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Homepage. This page: An increasingly sought-after car from the 1970s, Triumph's 16 valve Dolomite Sprint.

Triumph Dolomite Sprint.

Triumph's Dolomite Sprint was one of just a few models that rolled off the production lines within the British Leyland combine, that actually featured elements of clever or innovative design beneath its skin. In the Sprint's case, its engine, with a single overhead cam operating 16 valves, was certainly innovative and powerful too, but - as with the Stag's V8 - didn't always have the best reputation for reliability and longevity, and maintenance - even within B.L.'s dealership network - wasn't always up to scratch, compounding the problems. When it was running properly though, the 2-litre 16v engine provided the four-door Sprint with useful grunt, against such contemporaries as BMW's 2002. Success in motorsport, allied with a deserved high standard specification and various go-faster goodies available via the Special Tuning arm of B.L., ensured that enthusiasts of spirited motoring would find much to like about the Sprint version.
The Pimento Red example featured here belonged to Keith Belcher in the 1970s. He's owned a number of interesting cars over the years, including a Porsche 911 and a 912, many of which have already appeared in this section of the site.
(Another former owner posted their own memories of two Dolly Sprints onto the forum a little while ago - Ellis' thread may be found here).
The first four of Keith's photos were taken one winter, note the corrosive slushy mix of ice and salty road grit caked beneath the Dolly's wheel arches, a perfect breeding ground for the "metal moth" (aka the "rust bug"), a friend to no car, then or now. Keith's private registration plate was used on a number of different cars he owned, and is shown here applied to the Sprint.
(Please click the thumbnail to view the full-size image.)
The Dolomite Sprint in the snow
Next, a rear view of the Triumph, with a snow-covered Porsche just visible ahead of it on the driveway.
Rear view of the Triumph Dolomite
And now, the same car with its proud owner, who happens to be sporting a Porsche-branded jacket while sponging off the layers of corrosive road grime from the Dolomite's good-looking bodywork.
Front view of the same car
My favourite image of this wintry quartet shows the sporting Dolly parking up alongside a bevy of other four-wheeled British-built delights of the 1970s. Starting from the left, we have a Vauxhall Viva SL (HB type), a Mk1 Austin Mini registration 984 LOP, then MOV 145P - a two-door Vauxhall Chevette hatchback - then the Dolomite, and a filthy Austin Maxi. The distinctive roofline of an Austin or Morris 1800 can also be seen, peeking over the Mini's roof. A "Motoram" car spares outlet is in the background, alongside a Visionhire TV & electricals rental shop (remember them?!). Alas, "Vicky's Ladies Fashions" appears to have gone out of business.
Cars in a car park during the 1970s

Sale day.

With a Porsche taking up space on the driveway, it was time to sell on the Dolly. As Keith now recalls, Sprint ownership had its ups and downs...
"The Sprint is one of those cars that somehow you regret selling; even though it went very well with some upgrades, there was always something going wrong, and it was getting expensive to maintain with the constant head gasket and cooling problems, and if I remember right prop and diff failures. At the time I had just got my first Porsche, a 912, which was reliability personified. A marked contrast. So the Sprint had to go.."
The following three photos were taken on the day that it was sold. By now it had reverted to a conventional registration number, namely OEA 868P. Interestingly the 1975-built Sprint still shows up on a check of the DVLA site, last registered in 1988, although whether it is actually still around or not is unclear - it may well have been scrapped by a later owner in the late 1980s, and the logbook never returned for cancellation. Or, just maybe, it's out there somewhere, perhaps mid-restoration ...?
The day the Dolomite Sprint was sold
Front view
Nearside rear view
Thanks for the photos Keith!
This incarnation of the Triumph Dolomite was an evolution of the previous 1300 and 1500 models, the name though can trace its roots back to the 1930s as the cars shown on this page are testament to.

A Dolly Sprint-powered Saab 99.

In the early 1980s, dad ran one of the first Saab 900 Turbos. An uncle who lived nearby also ran a Saab, a 1709cc-powered 99L, an engine that could trace its roots back to Triumph but was heavily re-worked before being installed beneath the Swedish car's bonnet. In a bid to up the performance of the 99, he opted to buy a couple of Dolly Sprint engines and managed to shoe-horn one of them into the Saab's engine bay, utilising the standard Saab gearbox to drive the front wheels (as opposed to the Dolomite's rears).
I distinctly remember three things about this bright yellow 99 conversion, 1) its registration, WXF 149M 2) the large well-shod tyres fitted to the front wheels in a bid to gain some traction during spirited traffic-light getaways, and 3) the fact that the bonnet didn't quite clear one of the engine's carburettors, leading to it poking out of the Saab's bonnet. Unfortunately I don't have any photos of the car thus-modified. I do know that he converted it back to standard before selling it to a friend, for his daughter to drive. All that survives from this conversion are a couple of cam/rocker covers, re-discovered in the back garden when his house was being prepared for sale a few years ago, which are now hanging in my garage.
Return to Page 20 in the motoring photographs archive, or visit the main index here.

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