.....continued from Triumph Page 1.
Back to Triumph Page
In order to fulfil an order for 350cc single cylinder Model 3HW motorcycles for military use, the machine tooling
was recovered from the destroyed factories and production began at a new factory at Meriden in 1942.
During the war, a version of the 500cc twin engine had been used as a generator to charge aircraft
batteries in flight.
To reduce weight, the cylinder barrel and cylinder head were made in alloy.
After the war, privateer racers put wartime surplus alloy barrels on their Tiger 100 racers.
Their success led to Triumph producing the GP model.
Also after the war, production of the Edward Turner designed Triumph Speed Twin was carried out in
The Speed Twin and Tiger 100 both became available with sprung hub rear suspension.
The 498cc TR5 Trophy Twin, introduced at the 1948 Motor Cycle Show, used a single carburettor, low
compression version of the Grand Prix engine.
Allan Jefferies won the 1948 International Six Days Trial on a prototype version.
To satisfy the American market, Turner built a 649cc version of the Speed Twin design known as the
Thunderbird 6T, a low compression machine suited to long distances.
The Thunderbird was introduced in late 1949.
The 498cc Tiger 100 was still considered the performance machine.
By 1950, the supply of alloy barrels was exhausted, and the GP model was dropped.
In 1951, Jack Sangster sold the Triumph Motorcycle concern to rivals BSA and became a member on the BSA board.
Marlon Brando rode a 1950 Thunderbird 6T in the 1953 movie, 'The Wild One'.
This was good publicity for Triumph, particularly in the United States.
In 1953, Triumph directors, Edward Turner, Bob Fearon and Alex Masters rode 149cc OHV Triumph
Terriers from Land's End to John O'Groats in a publicity stunt known as the Gaffers' Gallop.
A 199cc version of the OHV single, the Tiger Cub was introduced in 1954, the same year that Triumph sold
its bicycle manufacturing facility to Raleigh.
You may enjoy this book, "Travelling With Mr.Turner" by Nigel C.
The author takes a few days off to ride his modern day Triumph to follow in the tyre tracks
of Edward Turner's historic 1953 journey from Land's End to John O'Groats.
It is available now from Amazon and directly from the publisher.
Click on the photograph of the book for more details.
Also in 1954, the 649cc Tiger 110 was introduced. The machine featured Triumph's new swing arm frame
and now featured an alloy cylinder head.
Jack Sangster became Chairman of the BSA Group in 1956.
The 348cc 3TA Triumph 'Twenty One' was the first unit construction twin, soon followed by the
490cc and 649cc machines.
Triumph 'Twenty One' 3TA painting by Steve Dunn.
Click here to see Steve's prints
After various speed runs at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA, using streamlined motorcycles
with T110 engines, Triumph introduced a twin carburettor version of the T110 in 1959.
This machine was known as the T120 Bonneville.
The Bonneville went on to become Triumph's most famous motorcycle.
In the 1960s, Triumph produced two scooters, the Tina and the Tigress.
1962 was the last year of the 'pre-unit' models, all future models having the engine and gearbox together in a
In 1969, Malcolm Uphill won the Isle of Man Production TT riding a Bonneville.
He averaged 99.99mph and recorded the first ever lap over 100mph on a production motorcycle at
By 1969, over half the US market for motorcycles over 500cc belonged to Triumph, however, the
Japanese were arriving on the scene.
With their smooth running, oil tight overhead camshaft engines often featuring electric starters with
reliable electrics, the Japanese had the edge over Triumph and other British motorcycles.
The Japanese machines were also cheaper to buy.
In the 1970s, the US government insisted that all motorcycle imports had to have their gearshift on the left and
brake pedal on the right.
This required expensive modifications to Triumphs built for export to the USA.
Initially, the Japanese were only producing small engined motorcycles.
Triumph and BSA felt safe.
When the four cylinder Honda CB750 was shown at the Tokyo Motorcycle show in 1968 and released for sale to the
public in 1969, Triumph and BSA were heading for trouble.
The Triumph Trident and the BSA Rocket 3 were developed to compete against the
Japanese four cylinder machines.
These both featured 741cc three cylinder engines. The engines were similar in
specification although not identical.
The BSA had an inclined cylinder block while the Triumph block was vertical.
Triumph Trident T150 painting by Steve Dunn.
Click here to see Steve's prints
The 1970 Tiger and Bonneville models were re-designed, however this was not enough.
The Japanese motorcycles to arrive in 1969 were different and exciting....
.....machines such as the four cylinder overhead camshaft Honda CB750 Four and the two stroke triple cylinder
Kawasaki 500 Mach 3.
In 1971, BSA recorded huge losses and it was
proposed to close the Small Heath factory and transfer all production to the Triumph factory at
However, this did not happen, and in 1973 the
BSA group was sold to Norton Villiers to form Norton Villiers Triumph (NVT).
In September 1973, the chairman of NVT, Dennis
Poore announced that the Triumph factory at Meriden would close in February 1974 and production would remain at the
BSA Small Heath factory.
He had not expected the determined reaction of the Meriden workforce. The workers held a sit in.
The Labour government had just come into power and with backing from Tony Benn, the
minister for trade and industry, the Meriden Motorcycle
Co-Operative was formed to manufacture Triumph 750cc motorcycles.
NVT still owned the rights to Triumph when the Meriden Motorcycle Co-Operative was formed.
The co-operative was merely a manufacturing group who built the machines that were then sold by NVT.
The co-operative was assisted by the General
Electric Company who agreed to purchase two thousand Bonnevilles from them.
This gave the co-operative some valuable cash flow and, along with further government loans, finally helped them to
achieve their dream of purchasing the Triumph rights from NVT in 1977 to form Triumph Motorcycles (Meriden)
They continued to build and sell the 750cc Bonneville and
The Queen's Silver Jubilee was in 1977 and the limited edition Silver Jubilee
Bonneville was introduced to commemorate this.
By 1978, this was the top selling European motorcycle in the US
Over the next few years came improvements such as an electric starter motor,
alloy wheels and twin front disc brake option, however none of this was sufficient to compete with the Japanese
motorcycles that were becoming more popular.
In 1980, the new Conservative Government wrote
off huge debts that were owed by the company.
Meriden introduced several new models such as the
dual purpose TR7T Tiger Trail and the 650cc Triumph TR65 Thunderbird.
In 1981, the Triumph Royal Wedding T140LE Bonneville was introduced to celebrate
the wedding of HRH the Prince of Wales. This sold well.
1982 was the last year of production.
The Triumph T140 TSX and 8-valve Triumph T140W TSS models were launched, but again, these were last ditch attempts
at keeping an old design competitive.
Triumph Motorcycles (Meriden) Ltd. finally went
bankrupt on 23 August 1983.
John Bloor, a wealthy property developer and builder from
the Midlands bought the Triumph name and manufacturing rights from the Official Receiver in 1983.
John Bloor agreed that Triumph enthusiast, Les Harris could continue to produce the Triumph
Bonneville under licence until 1988.
Triumph has produced motorcycles continuously since 1902 and is the
manufacturer with the longest continuous production of motorcycles in the world.
Triumph now makes a range of motorcycles, some reviving the names of the past, such as the
newly designed Bonneville twin.
Triumph Motorcycles (Hinckley) Ltd. is the longest surviving British motorcycle
Back to Top of Triumph Page 2
Triumph logo reproduced with the permission of Triumph Motorcycles
“Paul Mercer is a participant in the eBay Partner Network (ePN), an affiliate
advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to