With a top speed of 120mph and a 0-60mph time of under nine seconds the Sprint offered genuine sports car performance in a practical, well-appointed and compact saloon package, courtesy of its innovative 16-valve slant-four engine that made 125 horsepower. It was also under half the cost of its only real competitor, the BMW 2002 Tii. It quickly gained a reputation as one of the foremost ‘driver’s cars’ of its day, backed up by good performances on the racetrack and rally stage.
But, like many British cars of the time, the Sprint had its rough edges. Triumph’s quality control was all over the place and Sprints were riddled with poor paintwork, rust, rattley trim and dodgy electrics. The engine suffered many of the same problems as its doubled-up counterpart in the Stag – overheating, water pump failure and head gasket trouble. The famous valve gear suffered wear to the cam buckets. Many of these issues were caused by user error, such as failing to properly torque down the head with its odd-angled bolts or failing to change the coolant at the stated intervals.
Fortunately the reputation of the ‘Dolly Sprint’ survived these niggles and it is now a desirable classic – in fact it was named as the most desirable in a poll a few years ago. This means that plenty of people have produced fixes for the Sprint’s more common problems, while the fact that it’s a Dolomite means that there is no shortage of accessories and upgrades that fit the Sprint.
The original engine with a six-vane water pump sometimes suffered overheating in hot weather, especially in traffic as the pump didn’t move enough water at low speeds. Later Sprints had a 12-vane pump and many early cars have had these retrofitted. If yours hasn’t, Rimmer Brothers sells the 12-vane pump for £233. You also need to change the pump cover (£21) and it’s always advisable to change the bush that supports the pump spindle at the same time, otherwise you can quickly destroy your new pump and, much more seriously, the gears that drive it. It costs £4.80, bringing the total to £258.80. Rimmer Bros. also sells an upgraded oil feed kit for the rocker shaft, which solves the problem of rapid wear, for £35.50.
Also dealing with the cooling system, it can be worth switching to Evans Waterless Coolant, especially if you’re planning to do any sort of track or rally work with your Sprint. The total for the new coolant and the preparation fluid, also available from Rimmer Bros., is £136.
There is little wrong with the existing twin Zenith-Stromberg carburettors, provided they’re in good condition, but many owners find that the snappier response (and sportier noise) of a pair of Weber DCOEs better suits the Sprint’s nature. Retro Engineering sells the carbs and the throttle cable for £732.50.
BRAKES & SUSPENSION
The biggest criticism of the Sprint in-period was its brakes, which had not really been upgraded to take account of the model’s increased performance. Strangely enough the rear disc brakes from a Ford Sierra only need custom mounting brackets to house the callipers, which SprintSpeed sells for £125 for the pair. The discs and callipers themselves can be tracked down through the Triumph Dolomite Club, or people involved in building Locost kit cars, for around £50.
Another well-known problem with all Triumph saloons is the rubber mounts on the steering rack, which provide improved refinement when new but lead to seriously sloppy steering as they age. Solid aluminium mounts are widely available – MEV Spares sells ones for the Sprint at £19 for the pair.
Upgrading to polyurethane bushes will sharpen up the car’s handling – something that will be a benefit even if you only use it on the road – and they will last longer than the standard rubber ones. Various kits are available depending on exactly how extreme you want to go, but Rimmer Bros. sells a Polybush kit offering a modest improvement in handling for no real penalty in ride comfort for £254.
BODY & ELECTRICS
Triumph always fitted rather mean wing mirrors to its cars and this can make driving a Dolomite rather stressful in the hurly-burly of modern traffic. Rimmer Brothers sells new versions of the original mirrors, with convex glass that removes a lot of the blind spots, for £54 for the pair.
The same vendor also sells a halogen headlamps conversion kit that makes night-time driving much more pleasant for £114.