I learned to drive, or at least did most of my practicing in my mother’s HA Viva, but the car that, fifty years on, really stays with me is the Triumph Herald. A light blue 1966 saloon was the car I did my six instructor lessons in and in which I passed my test. I liked the Herald because for much the same dimensions as the Viva, it seemed so much more substantial. It cost more too, I see now: a list price of £750 was £200 more than the rather basic Vauxhall. Instead of a painted metal facia, the Herald had a handsome wooden dash, the steering wheel was more upright and you seemed to sit very low. After the Vauxhall’s almost ridiculously light gearshift (much praised at the time) the Herald’s was a meaty, solid affair and shifting properly required just a little thought, but was rather more satisfying. With around 45bhp the Herald was no sports car, but it was agreeably torquey around the Derby streets favoured by my instructor.
The Triumph was one of the last cars (like the Spitfire) built on a separate chassis and I was fascinated by the way the bonnet hinged open exposing the entire front of the car giving an even better view than you got with an E type. Simply being able to survey the engine and all the components and the complexities (so they seemed then) of independent suspension was an education in itself. The Herald, or at least its six-cylinder sister the Vitesse, was the first car on which I carried out a repair too. A pal had inherited his mother’s somewhat neglected example and he and I successfully re-bushed the gear lever. Despite its extra cylinders, the Vitesse never felt much quicker than the Herald, but its wooden dash had a matching rev counter and speedometer like a Jaguar and it had a wonderful exhaust note.
Is memory lending enchantment to the view? I have owned a score of cars and driven hundreds more since then, but for me the sharp styling of the Michelotti-styled Herald stands out today when contemporary Vivas, Minxes and BMC 1100s are all largely forgotten. And subjectively, to judge from the numbers of cherished Heralds I see on the roads in the summer, quite a few classic enthusiasts think so too.