1955 Triumph Mayflower
4-cyl. 1247cc/38hp 1bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
The Triumph Mayflower was the less successful of two attempts by Sir John Black of Standard-Triumph to build an up-market small car immediately after the Second World War. The other was the larger Triumph 1800/2000/Renown. Both were notable for taking pre-war styling cues from coachbuilder Freestone & Webb, known as the “top hat” or “razor-edge”. The conservative design featured a boxy shape with thin pillars, large windows and excellent visibility.
The Triumph Mayflower was launched at the 1949 Earls Court Motor show, though deliveries didn’t begin until 1950. It was based on the pre-war Standard 10, with a 1,247 cc side-valve four-cylinder engine now with an aluminum cylinder head and producing 38 bhp. The Mayflower had a three-speed synchromesh column-shift gearbox from the tubby Standard Vanguard, which also donated its beefy rear axle.
The Mayflower was a monocoque design from Leslie Moore of Mulliners of Birmingham (not the same as H.J. Mulliner of Rolls-Royce-Bentley fame) and put to work a lot of craftsmen who had previously been building aircraft, so the finish was quite good. The interior was leather and for such a short wheelbase (84 inches) it was designed to seat four people. Performance was leisurely even by the standards of the time, with 0-60 mph in 26 seconds and a top speed of 63 mph, probably due to its aerodynamics.
Moore designed a slab-sided box, with a straight-through fender line, an upright traditional Triumph grille and a squared-off trunk. The car rode on 15-inch wheels and even though it had independent front suspension, which would find its way onto the TR2, it was tall and did not like corners at all. The Mayflower name aimed it at American audiences, who were merely puzzled and didn’t take to the car.
Black persisted with the model for three years and it was eventually replaced by the Standard 8. Happily, various parts of the British Empire were still living in the past and 35,000 Mayflowers were sold in the UK and the colonies, where LHD models may occasionally be found. A plan to building an attractive drop head coupe in 1950 was abandoned after only 10 were completed, but none are known to survive. CKD (complete knock down) examples were shipped overseas and the Australians built 150 Ute pickups in Melbourne, adding a wooden bed.
Top Gear television presenter James May called the Mayflower the ugliest car ever designed. While that’s debatable, a rich young girl on the arm of her boyfriend at the 1949 Motor Show looked over at the Mayflower and said – in hearing of Standard-Triumph executive Alick Dick – “Oh, how perfectly bloody.”
Triumph Mayflowers these days are usually over-restored in bright colors, and offered by ambitious sellers. If you can find an original example at a reasonable price, however, you can be sure of endless conversations at just about any British car meet. Potential buyers need to note one vital caveat. The aluminum cylinder heads are fatally flawed, but an internet search can probably turn up a prewar, cast-iron Standard 10 head in the UK for little more than the cost of shipping. If you’re not in a hurry, a Mayflower is quite a comfortable and quiet way to travel.