Frank Sinatra once sang… “Regrets, I’ve had a few”. Well, after agreeing to write a column for this publication, I can honestly say I know what The Great Man was on about.
My personal source of regret is that the editor, who – while showing admirable judgement in persuading me to become a columnist – has undone all his good work by briefing me to write about a clearly preposterous notion. Innovate or die? Bullocks! Innovate and die, I say.
One only needs to look at how innovation decimated the once proud British car industry, and in particular, the damage done to the Standard-Triumph Company of Coventry to see the folly of this most ridiculous argument.
Who else but the British could have conceived a glorious drop-head sports car that, with only minor modification, could magically be transformed into a delivery van?
This masterpiece of British engineering was clearly ahead of its time, so much so that even today Ferrari and Lamborghini are yet to catch on.
This meant 0-100km/h times of less than 31 seconds were impossible to achieve, so high-speed accidents were a thing of the past.
The innovation didn’t stop there, for the Herald was also available in saloon, coupé and estate models. With just a little more tweaking, Triumph also produced other highly desirable models using the same tried and proven Herald chassis – the Vitesse, Spitfire and GT-6. Brilliant!
Triumph applied its innovative approach to maintenance, too. Predicting the mechanical reliability problems that were sure to come, the whole front-end bodywork hinged forward to allow easy access to the engine. Every panel – including the sills and roof – could be unbolted from the car, eliminating the need for panel beaters to carry out expensive sectionalised repairs.
Safety was also a high priority. Rather than specifying costly and complicated safety features, engineers instead fitted the Standard 10’s 4-cylinder 948 cc OHV engine, which produced a spritely but safe 25.7kW. This meant 0-100km/h times of less than 31 seconds were impossible to achieve, so high-speed accidents were a thing of the past.
The rear suspension was also criticised for yielding poor handling at the extremes of performance, providing further incentive to drive at safe speeds.
Despite an abundance of innovation, the Herald died, just like the Standard-Triumph Company of Coventry. So, my friends, the message is clear. If we innovate, we can’t expect to be in business too long.