The closure of Triumph’s assembly plant at Speke, near Liverpool was announced

Wednesday 15th February 1978

The closure of Triumph’s assembly plant at Speke, near Liverpool was announced. It was in 1959 under the guidance (more a case of arm twisting) of the Board of Trade that Standard Triumph purchased a small engineering works and nearby vacant site in the Speke district of Liverpool (Speke No.1). In 1960 Standard Triumph was taken over by Leyland Motors and work was started on a 23,000 square feet extension of the existing plant. This extension cost around £3.5 million and enabled the Liverpool plant to supply complete bodies for the TR sports cars and assemblies and pressings for other cars in the Triumph range.When in 1965 the completely new Triumph 1300 was announced, responsibility for manufacturing the car body was awarded to Triumph Liverpool which by this time had shown itself to be a reliable and productive plant.

As a result of these achievements it was decided to announce the first phase of a £10.5 million expansion of the vacant site at Speke Hall Road (Speke No.2). This phase once completed, was one of the most modern and best equipped plants in Europe and covered some 460,000 square feet and housed facilities for body assembly, phosphating, priming and colour painting as well as trimming.

A second expansion phase was started in 1968 and when completed gave the plant a total covered area of 980,000 square feet. The facilities in this part of the plant included finish painting, trimming and final assembly. Eventually the two plants had the capacity to produce 175,000 unpainted bodies, 100,000 painted and trimmed bodies and an assembly capacity of 75,000 units per annum. An important milestone in the Liverpool factory’s history was reached in September 1970 with the introduction of the Triumph Toledo, the first car to be completely assembled at Liverpool. Since Triumph first became established in Liverpool, some £22 million was invested and the total development provided jobs for 4,500 men and women. The potential was there for the Triumph brand to stand its ground against the encroachment of German and Japanese car manufacturers on the British market. Unfortunately this was not to be the case as the parent company was on a path of self destruction. In 1968 Leyland Motors merged with British Motor Holdings to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation. The result was a company which was competing against itself on every level of the market which made it impossible for any range to be profitable. The management’s relationship with the workforce deteriorated and quality began to slip.

A book could be filled with the blunders and mismanagement of the company nationally. In Liverpool the biggest blunder was the ill conceived TR7, a car designed for the US without clarity of their import regulations, nor public demand. In 1974 Speke No. 2 was given over to production of the Harris Mann designed Triumph TR7. The American market had been delighted by Michelotti’s TR4 & TR5 and the Karmann TR6 . The TR7’s bizarre looks, parts-bin construction and shoddy assembly were not what they wanted and it was a serious flop.

No.2 plant became the first major BLMC car assembly plant to close, in 1978. No.1 plant continued to produce bodies for assembly at Canley until closure in 1980. The No.2 plant is still there to this day sprawling out behind the new Hunts Cross Retail Park. The buildings now house amongst others a storage facility, a box manufacturer and a food wholesaler. Triumph hasn’t entirely left Speke though, in the area around the old plants you will find Triumph Way, Renown Way, Vitesse Road, Dolomite Ave., Herald Ave., Stag Road, Spitfire Road and Mayflower Avenue.

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