Last revised: 26-1-2009

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Car of the Month - May 2004

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Triumph Gloria Southern Cross - 2-seater roadster body - model year 1936

The post war Triumph sports cars are very popular and common classics these days. Virtually every classic car event appears to have at least one of these typically British TR series roadsters present. But what about the pre-war Triumphs? Those are very scarce to find on the European continent and in the US and therefore are little known. The main reason for that seems to be that the pre-war Triumphs have only been produced as right hand drive cars, and because of that were sold mainly in Great Britain and former British colonies like Australia and New Zealand. This more or less obscured Triumph's pre-war heritage from the non-british car enthusiast.
Never the less the pre-war Triumphs were interesting, especially the ones produced in the 1930s. It was in that decade that Triumph established its sporting image with good results in events like the Alpine Trail and the Monte Carlo Rally. The Southern Cross models, named after a star constellation and internally known as "SX", were Triumph's main sports cars in that period and were produced between 1932 and 1937. The first SX models were 4-seater sports tourers based on the Triumph Super 9 and Super 10, cars powered by Coventry Climax designed 4-cylinder engines, displacing 1018 cc respectively 1122 cc. In 1934 Triumph introduced the Gloria model range which were elegant looking cars designed by Walter Belgrove (who was later responsible for the Triumph TR 2 design). The 2-seater roadster version of the Gloria appeared in 1935 and took over the SX designation of the phased out Super 10 model. Donald Healey was Triumph's technical director at the time and he decided to enter a prototype of the Gloria SX in the 1935 Monte Carlo Rally, which went on to win its class (like its predecessor, the Super 10 SX did the year before) and finished second overall. This, of course, was nothing less than a sensation for such a new car.
Mechanically the Gloria SX was quite a modern car, featuring Lockheed hydraulic drum brakes, a 12 Volt electrical system and Luvax adjustable shocks which could be adjusted by a knob between the seats. Power came from the Climax 4-cylinder, now upgraded to 1232 cc; alternatively and in 1935 only a 6 cylinder 1476 cc engine was available as well. The 4-cylinder could be ordered with the "Vitesse" option which meant a sharper cam, polished ports and double SU carbs. Top speed was about 120 kph for the 4-cylinder and about 130 kph for the 6-cylinder model. In 1936 the Gloria SX was entered again in the Monte Carlo rally, but while Donald Healey took 8th place in his Triumph Dolomite straight 8 prototype (probably the best known pre-war Triumph), the Gloria SX had to make do with second place in the light car class. Another Gloria SX took 3rd place in the ladies cup and that is the car you see above.

1937 was to become the last year for the Southern Cross. Mid 1936 Donald Healey introduced three new, lighter and more powerful OHV engines, two 4-cylinders and one 6-cylinder, to replace the Climax engines and these became available in 1937. Only a few Glorias SX were fitted with the new 1787 cc 4-cylinder, which produced about 5 hp more than the old 6-cylinder, and were dubbed Gloria 14/60 SX before production was stopped. It's estimated that less than a mere 200 Glorias Southern Cross have been made in total, and only a fraction of that number is still around today.
Triumph's pre-war success in competition is nowadays easily forgotten but was at the time one of the reasons the Standard Motor Company acquired Triumph immediately after the war. Having hardly any sporting history of their own the company aimed to capitalize on that of Triumph. And to great effect, judging by the popularity of the later Triumph roadsters. The Gloria Southern Cross was instrumental in achieving this. In a certain respect you could even consider it a distant ancestor to the Austin Healey, the Triumph TR series most important rival, which was designed by, yes, Donald Healey. Like often in history two important opponents have sprung from the same source....

You can read more about the Triumph Southern Cross on the pages of the Vintage Triumph Register.

© André Ritzinger, Amsterdam, Holland

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