2 December 2019

More than an old car #124: Triumph Dolomite 14/65

Having gone for quite a few car exhibitions and meetups, it is always good to see unicorns make their appearance. This 1939 Triumph Dolomite 14/65 Roadster was one of them during this particularly impressive car show!

The Triumph Dolomite was first introduced in 1937, available in both sedan and roadster versions. At that time, Triumph was facing bankruptcy and it was forced to reorganise its finances. Under the leadership of Donald Healy, then technical director of the Triumph Motor Company, the new car was targeted at the luxury sporting saloon market. Its name was derived from a 1934 prototype that Healy used to race in. The 14/65 designation referred to its horsepower output, and this format is still in use today.

One of the more striking details was the 'waterfall' radiator grille, supposedly inspired by American car designs of that era. Being targeted for the middle class, the roadster also featured 'high-end' items such as wire-spoked wheels, wind-up windows and interestingly, a double dickey seat at the rear. 'Dickey seats' were exposed to the elements and strictly speaking, not part of the seating arrangement in a car. As such, it was also known as the 'mother-in-law' seat. There were a range of engines available, although this unit is powered by the more desirable 1991 cc straight-6 engine. It was 4496 mm long and weighed about 1245 kg. The motoring press at that time noted that it could reach a top speed of 80 mph [128 km/h] with an acceleration of 8 seconds [0-50 mph], making it a serious competitor in rally events.

However, while the Dolomite was acknowledged as one of the finest Triumphs made, the company lacked resources to increase capacity and overall production ended in 1939, when Triumph went into receivership. Its factory was also heavily bombed during the war and the Dolomite was never re-introduced. About 50 roadsters with the 1991 cc engine were produced, and it so happens that this unit is only 1 of 8 still in existence! It is understood that this is the only one in Asia, as the majority are in the UK. If I am not mistaken, this was originally in Singapore before it was converted to the classic scheme, and given the rarity, it only appears for special events. However, it had taken part in a rally event in India back in 2015, showing that this is still no slouch on the road.

Looking at the imposing design, I find it a pity that people do not make cars like before. Although the introduction of safety features has benefited us, such elaborate designs had to be sacrificed as a result. Even the headlights of this car are bigger than the ones we see nowadays! The graceful curves and the spare tyre mounted seamlessly with the car body would not be replicated today. I was fortunate to see this exceptional unit last year, and I hope you'll get to see this someday!

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