The Triumph Vitesse was introduced on 25 May 1962, re-using a name previously used by the pre-World War II Triumph company from 1936–38, and was an in-line 6-cylinder performance version of the Triumph Herald small saloon. The Herald had been introduced on 22 April 1959 and was an attractive 2-door car styled by the Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti. By the early 1960s, however, Triumph began to give thought to a sports saloon based on the Herald and using their 6-cylinder engine. Michelotti was again approached for styling, and he came up with a car that used almost all body panels from the Herald, combined with a new front end with a slanted "Chinese Eye" 4-headlamp design.
Standard-Triumph fitted a 1596 cc version of their traditional straight-6 derived from the engine used in the Standard Vanguard Six, but with a smaller bore diameter of 66.75 mm (2.628 in), compared with the 74.7 mm (2.94 in) bore on the Vanguard, equipped with twin Solex carburettors, as the accelerator pumps proved a problem The curious observer will notice a "seam" on the cylinder block between the third & fourth cylinders revealing the humble design beginnings from the 803 cc Standard 8 block of 1953. The gearbox was strengthened and offered with optional Laycock De Normanville ‘D-type’ overdrive. Front disc brakes were standard as were larger rear brake drums, and the Herald fuel tank was enlarged, retaining the handy reserve tap of the smaller Herald tank. The front suspension featured uprated springs to cope with the extra weight of the new engine, but the rear suspension was basically standard Herald. The chassis was basically the same as the Herald, and the Vitesse was available in convertible and saloon forms; a coupé never got beyond the prototype stage. A handful of Vitesse estates also were assembled to special order at Standard-Triumph’s Service Depot at Park Royal in West London.
Wooden door cappings were added to match the wooden dashboard and the car featured better seats and door trims. Optional extras included a vinyl/fabric, (Webasto), sunroof on saloon models. Exterior trim was also improved with stainless steel side trim and satin-silver anodised alloy bumper cappings (replacing the white rubber Herald design). A year or so after the car’s launch, the Vitesse received its first facelift; the dashboard was revised with a full range of instruments instead of the large single dial from the Herald, and from September 1965, at commission number HB27986, the twin Solex carburettors were replaced by twin Zenith- Stromberg CD 150carburettors. Power output increased from the original 70 bhp at 5,000 rpm and torque of 125 Nm, enough to provide a useful performance boost and making the car a much more flexible performer. There was an increase of 13 bhp, and top speed rose to 91 mph.
The Vitesse 6 sold extremely well for Triumph, and was by some way the most popular Vitesse sold during the model’s lifetime. The car was well liked for its performance and reasonable fuel economy, as well as the well appointed interior. The Vitesse had few rivals for the price: able to perform as well as many sports cars, but with room for a family. The convertible in particular was virtually unique in the marketplace and another genuine 4-seater sporting convertible would not reappear from a British manufacturer until the Triumph Stag several years further down the line.