Triumph 1300, 1500, Toledo and Dolomite (1965 – 1980) Review

Triumph 1300, 1500, Toledo and Dolomite (1965 – 1980) At A Glance

+A great first-time classic, and one that's both good to drive and easy to get parts for

-Shabby built and paint, hard to make them look good due to some poor paint colours

The front-wheel drive Triumph 1300 was an exciting little car that had been designed to replace the Herald - and ended up evolving in several different directions during its life. This small, well-appointed saloon was something of a radical departure for Triumph - and a technical direction that the company subsequently retreated from, sadly.

Engine is the same as the Herald 13/60’s, but it was placed on top the gearbox and drive was sent to the front wheels. At the time, the 1300 probably had no direct rivals, and consequently, Triumph enjoyed modest TC - that car received an extra 14bhp, plus a brake servo to help improve stopping performance. Both were replaced by the front-wheel drive 1500 in 1970, an elegant restyle that saw the car grow seven inches in length and acquire twin headlamps.

Wood trim and deep carpets added to the attractions, but its days were numbered as Triumph had already introduced its familiar-looking rear-wheel-drive alternative.

The Toledo was launched in 1970 as a 1300cc rear-wheel-drive entry-level Triumph. What made it interesting was that it used the front-wheel-drive 1500 (nee 1300)’s body with a shorter nose and tail, but was launched at the same time. These rear-drive underpinnings were used in the 1500’s replacement, the 1500TC, in 1973 - and that car received the 1500’s full-length body to unify the styling of these smaller Triumphs.

In 1972, Triumph revived the pre-war Dolomite name to create one of the most underrated saloons Britain produced during the 1970s. But then, it would be somewhat eclipsed by the Sprint. The Dolomite 1850 was essentially a rear-wheel drive 1500TC fitted with an 1854cc version of the overhead-cam slant-four Triumph had been building for Saab. The underpinnings remained the same - so wishbone front suspension and live rear axle - but the settings were stiffened-up for the 1850. And it was a sweet driving saloon that stood up to anything the opposition could throw at it.

The ultimate Dolomite was launched just a year later. The Sprint featured a 16-valve head and 127bhp, and performance was stunning in its day. But it wasn't just quick, it was also well-equipped as standard, with plenty of wood trim and tinted glass plus that most 1970s of items, a vinyl roof. Overdrive too, from May 1975. 

All models were renamed Dolomite in 1976, and unified into a single range. This made things much less confusing for customers - you could now buy your Dolomite in 1300, 1500, 1500HL, 1850HL and Sprint forms. Today the Dolomite and its predecessors are brilliant starter classics.