When launched in 1959, the Triumph Herald was an almost overnight success.

Apart from its classic good looks, the Herald’s separate chassis meant that it could be readily adapted to provide a platform for different vehicle formats.

An advantage that Triumph took full advantage of, rapidly releasing an estate, convertible, coupe and even a light van version- each of them taking an ample share of the market.

Looking forward, Triumph also began to recognise the potential for a range of more powerful upscale Herald-based offshoots.  

As a response, in 1962, the Triumph Vitesse was unveiled, a 159cc six-cylinder engine version of the Herald, with a strengthened chassis, disc and overdrive as an option.

The Vitesse could be distinguished from its less powerful sister by its slanted quad-headlamp front styling, a signature of designer Michelotti's art.

Coming with the same snug cabin to the Herald although, with extra flourishes that elevated the interior ambience and made it feel plusher, the saloon version of the Vitesse was aimed upmarket to compete with the Cortina 1600E and to a lesser extent, the Singer Vogue. 

With its wood veneer door tappings to match the polished wood dashboard,  better seats, and an optional sunroof, the Triumph Vitesse had a lot of class for what started as a basic family saloon.

The four angled headlamps were significant, giving the car a more aggressive persona to match the extra six-cylinder engine performance.  

Available only as a saloon or convertible, ironically the open-air versions were most popular- even giving the TR’s of the Sixties a run for their money.

In 1966 Triumph added the option of a 2-litre (122 cu in) engine matched up to all-synchromesh gearbox, as used on the new Triumph GT6 coupé.

However, that particular combination led to some handling problems caused by the rear swing axle independent suspension.

These problems, along with a few minor ones, were addressed in 1968, with the launch of the Mk II version of the Vitesse.

 The new suspension system guaranteed leech-like road holding and the tweaked engine delivered performance that could put the enhanced handling to a proper test.

With that behind them, the Triumph Vitesse Mark II went on to become one of the most highly regarded sports sedans (saloons) of the Sixties, while the convertible represented terrific value for the sporting motorist who enjoyed the thrill of open-top driving.

Discontinued in 1971, along with the Herald, to make way for the Dolomite, the Triumph Vitesse saloon and soft top remain highly coveted among collectors and restorers  even half a century later.


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