If you’ve been following Preloved for a while you’ll know we tipped the Triumph Dolomite as a classic car worth investigating. So if you’ve had your interest piqued in this charmingly simple and engaging four-door fun-mobile, here are five tips to make sure your Dolomite is delightful.
1. Check for rust
The tin worm can strike just about anywhere, but there are a few key places to check. The outer panels and structure are important areas, along with the leading and trailing edges on the sills. Also lift the front carpets to check for corrosion in the footwell, and high up in the front wheel arch – if the inner wing section is gone it means rust has taken hold and the wings will have to be removed. The doorskins, edge of the bootlid and the rear edge of the roof are also worth investigating, as is the boot floor. The whole rear wheel arch can rust too.
If after reading all that you’re feeling somewhat concerned about whether you’ll wake up one morning to find just a pile of metal oxide where once your Triumph sat, then consider this – it’s not as bad as you might expect. The cars that have survived – and survived best – will have been cherished and restored, so if you choose carefully and pick only the most supreme examples, you’ll save yourself further pain down the line. Look for cars that have been rustproofed religiously and you’ll be on to a winner. However, should you need to replace panels, the good news is that fresh ones aren’t too expensive.
2. Mechanical mastery
The Triumph is fantastically simple to work on, and many parts were shared across the British Leyland empire. This means that spares support is excellent, and parts prices are relatively low. However, it’s best to make sure that regular servicing has taken place. The 1854cc engine has an alloy cylinder head that needs intense care and attention to stop it warping – if it’s overheating on the test drive, walk away. Also take care if there any rattles – the timing chain and tensioners may be on their way out, which is a time-consuming job.
The 1296cc engine, on the other hand, is wonderfully simple. Its appearance in cars such as the MG Midget and Triumph Spitfire means bits are easy to find, but do look at for blue smoke – this is likely to mean oil is being burned under throttle pressure. The cause is likely to be worn valve guides and piston rings, meaning an engine rebuild is on the cards. It’s all DIY-able, though.
The 1998cc 16-valve engine found under the Sprint’s bonnet has a poor reputation for reliability, but regular oil changes at 3000 miles and a sharp eye on the coolant and anti-freeze mix will keep you on the road.
With regards to the gearbox, a worn synchromesh is often a headache – expect to pay around a £100 for a secondhand gearbox or £450 for a rebuilt example.
3. Bought it? Then get it on a ramp
If you’ve not been able to get the car in the air prior to purchase, then try to make it a priority once the car is in your possession. It means that you’ll see the scale of the task in front of you, and maybe spot rust patches you didn’t catch earlier. While this is a daunting process, it’s best to start your ownership journey from a defined point rather than face constant surprises. It’s also good to get to know your car intimately – just in case something falls off.
While it’s up there it’s always worth coating the undersides with rust protection. You can do it yourself but letting the professionals deal with it is advisable – they’ll certainly make less mess. It’s also worth doing this in the summer – not only will the car be dry (you don’t want to trap in moisture), but if you let the pros loose on it they’ll be less busy than during the Autumn rush. Budget around £300 to have the underside and the inner sills treated.
4. Join a club
The best place to find help, advice, encouragement and even solace if it all goes pear-shaped is a club and its ever-ready and experienced members. If you encounter a problem, you can be pretty sure you’re not the first and nor will you be the last. Some clubs are able to negotiate discounts on parts and insurance, and it’s a great way to meet new people. Club Triumph, the Triumph Dolomite Club and the Triumph Sports Six Club will be able to assist.
5. Get out there and enjoy it
This sounds too simple – but it’s often the case that many cars don’t see the light of day because they’re deemed to precious to leave the garage. But that’s a shame – cars are meant to be driven and enjoyed. They’re a moving piece of artwork to be savoured by fellow motorists and pedestrians. It’s also a great way to introduce character into every journey – after all, you and your mates heading to a lads’ weekend in a hire car doesn’t sound quite as much of an adventure as doing the same in the Triumph, does it? But why stop at just trips to shows and extended holidays? There are a multitude of ways to enjoy your classic, from regularity road rallies to gentle organised cruises.
However you use your Dolomite, a grin will soon appear – they’re really that fun.