Distinctive “Knife-Edged” Styling: Love It or Hate It?
“The Mayflower was singular — a car of great character, built by and for characters. Road tester Tom McCahill called it a slab-sided tobacco can, a geranium pot, a turnip. Those to whom it appealed nicknamed it the ‘Watch Charm Rolls,’ but others called it many worse things. Sir John Black, however, doted on the little dear, and at Standard-Triumph that was tantamount to automotive sainthood. Sir John got his comeuppance soon enough, when the Mayflower hit the American market: it sold by the half-dozen.” — from Triumph Cars, The Complete Story, by Graham Robson and Richard Langworth, c. 1979, 1988.
It definitely was with an eye on the American market that Standard-Triumph developed the Mayflower. In retrospect, however, it appears that eye was not too well focused. The Mayflower was in a number of ways innovative in style and in engineering; at the same time many features were antiquated, and the car as a whole was generally poorly suited to its intended buyers — those Americans theoretically still hungry for new cars after World War II. Unfortunately, the Mayflower missed that seller’s market but was too early for the compact/small import car craze of the late 1950s.
In style, the Mayflower was conceived as a “little brother” to the Town & Country/Renown saloons. Unfortunately, it has long been open to question whether the “knife-edge” style worked on such a short wheelbase. Liked or hated, it was quite distinctive, particularly as compared to some of its contemporaries: Austin Devon, Ford Anglia and Prefect Morris Minor, Volkswagen Beetle.
The “knife-edge” styling (generally credited to Walter Belgrove of Standard-Triumph and Leslie Moore of Mulliners) proved useful in providing an incredible amount of usable interior space, and the unit-body design made for a very rigid structure. Thin pillars allowed a large glass area that gave a more open feeling, and ventilation was aided by vent windows in both front doors and in the rear quarter lights. Of particular note in the well-appointed interior were innovative separate front seats: as the seatback was pulled forward for access to the rear seat, the seat cushion glided forward as well.
In addition to accommodating its passengers well, the Mayflower also carried a fair amount of luggage. The boot lid hinged at the bottom and could serve as an extension of the luggage platform. The license plate and lamp, mounted on the boot lid, swiveled down as the lid was lowered. The spare tire was stored underneath the car, much as is the practice currently with a number of small trucks and SUVs.
Mechanically, the Mayflower was a mix of old, new and cost cutting. The side-valve four-cylinder engine was unique to the Mayflower, although it derived from a prewar Standard unit. Especially when coupled with the three-speed, column-shift gearbox, the engine was really not up to the task of propelling such a heavy car at great speeds. However, at least the gearbox featured synchromesh on all three forward speeds. That gearbox, as well as the rear axle, came from the Standard Vanguard.
New for the Mayflower, however, was the front suspension, whose design was continued almost unaltered in the TR2 and TR3. Road
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