Market Watch 1965 Triumph Vitesse 1600
Dropping a six cylinder engine into the suburban Triumph Herald was a genius idea. But in practice the first 1962 to 1967 incarnations of the Triumph Vitesse weren’t all that quick, producing only 70bhp, a top speed of 90mph and sixty in a glacial 17.5 seconds. On the road though they do feel a bit brisker thanks to tipping the scales at a featherweight 920kg – or 17.cwt in old money. With twin Solex carburettors and a low torque curve, the 1600s feel more perky round town than on longer journeys. Had Standard-Triumph added a Laycock overdrive to third and fourth gear and junked the swing axle in favour of a live rear end, the reputation gained by those early cars would have turned out very different.
But Triumph customers weren’t that bothered about the leisurely performance and loved the fashionable slanted twin headlamps, duo tone paint option, tufted carpets and ‘mellow walnut’ dashboard and door cappings. Sales of the MkI were the most numerous with 22,000 built. Period adverts trumpeted the price, practicality and family values of the £757Vitesse saloon. One rather well-written print ad in Motor of 1963 stated, ‘The Triumph Vitesse makes more family allowances than the Welfare State’, ‘There’s a boot that’s a push-over for push-chairs,’ and ‘Try a pre-natal check on the Triumph Vitesse’. When you read those contemporary adverts for the 1600, the claims were all ’Smooth, Safe, Supple and Smart’ and ‘6 Cylinders for £747!’ but there were none of the usual sporting or performance cliches so favoured by the copywriters of the day. Those would have to wait for the 2.0-litre with its 95bhp GT6 engine, and particularly the more powerful and safer-handling MkII of 1968 with wishbone rear suspension as on the GT6 MkII.
But that shouldn’t detract from the 1600 Vitesse’s essential charm. Those early cars have a plush upmarket elegance that makes them feel like little Jaguars. Our photo car has covered a warranted 24,000 miles from new and is in astonishingly original condition. Sitting inside is like going back in time surrounded by untouched, factory perfect finishes and surfaces. And for me, that’s where the real value lies. Unspoilt original survivors in cheerful pastel colours will be the most desirable in the future and it’s worth spending extra to secure something unique and unmolested. Because, as with the Herald, DIY maintenance is so easy, many have been modified over the years with rather more enthusiasm than expertise, so stock originality is paramount for smart buying. Find a really super-mint original saloon survivor and £15,000 wouldn’t be an unreasonable asking price. Having said that, as I write, there’s a lovely original ’1965 42,000-mile saloon in light green with a dark green flash being advertised privately in Leicestershire for £10,950. So sensibly priced early cars are still out there, if you look hard enough.
There’s no easily predictable price difference between saloons and convertibles – mainly because you can remove the saloon roof by undoing just eight bolts. Genuine convertibles will have a CV0 serial number though, and I’d expect fine examples of the MkI rag-tops to have survived in smaller numbers than saloons and be worth several thousand more. Back in the day I remember reading that the 1600 Vitesse was ‘the runt of the litter’ and that you should always buy the 2.0-litre car. I think that advice should be reversed now, with the 1600 the more desirable incarnation. And that’s mainly because there are just 109 of them registered with the DVLA, of which only 70 are on the road – making them rarer than many collectable Ferraris if you need extra justification – and the fact they’ve developed a captivating Sixties glow.
So, only look for sparkling, well-maintained cars and if it’s rusty, tired, or modified, walk away. At today’s prices you can find lovely survivors – like the Leicestershire example above – for around ten grand. Those exceptionally original cars should be your target. Because find the right one, gently fettle, polish, detail and highlight its originality, and one day it could be worth £20,000. The Triumph Vitesse MkI has never been on the collector’s radar. It is now.
‘Today I think the 1600 is actually more desirable than the 2.0-litre model; they’ve developed a Sixties glow
Owning a Triumph Vitesse
‘I’ve always been into older cars, I had a VW Beetle for a few years but I always wanted a Vitesse,’ says Dave Hill. ‘I ran a Herald, and then a cheap Vitesse convertible, into the ground – they would’ve taken far too much money to make them reasonable, let alone improve, so I figured if I got another, I’d rather buy a good one this time. ‘This one cost me £13k – it seemed a bit over the top even for a concours example, but it was worth it because of its history. This included a letter from then-Prime Minister David Cameron thanking the owner for the car’s role in the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, a role in an episode of Endeavour, and just 20,000 confirmed miles on the clock, with no welding and largely original paint. ‘I encountered a collapsed brake hose – there was smoke from the hub and grease from the bearings on my first decent drive – but I fixed it myself with £100-worth of parts.’
TECHNICAL DATA 1965 Triumph Vitesse 1600
- Engine 1596cc in-line six-cylinder, ohv, two Solex 30PSEI carburettors
- Power and torque 70bhp @ 5000rpm; 92lb ft @ 2800rpm
- Transmission Four-speed manual, rearwheel drive
- Steering Rack-and-pinion
- Suspension Front: independent, wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar. Rear: independent, divided axle, radius rods,
- transverse leaf spring, telescopic dampers
- Brakes Discs front, drums rear
- Weight 940kg
- Performance 0-60mph: 17.6sec.
- Top speed: 90mph
- Fuel consumption 26mpg
- Cost new £837
- Classic Cars Price Guide £2000-£7000
The cabin has the ambience of larger luxury countrymates. Quentin reckons the smaller engine is now the more desirable. Slanted headlights give this compact two-door a healthy dose of aggression