With the iconic Triumph Herald celebrating its 60th Birthday this year, we are delighted to share the individual journey of Herald owner and Club Secretary Kenny Wilson with you. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Jemima’ by a previous owner, Kenny’s 1969 Herald is one of more than half a million of this popular family car that that were produced between 1959 and 1971.
My memories of Triumph Herald’s go back a long way to when my father owned a 1962 1200 Saloon (VJR 795) which was initially Lichfield green with a Matador Red interior, notable for burning the legs of small boys in shorts on a hot summer’s day!
I have memories of helping to repaint the car into a fetching brush paint shade of Tartan Red, very patriotic for us Scots! This was then the family car in the early 1970’s until replaced by a 1967 Austin 3 litre Westminster with fold out walnut picnic tables in the back of the front seats – real luxury. Relegated by the need for a side outrigger, the Herald sat in the garden until the floor pans succumbed to the rust bug and began to sprout a crop of potatoes through them, with the car acting as a sort of immobile greenhouse! Eventually, my father made the decision that it had to go and the scrap dealer turned up, gave him £25 and towed it away. Eventually the Austin was replaced in 1976 by a three year old Austin 1800 ‘Landcrab’ which I subsequently learned to drive in during the early 1980’s and was loaned to me as a first car.
Around 1985 I joined the Borders Vintage Automobile Club and started attending club meetings using the 1800 which by then had been replaced as my daily driver by a 1981 Vauxhall Astra Mk.1. At one of these meetings in 1989, our club Chairman mentioned that he was bringing a Triumph up to the Borders which had belonged to a neighbour of his mother in Scarborough. Her family had decided that she needed a more modern car but she wanted the Triumph to go to a good home. This car turned out to be a 1969 Herald 13/60 in a rather faded Royal Blue colour but not withstanding the need for some cosmetic work, looked to be sound. I was immediately interested and knew that the parts supply for Herald’s was generally good so thought this would be a good classic car to acquire.
The car duly arrived in the Borders in June 1989 and myself and my father went to view the car at our Chairman’s house where it was nestled between his collection of Bentleys and Morris Minors and was looking rather forlorn. It was agreed that the car would come and be inspected thoroughly underneath by a friend of my father’s who owned a local garage business. The following Saturday the car was raised on a ramp and after much banging of the chassis rails and outriggers by a large lump hammer, was pronounced to be sound. The deal was then done and for the sum of £300 the car was mine! On the first Tuesday in July I got a lift across and drove the car the five miles or so home via the back roads as the tax had expired. It ran well and had the odd rattle but nothing serious so I was lulled into a false sense of security as I parked it on the driveway at my parent’s house. However, as I slammed the driver’s door a large chunk fell out of the bottom of the door – oh no! here we go, I thought.
So much for a quick cosmetic tidy up, undeterred I set to with copious amounts of T cut and elbow grease and managed to get some sort of shine on the dark blue paintwork. Over the subsequent winter the car was used occasionally by my younger brother to travel to work when one morning running late as usual he took a bend too fast on wet roads and found the notorious Herald rear suspension tuck in. He attempted to bring the back of the car round to the front, as the car was still running on cross ply tyres this made it prone to this trick but brother treated it more carefully from then on! One of the first things to be attended to were the dodgy doors which were replaced with better frames from a 13/60 convertible. Over the course of the next couple of years further bodywork was attended to with the inner/outer wheel arches and D plates replaced and numerous trips made to Triumph and MG specialist Chic Doig’s premises ( then in Kirkcaldy) to obtain advice and the necessary body panels. The fibre glass valances were also discarded in favour of proper metal ones. Removing the brittle original rubber bumpers we found that they were too inflexible to refit so replacement items were sourced and fitted to the rails using Waxoyl as a lubricant and with the thought they might help the metal rails last a bit longer.
Shortly after I had bought the car I contacted Mrs Edwards the previous owner to ask if she had any history relating to it. I received a lovely letter back saying that the car had been in the Scarborough area all it’s life and originally belonged to a lady in a neighbouring village who only used it for short runs. Mrs Edward’s late husband had acquired it as a second car and her children had learned to drive in it. At some point the original owner had used it to transport her hand made spinning wheels over the York Moors which might account for the perforation in the rear of the head lining when I got it! She also subsequently sent me all the old MOT certificates which seemed to indicate the mileage was genuine at 54,000. She had been very sorry to part with the car which had been named Jemima but was glad it was in good hands, I have called it several other names over the years when it would not release its rusted bolts or refused to start! Mrs Edwards had also recalled that while working as a nurse in the local hospital she came out one day to find that someone had stolen the rear quarter bumper, the replacement was screwed to the valance as a precaution!
I had also sent for the heritage certificate which showed that the car was built at Canley on March 20th 1969 and dispatched to Robert B. Massey & Co in York on 25th March. I assume they were the main Triumph Dealers and the car then went on sale at the Misking and Knaggs dealership in Scarborough as their stamp is inside the front cover of the hand book which came with the car.
As the bodywork became more presentable the car was entered for the Borders Vintage Automobile Club rally at Mellerstain House near Kelso in the June of 1990 and with only one year missed (due to a leaking brake pipe on the day of the rally) has attended ever since and subsequently when we moved the event to Thirlestane Castle at Lauder. I joined the TSSC in 1989 a month after acquiring the car and the icing on the cake was winning Best Herald at the club’s Scottish weekend at Callander in August 2000.
Over the years the interior has also been spruced up with a new carpet in the correct shadow blue shade and mill boards to match. Luckily the seats were in great condition and have only ever needed a clean to keep them looking pristine. Similarly, the wooden dash is still good and responds well to an application of Mr Sheen now and again! When I acquired the car it came with a 1970’s cassette player incorporated into the dash but this has subsequently been replaced with a period Motorolla radio. With the bodywork in sound condition my attention turned to the engine bay and on stripping this for cleaning and painting my brother and I removed the Smith heater box to flush it through only to find a magnetic “keep a key” box attached to the reverse. On opening this we found a spare ignition key and taped to the underside of the washer bottle a spare door key. I suppose you can’t be too careful! The flushing of the heater box removed years of gunk and the subsequent re-coring of the radiator meant that on cold days the heater worked much better and in fact was prone to steam up the windows.
In August 2005, I submitted the car for the MOT inspection and received a phone call from the local garage to say that the car would be unlikely to pass this year due to worsening corrosion around the body mounting points. As the work was beyond my capabilities, I took the plunge and decided that a full job was required. I telephoned Chic Doig and within two weeks the car was on it’s way to their new home in Cardenden, Fife for the repairs to be carried out. In the end, the Herald stayed there for five weeks and came home with the mountings repaired along with the A posts, side rails and a new drivers floor pan. Due to the extensive corrosion at either side of the boot floor (in the dished area around the body mountings) the decision was made to replace the entire boot floor and wheel well with the original style panel. Chic and the team made a superb job of the work which was resplendent in new paint. On collecting the car however, it stubbornly refused to start and after about two hours Chic found the answer was tiny rust flecks in the petrol feed which had been sucked from the bottom of the tank, this proved to be the beginning of the tanks demise which resulted in it’s replacement about two years later. To prevent this happening again an in-line fuel filter was fitted and a spare carried in the glove box.
With the crucial work done and re-submitted, the car passed the MOT with flying colours! Since that time, several further cosmetic jobs have been carried out including a door re-skinning and repair and partial body respray by Bill Dalgetty Vintage and Classics who are based in East Lothian. I was very pleased with the standard of their work and Bill’s attention to detail on the car.
She potters along happily on unleaded following a conversion to her original cylinder head by Doig’s some years ago and throughout the summer ‘Jemima’ continues to be used on runs and outings with the BVAC and attends other rallies and classic car events in the Scottish Borders and further afield.
by Kenny Wilson, Club Secretary, BVAC