Triumph Roadster

Triumph Roadster 1940s British classic sports car

The Triumph Roadster was a direct challenge to the Jaguar SS100. In '44, Sir John Black - owner of Standard - took over Triumph. He was keen to throw down the gauntlet to Jaguar. Over the years, Black had sold many an engine, gearbox and chassis to the automotive giant. Indeed, having Standard as a supplier had played a rôle in Sir William Lyons building Jaguar into the marque that it became. So, there was more than a hint of table-turning when Black suggested to Lyons that he take over Jaguar - as well as Triumph! Lyons was having none of it. Black retreated to lick his wounds - and scour his Standard components catalogue. A vision of a new Triumph was taking shape in his mind.

Standard knew their stuff. In the Second World War, they engineered aircraft. To power his new Triumph 'Roadster', Black co-opted the Standard 14 engine - along with its gearbox. It had already been modded - by Harry Weslake - using an overhead-valve configuration. Measuring 1,776cc, it had also served time on the 1.5-litre Jaguar SS. More Standard parts were sourced for the suspension. Up front, the transverse-leaf independent set-up of the Flying Standard Series was used. At the rear, a Standard Fourteen back-axle did the suspending honours. Not everything on the new car harked back to the Standard past, though. There was a brand-new ladder-frame chassis - made from 3½″ round-section tubing. Roadster bodywork was aluminium. It was hung on a timber frame ... there being a shortage of steel, in the wake of the War.

Looks-wise, the Jaguar SS100 served as template for the new Triumph. Pre-war, it was a byword for style and sophistication. Frank Callaby drew a Triumph variant on the Jaguar theme. He was inspired by the SS100's huge headlamps - and the languorous curves of its wings. For his part, John Black was adamant that a dickey-seat be fitted. The 3-plus-2 cabin was unique amongst post-war cabriolets. In '48, the Roadster had a bigger engine installed. Power increased by 3bhp. And, the new model was 36kg lighter. As a result, 0-60mph turned up in 27.9s. The re-vamped motor was a Vanguard 'wet-liner'. It was linked with a 3-speed 'box. The two versions of the Roadster - 1800 and 2000 - had a combined sales tally of 4,501. Hardly earth-shattering! So, Sir John Black's dream of supplanting Jaguar had not materialised. Never will the Triumph Roadster be spoken of in the same hushed tones as the Jaguar SS100. For all that, it was an attractive addition to the British sports car roster.

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