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The Carchive: The Triumph Dolomite 1300

Chris Haining November 17, 2017 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 22 Comments

The table is all laid out, the plates are piping hot and there’s a hostess trolley full of goodness on its way from the kitchen. But what’s it full of? Well, we’re digging right down from the choice cuts on the surface, through the fat and bone until we reach the gristle and cartilage before it gets left at the side of your plate.

At last weeks banquet we dined richly on the 1980 Mercury Cougar, but today’s dish is rather more lean and less ostentatiously garnished. It’s the 1976 Triumph Dolomite 1300. Welcome back to The Carchive.

Click on the pics to bask in the unadulterated glory of British Leyland at its very, very, most Triumphant

“Dolomite luxury and style with Toledo economy – these are the major ingredients of the latest addition to Triumph’s new range of small sporting family saloons”

The story of the Triumph Dolomite is a long and very twisty turny one, with more peaks and troughs than the mountains of the same name. It pretty much started in 1965 with the Triumph 1300, a front-wheel drive saloon car that replaced the historic Triumph Herald. This soon evolved via the 1500, switching to rear-drive for the 1500TC, while the 1500 was replaced by the Toledo in 1970. The 1500TC, meanwhile, begat the Dolomite, which was pitched as a small ‘executive’ car to compete with the BMW 2002 and Saab 99, reaching their zenith with the Dolomite Sprint, with its 16 valve engine.

By 1975, the Dolomite’s structure had been in production for a decade, but in two forms – the junior Toledo had a somewhat truncated trunk. So, by way of lineup rationalisation, it was done away with and a 1300cc version of the long-bodied Dolomite was introduced instead! The axe finally fell on the Dolomite in 1980, when the Honda Ballade based Triumph Acclaim took its place, heralding (do you see what I did there?) a new era of British Leyland / Honda co-operation.

But was it any good? Well, the answer was actually ‘kind of’.

“The standard of finish, comfort and equipment of the Triumph Dolomite 1300 makes it an important to the new Dolomite range, and a worthy bearer of the Triumph name”

The Dolomite 1300 was positioned slightly awkwardly in that it could only really be marketed economically against rivals from the next size above, which meant Ford Escort size and power for Ford Cortina money. But the Triumph name still had the credibility to achieve that, and the actual car was really pretty sound. The biggest problem it faced is that it really had become horrifically dated by the late seventies.

While the 1850 and Sprint had the saving grace of performance, the 58bhp 1300 was entirely reliant on ‘craftsmanship and tradition’, which rather restricted its appeal compared to the rather thinking European and Japanese cars that were flooding in. And that ‘craftsmanship’, it turned out, couldn’t be wholly relied upon, either.

And, I’m afraid, that’s just about it. The Dolomite 1300 brochure is one of the very slimmest volumes in the whole Carchive. It’s insubstantial and lacks vision, but what’s there is quite appealing. A bit like the car.

(All images are of original marketing material, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of, I assume, BMW. I actually reckon Triumph would be one of the more promising British brand names that Germany could bring back to life, but it’s wise that none of us hold our breath)

  • I suppose someone has to mention the car’s eponym, the noted mineralogist Dieudonné Sylvain Guy Tancrède de Gratet de Dolomieu, so it might as well be me.

    • I_Borgward

      Another mystery solved. And all of this time now, I thought: perhaps the Dolomites were an obscure and now extinct religious order?

      • outback_ute

        There were the Dollarnites back in the 70s and 80s used to promote children’s savings accounts by one of the Australian banks.

        The Dolomite story is pretty extraordinary, I’m there is another example of a mainstream car being switched from fwd to rwd (not including niche cars like the Rover 75/MG ZT V8) but I can’t think of one.

        • There’s the Iran Khodro RD and ROA, basically a Peugeot 405 body adapted to use old Peykan RWD oily bits, but yeah. Other examples are few and far between.

          • outback_ute

            I knew there must be something, there is nothing new under the sun! Well the Triumph came before but close enough.

            I’ve since come across a similar example too, the coffin nose Cord that was later used for a rwd Hupmobile (& Graham?)

        • The FWD Dodge Intrepid & Chrysler Concorde / LHS / 300 were replaced by the RWD Dodge Magnum / Charger & Chrysler 300.

          • outback_ute

            Was that the same car converted to rwd like the Dolomite?

            • No, I misunderstood what you meant by switched (and didn’t read the post carefully). They are completely different chassis.

              The Cord / Graham is a good example, however.

        • 0A5599

          Not quite the same as your inquiry, but from 1966 to 1978, GM’s E-body platform was simultaneously FWD for Oldsmobile Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado (beginning in 1967) and RWD for Buick Riviera.

        • Alff

          Shogun

          • outback_ute

            Aha, I thought of the Mitsubishi Shogun as the Pajero is badged in some markets, but the mid-engined Fiesta is certainly a case. Similar examples are the Renault 5 Turbo and Clio V6.

      • Rudy™

        I thought Dolomite was something foul tasting you spread on bread. Then I realized it was Vegemite.

    • I_Borgward

      BEHOLD, LUCAS OF DOLOMITE
      DARKNESS FALLS UPON THEE

  • Van_Sarockin

    Much like James Bond, the movies take their deepest inspiration from the purebred motorcars.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ogyJ0hTpTrY

  • tonyola

    Well, whaddaya know? The Triumph Dolomite is the same color as this dolomite! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f823e2e9afe23370442749ee175eb878272584b6c6ac8a98047e24ff1b5d082f.jpg

  • dukeisduke

    “Dolomite luxury and style with Toledo economy” – Toledo as in SEAT Toledo, or some Jeep product from Toledo, Ohio, like a J-10 pickup?

    • dukeisduke

      Okay, never mind – if I’d read further, I’d see they were referring to the Triumph Toledo.

  • dukeisduke

    Also, I don’t get the steering wheel. It’s flat, and not dished, so not very safe. Also, the big flat hub – was that intended as a writing surface, for taking notes intended for the repair shop, related to the latest breakdown?

    • Very likely all of the above.

    • outback_ute

      Interesting observation, I would be surprised if the steering column is collapsible too.

      • Rover 1

        Only if it’s not meant to be.