Back in 1960 the
Clarence Engineering Company Ltd announced that they
would be assembling Triumph Heralds in their Donegall
Road works, in an area known as the bog meadows. The
announcement was covered quite extensively by the press
at the time and I have spoken to a few employees who
Clarence engineering brought over Jack Brabham, the
world racing car champion, to promote the Belfast built
cars, the photo below shows him sitting in a car talking
to John Johnstone, managing director of Clarence Engineering
and a second photo, below, is of Brabham driving the
car around the hairpin at Dundrod. I contacted Sir Jack
a couple of years ago but he has no recollection of
the event. There's another very nice photo of a Belfast
built Herald which shows the car in Harland and Wolff
with the newly built Canberra in the background.
The press releases are below:
Belfast Newsletter Wednesday, March 30, 1960:
New Belfast Factory Will Assemble Triumph Cars
A new industry, of considerable potential was announced
by the Clarence Engineering Co., Ltd. Belfast, who are
now building a £25,000 factory on the Donegall
Road for the assembly of Triumph cars and their painting
Mr. John Johnstone, managing director of the Clarence
Engineering Co., sole distributors for Standard and
triumph cars in Northern Ireland, gave details of this
important project at a Press Conference yesterday.
One of the guests at the event was world champion racing
driver, the Australian, who yesterday tested one of
the Belfast assembled Herald over the Dundrod racecourse
He pronounced it a “really first class job.”
He said the company need have no fear about demand for
their car. While in Belfast, Mr Brabham also officially
opened the new service station belonging to the Clarence
This concession granted by Standard – Triumph
International and the first case of a major motor manufacturer
permitting assembly in the home market, other than by
its own factories, was made as a gesture to help relieve
the acute unemployment situation in Northern Ireland.
Cars to be assembled would only be available for sale
in Northern Ireland as transport costs would preclude
The initial programme will be 1,000 triumph heralds
per year starting September, 1960, and will form a proportion
of the Northern Ireland Herald requirement. This will
be made up with built-up cars shipped from Coventry.
As the range of vehicles suitable for economic and efficient
overseas assembly is extended, these will be included,
and the total numbers thereby increased. Provision has
been made in the factory for an additional track.
The most modern plant is to be installed, including
the latest spraying and stoving equipment designed to
achieve a very high, blemish free and lasting paint
finish. Northern Ireland Government’s outright
grant under its Aid to Industry Act was of major assistance
and without this the project could not have proceeded.
Trade unions concerned have given and guaranteed their
fullest support and co-operation, which will be vitally
necessary to the success and expansion of car assembly
in Northern Ireland. The number of additional skilled
employees for which additional work will be found will
be initially 60, with an anticipated rise to 150.
Due to absence of local tariff conditions applying
to foreign overseas car assembly and which in many cases
insist on a considerable amount of local material being
used, all cars assembled in northern Ireland will be
made completely of parts supplied from Coventry.
A pilot scheme of a total of 36 cars, starting with
painted body shells, has been running for four months,
and standard of workmanship has proved to be so satisfactory
that a long waiting list has built up of customers knowing
of the scheme’s existence.
Mr Johnstone stated yesterday that the profitability
on the venture would be very slight and they would have
to have the support of the motoring public to make it
a success. By September or October he said, they hoped
to be building cars at the rate of two or three a day.
They would gradually work up to four per day. There
was space in the factory for another assembly track.
They had installed very modern and expensive equipment
for the paint work.
Mr Johnstone stated that members of their staff had
spent some time in the factory at Coventry making themselves
conversant with the work. In addition they had an assembly
expert from Coventry in Belfast. He would be stationed
here permanently as an inspector once the factory started
full production. The new factory, he said, will have
a floor space of 10,000 sq.ft.. and there will be room
Mr. Johnstone said he regarded this as a very worthwhile
project which would give a certain amount of additional
employment in the city.
Delivery of vehicles would be much speedier than was
the case when the assembled cars came from Coventry,
Mr Johnstone said.
They would paint cars in any colour or combination of
colours requested by the purchaser for a slight additional
charge. The paint plant would also be used for the company’s
service re-paints and accident re-paints. This, he said,
would considerably improve the standard of finish.”
Reproduced with the kind permission of the Belfast Newsletter
Northern Whig and Belfast Post, Wednesday,
30th march 1960 Triumph Heralds soon to roll off the
line By Brian Waddell
A new 10,000 sq. ft factory for the assembly of cars
in Northern Ireland is at present under construction
for the Clarence Engineering Company Ltd., sole distributors
for Standard and triumph vehicles in the Province, on
a site off the Donegall road in Belfast.
Jobs for 60 skilled hands for a start
When the factory is in full swing later in the year,
new Triumph Heralds, the compact family saloons of revolutionary
design will be rolling off the production line at a
rate of four a day to fulfill ever – increasing
demands for this type of car in Ulster.
This is the first time that a major British manufacturing
concern has permitted its cars to be assembled inside
the home market by any other than its own factories
and it has been done as a gesture of helpfulness in
the acute unemployment situation in Northern Ireland.
At the start the new assembly factory will provide employment
for about 60 skilled workers, but as the system gets
under way it is estimated that about 150 men will be
At present a number of skilled workers are undergoing
specialised training in Coventry at the “home”
factory of Standard Triumph International. Trade Unions
concerned have given and guaranteed their fullest co-operation,
which will be necessary to the success and expansion
of car assembly in Northern Ireland.
A grant has been made by the Government under its Aid
to Industries Act towards the cost of the £25,000
factory, which it is hoped to be completed within the
next few months. Plans have been made for two assembly
lines. One of these will be used right away for the
production of Heralds, and as the range of vehicles
suitable for economic and efficient overseas assembly
is extended these vehicles will be added to output.
Parts for the Belfast assembled cars will be shipped
to Belfast in crates. The body panels will be bolted
together and fixed to the chassis – which is found
to be the most economic way for transportation. They
will arrive in groups of 12, with an additional crate
carrying pre-assembled back axles and engine units.
At the factory some 500 operations will be carried out
in order to assemble the vehicle. It will then be ready
for finishing with the latest spraying and stoving equipment
designed to achieve a blemish free and lasting paint
finish. Particular attention is being paid to this last
operation to provide the highest quality results in
the industry to-day.
In order that the car leaves the Belfast factory in
absolutely perfect condition, a resident trained assembly
expert will examine each car that comes off the line
for any small faults that might have occurred in the
Although the initial programme is planned for 100 cars
per year, the company has provided for further expansion
to the factory which can be carried out as demands increase.
Irish News 30th March 1960
By “DRIVING MIRROR”
In four months you will be able to order a new TRIUMPH
HERALD in practically any colour combination you like
- within certain limits of course For a slight extra
charge you can branch off from the catalogued duo-tones
and pick and choose from the colouring offered. This
was revealed by Mr. John Johnstone, managing director
of the Clarence Engineering Company, who officially
announced yesterday the company’s intention to
start the assembly of the Herald in Belfast as soon
as their Donegall Road plant is ready - in about four
Demand for Heralds has been great - the waiting list
stretches the delay to two months - that new owners
have sometimes been unable to get the exact colouring
ordered. This new assembly plant will change all that,
as well as guaranteeing a steady flow of up to four
cars per day when the plant goes into top gear.
It will also mean a more accurate assessment of just
when you can expect your new model. Delivery date can
now be pin-pointed to within days.
Although the finish of these home assembled Triumphs
is expected to be even finer than that of the Coventry
factory, they will not be pressed on buyers. you get
a Herald with an “Assembled in Belfast”
tag only if you are agreeable.
Out of the 36 cars fitted together over here in the
three months that the factory has been working undercover,
30 of them have been sold. “And we’ve had
no complaints.” said Mr. Johnstone.
If you can tell the difference between the two models
its more than world racing champion Jack Brabham can
This quiet-spoken Australian, who raced at Dundrod in
the ill fated T.T. competition in September 1955, in
which three drivers were killed, took a locally put
together Herald round the Dundrod course yesterday -
and said later that he could find absolutely no difference
between it and a Coventry job.
“She’s suited perfectly to Irish roads.”
Brabham said. “I pushed her round those corners
and I honestly couldn’t see or feel any difference,”
Brabham squeezed in his Belfast visit between a flight
from New Zealand and a trip to America. He flew off
last night for Los Angeles, where he drives in an international
sports car race at Riverside circuit.
Back in 1955 Brabham was co-driver with 26-year old
Jack Mayers, a Hertfordshire manufacturer, who was the
first of three drivers to die at Dundrod in that race.
‘It has cruel memories for me” the big Australian
Mayers was killed when attempting to pass another car
at the Deer’s Leap.
Ideal For Irish Roads
Paul Beard, one of the Standard-Triumph’s PRO.
team said: ‘from what I have seen of Irish roads
I’d say the Herald is the ideal car. Her independent
suspension on all four wheels make her a tremendous
asset on those tight corners where you get the reverse
camber effect - and you seem to get quite a bit of it
over here. On a super-smooth road like the M1 you may
not notice a great deal of difference, but it must be
a wonderful experience to drive a Herald on these Irish
Ever wondered at that high pitched note of the herald
horn? Well it took some time to perfect. What was wanted
was a note that commanded respect, was easily heard.........and
yet did not grate on the ear. Months of research went
into it. so don’t condemn it as being unsuitable
for the car.
Standard Triumph Review volume 22 Number 7,
1960 THEY APPRECIATE A SOUND JOB.
The men who built the Canberra appreciate a sound
engineering job. These shipyard workers at Harland and
Wolff’s yard, Belfast, pause to admire a Triumph
Herald in the shadow of the great new liner Canberra.
This herald was one of the first to be assembled by
Clarence Engineering Co., Belfast, Standard -Triumph
Distributors for Ulster.
In addition to the articles in the local press Standard
Triumph also made a brief reference to Heralds being
assembled in Belfast in the July 1960 issue of the Standard
Triumph Review (Volume 22 Number seven). This includes
a picture of a Herald saloon registration 6150 XI. This
was one of the 36 cars assembled at the pilot works
and the car driven by Jack Brabham around the Dundrod
April 1961 - Standard Triumph praise Belfast sub-assembly
The introduction of the new 1200 Herald to the NI public
in April 1961 (the dealers saw it two weeks earlier)
brought Mr F.E. Higham, Home Sales director, Standard
Triumph back to Belfast (he had been over for the opening
of the new Clarence showrooms in 1957). The first 1200
shown in NI (9134 HP) was in fact Coventry assembled
but it was announced that Standard Triumph were very
satisfied with the relationship between the factory
and Belfast sub-assembly facility. 1200 Heralds would
be built in Belfast and Clarence, unlike other distributors,
would also be responsible for all factory pre-delivery
checks. Given Standard Triumph were desperately trying
to improve quality control this was quite a vote of
confidence in Clarence Engineering.
Mr Higham is quoted in local papers stating that his
company regards Northern Ireland ‘ a very special
territory’ as opposed to other distributing centres
throughout the United Kingdom. They were most impressed
with the local assembly standards and the friendly rivalry
between their works and the assembly sub-unit here.
I do not know how many Heralds were built in Belfast
or when production stopped (sometime before 1970 certainly).
Clarence Engineering is long gone - the Holiday Inn
sits on the site of the Ormeau Avenue showrooms and
the car park of SERE motors in Boucher Crescent is where
the Herald assembly plant was located.