My First Car: Triumph Herald more farrago than Ferrari
Richard Batson tells how the Triumph Herald's looks belied its dodgy driveability but an engine compartment you could almost walk into made it easy to maintain.
It had a walnut dashboard just like a sports car, and was designed by the exotically-named Italian Giovanni Michelotti.
But my first car – a burgundy red Triumph Herald – was more farrago than Ferrari.
Farrago – a confused mixture. Razor-sharp, snappy styling from the Swinging Sixties – from the same creative mind of the man who also fashioned the more streamlined sexier Triumph Spitfire – sitting on a basic bare bones chassis barely changed from the days of Ford Model Ts.
The result was a car with looks that belied its dodgy driveability. But, when you are an impoverished journalism trainee in 1975 about to go newshounding in the Wild West of King’s Lynn, it just needed to be cheap and cheerful.
Bought from a garage at Wymondham, it served me well for a year or so, getting me to rural councils and courts and back and forth to the folks in Norwich.
The wheel arches were rusting, the brake pipes oozed a little and the battery needed the odd jump start from patient fellow journos with company cars.
But it was fun to drive, helped by its amazing turning circle. And it was stylish with its American-style wings, and easy to maintain with its almost walk-in engine compartment under a bonnet that tipped forward.
The looks of that smart wooden dash were sullied by my placing a red plastic wind-up alarm clock in the ashtray to keep track of time and deadlines.
The Herald reigned from 1959 to 71. Mine went to the scrapyard in 1976 when a lorry crushed it against the kerb near a roundabout in Wisbech. Luckily, I got out unscathed, and somehow managed to drive – with wonky wheels – to a garage, where it was declared a write-off.
Its successor, a Vauxhall Viva B Estate, bought privately, turned out to be stolen and ‘ringed’. The police took it away, and I ended up with a quirky Renault 4, before graduating to proper cars with a Mini and a Ford Escort 1600 Sport.
I am not the kind of bloke to remember the Herald’s number plate, or what it cost (journalists are words, not number, people), but the Triumph brings back happy memories of ‘affordable classic’ motoring in a car with much more character than today’s first-car homogenised boxes with all their electronic gizmos, built-in cameras and Bluetooth. None of them have a red plastic ‘deadlineometer’ on their dashboard.
Tell us about your first set of wheels – email your memories with a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org or post it to Andy Russell, Archant motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.