier Vitesse cars as many have been cannibalized for spares to keep the ultra-desirable Mk II compact sports.