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A tale of two Triumph Dolomite Sprints
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Ellis



Joined: 07 Mar 2011
Posts: 1378
Location: Betws y Coed, North Wales

PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2011 8:01 pm    Post subject: A tale of two Triumph Dolomite Sprints Reply with quote

[img]

I would like to start this topic with an apology. Despite an extensive hunt, I cannot for the life of me find the photographs of my first Dolomite Sprint so I will ask you to rely on a narrative description of the vehicle.

In May 1973 a friend's father bought one of the very first Triumph Dolomite Sprints, a Mimosa yellow one on a "L" registration and treated me to a ride in his new purchase. When you remember that it was the then equivalent of a Subaru Imprezza or a Mitsubishi Evo I was somewhat impressed.

I was eventually to buy my own five years later, a similar Mimosa yellow 1975 "mark two" version, LCW 809N. It was an ex British Leyland Bus and Truck division management car with 29k miles and a complete service history. My initial impression was a slight disappointment because the car was not as quick as I expected (or remembered) in lower revs but went like a scalded cat above 3000 rpm or so. Top speed was rated at 119mph on those tested by Autocar and others and I saw an indicated 125mph on mine on several occasions with still "a little bit to go". But as for a 0-60 mph of 8.7 seconds the best I ever achieved was 11 seconds. Unexpectedly economical when driven carefully, the best was 39mpg on a 200 mile run and driving carefully.
The Sprint served me well for 12k miles until I started to hear the timing chain rattle on cold starts and it was time to part company.

Seven years later in 1985 I was looking for a Mark 2 Ford Cortina 1600E - a car I have admired since I remember them being introduced in late 1967- when a chat with the owner of my local fuel oil supplier revealed that he wanted to sell his 1977 Dolomite Sprint.
That's the one you see in the photo. A January 1977 example in Tahiti blue, one owner with 38k miles, complete service record with all receipts from new. The price? 1100.

Two near identical cars only two years apart, you will be surprised if I tell you that they were completely different in character. MJC 904R had a quiet, smooth engine with none of the "tappety" nature of LCW 809N. The power delivery was different as well - the acceleration up to 80-90mph was fierce but power tailed off after 5000rpm and I doubt if it would have even approached it's rated top speed of 119mph. I never tried.
There were other differences as well, the first Sprint was inclined to "axle tramp" whereas the second did not but the noticeable difference between the two was in fuel consumption. Gently driven MJC 904R was much heavier on petrol, 28mpg was the norm with 20-23mpg if driven spiritedly.

To my regret today, after much persuasion I sold MJC 904R to my neighbour in October 1986 who wanted to give it as an eighteenth birthday present for his youngest son when the mileage was still only 41k.

Can any of you tell of apparently identical cars with differing characteristics or relate your own experiences of these interesting cars?[/img]
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Rick
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Joined: 27 Apr 2005
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Location: UK

PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 11:47 am    Post subject: Re: A tale of two Triumph Dolomite Sprints Reply with quote

EWG wrote:
[img]

I would like to start this topic with an apology. Despite an extensive hunt, I cannot for the life of me find the photographs of my first Dolomite Sprint so I will ask you to rely on a narrative description of the vehicle.

In May 1973 a friend's father bought one of the very first Triumph Dolomite Sprints, a Mimosa yellow one on a "L" registration and treated me to a ride in his new purchase. When you remember that it was the then equivalent of a Subaru Imprezza or a Mitsubishi Evo I was somewhat impressed.

I was eventually to buy my own five years later, a similar Mimosa yellow 1975 "mark two" version, LCW 809N. It was an ex British Leyland Bus and Truck division management car with 29k miles and a complete service history. My initial impression was a slight disappointment because the car was not as quick as I expected (or remembered) in lower revs but went like a scalded cat above 3000 rpm or so. Top speed was rated at 119mph on those tested by Autocar and others and I saw an indicated 125mph on mine on several occasions with still "a little bit to go". But as for a 0-60 mph of 8.7 seconds the best I ever achieved was 11 seconds. Unexpectedly economical when driven carefully, the best was 39mpg on a 200 mile run and driving carefully.
The Sprint served me well for 12k miles until I started to hear the timing chain rattle on cold starts and it was time to part company.

Seven years later in 1985 I was looking for a Mark 2 Ford Cortina 1600E - a car I have admired since I remember them being introduced in late 1967- when a chat with the owner of my local fuel oil supplier revealed that he wanted to sell his 1977 Dolomite Sprint.
That's the one you see in the photo. A January 1977 example in Tahiti blue, one owner with 38k miles, complete service record with all receipts from new. The price? 1100.

Two near identical cars only two years apart, you will be surprised if I tell you that they were completely different in character. MJC 904R had a quiet, smooth engine with none of the "tappety" nature of LCW 809N. The power delivery was different as well - the acceleration up to 80-90mph was fierce but power tailed off after 5000rpm and I doubt if it would have even approached it's rated top speed of 119mph. I never tried.
There were other differences as well, the first Sprint was inclined to "axle tramp" whereas the second did not but the noticeable difference between the two was in fuel consumption. Gently driven MJC 904R was much heavier on petrol, 28mpg was the norm with 20-23mpg if driven spiritedly.

To my regret today, after much persuasion I sold MJC 904R to my neighbour in October 1986 who wanted to give it as an eighteenth birthday present for his youngest son when the mileage was still only 41k.

Can any of you tell of apparently identical cars with differing characteristics or relate your own experiences of these interesting cars?[/img]


Just re-reading this post, I've never owned a Sprint but it is a 70s car I wouldn't mind sampling sometime. My uncle installed a Sprint motor into his Saab 99L, probably a story for another day Smile

RJ
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mikeC



Joined: 31 Jul 2009
Posts: 1669
Location: Market Warsop, Nottinghamshire

PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 7:17 pm    Post subject: Re: A tale of two Triumph Dolomite Sprints Reply with quote

EWG wrote:
[im[img]Can any of you tell of apparently identical cars with differing characteristics or relate your own experiences of these interesting cars?[/img]


I have a very similar tale of two Dolomites - the original 1850cc versions, not the Sprint.

In 1974 I traded in my Triumph Vitesse for one of the first Dolomites - TRA 404K. My father was so impressed he then traded his Triumph 2000 for an apparently identical K-reg Dolomite (I cannot remember the registration number, but the letters were GNG). My own car was a very early car, commission number WF35DL I think, and it was finished to a much higher standard than the later one; not only that, the steering rack ratio and rear axle ratio were much higher - 3rd overdrive was a higher gear than top overdrive in my father's car!

those two cars, only months apart in production terms, were as different as chalk and cheese!
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Ellis



Joined: 07 Mar 2011
Posts: 1378
Location: Betws y Coed, North Wales

PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought you may all be interested in knowing what a Dolomite Sprint was like as an everyday car.
It was certainly comfortable with a good driving position which was praised when the car was new. All round visibility was excellent and it felt solidly built with doors that closed with a refined "clunk". The seats were all upholstered in a nylon material which was cool in summer and warm in winter but I thought the carpets were of a poor quality and the wood veneer looked low spec, polished walnut would have been nice but by the 1970s walnut veneer was very "yesterday".

Mechanically when they were going well they were a delight but many, many owners suffered cars with overheating problems. The first sign of trouble would be an erratic temperature gauge and by then the problems had already started. Some cylinder heads warped after gasket failure and were skimmed back to true but the engine for some reason was never quite the same afterwards. The smoothness would be gone as well as the "snap" of the performance.
Other cars developed cracked cylinder heads but you would not see where the coolant had gone because the crack was internal. Such heads were then scrap.

Timing chains would start rattling when cold from as early as 25000 miles.

The gearchange was baulky when cold and the clutch was heavy in action.
Oil contamination of the clutch was quite common as well.

The only tyres which suited a Dolomite Sprint were Dunlop Sport 175/70 HR 13- the ones with the aquajets which were original fitment- anything else then was a compromise.
Owners thought that 185/70 HR13 tyres would improve roadholding - they didn't I can assure you because I made that same mistake myself. All they did was to make the heavy steering even heavier with less roadholding.

Which one was the best? Enthusiasts tell me that the best ones were those built between May 1973 and September 1974 - the original ones. Even an overdrive was extra at first but from model year 1975 on they gained weight with extra trim, overdrive, radio and so on.

I recall a Sprint could be ordered with an automatic Borg Warner gearbox although I haven't seen one.

The Sprint's main competitors were the Vauxhall Firenza, Ford Escort RS2000 Mark 1 and 2, "hot" Sunbeams, Lancias and Alfa Romeos. The Ford Escort RS200 Mark 2 was a better car in my opinion although I never owned one but drove several.

Was there any real difference between a Dolomite Sprint and an 1854cc Dolomite? They may have looked all but identical but they were as different as chalk and cheese. After the first Sprint I bought an used 1976 Dolomite 1856cc HL -KFF 488P. I kept it for a month and that says it all.
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