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Ulster Triumph

Before DeLorean - Triumph Heralds were built in Belfast at the Clarence Engineering Company....

Triumph Herald
 
article words and pictures by Paul Robinson

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 remember it.

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.

Jack Brabham inspects the  Belfast built Triumph

 

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 and trimming.

Jack Brabham takes the Triumph on a drive around Dundrod

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 circuit.
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 Engineering Company.
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 economic re-export

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.

OUTRIGHT GRANT

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 for expansion.

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 Ltd.

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 necessary.
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 operation.
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 months.
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.
No Complaints
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 do.
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 commented.
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 roads.”
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.

Triumph Herald

 

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 circuit.

April 1961 - Standard Triumph praise Belfast sub-assembly facility

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.

sue williams
I learnt to drive 30 years ago on my mum's lovely green and white triumph. What a joy it was with that wonderful turning circle! But though it looked old fashioned then, now it seems just right!

victor johnston
My wife had a herald vittesse gold colour two door great car

Paul Robinson
Caz congratulations on buying a herald- if it is Northern Ireland registered then it almost certinly passed through Clarence Engineering. Sills can be easily bought- contact the Triumph Sports Six Club and they can give you details of who sells them. Paul

caz
Hi have just bought a triumph herald 1968 convertable bit of a rust bucket ! am searching for a pair of sills for her????

Paul Robinson
In reply to Ronnie Stoops question about Lyndsay McCandless. I have spoken to two former Clarence employees who mentioned Mr McCandless when telling me about their experiences in the company- Joe McCartney and Hazel Mann. Both worked in the Clarence Engineering showrooms in Ormeau Avenue where Mr Mccandless was the head salesman. Joe remembers Lyndsay McCandless owning a green TR2 sportscar which must have been around 1955.

Richard Stoops
I remember Clarence Engineering very well indeed. In fact I sat my driving test at Hastings Street in a herald in 1965. Passed first time at 17 years of age! A very easy car to drive, as I recall it had the turning circle of a London taxi. My parents had cars from Clarence Engineering for as long as I can remember, say around 1950. The first one was a Standard 10, registration no. MZ 1220. It is the only number I can remember! My father bought 2 Heralds from Clarence in the 1960's. One of Clarence's sales staff was a very good friend of the family, a man called Lindsay McCandless and he was the reason why we always had cars from them. I wonder if anyone remembers him.

Ronnie Brown
My first car was a green Herald. It was a 1967 model and it was a rust bucket. The sills were rotten the back axle groaned, but I still loved it. I sold 2 years later for £25 and that was including a wooden steering wheel I got from a scrap yard !!

Neil Moore
I wonder if anyone else has anymore photos of the Herald in its heyday in Belfast ?

Colin Lindsay
Excellent! It would be nice to hear from a few ex-Clarence employees as to what they remember, so as to give the Ulster-built Heralds the recognition they deserve.

Michael Johnson
I have known Paul Robinson for some 16 years. It has been his passion [some might say obsession] to find all the available information on the Clarence Heralds. His tenacity in unearthing written and personal memories of this period has resulted in a huge amount of significant information coming to light. Belfast has undergone enormous change in recent years, and it is important that the past is archived and preserved, especially in light of the death of the British car industry. All of the once proud names in car making are no more, and without people driven to preserve some flavour of a once proud past, the memories of those involved would die with them. After years of searching , Paul finally uncovered an original "Clarence" Herald, and is in the process of restoring it. Braver [or wiser!] men would have baulked at the work involved in its recomissioning, but, to his credit, he has rolled up his sleeves and got on with it. I salute his single minded desire to keep this story alive , and look forward to seeing what is probably the last surviving Clarence Herald back on the roads of Ulster this summer.

Rory Connolly
Mine kept leaking through the dash of all places ! But it is still a work of art all these years later. I drive a VW camper van now as the herald has given up the ghost.

Peter Johnston
I used to have a herald in white, my pride and joy.




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