16 October 2017

More than an old car #40: Triumph Stag

Think of the word 'triumph' and you would evoke scenes of victory and achievement. Most of you would not have thought that Triumph refers to a car company of yesteryear, or the 1974 Triumph Stag that I spotted.

The Triumph Motor Company was founded in 1885 by Siegfried Bettmann from Germany, as S.Bettmann & Co. It started out as a bicycle importer before it was renamed "Triumph" in 1886. Though it experienced success as a motorcycle manufacturer, it entered the car industry in 1921. Triumph went into receivership during 1938 and car production stopped due to WWII. After the war, it was bought over by Standard Motor Company in 1944 and by Leyland Motors in 1960. The Triumph name disappeared in 1984 when BMW bought over its owner Austin Rover Group. Currently, the brand name is owned by BMW even though no cars are badged as such.

The Triumph Stag arose from a styling experiment back in 1963, where the famous Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti worked on a series of Triumph cars including the Stag. The first Stag was produced in 1970 and it was envisioned to be a competitor to the Mercedes R107 SL-class. As a 2+2 sports tourer, it was a 4-seater convertible coupe and was received warmly initially. Quite uniquely, its logo featured a highly stylized stag rather than a griffin. It was powered by a 2997cc Triumph 8-cylinder engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 190 km/h with an acceleration of 10 seconds [0-100km/h]. It was 4.42 m long and weighed 1268 kg.

However, the Stag quickly became notorious for its unreliability, specifically engine overheating. Due to numerous design flaws in the engine such as the position of the coolant, it had a tendency to heat up excessively in traffic. Numerous replacements were also required, as the aluminium-iron mixture corroded easily. It proved so bad that Time magazine rated it as one of the 50 worst cars ever made. As a result, production ended prematurely with only 25,939 made in 1977.

This specimen has been imported from the UK quite recently and given a Singapore licence plate under the classic car scheme. Recently, I am aware of a coupe unit that is originally registered here! Given the issues that have dogged the Stag, the owner must have been really brave to bring it on our roads. Although classic cars are generally less reliable than modern ones, this is really off the spectrum in terms of breakdowns. However, to each his own and I really admire the owner for driving this British beauty that could have been great.

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