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  •   Antonio Ghini reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    The Straight Eight Dolomite is the stuff of #Triumph legend. Devised by Donald Healey to take on the might of the #Alfa-Romeo-8C , it liberally borrowed from – some would say shamelessly ripped off – the Milanese car in specification, style and execution. The Dolomite may have very little in common with anything else that ever came out of Coventry but, as someone betrothed to the Triumph badge, this enigmatic car represents the Holy Grail.

    Rob Green of Gloria Coachworks shares my enthusiasm for the model and, as the leading exponent of pre-Standard-era Triumphs, he thought it would be a rather nice thing to recreate. Thus was born one of the classic car world’s lesser-known but most delicious replicas.

    Green began work on the first car in #2005 , taking four years to complete it for a customer. The end result is a remarkable doppelgänger of Healey’s Monte mount. The next – and like the genuine article, there are only two – he kept for himself. Inspired by the second of the original cars, period photos and brochure shots were used to ensure the visual accuracy of its body.

    The starting point was a #1938 Dolomite (sixcylinder) chassis, which was modified and then adorned with authentic pre-war Triumph oily bits. Don’t be fooled by the clever siamesing of the exhaust pipes, though: the big difference between Green’s cars and the real thing is that his are powered by a 2-litre ‘six’ fed by triple SUs and breathing through four ports.

    Using 16 gauge aluminium over an ash frame, the homage looks just right to me. Green says it took nearly 3000 hours to build and you can well believe it. No one would claim that this is an actual clone, and there are some practical modifications, but the detailing is simply wonderful from the painted wires to the leather interior. Triumph isn’t renowned for its pre-war sporting excellence, and it wasn’t so long ago that the only model recognised by the VSCC – other than the Straight Eight Dolomite – was the sixcylinder Southern Cross, of which only four or five exist from its single model year.

    In spite of that, the cars feel relatively accomplished and sophisticated for the age. The crossflow 2-litre overhead-valve engine is far from asthmatic and has lusty torque, while the gearbox (with synchro on all gears except first) is a delight to use. In fact, as you zip around in the Dolomite only the weight of the steering gives it away as being a pre-war design. Green’s tribute to the Straight Eight really is a beauty, but he has ‘previous’ when it comes to the art of reviving long-lost prewar Triumphs. He explains: “My love for them goes back to the 1960s when my cousin had one. Influenced by that, I bought my first Gloria – a three-position drophead coupé – for £33.”

    Having served his apprenticeship at a Rootes main agent, Green joined North Stables Coachbuilding before setting up Gloria Coachworks in 1980. He deals with all manner of classics, but about 80% of his business is Triumph-related. He reckons that he has now owned seven prewar Triumphs and restored another 37.

    But it is his obsession with filling the historical gaps and the reason why these cars are so rare that fascinates me most. “It’s because there were so many variants of each model,” Green explains. “You could have a long- or short-chassis, four- or six-cylinders and loads of different body styles, so very few of each type were ever produced.” As well as resurrecting the Straight Eight, Green constructed the delectable Gloria Flow- Free using a factory body.

    And he’s not finished yet. In fact, it was building a replica of the long-lost one-off #1938 #Dolomite-Fixed-Head-Coupé that led him reluctantly to offer his own Straight Eight facsimile for sale. And when that’s done, he has an inkling he might like to build himself a Gloria van! I was intrigued to see what value the market would put on the Dolomite when it came up at Historics at Brooklands’ 7 March sale. The answer: an impressive £81,760. Testament indeed to Green’s craftsmanship.

    For more information about these rare cars, visit: pre-1940triumphmotorclub. org

    ‘Donald Healey liberally borrowed from – some would say shamelessly ripped off – the #Alfa-Romeo 8C’.

    Green’s recreation of the Straight Eight is a joy to drive. Bottom: replica’s lines closer to original than the genuine cars.
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  •   Martin Buckley reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    My obsession with #Alfa-Romeo-8C s stems from a copy of #Autocar published in November #1967 (inset below). Covers of motoring weeklies were generally dull in the ’60s, but I was transfixed by the dramatic action shot of the Hon Patrick Lindsay gunning his ex-John Cobb Monza down the Hangar Straight. Better still was the feature inside, which combined the talents of writer Ronald ‘Steady’ Barker with ace photographer Michael Cooper. Atmospheric monochrome on-board shots perfectly captured the stirring, damp blast alongside Lindsay around Silverstone while Steady’s prose passionately described the great car’s history. This famous Monza, Donald Healey later claimed, was the very car that became the template for the fabulous Triumph Dolomite.

    Cobb was Steady’s hero as a schoolboy, and the highlight of the shoot was Lindsay digging out the #Napier-Railton before the Christie’s director took his visitors in turn for tours around the estate aboard the 24-litre Brooklands giant.

    Lindsay, Cooper and Steady were all heroes of mine, but sadly the last of these great characters has gone with the passing of the popular journalist aged 94. I was lucky to enjoy many adventures with him in a fantastic variety of machinery, ranging from #Cadillac-V16 to the treasured #NSU-Ro80 that he never tired of demonstrating. The advanced Wankel-powered wonder was even entered in the VSCC’s Pomeroy Trophy, where it cornered at dramatic angles of roll while out-handling much more exotic machinery. “The faster you go,” he enthused, “the smoother the engine gets.”

    Be it leading a Mini race for journalists at Goodwood or chasing GP Bugattis over the Alps on his #Yamaha XV1100 ’bike, Steady enjoyed every mile. Our shortest journey was aboard a vintage Lafitte Type D in which the whole engine swivelled to give variable ratios via its novel friction drive, but frustratingly the transmission started to slip not far from his home. We made it back, pushed it into the barn and headed off in his grand 8.5-litre, straight-six Edwardian Renault 45hp – the commanding view from its long, lofty cockpit being the total opposite to the cramped, sluggish Lafitte. The contrast was typical of Steady, who would get as animated about a Peugeot Quadrilette cyclecar as a new Audi quattro.

    But our most memorable exploits were on his exposed #1908 #Napier 60hp, particularly over routes he knew well that allowed him to confidently illustrate both its effortless torque and its impressive acceleration. His smooth technique – “Never surprise a car,” he always maintained – was vindicated by a moment that caused us both to turn white. With a lesser helmsman, the consequences are unimaginable.

    En route to Cefntilla Court on Welsh border backroads to visit his chum Lord Raglan, we crested a brow at speed… On the clear descent we spotted a huge stretch of mud where cows had left a wide 50ft-long trail crossing from farm to milking yard. Early morning rain had turned the road at the valley bottom into a treacherous, slippery mess.

    There was no chance of braking before the muck started, so Steady kept his cool and relaxed his hands on the wheel. As the Napier’s skinny beaded-edge tyres scythed through, I could feel the chassis develop a gentle snaking movement before we reached the tarmac and grip again. Steady knew that it was a close call, but I was full of awe for his remarkable ability.

    Along with the constant puns and limericks, the joy of long road trips were his vivid stories about childhood in Much Hadham, living in Germany during the ’30s, and motor show visits with his hero Laurence Pomeroy of the rival weekly The Motor. Steady never married, a situation he blamed on his father who once read aloud a “silly” love letter he wrote from school to a local girl, but his bachelor retreat at Shorncote was a car enthusiast’s dream.

    The spiral staircase – its walls plastered with colourful motoring posters from his continental travels – was much admired, but the spectacular decoration was sadly lost when arthritis forced him to move into a bungalow.

    Although Steady always reckoned that writing was a struggle, his wonderful stories came as naturally as his driving skills. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate his life than searching out old copies of Car and settling down with a smooth glass of Pinot Noir.

    ‘Along with a constant stream of limericks and puns, the joy of road trips were Steady’s vivid yarns’

    Fully exposed to the elements, Walsh records a trip on Steady’s Napier.
    Cooper’s striking shot of riding with Lindsay in the Monza.
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