(first posted 12/11/2012) Here’s a little number I’d never heard of until I noticed these photos, posted to the Cohort by Down- Under cameraman Bryce. Triumph Toledo? Did they sell these in Ohio? I’m sure I would have heard about it if they had…
Actually, these were based on the familiar “Ajax” line of Triumph saloons, which included the 1300, 1500 and Dolomite/Dolomite Sprint. But where did the Toledo fit in?
For those of us in the States, Triumph generally means sports cars like the TR series, Spitfire ,and that mini-Jag E-Type coupe, the GT6. But Triumph also built a number of well-regarded sporting saloons. The Ajax series launched in October 1965, when the initial 1300 saloon was unveiled at the London Motor Show.
It was modern both stylistically and mechanically, with smooth Michelotti styling, front-wheel drive and synchronized four-speed transmission. Not everything was new, though: The 61-hp OHV 1,296cc inline four was a longitudinally-mounted unit that had debuted, in 803cc form, in the 1953 Standard Eight. Interiors were suitably clubby, with leather buckets, full instrumentation, wood dash and wood door cappings.
The 1300 had a pretty good run from late 1965 to 1970, with sales of some 113,000 regular versions and about 35,000 twin-carburetor “TC” variants; later in 1970, Triumph introduced the Toledo as its de facto replacement. Deeming the rather complex front-wheel drive configuration too expensive to produce, British Leyland–that cost-cutting darling of the U.K. in the ’70s–changed the car over to rear-wheel drive. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, they actually changed a FWD car into a RWD car. They also applied the same treatment to the bigger FWD Triumph 1500, which served a brief stint as the RWD 1500TC before ultimately morphing into the RWD Dolomite / Dolomite Sprint. New to the lineup was a two-door sedan, a body style the 1300 had not offered.
Basically, the Toledo was a decontented, rear-wheel drive 1300, which was evident inside and out. Inside, the new instrument panel offered far fewer gauges and the only wood trim in the cabin. The body was essentially a carry-over from the 1300, albeit stretched three inches in length, to 156 inches, and one-quarter inch in width, to 62 inches. The 54-inch height was unchanged from the 1300. Despite such nickel-and-diming, it still maintained a very traditional British appearance.
Also carried over was the very same 1,296cc engine from the 1300, now modified to accept the rear-drive configuration and rated at 58 hp. Starting in March 1971, “export” versions were fitted with the 1,496 “1500” four in either 61-hp, single-barrel carburetor or 64-hp twin-carb “TC” form. As with the 1300, a four-speed manual transmission was the sole option.
Although the Toledo started out as a cut-rate 1300, it received additional standard equipment over the years, including front disc brakes in 1972 and a rear-window defroster in late 1973/early 1974. However, the cute little two-door was dropped in March 1975.
I couldn’t resist including this vintage shot, taken by Charles01, that I found on Wikipedia. It’s hard to appreciate the lines of the white one Bryce found, what with its roof-mounted billboard and full-body advertising. In a dark color like this, the Toledo makes a smart-looking compact saloon. I like it.
Up front was where the Toledo’s appearance changed most, with unique-for-the-time rectangular headlights, a split eggcrate grille and below-bumper parking/signal lights. While the 1300’s nose had been handsome in its own right, it looked a bit dated by 1970. The nose job made the Toledo look a lot more current without totally changing its overall appearance.
Ah, but this is a British Leyland car, is it not? Of course there were issues, most of which sprung from indifferent assembly. The biggest malady surfaced in August of 1973, when the Toledo, 1500 and Dolomite were the objects of the then-largest recall (of over 103,000 cars) in the U.K. The culprit was a front-suspension strut that was prone to failure; its failure rendered the car unsteerable, which could be a slight problem. Although BL officials claimed that failure could result only from abuse, their implementation of the recall suggested otherwise.
The last Toledos came off the line in 1976, but its big brother, the BMW-like Dolomite, lasted all the way to 1980, when it was succeeded by a first-gen Honda Accord clone named the Acclaim (Blue ribbon for ironic names, eh? Anyone? Hey, is this microphone on?). It may have been a great Honda, and even a fine runabout in Triumph form, but it’s hard to compare an Acclaim to the sporty, wood-dashed Dolomite that it replaced.
Indeed, 1980 more or less marked the death of the real Triumph motor car, as the Dolomite and Spitfire went into the great beyond. The doorstop-styled TR7 and TR8, the last of the true British Triumphs, bowed in 1981. The Accord-clone Ballade would last through 1984, after when the Triumph name would disappear. Well, it was fun while it lasted. Who could forget the classic Triumph sports cars of the ’60s? No one who lived in the U.S. at the time, that’s for sure. I’m sure most of us at CC can find a little love for the Toledo, too.
Special thanks to Bryce, for shooting this Toledo billboard. Nice catch!
(brochure pictures are from storm.oldcarmanualproject.com)
Nice article! There’s a hint of the Alfa Giulia about the rear wheel-arch and boot treatment that I hadn’t noticed before.
I am starting to develop an attraction to some of these British saloons. There is something about this car that I like. Thank you for another nice (and much needed) history lesson on the UK motor industry.
Gorgeous car, and a damned shame. Most people don’t realize that the Dolomite could show its tail to the vaunted 2002, and was, overall, a better car. Except for this little matter of build quality. Ah, the British . . . . A car (and motorcycle) industry bent on suicide.
I saw an ad for 1300 a few years back so there are some around here. Not sure how it got here but I do know for sure the 2000 was sold here.
Looks a lot like-
That would be because the Austin Apache (and the identical Victoria) are ADO16s re-skinned in Michelotti designed coach work, and Michelotti designed these Triumphs.
He doesn’t seem to have stretched himself greatly when BL asked him to design the later models, essentially trotting back out his (handsome) old Triumph designs and modifying them for the ADO16’s midsection and chassis. They’re not as planted looking as the originals though.
I don’t know if I ever saw a 2000 in the States, but i think quite a few Heralds were imported. Famously, Paul Newman raced a 2500 and there were some fast Vitesses in SCCA racing as well, so it wasn’t just Triumph sports cars in the US.
The 2000 saloon was imported, but it never sold well. Mike Cook, head of marketing for Standard-Triumph North America at the time, thought the 2000’s problem here was that it was too far ahead of its time — American buyers expected Triumph dealers to have little sports cars and didn’t know what to make of the four-door. It wasn’t grotesquely expensive here, but it was about the price of a decently equipped Valiant and the market wasn’t there.
In the U.K., of course, the 2000 and Rover P6 owned the upscale family sedan/junior exec barge class for a while.
Minor point: the Acclaim/Ballade was based on the Civic, not the Accord.
I learnt to drive in one of these, so the first car I ever drove. A very different experience to my mother’s Fiesta, felt old-fashioned (this was the mid-70s) but it was a nice little car.
I learnt to drive in one as well – a 1972 2 door with “999” in the registration (FYI – 999 is the UK equivalent of 911). The rust was unbelieveable, but otherwise it was pretty sturdy, and more entertaining to drive than the instructor’s early Fiesta.
It was the last RWD drive car I drive reguarly until I bought a 1990 MX-5 for summer fun earlier this year!
My father had a thing for 999 plates. At one point we had GAR 999C and VAR 999E in the driveway, both the pride of the Rootes corporation.
Here’s a truly awful photo of the ’65 Imp.
Changing a FWD car to RWD, something only the Brits could do. You honestly wonder what was going on in their minds. Now why o why would has the British motoring industry vanished completely?
Another typical thing: the brochure is in Dutch, while in the Netherlands cars drive on the right. Apparently Triumph couldn’t be bummed to shoot some extra photos with a LHD example.
The current (about to be replaced) Ford Transit is available in either FWD (with a resultant lower cargo floor out back) or RWD. That crafty British spirit is still alive and well!!
BeWo, I bet they were thinking “making this car rwd is cheaper than designing a whole new car from scratch”!
Wait, wait! I just remembered the 1999-2005 Rover 75/MG ZT! Created as a FWD design, those crafty Brits popped in the Mustang’s 4.6L V8 and converted them to RWD in 2002! They made 9,000 says wikipedia. I’ve seen a few here in NZ, they sound great – and as I’m not a FWD fan, they make the ever-so-pretty 75/ZT feature on my want list! Crafty Brits, sneaking their way into my vehicular heart…
I was just coming here to post that. I was quite fond of the 75 when it was first introduced; there was talk of exporting it to the US and it was engineered with federalization in mind, but it never made it here.
A case could also be made for that wild rally version of the Renault 5 that had RWD though that also involved putting the engine back there too, and the Cord 810/812 that was reincarnated in RWD form by both Graham and Hupp just before the second world war.
I was wondering how this ended up in the US, but then I realized it was taken down under.
Ouch! Slating British industry again…. My father owned a ’75 1500 TC a really handy little car, not fast but it handled nicely, build quality was good and it was reliable. Then in 1981 he bought a Mk5 Cortina-a bad move, continual problems with the auto choke and the cheap Ford carb.
Love the way you guys sucked up the BMW koolaide the much vaunted 2002 was a gutless POS but of course it must have looked like a sporting sedan to Americans it sure didnt to anyone else we had Triumphs and no the old bimmers couldnt hold a candle to a Dolomite sprint. Alas the signboard Triumph is no more replaced by an early Morris Minor I briefly considered buying it as it was cheap on trademe I have a feeling the local British car museum might now have it
I notice that British car museum guy seems to buy quite a few classic Brit cars on Trademe. Keep thinking I must check his collection out next time I’m over your way.
My tii laughs in your general direction…
The north American praise of the 2002 has baffled me too. In Scandinavia, I remember the 2002’s being considered pos after a few years. Perhaps initial design vs the current was decent, but far from a vehicle worthy of collecting for any future collector status. Besides, the floors rusted out so the drivers seats started to sag, way before anyone contemplated “collecting” or “restoring” it. Regular junkyard fodder really. Hardly drove any better than a Ford taunus, nothing about them felt sporty.
Nice find Bryce and great write up Tom! I checked the rego of the white one, and it was first registered here on 9 December ’74, so is exactly 1 year and 1 day younger than me! And thus it celebrated its 38th birthday last Sunday. With Dad being a British Leyland dealer mechanic through the 70s/80s, I knew about Triumphs from a very young age, and grew to like them all a lot. The 2000/2500 was extremely popular here, so Toledomites weren’t nearly as common, but there are still some very nice survivors around. NZ has some very active Triumph clubs, and the cars are often out and about bringing a little more joy to our classic carscape. 🙂
That Dolomite Sprint looks cool– the photo shows a resemblance to the BMW “Big Sixes” of the period. Performance appears to have been competitive with at least some Neue Klasse variants
, Too bad they are so rare today.
In typical Leyland stupidity, they never thought to send the Dolomite Sprint over here to give the 2002/3-series a run for its money. The Sprint also featured a 16-valve four-cylinder engine, so it was indeed a hot performer. Of course, it too might have been brought down by the Leyland quality bug that all their products suffered from back then.
However, only the Japanese and high-end Germans (Mercedes in particular) were producing cars in the 1970’s with anything resembling quality. This was a time when none of the American manufacturers could make two pieces fit together right and hardly anyone could beat the tinworm.
Automobile Magazine’s Jamie Kitman once wrote a story about his oddball British car collection which included a MkII Lotus Cortina and a Dolomite Sprint. He also drew the parallel with contemporary BMW’s and how the Triumph would have been competitive in North America.
But if British Leyland had a clue, it might still be in business.
Most Dolomite Sprints ended up wrapped round lamp posts as they became cheap enough for young hooligans to buy.Unless looked after very carefully the alloy head would curl up like a 3 day old sandwich,even when new these cars needed a bit more TLC than a Ford or Vauxhall.BL’s poor build quality,the British climate and speed crazed young Herberts meant there are few survivors today
I never drove one, but received knowledge was that handling was quite hairy. Don’t know the truth of it, but would help explain the wrapped-round-a-lamppost issue.
The situation with the head sounds a lot like the Triumph Stag–no surprise, given the engines’ kinship. But I never heard that the Triumph-sourced engines in the early Saab 99 were particularly troublesome. I realize that they didn’t share the Sprint’s 16-valve head.
This came up a few years ago on BAT:
I couldn’t possibly justify buying it by any rational criterion, but I was wildly tempted!
The Toledo was the replacement for the Herald in the Triumph line up, not for the 1300.
The 1300’s replacement was the 1500, which was also front wheel drive until 1973 when they changed it to RWD (1500TC) , to save money by sharing components and basic floorpan with Toledo and Dolomite. Changing from FWD to RWD may sound strange to modern ears, but lots of people still didn’t trust FWD in Britain before the 1980s. The FWD running gear was used on just the one model so it was a financial liability for BL.
“unique-for-the-time rectangular headlights”
Not so.. The Vauxhall Viva had them since 1966.
Accurate history of the 1300 and its various derivatives here.
Plenty of Toledos here https://www.facebook.com/groups/388687557952769/
Cracking little cars. Here`mine
Great little cars. I had a ’77 Toledo 1500, and before you tell me it couldn’t exist, this was New Zealand. NZMC still had short-tail Toledo kits left heading into ’77, and I suspected mine could have been the last. I certainly never saw one, from my high school days till I sold it in the mid-1990s, with a newer registration. NZMC kept updating the spec though, so by ’77 it gained a side rubbing strip and some trim from the ’77 Dolomite 1500 in the UK. They were tough, the 1500 was more than enough for it to have some oomph, and their only malady, as far as I could remember, was a rust-prone left rear door, something that it had in common with a few other NZMC cars. British fans tell me theirs didn’t suffer from this, so someone must have been lax with rustproofing in the plant here …
Cord 810/812 to Graham Hollywood/Hupmobile Skylark?
Good call! Quite comparable.
My Mother had a chocolate brown one and a few months later my Father bought a TR7 also in the same colour. Its so weird that at the time I thought the colours were great, I had a Honda 500/4 motorcycle and I got it resprayed in the same colour,what were we thinking?
It’s a shame that quality on these cars was as lousy as it was on every other BL product, because I really like the lines of these cars and they seem nice inside too. Really like the look of the last-of-the-line Dolomite with the fat wheels and fancy rims. A real missed opportunity to be a BMW killer.
I believe I heard once that the amc pacer was originally supposed to be fwd ( as well as rotary powered)
The Pacer was supposed to be rotary powered via a GM rotary engine but front drive was never seriously considered due to cost. AMC just could not afford it. In fact the position of the front springs in the Pacer precludes drive axles, unlike the high-mounted springs in the Hornet and Concord which made the Eagle possible.
Didn’t some years of the Toronado and Riviera share body shells? (The former being FWD, the latter RWD.)
Good call on the GM E bodies. The 66-70 Riv and Toronado shared under bodies, although the skins were mostly different. The 71-78 Toronado and Eldorado were FWD variations of the GM RWD B/C bodies.
From 79 on, Toronado, Eldorado, and Riviera were FWD.
I’ve read that AMC did build passenger-compartment mockups with and without a center driveshaft hump for potential buyer study groups early in the design process with the intent of learning whether potential Pacer buyers would prefer FWD. After finding the absence of a center hump didn’t sufficiently impress potential buyers, any idea of developing a FWD car was dropped. Although as you mention the costs involved likely swayed that decision as well.
In a similar vein, there is the strange case of the Licorne Rivoli / Normandie.
In 1936, Licorne started using the Citroen Traction Avant’s monocoque shell for their mid-range cars. By 1938, they were even using the Traction Avant’s 1.9 litre engine as well — but with Licorne suspension and RWD.
Aside from the grille, bolted-on running boards and a few other details, the Licorne looked exactly like a Citroen. The Rivoli used the smaller shell (11 legere) and the Normandie used the larger one (11 Normale).
Production reached about 1000 units per year until 1940. Licorne went out of business in 1949.
…And there was also the 1937 Delage DI-12. As above, Delage used the Traction Avant’s monocoque but with Delage RWD underpinnings, grille, running boards, etc. They had a Delahaye engine, as Delage had just been bought by them in ’35. This one only lasted one model year, as Delage’s clientele were not especially fond of having a common Citroen body for such an expensive car.
A few convertibles, also with Traction Avant unibodies, were made alongside the saloons. Very few made, only a handful still exist.
I knew you’d be good for some others….
Very cool and something I’d never seen, The Austin/Morris 1800 almost fall into the conversion from FWD to RWD category when it morphed into the Austin 3 litre different front and rear but the centre section was modified from the original, more altered than these Citroens.
With hindsight, Triumph had the formula for success in the 80s: sports sedans. The 1300 and 1500 are pretty much in the same mould as the 2002 and Giulia.
Used to be you could get a kit in the UK to convert a FWD Ford Escort into RWD using Mk1 and Mk2 running gear. This was for rally cars, not really for the street.
A colleague once had a Dolomite, he said to change the clutch you accessed it from the interior of the car and it was a nightmare.
Wait, y’all, the oft forgotten last generation of the Cadillac STS went from FWD to RWD. I am certain there are others. I suppose you could also consider the Honda S2000 a successor to the Del Sol which was FWD. Oh, and the Chrysler LXs went from FWD to RWD.
Umm; we’re talking about the actual same car (platform, body), not another generation of it. Otherwise, the list would be a mile long.
Almost forgot the Renaults!
There was the 1980-84 R5 Turbo, which used a heavily modified R5 (“Le Car” in US-speak) body but a transversely-mounted 1.4 litre 4-cyl. turbocharged engine where the rear seats would have been. Capable of well over 200kph. Pretty awesome.
…And Renault did the same thing again with the 2001-05 Clio V6: use the pedestrian bodyshell of its biggest seller, but chucking a 230 hp 3-litre V6 and a 6-speed manual trans in the rear seat. The 255 hp Mk II version could reach over 150 mph. It just didn’t do trips to the shops very well…
Engine was longitudinal in the 5 Turbo, same as Clio V6.
How about the Cord 810 and Graham Hollywood/Hupmobile Skylark?
And it’s RWD descendant.
And an honorable mention should go to the Austin Land Crab and Austin 3-liter. While it isn’t clear exactly how much the FWD and RWD models shared, the RWD 3-liter had in common its width and doors with the smaller FWD models.
I don’t have sources handy, but ISTR that the Iranian-built version of the Peugeot 305 was RWD, unlike the French-built original.
Oh, I totally forgot that one too! You mean the 405 built by Iran Khodro! Yes, that’s also a FWD design made to fit on a RWD chassis. It’s called the Peugeot ROA, and it’s essentially a 405 with Paykan (ex-Hillman Hunter) underpinnings. Maybe Payam, our man in Teheran, can give us some more info?…
Funny that each of the French “Big Trois” had RWD conversions of FWD designs, though only Renault did theirs in-house.
Thinking of FWD shells turned RWD, the 1980s Ford RS1700T was almost one, but never made production.
The MG ZT 260 V8 RWD was a FWD car in other engine versions.