A big luxury saloon meanwhile is opulent and self-indulgent. This Triumph Herald 13/60 Estate is neither fast nor opulent, so why did I come away from my test drive with a nagging temptation to take it home with me?
Certainly this particular one is a fine example of the type. It is one of the last Heralds, built the year before production ended, so it has a slightly more sophisticated interior (two dials and some armrests!) and the revised front styling, with the slanted bonnet edges that give it ‘angry eyes’ (as if a Herald could ever come across as angry!).
The paintwork is in good condition and the metal underneath that Valencia Blue top coat is solid. New outriggers also have recently been put onto the chassis. One advantage of the Estate is the folding ‘trap door’ bit of the rear floor that allows easy viewing of the rear bodytub, and all I could see was solid metal under some faded paint and a couple of decades’ worth of fluff and grime. That rear floor itself, and the rest of the tan interior, is also in good nick – clearly this Estate hasn’t had its load-lugging abilities put to the test too much.
This car does bear evidence of its time as a ‘banger’ though. The 13/60 engine has been replaced by the smaller unit from a Herald 1200. Presumably the original expired at some point in the early ‘Eighties when old Triumph Heralds were virtually worthless and the local scrapyard only had a 1200 on the rack.
ON THE ROAD
The replacement engine isn’t in the first flush of its youth either. It starts promptly and idles smoothly but there’s a definite haze of blue smoke from the exhaust under acceleration. Although there’s evidence of the engine having had some work done on the cylinder head recently, perhaps this was just the valve guides and seals, in the hope that that would cure the smoking problem?
Smoke aside the engine seems unaffected by whatever ails it. It pulls gamely and is happy to be worked hard, as you have to in one of the heaviest Heralds with less than 40 horsepower on tap. You also have to make a lot of use of the gearbox, which is a delight to use. The pedals, like on every classic Triumph, are massively offset to the outside of the footwell, so you sit slightly skewed, but you soon get used to that and start whizzing up and down that gearbox with the help of some double de-clutching.
I think that’s why the Herald posesses such charm. It’s a car that’s just a pleasure to drive because its utter simplicity makes it so engaging to drive and to keep everything trucking along requires a certain amount of engagement. On a dual carriageway or motorway the Herald’s lack of punch would probably become frustrating but for pottering around the sunken lanes of Berkshire it was perfect, with the gearbox yunn-yunn-yunning away in the lower two gears, the gentle chorus of rattles from the body trim that are part and parcel of the Herald experience on less-than-perfect roads and that fabulously accurate and light steering.
The Herald is, of course, a classic that is very easy to live with thanks to excellent parts support and a huge knowledge base to help. This Herald has a huge amount of loadspace, even without folding the rear bench seat, accessed by a top-hinged hatchback (supported on the world’s most over-engineered struts!). The famous forward-hinged front bodywork offers just as good access to the other end.
The Estate is one of the more frequently overlooked Herald variants, which I think is a shame as it seems to provide the only real rival (as a classic in the modern world) to ubiquitous Moggy Traveller. If I’d sucumbed to temptation and bought this one a bigger engine – at least the original 1296cc one – would be my first port of call to make the Estate more at home at jobs other than genteel rural pottering, but it has plenty to recommend it without going that far.
TRIUMPH HERALD 13/60 ESTATE TECH SPEC
TOP SPEED: 76mph
0-60mph: 28 secs
GEARBOX: 4-sp man