Towards the end of the 1950s Standard-Triumph offered a range of two-seater Triumph sports cars alongside its Standard saloons, the Standard Eight and Standard Ten, powered by a small (803 cc or 948 cc) 4-cylinder engine, which by the late 1950s were due for an update. Standard-Triumph therefore started work on the Herald. The choice of the Herald name suggests that the car was originally intended to be marketed as a Standard, as it fits the model-naming scheme of the time (Ensign, Pennant and Standard itself). But by 1959 it was felt that the Triumph name had more brand equity.
Giovanni Michelotti was commissioned to style the car by the Standard-Triumph board, encouraged by chief engineer Harry Webster, and quickly produced designs for a two-door saloon with a large glass area that gave 93 per cent all-round visibility in the saloon variant and the "razor-edge" looks to which many makers were turning. As Fisher & Ludlow, Standard-Triumph's body suppliers became part of an uncooperative British Motor Corporation, it was decided that the car should have a separate chassis rather than adopting the newer unitary construction. The main body tub was bolted to the chassis and the whole front end hinged forward to allow access to the engine. Every panel – including the sills and roof – could be unbolted from the car so that different body styles could be easily built on the same chassis. As an addition to the original coupé and saloon models, a convertible was introduced in 1960.
Standard-Triumph experienced financial difficulties at the beginning of the 1960s and was taken over by Leyland Motors in 1961. This released new resources to develop the Herald and the car was re-launched in April 1961 with an 1147 cc engine as the Herald 1200. The new model featured rubber-covered bumpers, a wooden laminate dashboard and improved seating. One month after the release of the Herald 1200, a 3-door estate was added to the range.
An upmarket version, the Herald 12/50, was offered from 1963 to 1967. It featured a tuned engine with a claimed output of 51 bhp (38 kW) in place of the previous 39, along with a sliding vinyl-fabric sunroof and front disc brakes as standard. The 12/50, which was offered only as a 2-door saloon, was fitted with a fine-barred aluminium grille.
In October 1967 the range was updated with the introduction of the Herald 13/60. The front end was restyled using a bonnet similar to the Triumph Vitesse's and the interior substantially revised though still featuring the wooden dashboard. The engine was enlarged to 1296 cc, offering 61 bhp (45 kW) and much improved performance. In this form (though the 1200 saloon was sold alongside it until the end of 1970) the Herald Saloon lasted until December 1970 and the Convertible and Estate until May 1971, by which time, severely outdated in style if not performance, it had already outlived the introduction of the Triumph 1300 Saloon, the car designed to replace it and was still selling reasonably well but, because of its labour-intensive method of construction, selling at a loss.
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