Project Cars: Malcolm Machu – Triumph Herald 1200 the restoration

On a chilly early Monday morning whim, one December of many years ago, I replied to an advert in the local paper about a Herald 1200 saloon.

I had been entertaining a though, for a while, about a project which involved making a convertible out of a Herald saloon: not such a daunting task as one may expect!

The Triumph design is typical of the model: separate body styles can be bolted to a universally suitable chassis; this allows for fitment and interchangeability between different versions and bodies, from an estate or even a van to a convertible.

The main advantage about starting with a saloon, as opposed to its convertible brethren, is that the floors of the saloon where generally in far better condition than the topless version. Loaded with this knowledge and fired with a burning desire to waste money, I bought little Gerald from a young lady, who at the time almost cried to see her faithful old companion driven off, by some hooligan greasy monkey.

And so the restoration begins..

Gerald languished in a pig pen until its MOT expired, as other commissioned and paid-for work took precedence.

Eventually, I got my teeth into the conversion and panels were unbolted and stored. I was well acquainted with Triumphs and fully aware of the task that lay ahead.

The major change and conversion involved work on the body tub, specifically from the rear of the doors backwards. Rather than just replace the whole rear tub, I decided to weld in the top rear section from an existing convertible and join it to the lower half section of the saloon. In that way, door shuts and original panels were retained. As we all know, in all Heralds the front half of the body is ‘universal’; thus only the trim and glass in the doors require changing.

However, due to accident and rust damage, both front lower wings (inner and outer) were replaced, as were the lower ‘D’ panels. A fiberglass lower front valance was sourced (my only fiberglass addition). That was the easy part of the job.

Then, things became a little more complicated.

The metal work assembly for the connection of the hood mechanism required insertions, as did the shorted top panels, to accommodate the lowered soft top and the associated different rear seats and ancillary elements. Also, the boot lid remained unchanged, but the top joining panel from the boot to the back of the hood was a crucial modification and required intervention.

Once the convertible top panel was replaced, the conversion process unfolded accordingly, and the result was exactly the same as an original convertible: unlike some aftermarket conversions, this method is 100% genuine and I would challenge anyone to tell mine and an original convertible apart!

Post conversion –  Triumph Herald 1200 convertible

Gerald’s engine was the faithful and well-tested 1200cc four-pot. While not exactly über-powerful, it had the qualities of a well-oiled sowing machine. Of course, the lure of more power is always tempting, and it is easy for a restorer and mechanic to find a suitable, bigger unit. However, so sweet did it run, I was loathed to change it.

True, every now and again I have had to loosen off the bell housing and clutch pressure plate by poking a thin knife between the clutch plate and flywheel to free the assembly. A small price to pay for wanting to retain as much of the original parts as possible.

Other modifications which are in the pipeline are: replacing the Dynamo with an alternator, and incorporate a modern pointless ignition system to obtain more reliability and address servicing issues.

Engine mods apart, Triumph aficionados looking at the photos of my Gerald will immediately notice that the wheels are wider, GT6-sourced items. The bumpers have been replaced with polished aluminum finishers from a Vitesse model. I may also replace the boat-like steering wheel and the single clock dash with other Vitesse-sourced items.

Once the bodywork alterations were completed, with new lower rear wings and sills (which, thankfully, are not part of a unitary body system and therefore unstressed and bolt-on), the resulting ‘new’ shell was sprayed in a racy red two-pack.

Car complete in racey red

Life has a habit of getting in the way, and Gerald was put back in the pigpen, to languish there for a few more years, until recently, the lure of a hot summer and my partner’s desire for open-top classic motoring and a spot of restoration activity, has encouraged me to get a move on. Some new parts, such as wiring connectors, new hood and carpets, should see Gerald flexing his muscles at this year’s Classic car events.

Malcolm Machu  (Restorer and mechanic, Mach V owner) – Current owner: Angie Voluti

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