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SNAPSHOT 387: 1938/1935 Triumph Vitesse

This is a unique car. Very few Triumphs were bodied with the streamlined ‘Flow-Free’ coachwork introduced in 1935, apparently because the design was a little bit too advanced for potential customers. None of them survive. But expert pre-war Triumph restorer Rob Green made a remarkable discovery. One of these bodies, BEFORE it was even fitted to a Triumph, was used in 1936 to re-body one of the last 4½-litre Bentleys, originally delivered in August 1931 with a Gurney Nutting saloon body. The re-bodying, including extensive modifications to the body to fit the much taller Bentley, was carried out by Coopers of Putney.

Many years later the Bentley was rebodied again as a VdP-style 4-seater tourer, and Rob Green managed to get hold of the body. He found a 1938 Triumph Vitesse in poor condition and set about recreating the car that might have existed in period. Regular readers of this website have seen this body before in Snapshot 93 – but when it was on the Bentley in 1971.

Flow-Free bodies were originally fitted to 6-cylinder Gloria models, powered by 15.72 h.p. 1,991cc 6-cylinder overhead inlet & side exhaust valve engines and with free-wheel pre-selector 4-speed gearboxes. Only 11 Glorias were so bodied. Rob Green’s car is a 6-cylinder 2-litre Vitesse (we wrongly identified it as a Gloria in Snapshot 93). This was the first to use Triumph’s new overhead valve engine with twin SU carburettors, based on some aspects of the old 6-cylinder engine designed by Coventry Climax. One advantage of the longer six on either the Gloria or the Vitesse was the ability to fit a side-mounted spare; the Flow-Free body could not accommodate a spare in its streamlined tail.

Rob Green needed to do a lot of work to remove the extensive changes made to the body when it was fitted to the Bentley, which was much taller and had much larger tyres. Although no Vitesse models originally carried this coachwork, the result is a fine example of a Triumph Free-Flow from the streamline era.


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