Regardless of the Triumph 2000’s burgeoning sales in the second half of the 1960s, Triumph’s engineers and senior sales staff were aware that, in order to maintain this record of success, their product had to develop with the times and meet the increasing challenges offered by other manufacturers. The lesson of the Standard Vanguard, a once-successful product that had been allowed to stagnate to the point of no return, had not been forgotten at Canley and Triumph’s leaders were determined to keep the 2000 ahead of the opposition. In the UK, the continuing development and sales success of the rival Rover P6 was clearly an immediate concern, especially prior to the Leyland-Triumph-Rover merger of 1967.
Even after Rover and Triumph came under common ownership, Triumph’s 2000 still had to compete with its Solihull counterpart for market share, though new developments of both models were subject to increasingly greater scrutiny in terms of their likely impact on cumulative sales. Competition from abroad was also increasing, both in terms of Triumph’s penetration of key export markets and – increasingly – imports of foreign-made cars into the UK. Key European rivals included the Citroën DS/ID, BMW 1800/2000, Lancia Flavia, Mercedes-Benz 200, Peugeot 504 and Volvo 144, whilst in traditional export territories such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa the local offerings of Chrysler, General Motors and Ford were increasingly credible alternatives also. The challenge of an ever-more ambitious and competent Japanese motor industry had yet to be appreciated…
Another driver was the development of the 2000-based Stag, and in particular that vehicle’s evolution from a possible TR replacement to a luxury Grand Tourer in its own right. Many of the stylistic and mechanical elements being developed for the Stag could logically be adopted for the saloons, with the objective of spreading investment costs, boosting market appeal and developing a unified flavour across the entire Triumph product line. Thus it came to be that the emerging Stag determined the nature of many of the modifications applied to the 2000, not least in terms of exterior and interior styling.
Serious work on a revised Triumph 2000 range commenced in 1967, under the ‘Innsbruck’ project code, and transcended the departure of Technical Director Harry Webster to British Leyland’s new Austin-Morris subsidiary, his place at Canley being taken by none other than Spen King, ex-Rover and one of the prime architects of the competing P6 range! Although budgetary constraints continued to be a challenge, once the fundamental characteristics of the updated cars were decided, the development process proceeded relatively painlessly, so rapidly in fact that Triumph’s timescale for the new model launch outpaced Pressed Steel’s ability to provide amended body dies, the contract for the revised tooling eventually being let to Karmann of Osnabruck in Germany. Steps to facilitate the changeover in production were put in place during the annual factory shutdown in 1969 and the new models were announced that October as the Triumph 2000 Mk2 and Triumph 2.5PI Mk2 respectively (though – paradoxically – the injected car was never badged thus, instead carrying the ‘2500 Injection’ and ‘2500 Mk2’ legends on front and rear respectively).
The most obvious changes to the Mk2 models concerned the revised body style, once again penned by Giovanni Michelotti. Externally, the saloon had gained new, longer bonnet and boot sections largely inspired by the forthcoming Stag. Estate cars were also given the new front end but retained the existing rear section; as estates continued to be converted from part-built shells by Carbodies, this meant that Pressed Steel now had to accommodate two distinctly different body types on its production lines. Structurally, however, relatively few changes needed to be made from the existing Mk1 pressings, due to a combination of clever styling on the part of Michelotti and careful pre-planning by Triumph’s engineers which had seen provision made for many updated items during routine re-tooling of the Mk1 panels. Mechanically, the existing basic layout was preserved, though there were a number of significant improvements. All cars received the wider-track rear suspension developed for the Stag, and saloon models were also given a revised rear differential mounting.
Braking systems on all cars gained new larger servos and self-adjusting rear drums, whilst a power-assisted steering set-up (also Stag-derived) became optional for both 2000 and 2.5PI models. Roadwheel diameter remained at 13”, but rim width was increased to 5J to provide better support for the 2.5PI’s wide-section tyres, 2000s also getting new ‘turbine’ wheeltrims. Under the bonnet, the injected cars remained largely unchanged, though fuel feed arrangements were further revised to address the Mk1’s occasional fuel starvation problems. The 2000 engine had already received some of the bottom-end improvements originally devised for the 2.5, and the latest models now gained an alternator and a low-compression (9.25:1) version of the PI’s full-width cylinder head, albeit with no claimed improvement on established power and torque figures.
Perhaps the greatest improvements to the car were made internally. In place of the individualistic but arguably dated dashboard and instrument binnacle of the Mk1 models, there was now a sweeping full-width walnut-panelled dashboard with similarities to both TR and Jaguar practice. Unlike those cars, however, the instrument panel itself was made slightly concave to improve the driver’s view of the instruments – including the innovative ‘all systems go’ warning light cluster first seen on the Triumph 1300 – and maximise room around the steering wheel. In fact, much of the design theory (if not the precise detail) was taken from that developed for the forthcoming Stag, as were the new and very effective air-blending heating and ventilation unit, and the adjustable steering column with trend-setting stalk controls for indicators, headlamp flasher, horn and two-speed-and-flick wipers. Overdrive on cars so-equipped was operated through a sliding switch set flush with the top of the gearknob, a feature which had in fact been ‘borrowed’ from the Jaguar XJ6 but which would soon become synonymous with Triumph saloons and sports cars. Revised door trim panels were specified (though retaining the generous veneered cappings, now in a semi-matt finish matching that of the dashboard) as were new and very comfortable seats. As standard, these were upholstered in a very high-quality Ambla leathercloth with perforated centre panels to promote breathing; brushed-nylon upholstery was available as an option though, unlike for the rare cloth-upholstered Mk1s, side bolsters on Mk2 seats were trimmed in matching Ambla. Regrettably, hide upholstery was no longer offered, presumably either to reduce costs or perhaps to provide a measure of differentiation from the competing Rover P6 lines, though leather trim did subsequently feature on some cars assembled overseas. Despite this, the new interior was a veritable triumph (pun intended…), combining high levels of comfort, style and practicality and offering an ambience akin to that of much more expensive vehicles.
Reception of the new models by the motoring press was genuinely warm. Motor sampled manual-transmission examples of the 2000 and 2.5PI, lauding the comfort and refinement of both, and particularly the new arrangement of instrumentation and controls. The magazine’s test of the 2.5PI was especially enthusiastic, memorably describing it as a ‘sumptuous family hot-rod’, and correspondent Harold Hastings adopted a similar car for a 12,000-mile long-term test, being well-satisfied with the outcome despite encountering some minor maladies. Autosport’s John Bolster tried an automatic 2.5 and proclaimed it to be ‘Britain’s best medium-sized car’, being fulsome in his praise of the injected engine’s flexibility. Two years later, in October 1971, Autocar put a 2.5PI automatic head-to-head with an example of the new manual-gearbox Rover 3500S and, whilst conceding the performance advantage of the Rover’s V8 engine (which might have been less if BL could have been persuaded to provide a Triumph in more-nearly comparable overdrive form), rated the 2.5PI as the more comfortable and better-handling of the two.