While motoring around last week I saw this car swing dramatically into a parking lot. So, I went and stalked it.
The owner was very pleased to tell me a little more about the car and I learned a little about its design history. It counts as one the great examples of a succesful facelift and, in my view, one of Giovanni Michelotti’s finest works among a quite rich collection from his portfolio. The most interesting insight of my little carpark chat was that if you see the car in real life you will get a very much stronger impression of its merits than photos can really provide. There’s more on that later. First let’s remind ourselves of the car’s background.
This car’s bodyshell had no generic name and so the model was named after the engines fitted (a common habit in the 1960s, I think). For the first series, the models were the 2000 and 2.5 PI. For the facelifted version those models were joined by the 2500 TC and 2500S. That’s not handy.
I would rather talk about a brand (Ford), a model (Granada) and engine designation (2.3) but here we only have a brand and the engine designation used as a name. That makes discussing the general model ( normally based around the body architecture rather tricky.) For this car in general, I’ll call it the 2000 regardless of the engine unless otherwise stated.
Triumph presented the 2000 at the London Motor show in 1963 and sales began in 1964, with an initial offering of a 2.0 litre six cylinder engine driving the rear wheels. It scored over Rover’s then-new 2000 by having six cylinders versus Rover’s four. The Triumph’s had smooth-riding sporty performance and the technical merits of independent suspension which was still far from the norm in the mass market sector.
The 2000 can be understood as a proto-executive car offering something like the higher performance of more obviously sporting cars but at the price level of the mainstream brands’ larger but less wieldy cars. Potential peers for the 2000 included the Peugeot 504, the Citroën ID, the Lancia Flavia, BMW 1800/2000, the Mercedes-Benz 200 and the Volvo 144. All of these were becoming more popular in Britain. The model also competed with Rover.
Today’s car is the revised version of the 2000-bodyshell, badged 2500 TC (I didn’t nab a photo of proof). It’s called the Innsbruck series by insiders, related to the similarly styled Stag. As I understand it from the owner this facelift got its project tag “Innsbruck” because the idea for the theme came to Michelotti while he was there.
None of the on-line reports I have read confirm this but if true it’s a nice little story. What I find notable about the grille and lamp treatment is its general flexibility. I could easily imagine this being revised with each later generation of car. We’ll never know because Triumph didn’t make another large car and instead the brand died touting rebadged Hondas.
Having greeted the owner I was shown around the car and we discussed its provenance. The owner informed me the car had spent most of its life in southern France. Imagine seeing one of these there, altogether much rarer than a DS in Oxford or a 2CV in Southampton. Note the left-hand drive configuration (below).
The fact the car had lived in the land of Oc meant the bodywork was in very good order, it had its original paint though faded. The owner has so far decided against a respray, which is probably a good decision. On the other hand, I’d suggest only driving this on a dry day.
It has been about four years since I last saw one of these cars. The last time was in Dingle, Ireland and I was too busy then to really study the car. This time I had a good opportunity to examine the overall form and the details’ relation to that. I also got to sit inside and study the ashtrays.
The slide show shows the smoker’s arrangements front and back. Having the ventilation controls on either side of the ashtray may be for purely practical reasons such as getting access to the levers during assembly or maintenance. It is a bit unusual, I contend. The ashtray could be bigger otherwise – it is not as if there is a shortage of space. The rear door-mounted ashtray is also slightly casually sited. It’ll do for not much more than a few cigarettes.
Period reviews note the fact leather was not an option. You could have cloth or vinyl. I must admit it didn’t look very vinyl to me when I sat inside. The view out of the car is excellent all around – those third sidepanes help. I particularly liked the space in front of me. I could see my feet at the pedals as well as the smartly presented instruments.
The seating position is low so the car has a sporty feel though it is not cramped at all. I expect Jaguar XJ-S drivers would have had the same feeling. In comparison with other 70s cars I have been in, you sit less upright. The 604 and Senator I tried some time back are much more upright and formal (and likeable for it). The Triumph 2500 feels like a different proposition to other executive cars.
The one image I seem not to have obtained was a clear side view so I will use this library photo (below). Michelotti put a lot of effort into the refinement of this saloon’s shape, building on the Mk1 and only improving it. As the marked-up image below shows, it is thick with subtle details with the local and overall form creating a car which rewards extended attention.
Below is an annotated picture of the same car. Note especially the pontoon shape of the body side, where the shoulder line and sill can be projected to meet far behind the car. It quietly expresses speed. There is acceleration of curvature on the trailing end of the roof (whose undercut is echoed on the boot). The bonnet line curvature also accelerates as it goes forward over the wheel.
The proportions are text-book rear-wheel drive, with the deep body and lower glasshouse whose c-pillar rests over the rear axle. While the proportions are correct and handsome, the detailing is verging on the sublime. I was not aware this car was this freighted with rich detailing until now.
Remarkably, it is not a very much-regarded design, being lumped in with a lot of other much less interesting BL cars of the era. Owners of the cars know better, of course. I am sure they will agree that since Triumph is an extinct marque there is not the same drive to keep the brand in the public eye so for every one article on the 2500 there must be ten on the BMW 525 or MB 230E, for example.
Speaking of which compare the Triumph to the BMW 525 of about the same time:
The BMW loses out quite markedly, seemingly almost to be blunt and coarse in comparison with Michelotti’s triumph of a Triumph. The window frame on the rear door is awkward: it really isn’t a shape you draw but a shape brought about by compromises of various sorts. Much as I like the BMW the Triumph exposes the BMWs end-heaviness and the oddness of the C-pillar/boot profile.
The path towards the final form of the Mk2 2000 is hinted at in the photos above, courtesy of Pinterest. At some point Triumph considered a fastback.
Lovely as the Mk2 is, it also represents the point Triumph’s wheels began spinning. The the same year the Mk2 was launched, Triumph thought about a replacement, known internally as the “Puma”. “Had Triumph’s plans of the late 1960s come to fruition, the 2000/2.5PI Mk2 models would most likely have been replaced by an all-new big Triumph in the 1972-4 timeframe. Design studies for just such a car – codenamed ‘Puma’ – were already underway by the time that the ‘Innsbruck’ restyle was released to production, and initially foresaw a conventional three-box saloon powered by a choice of straight six or V8 engines.”
With apologies to all the Rover enthusiasts around, the wrong brand survived the monstrous amalgamation of brands into British Leyland. Triumph was so very much in the mould of what we now call a sporting prestige brand: the Dolomite/Sprint cars are British 3-Series and the 2000-/2500 is a British 5-series. Whereas Rover struggled and failed to overcome its stodginess, the Triumph brand had sportiness built in. Ah, hindsight.
Production of the 2000/2500 amounted to around 324,000 units between 1963 and 1977.
You may want to look at the gallery at this website showing a mint interior.