The Big Car Database

Triumph Motorcycles

Triumph Motorcycles Ltd is the largest British motorcycle manufacturer; it was established in 1984 by John Bloor after the original company Triumph Engineering went into receivership.

The new company (initially Bonneville Coventry Ltd) continued Triumph's record of motorcycle production since 1902. As of mid-2012, the company produced 49,000 motorcycles and employed 1,600 staff.


Industry Motorcycle
Founded 1984 as Bonneville Coventry Limited
Headquarters Hinckley, Leicestershire,England

Key people

John Bloor (owner)
The Lord Jones of Birmingham (chairman)
Products Motorcycles
Slogan "For the Ride"


When Triumph Engineering went into receivership in 1983, John Bloor bought the name and manufacturing rights from the Official Receiver. The new company's manufacturing plant and designs were outdated and unable to compete against the Japanese, so Bloor decided against relaunching Triumph immediately. Initially, production of the old Bonneville was continued under licence by Les Harris of Racing Spares, in Newton Abbot,Devon, to bridge the gap between the end of the old company and the start of the new company. For five years from 1983, about 14 were built a week in peak production. In the USA, owing to problems with liability insurance, the Harris Bonnevilles were never imported.

Bloor set to work assembling the new Triumph, hiring several of the group's former designers to begin work on new models. The team visited Japan on a tour of its competitors' facilities and became determined to adopt Japanese manufacturing techniques and especially new-generation computer-controlled machinery. In 1985, Triumph purchased a first set of equipment to begin working, in secret, on its new prototype models. By 1987, the company had completed its first engine. In 1988, Bloor funded the building of a new factory at a 10-acre (40,000 m2) site in Hinckley, Leicestershire. Bloor put between £70 million and £100 million into the company between purchasing the brand and breaking even in 2000.

At the same time as production capacity increased, Bloor established a new network of export distributors. He has previously created two subsidiary companies, Triumph Deutschland GmbH and Triumph France SA. In 1994, Bloor created Triumph Motorcycles America Ltd.

At 21.00 hours on 15 March 2002, as the company was preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary as a motorcycle maker, its main factory was destroyed by a fire which began at the rear of the facility. At the height of the blaze, over 100 firefighters were tackling the fire, which destroyed most of the manufacturing capacity.Nevertheless, the company, which by then employed more than 650, quickly rebuilt the facility and returned to production by September that year.

In May 2002, Triumph began construction on a new sub-assembly manufacturing facility in Chonburi, Thailand to make various components. A second factory was opened in 2006 by Prince Andrew, Duke of York where a wet painting facility and assembly line have been established. A third factory was opened in 2007 to include high pressure die-casting and machining, and Triumph announced that they were expanding to increase capacity to over 130,000 motorcycles. Triumph Motorcycles (Thailand) Limited is a 100% UK owned company and now employs about 1000 staff.

The Triumph Group announced sales of 37,400 motorcycles in the financial year ending 30 June 2006. This represented a growth of 18% over the 31,600 produced in 2005. Company turnover (revenues) rose 13% to £200 million ($370 million), but net profit remained static at around £10.3 million due to recent investment in production facilities. In June 2009 Digby Jones, Baron Jones of Birmingham, the former Minister of State for Trade, became chairman of Triumph motorcycles (Hinckley) Ltd and the 1,600 cc (98 cu in) Thunderbird twin-cylinder cruiser was announced.

The Group turnover increased by 11% from £312.4 million in 2010 to £345.3 million in 2011 and unit sales of motorcycles increased by 7% from 45,501 to 48,684. This increase in unit sales can be largely attributed to the introduction of incremental models to the range. The operating profit before interest and tax grew from £15.1 million to £22.3 million due to strong sales of motorcycles and related products, benefitting from improved use of working capital and continued focus upon the cost base. During 2011 Triumph launched three new motorcycles: the Tiger Explorer, Speed Triple R and the Steve McQueen Special, successfully bucking the trend of the global downturn in motorcycle sales.


133 Years Of Triumph Motorcycle History


Siegfried Bettmann, 20, comes to Coventry, England from Nuremberg, Germany. After a brief period he is employed by Kelly & Co. compiling foreign directories for their publications. After six months, he got a job with the White Sewing Machine Co. as a foreign correspondent and translator. For several months he also worked as the company's sales representative in northern Europe.


S. Bettmann & Co. Import Export Agency started in London, selling bicycles made in Birmingham by Wm. Andrews, but with Bettmann's name on them. They also imported German sewing machines and acquired the agencies of other German manufacturers.


Triumph name replaces Bettmann, a word Bettmann feels is easily understood in most languages. He calls his company 'The Triumph Cycle Company.'


Name registered as New Triumph Co. Ltd., but changed later to Triumph Cycle Co. Ltd. Shares underwritten by the Dunlop Tyre Company to the tune of 45,000 pounds. German engineer Maurice (Mauritz) Johann Schulte, also from Nuremberg and a trained engineer, joins Bettmann as junior partner. He would soon convince Bettmann that Triumph should not sell other companies' products, but should make their own.


Small former ribbon-weaving works factory acquired on Much Park Street in Coventry for Triumph to manufacture its own bicycles. Coventry is centre of Britain's cycle trade. Initial capital of 650 pds comes from Bettmann's parents (500) and Schulte's relatives. Later, Dunlop Tyre would be a major investor in the company.


Bicycle manufacturing started. Company moves headquarters from London to Much Park St., Coventry.


Schulte considers producing Hildebrand & Wolfmuller motorcycles under license, and imports one for testing. He rode it at the Coventry cycle stadium.


Bettmann negotiates to make Beeston Humber motorcycles and motor tricycles, but an agreement is not reached.


First Triumph motorcycle is produced, designed by Schulte, using single-cylinder 2.25 (1.75?) bhp Belgian Minerva engine with automatic inlet valve and battery/coil ignition, fitted onto a bicycle frame (clipped to the downtube). Schulte also experimented with both Fafnir and J. A. Prestwich (JAP) engines.

Even though Triumph started as a company in 1884 (1886 as Triumph), this is the first year of motorcycle manufacturing for Triumph and is the recognized established date of Triumph motorcycles. In 2002, Triumph celebrated its 100th anniversary of continuous production of motorcycles.


Upgraded Minerva engine with present day side-valve layout is used, but the company soon turns to J. A. Prestwich (JAP) engines.

A branch of the company, Orial TWN (Triumph Werke Nuremberg) is established in Germany to manufacture motorcycles there.

Triumph sells 500 motorcycles this year.


JAP engine now used, also second model with 3 bhp Belgian Fafnir engine is made. Decision is made to produce their own motorcycles, not just clip-on to other companies' designs.


First all-Triumph machine produced, also the first all-British motorcycle, designed by Schulte and Works manager Charles Hathaway. Sells for 45 pounds. Uses 3bhp, 300cc (363cc?) side-valve engine. Cruising speed was 30-40 mph, with a top speed 40-50 mph. Production up to 250 per annum (five per week). Engine is the first to have ball bearings on main shaft.


Triumph Engineering Co. Ltd. registered April 23, 1906. Capital was 100 pounds, (increased to 21,000 pounds by February 25, 1936).

Newly-invented Bosch-Simms high-tension (HT) magneto used on all Triumph motorcycles.

Rocking front spring fork with horizontal spring introduced, frame redesigned and a new engine designed. Five hundred machines made this year.

Motorcycle journalist 'Ixion' tests a prototype 1907 machine but it proves flawed and the frame breaks. He later used an upgraded 1907 model to ride 2,058 kms (1,279 miles) in six days.

Frank Hulbert wins the Dashwood hill climb on a prototype 453cc Triumph - the company's first competition success.


More than 1,000 motorcycles are made, with new 450cc 3.5bhp engine.

Triumph riders Jack Marshall and Freddie Hulbert place second and third in the first motorcycle TT race (Isle of Man - a Matchless was the first).

Company moves main production to larger premises on Priory Street and doubles production to 1,000 vehicles. Much Park address still used for service and to produce line of lower-value Gloria cycles and sidecars. Bettmann elected to Coventry City Council.


Variable pulley - high 4:1, low 6:1 - could be changed by dismantling at the roadside, also Triumph's own two-slide patent carburetor introduced. Engine controls are moved to the handlebars. First variable-gearing on Triumph bikes - required the rider to stop and move the belt drive to a different pulley.

Jack Marshall wins single-cylinder class on a Triumph in Isle of Man TT Race and makes fastest lap 42.48mph (68.36kph), with an average of 40.49 mph (65.16kph). Triumph riders also take 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 10th places.

Triumph's profits for the year were 22,048 pounds.


Schulte's easy-start "Free-engine" model with multi-plate clutch in rear hub is available (patented by Schulte in 1908, this is Triumph's first bike with a clutch). This meant riders no longer had to run along side the bike to get it started, then jump on! They could just ride away from a stopped position.

Production now up to 3,000 per annum.

Schulte works on a new rear-hub multi-clutch plate for easy starting. Company also does first tests with a vertical twin engine, a 616cc Bercley.


Two models released this year, doubling the lineup! 3.5 bhp, 499cc TT model cataloged with magneto ignition only - coil not even optional.

Albert Catt rides a Triumph 'Tourist Trophy Roadster' just under 2,000 miles (3,038 km) in six days.

Production up to 3,000 vehicles a year.


Although introduced in 1909, and because during the first two years they were limited in availability, the rear hub multi-plate clutch models are now included in the Triumph catalog.

Four 3.5 bhp models are now available: the Roadster, Free-Engine Model, TT Roadster and TT Racer. Top speed was 50-55 mph.

Pedaling gear is dispensed with on most models and replaced by foot pegs.

Ivan Hart-Davies rides a Triumph on his last End-To-End ride, John O'Groats (Scotland) to Land's End, 886 miles, in 29 hours 12 mins., averaging just over 30 mph. Albert Catt rides a Triumph 2,400 (2,557?) miles in six days.


Triumph (Schulte) builds an experimental 600cc vertical twin side-valve engine, with horizontal crankcase joint (horizontally split crankcases would not reappear until the late 1950s).

Model C is the last one offered with a pedal start.

Bettmann is elected Mayor of Coventry 1913-14. As mayor, he established the charitable Prince of Wales Fund. He was also a founding member and former president of the Coventry Chamber of Commerce and president of the Coventry Liberal Association (until 1940).


By 1914, the company was producing 4,000 singles annually. Hathaway is now Triumph's chief designer. The main vehicle is the 550c Type A Roadster, which produced 4 hp and used the reliable Bosch high-tension magneto.


Between 1915 and 1918, production became focused on the Allied war effort. The Model 'H' roadster with chain drive (designed by Schulte and similar to the Type A) was introduced in 1915, 550cc side-valve four-stroke with Sturmey-Archer three-speed gearbox and belt transmission - considered by many to be the first "modern" motorcycle.

Even though the slogan "Trusty Triumph" had been used in triumph advertising as early as 1910, The Model H is the bike that earned that moniker.

More than 30,000 Model H bikes were supplied to Allied forces in World War I (20,000 for UK forces).


After a quarrel, Maurice Schulte leaves company and retires with a generous 15,000 pounds 'golden handshake.' Schulte had apparently argued with Bettmann who was opposed to Schulte's proposal to drop bicycle production and move into car manufacturing. Schulte did not want to stay with two-wheelers, but Bettmann did.

Colonel Claude V. Holbrook joins, and takes over Schulte's role as General Manager. Holbrook, however, agreed with Schulte about car manufacturing and would quickly drop bicycle manufacturing and start car production.

Model D, single-gear version of the H model is rushed into production. Triumph designs a roadster seat with adjustable tension spring to regulate seat firmness.


Based on the model H engine, with new frame, Model 'SD' (Spring Drive), 550cc, offered with large-diameter rear spring shock absorber outboard of clutch and first all-chain transmission through Triumph's own three-speed gearbox.

German branch (TWN) of Triumph now back in business and building own models (variations on British models). An enlarged version of the Junior is offered at 269cc and built under license in the USA and Germany.

Bettmann establishes the charitable Annie Bettmann Foundation.


Rim brakes replaced by internally-expanding drum brakes. 500cc four-valve first Triumph ohv machine, Model 'R' introduced; 20-21bhp, four-valve ohv head with twin valves set at 90 degrees apart. Similar to SD model (below the crankcase mouth), the top half was designed by fuel technologist and engine designer Harry Ricardo (later Sir Harry) and Major Frank Halford (an enthusiastic motorcycle racer at Brooklands who rode a TT Racer). Earns the nickname 'Riccy' from its designer. Uses a machined steel cylinder and an aluminum piston. Only one Riccy finishes in the TT race, coming in 16th. Ricardo was an engineer who developed the modern understanding of engine breathing and combustion processes.

In November, Halford broke the 500cc world hour record at 76.74 mph on a Riccy, along with 50-mile standing start (77.27 mph) and the one-mile British record (87.8 mph). Triumph engineers also build 500cc side-valve for TT races.


Riccy appears in production, but with a cast-iron cylinder, hand shifter, shorter stroke, bicycle-type brakes and Druid front forks, at a cost of 120 pounds. Top speed is 135 kmh (84 mph).

Electric lights and horn offered as options on Triumph bikes.

Maj. Halford breaks the flying mile, 50 mile and one hour record at Brooklands, riding a Riccy. He also broke the 500cc one-hour record at 123.49 km/h (76.74 mph). Walter Brandish on a Triumph Riccy finishes second in the Senior TT.


350cc unit-construction, three-speed Model LS announced - very advanced for its day but it proved unpopular. Has Triumph's first engine-driven oil pump - rider no longer required to pump oil pressure by hand. Bettman buys the premises of the Dawson Car Company at Clay Lane. The Dawson was originally designed by Arthur Anderson (formerly of Singer and Lea-Francis), but was unsuccessful on the market.

First Triumph cars produced: Model 10/20, an open tourer based on the Dawson, with 23.5bhp 1393cc four-cylinder engine designed by Ricardo, hydraulic rear brakes, and produced until 1925. "Junior" increased to 249cc, gets clutch and kickstart.

A 'Riccy' comes in second in the Senior TT race.


Internal expanding brakes are put on chain-driven models. Triumph introduces its own spring front fork and drops the popular Druid fork still used by several other companies. Last year for Ricardo four-valve machines, last year for the "Trusty Triumph" Model H. 346cc LS produced, an advanced three-speed machine that wasn't very popular.


Mass-produced 500cc side-valve Model 'P' with three-speed gearbox and all-chain drive at 42p.17s.6d - least expensive 500cc ever offered. It causes a sensation. Produced at a rate of 1,000 a week. However, the standard of production is low on the P model (including discarding valve guides and an asbestos-rope front brake). Triumph's reputation is tarnished by the low quality and design flaws. Twenty thousand were produced before the improved Mark II (late 1925) restored some of the public confidence in Triumph.

Competitor George Bell, manufacturer of the Banshee, closes shop and joins Triumph.

Junior's ("Baby's") last year.

Triumph production occupies 500,000 sq. ft. and employs 3,000 people to make 25,000-30,000 units a year. Sidecars are also made in-house. Triumph sales depend heavily on export, with catalogues in ten languages (including Japanese).


Production reaches 30,000 machines a year. Triumph's first "modern" motorcycle, 500cc two-valve two-port ohv Model TT developed by Victor Horsman, Brooklands racer/tuner, and later a Liverpool dealer. This supersedes the Riccy model R which is dropped. Horsman's two-valve design would be the basis of Triumph engine design until Val Page's models in 1934. Lineup includes eight models including introductions of Model W and Model P with unusual 274cc engine.

Model 13/35 car produced this year only; 1873 cc, four cylinders. Model 15, 2170cc, four-cylinder car made 1927-1930.


Triumph adopts fashionable saddle tank instead of their traditional flat gas tank, but only on certain models. First move away from traditional green color scheme to black with gold lines or pale blue panels on black.

Motorcycle lines slashed to four models. A two-valve TT sportster is offered.

Super Seven car introduced, 747cc, four cylinder with hydraulic brakes, worm drive, dual connecting rods and three speeds (the early Super series of cars were named according to their horsepower). Triumph would make 17,000 Super Sevens in seven years.


Annual production of 30,000 units a year achieved. Back to eight models, now with saddle tanks.

German branch TWN (Triumph Werke Nurnberg) achieves autonomy, sold off after Wall Street crashes, continues to make motorcycles until 1957, but also made typewriters with Triumph logo.

A 350cc TT model is offered 1929-30 only. 350cc CO provided enclosed OHV gear and a dry-sump pressurized oil system.

Triumph cars competed at the Monte Carlo and Irish TT races.


175cc Model 'X' two-stroke, two-speed at 23p.17s.6d. with lights and leg shields (also called 'Junior'). This is their first all-unit construction motorcycle.

Triumph tries inclined engines in its new lineup. 500cc ohv CTT offered.

Donald Healey finished 7th at the Monte Carlo race in a Triumph Super Seven, the highest place for any British car.


250cc ohv model WO introduced. 343cc NM introduced. Inclined engine designed by Val Page. This year triumph puts the Coventry Climax engine in its cars. Ariel releases its Square Four, designed by Edward Turner. It would continue in production until 1959. Model X reduced to 150cc and joined by new models, including the Silent Scout.

The 1.2 litre side-valve Triumph Scorpion automobile was introduced

Jack Wickes, 16, joins Triumph as print boy.

Britain issues its first Highway Code laws.


Sophisticated 150cc two-stroke (later ohv four-stroke) 'Silent Scout' models, designed by Page, introduced with special cams and followers to reduce clatter. Silent Scouts boast inclined engine. Page also designs 250, 350 and 500cc sizes. Called Model A (548cc - about 600-800 sold) , B (493cc - about 1,000 sold) and BS (S for Sport, high-compression 7:1 model - only about 200 sold).

Britain scraps motorcycle taxation by weight and adopts engine capacity instead.


New range of single cylinder machines designed by Val Page. Page's 'flagship' model 6/1- 25bhp, four-speed 650 vertical twin (designed for sidecar market, it had a 360-degree crankshaft and a helical gear primary drive) proves a commercial failure. Other companies' twins at this time were all V-twins. Single cylinder 500cc CD model has Bowden carb. Engine closures introduced to reduce noise and save cost of polishing hidden parts. Page's design philosophy favors modular engine and bike design, with units sharing the same chassis and other components


Name changed to Triumph Co. Ltd.


Triumph decides to split motorcycle and automobile production into two separate and independent companies in January.


In July, Turner introduces the 500cc Speed Twin, selling at 75 pounds. It takes the motorcycle world by storm and would prove the definitive British bike. This 27bhp parallel-twin model (some say was based on the engine design of the Riley 9 car, which Turner owned) set the trend for motorcycles and its form continued well into the 1980s. It was capable of travelling 90 mph (145kph) and weighed 361 lb. (166kg).


After several tests of motorcycles from numerous manufacturers, the Metropolitan (London) Police choose the Speed Twin for their own use. They buy two dozen initially, and would buy thousands over the next several years.

Bill Johnson and Wilbur Ceder buy British and American Motors, a small motorcycle shop in Pasadena, California. They sell Triumphs, Ariels, BSAs and Indians. They also host their first motorcycle show to give the public a look at the new bikes.


T100, with top speed of 95-100 mph, becomes a popular model in US. Freddie Clarke sets a new 350cc lap record at Brooklands, doing 105.97mph on a Tiger 80, then sets another doing 118.02mph on a bored-out 503cc T100.

World War II declared and within six weeks, 1,400 Triumph motorcycles are requisitioned from the factory for war use.


In January, the British government reduced production demands, allowing Triumph to manufacture bikes for the civilian and export markets again. In March, the French government contracts to buy 500cc side-valve bikes from Triumph. In May, the British government again requisitions bikes, halting civilian production. By July production for the military is up to 300 machines a week.


Work on new factory at the village of Meriden started (reputed to be at the geographic center of Britain).


New factory at Meriden in production mid-year for military, with single-cylinder 350cc ohv 3HW based on pre-war 3H (basically a Tiger 80 but without an air filter, which required major servicing every couple of thousand miles), but improved with enclosed valve gear, etc. Forty thousand built for military during war, out of a total of 49,700 motorcycles produced. Triumph also made aircraft components, track links, steering housings and two-wheeled stretcher carriers.

Turner designs a generator using a Triumph vertical twin engine for the Air Ministry.


Alfred "Rich" Child, Harley-Davidson's Asian sales agent, approaches Triumph to become their exclusive, factory-authorized importer into the USA. Turner and Sangster decide to stick with Johnson as their official distributor.


During the war years, Triumph built 50,000 motorcycles. Large stock of used 3HW and 3SW (side-valve) models bought from War Department for reconditioning and repainting in new colors, sold in Britain for civilian use. In March, four twins and one single are announced, but the single and one twin never see production. The Speed Twin, Tiger 100 and 350cc 3T are made. They are fitted with telescopic forks (replacing the old girder front forks), but are otherwise the same as pre-war models.

Bill Johnson draws up plans for a US nation-wide dealer network and accepts applications for Ariel and triumph franchises. JoMo moves to a new location in Pasadena, investing $85,000 in renovations, including six hydraulic lifts in the service area. JoMo drops it's Indian franchise, but picks up California-made Mustang, Lucas electrical products, Amal carbs, John Bull and Dunlop tires.


Civilian production resumes at Meriden.

All-twin cylinder range announced. Telescopic forks were on all models, with the spring wheel extra. Tiger 85 twin (a sports version of the 3T) and 3H single are announced but not produced.


Spring rear hub introduced.


TR5: 500cc 'Trophy' TR5 - Triumph's first trail bike - is introduced following success in International Six Day Test The engine was originally built by Triumph to power generators for the RAF in WW2: it has aluminum heads and barrels and is light, torquey and powerful. The team won the next four years' contests.

Triumph is making 12,000 bikes a year, 60 per cent of them are exported.


650cc Thunderbird 6T (designed by Turner but made into a workable machine by his drawing-board guru, Jack Wickes) was launched on Sept. 20 with three models racing 500 miles at 90mph (800km at 145kph) for a demonstration at Montlhery. Although basically a revamped, bored-out Speed Twin, 6T is designed to satisfy export (mostly American) market, offered as capable of a full 161 kmh/100 mph. Thunderbird quickly becomes favorite of police forces worldwide. Nacelle headlamp enclosure is put on all models (moving gauges from top of tank - see Thunderbird photo at right). The name came to Turner while on a US tour. He stayed at the Thunderbird Motel in South Carolina.

25hp TR5 model Trophy produced (based on Speed Twin, designed for offroad use, but with excellent highway ability, easy starting and excellent braking). It became the mainstay of the AMC "Class C" racing until 1969. American versions combine components of the T100 and grand Prix Trophy to make a fast desert racer.

Triumph Owners Motorcycle Club founded.


Painted fuel tanks with pressed styling bands and badges are used due to temporary lack of lining capacity. Edward Turner opts for "low-chrome" policy, bans the use of chrome fuel tanks on future models (they weren't used again until the Bonneville Royal Wedding edition in 1981).

Thunderbird in production; the world's first "superbike," it can achieve 100 mph at a reasonable price. Performance improvements come mid-way through year when carb size is increased.

Turner establishes US-based Triumph Corp., in Maryland, a wholly-owned east coast distribution company created to serve eastern US markets. Denis McCormack, 48, is first president. After 1950, more Triumphs would be sold in the USA than in any other country, including Britain.


Sangster sells Triumph to BSA for 2.5 million pounds - the same company to which he sold Ariel in 1939. He joins the BSA Group as member of the board. Turner's holdings in triumph earn him ten percent of the sale.

Harley Davidson complains about Triumph's progress in racing and marketing to the US tariff Commission, demanding a high duty (40%) on all imported motorcycles. They claim Triumph is 'dumping' its machines at artificially low prices. Among their witnesses is former Triumph pioneer dealer, Reggie Pink.


The US Tariff Commission decides against HD's complaint and the hearing gives Triumph added publicity. Harley is charged with restrictive trade practices instead.

Demand for Manx Norton engines to power Formula Three cars left many Manx Featherbed frames available. Designers start putting Triumph engines into the frames, creating 'Tritons.'


Marlon Brando rides his personal motorcycle, a 1952 Triumph Thunderbird, in the movie "The Wild One"


Tiger 110 (T110) announced - very high performance (8.5:1 pistons), sporty version of the Thunderbird (42bhp compared to the Tbird's 34). It's Triumph's fastest motorcycle to date, nicknamed the "Tiger-Bird" in the USA. Swinging arm rear suspension is used on Tigers 100 and 110 (but not the entire line). 200cc Tiger Cub T20 announced (replacing the 150cc Terrier version by 1957), "Tigerized" with a twin seat. The sprung hub, introduced in 1939, ends production (to almost everyone's relief). The 6T gets an alternator, swinging fork suspension and bigger bearings. A 6T/AC model includes AC ignition and lighting. Folding kickstands are standard with all models.


Johnny Allen clocks 193mph (3l0kph) on Bonneville Salt Flats, in a 650cc Triumph powered streamliner.

The TR6 Trophy is produced: 650cc, built to suite AMA desert racing regulations. This is the first true "American" Triumph model. The first models were T110 Sports engines in a TR5 chassis. The top speed was 105 mph.


The introduction of the 46bhp 650cc T120 Bonneville twin, however the model isn't featured in the company's catalogue. It is basically a Tiger 110 twin (42bhp) fitted with splayed inlet ports, single-piece camshaft and twin Amal carbs but no air filters. The Bonneville was destined to become one of the greatest motorcycles of all time. Its name commemorated the world record run and the model was an immediate and long lasting success. However, despite American pressure to release a twin-carb 650, the first model, with its nacelle and heavy mudguards is not popular in America. Tricor wanted a sportier look. A special twin-carb trophy - TR7A - is also released this year.


Steve McQueen rides a TR6 in movie "The Great Escape." Bud Elkins, also on a TR6 is the stuntman that jumps the fence in the movie and did it successfully on the first take.

All models get a modified head angle and floating brake shoe. The TR6SC "Desert Sled" Trophy Special is made for the US market until 1966.


Doug Hele joins Triumph from Norton and takes over the experimental department.

Hele redesigns the Triumph frames for better stability and torsional stiffness.


Tiger 90, high performance 350 3TA introduced, similar to T100S/S. All 650s, (including Bonnies, Tbirds, TR6, Trophy) are built with a new unit construction engine/gear box.

Tina T10, 100cc scooter with automatic transmission introduced (designed by Turner).

The US-only TR6SC, a pure desert racer with straight pipes, was produced: basically a single-carb T120, very fast. 650s all get new coil ignition.

First year for T120 unit construction models.

The Bonnie undergoes numerous and significant upgrades to its engine, gearbox, transmission and frame.


Tiger Cubs are supplied to the French Army, using T20S/H Sports Cub specially adapted.

Prototype triple engine tested in Bonneville chassis. Sturgeon sees the triple as the group's response to large-capacity Japanese bikes. All 650 twins got new forks and a modified rear brake.


The Bonneville Speedmaster T120R and Highway Trophy TR6SR introduced for US market.


The twin carburetor 500cc Tiger 100 Daytona (T100T) is introduced to celebrate their 1966 victory. Gary Nixon wins the Daytona 200 on a Tiger 100.

28,700 Triumphs are sold in the USA, mostly Bonnevilles, but about 30 per cent were Trophies (TR6). This was the peak year for Triumph exports to the USA, selling 24,700 machines for 7.5 million pounds.

Triumph releases T100R Daytona Super Sports, first twin-carb 500cc machine since the pre-unit T5RAD. Also releases T120/R road model.


Late summer announcement of a three-cylinder 750cc Trident T150; 58bhp, 125mph (201kph), designed by Hopwood, Hele and Wickes. It was the first, modern, multi-cylinder production motorcycle. It had a four-speed gearbox. It was nicknamed "Tiger 100-and-a-half." The Trident/BSA Rocket-3 was the first cooperative venture by BSA and Triumph since the companies were amalgamated in 1951.


Tridents take the top three qualifying speeds at Daytona with a highest speed of 165.44 mph. Tridents win the second and third place in the race.


Craig Vetter's triple is put into production in June, a BSA engine with his American styling, but as BSA was in its death throes, the tank badges were changed to Triumph and it was called the X75 Hurricane.


BSA Group merged in July in a government-encouraged "shotgun wedding" with Norton-Villiers as Norton-Villiers-Triumph.


Trident NT160 electric-start model announced. In March, Meriden workers' cooperative started manufacturing of 750cc Bonnies and TR7V Tigers resumes in Meriden

Tiger and Bonnie are made with left-hand shift pedals for US market to meet new American legislation. Right-hand shifts were still available as factory modifications - at extra cost.


Only two models are made this year: T140V and TR7RV, both 750cc, five-speeds. The last batch of T160s are made for the Cardinal Police Service. New models also have to satisfy new and stringent US legislation under the Environmental Protection Agency.


The limited edition Silver Jubilee T140V is made to commemorate Queen Elizabeth's 25 years on the throne. The Silver Jubilee is a T140 Bonnie with cast alloy wheels and special finish.1,000 for UK, 1,000 for the US, and about 400 more made for export later.


Model T140E Bonnie comes in American (small tank and high bars) and European (low bars, large tank, replacing the T140V) models. T140D Special has alloy wheels. Electronic ignition is introduced. The Bonnie wins the "Machine of the Year" award in Britain's Motor Cycle News (MCN).


The British government writes off 8.4 million pounds owed by Triumph, but still leaves company owing two million to Britain's Export Credit Guarantee Dept. Triumph would experiment with several designs, none able to stop the decline.


Production of Bonneville was discontinued at Meriden when the firm went into liquidation in the fall.

John Bloor, a 53-year-old wealthy English property developer and builder, becomes interested in the Meriden factory site for development. He rescues Triumph by buying the name and all manufacturing rights, becoming the sole proprietor of Triumph Motorcycles Limited.

To keep Triumph in continuous production, Bloor licenses Les Harris, of Racing Spares, in Newton Abbott, Devon, to continue to produce the Bonneville in small numbers for five years, 1983-1988.


Meriden factory is demolished, and the site acquired for a housing estate, which still retains a link to Triumph's history by using Bonneville and Daytona in road names.


The first new Triumph engine - a 1200cc four cylinder


Triumph lives again. At the Cologne Motor Cycle Show, six new Triumph models are shown, powered by three- and four-cylinder DOHC engines with high horsepower and torque, all liquid-cooled: Trident 750 and 900; Trophy 900 and 1200; Daytona 750 and 1000. 2,390 machines are sold this year, 974 into the UK.

Triumph's new factory in Hinckley, Leicestershire, is completed on an 11-acre site. The company has around 50 employees, producing about five bikes a day.


This year saw the introduction of in-house painting and plating - a huge investment to back the place of Triumph as a quality product. All engine and frame components were treated to an epoxy powder coat in graphite for Sprint and Trophy, and wrinkle black for Trident and Daytona models. The Sprint and Daytonas were also restyled with lighter rear bodywork and solid colors.


Founding of "Triumph Motorcycles of America" completes the return of Triumph to the largest market in the world. Cascade Moto Classics, in Tigard, Oregon (original location) is awarded a Triumph dealership under the new dealer network.

Triumph re-enters the competition ring with the introduction of the "Speed Triple Challenge Race" in Donnington Park in England. At the Cologne show Triumph launches the much-awaited Thunderbird with its nostalgia styling and detuned (70bhp) engine. The engine castings were also new and the frame substantially modified: a ground-up redesign of the T309 standard to meet a particular set of design objectives, within the limits of modular production.

The Tiger is introduced: a new direction for Triumph and the first use of a plastic tank on a Triumph, plus the most sophisticated suspension on any Triumph ever.


Triumph enters the US market again for the first time since the close of the Meriden Cooperative.

Triumph buys back UK dispatcher Andy Utting's 1992 Trident after 250,000 miles. Although the engine was hardly touched in that time, Utting went through 30 pair of tires, 120 oil changes, 24 sets of brake pads, two speedometer cables and 14 chain and sprocket sets. In exchange, he got a new Daytona 900. The workforce is up to 300 this year and production was around 12,000 units a year.


Total production passes 50,000 this year. More than 11,000 motorcyclists have toured the Hinckley factory since it opened in 1990. Triumph has about 350 employees working two shifts, from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., producing around 80 bikes a day for 35 countries around the world.


After a 12 year absence from the Triumph line-up, Triumph reintroduces the Bonneville with a re-engineered 790cc 360 degree crank parallel twin.

In the following several years Triumph would also introduce two other motorcycles based on the basic Bonneville that would have a "retro" look to them; the Thruxton, a cafe racing style bike based on the late 1960s style street racers in England; The Scrambler, an enduro style bike based on the street/dirt racing bikes of the mid-late 1960s in the United States.


Along with the 100th Anniversary of Triumph Motorcycles, Triumph also enters the cruiser market hard and heavy in 2002 with the introduction of the Bonneville America (in 2003 the name is shortened to America), a laid back relaxed cruiser with the same motor as the Bonneville (with the exception of a 270 degree crank). In 2003 Triumph introduces a leaner, meaner and sportier version of the America and calls it the Speedmaster. Destined to be all time classics, as they reflect the heritage of past Triumphs, especially the 1937 Speed Twin. Both the Speedmaster and America would continue to be an essential mainstay of Triumph and fierce competition in the American cruiser market as well as world wide.


In 2004 Triumph shocks the motorcycling world with the world's largest production motorcycle, the Rocket III. Like the BSA Rocket 3, 35 years earlier, it features a three cylinder motor. However, this three cylinder is a 2300cc inline three that produces 147 ft. lbs. of torque and 142 bhp. The Rocket III, has set the world land speed record for a production motorcycle over 2000cc reaching it's electronically set limiter of 140.3 mph.


Triumph introduced the Daytona 675. It is 675cc parallel triple that produces 53 ft. lbs. of torque and 123 bhp. The Daytona was named "Motorcycle of The Year" three years in a row in several magazines world wide. as well as being a hit with motorcycle racers as it competes extremely well with other bikes from around the world with minimal adjusting.


Led by the perennial favorites, the Speedmaster and America cruisers, as well as the iconic Bonneville and award-winning Daytona 675 sportsbike, Triumph is the best selling brand of motorcycle in Australia according to 2007 sales figures released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.


Because of world wide government environmental regulations, all parallel twin motors are phased over to fuel injection from carburetors.


Triumph commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Bonneville with a special anniversary model. Only 650 bikes are built (matching the displacement of the original Bonneville in 1959).

Triumph releases their latest incarnation of the Thunderbird (as a 2010 model), a 1600 CC parallel twin cruiser. It is named Motorcycle of the Year by several magazines.


Triumph celebrates the 20 year anniversary of the Hinckley Factory.

Cascade Moto Classics in Beaverton, Oregon receives the award for being the overall best dealer of the last 15 years in North America (1994-2009).


Triumph releases the Tiger 800 and Tiger 800XC to compete against the BMW 800 dual sport motorcycles. Over the next several years, the Triumphs out sell the BMW equivalents 2 to 1.


Triumph Motorcycles celebrates 110 years of continuous motorcycle production.


Replacing the outdated Sprint, Triumph brings back the Trophy model name. The Trophy SE features a 1215cc 3-cylinder and shaft drive.


Due to increasing government regulations and restrictions, Triumph begins to phase out the air cooled parallel twin engines and introduces two new water cooled parallel twin engines. The first three motorcycles with the new motors are the 900cc Bonneville Street Twin, the 1200cc Bonneville T129 and newly redesigned 1200cc Thruxton. The last two remaining Triumph Motorcycles with air cooled engines are the Speedmaster and the America.

2016 and Beyond

Triumph Motorcycles continues to be the last and only all British owned and run vehicle manufacturer in the world.

Triumph Motorcycles is also the oldest continuous production motorcycle company in the world.

Triumph History provided courtesy of Triumph Connection

Model range


A range of new 750 cc and 900 cc triple-cylinder bikes and 1000 cc and 1200 cc four-cylinder bikes were launched at the September 1990 Cologne Motorcycle Show. The motorcycles used famous model names from the glory days of Meriden Triumph and were first made available to the public between March (Trophy 1200 being the first) and September 1991. All used a modular liquid-cooled DOHC engine design in a common large diameter steel backbone frame. The modular design was to ensure that a variety of models could be offered whilst keeping production costs under control—an idea originally put forward, in air-cooled form, in the early 1970s by Bert Hopwood but not implemented by the then BSA-Triumph company.

The first models, known generically as the T300s, all used a common piston diameter (76 mm) in a common wet cylinder liner. Basic engine variations were achieved through the use of two specifications of piston stroke: 65 mm to create individual cylinder capacity of 300 cc, and 55mm to create a 250 cc individual cylinder. Two 750 cc models were released – and the Daytona and Trident 750 triples (3 x 250 cc). There was one 1000 cc model – the Daytona 1000 four (4 x 250 cc). Two 900 cc models were the Trophy 900 and Trident 900 triples (3 x 300 cc). The Trophy 1200 four was the largest model (4 x 300 cc). All were remarkably smooth running. The three cylinder models were equipped with a contra-rotating balance shaft mounted at the front of the engine. The four cylinder models benefitted from twin balance shafts – unique at the time – mounted beneath the crank shaft. Contemporary road tests noted the solidity and smoothness of performance as positives but the weight of the machines as negatives. For brand new machines produced by a totally new concern, there were remarkably few early problems. These were an insecure oil pressure switch and a longer-lived problem with the starter (orsprag clutch). The cosmetic finish on the first machines was simple and not very robust. Revisions to crankcases for the three-cylinder models in 1993, together with a move to high pressure casting, reduced engine weight considerably. All painting and plating operations were brought in house in 1993, as the Hinckley factory benefitted from further investment after the initial success of the range. The result was improved quality and durability of finish, added to the basic engineering integrity of the engine and chassis, made for a long-lasting and robust motorcycle.

The range was largely revised in 1997 with the release of the T500 range, followed by a light-weight four-cylinder 600 cc sports TT600. The 600 was a major design departure and initially received a poor press: "unpleasant at low revs due to a lethargic and unpredictable throttle response, with anonymous styling". As sales built, the big fours were phased out of the lineup and parallel twins and triples became the marketing and development focus of Triumph's marketing strategy. Triumph also decided to exploit demand for retro motorcycles with modern engineering. The Triumph Thunderbird 900exploited the styling cues of the 'old' Triumph's legendary designer, Edward Turner whilst retaining the modern triple engine. The 790 and 865 cc versions of the Triumph Bonneville and Thruxton look and sound original but internally they have modern valves and counterbalance shafts.

For their contemporary range, the triple is Hinckley Triumph's trademark, filling a niche between European and American twins and four-cylinder Japanese machinery. The 2,294 cc (140.0 cu in) triple Rocket III cruiser was introduced in 2004. The first 300 Rocket III models were already sold before they were produced, and there was a long waiting list for Rockets into 2005.

On 21 July 2008, Triumph held a Global Dealer Conference where new models for 2009 were launched, including the official announcement of the parallel twin-cylinder Thunderbird.

Triumph's best selling bike is the 675 cc Street Triple. In 2010 they launched the Triumph Tiger 800 and Tiger 800 XC, dual-sport motorcycles, which uses an 800 cc engine derived from the Street Triple, and is designed to compete directly with the market leading BMW F800GS. In 2012, the Tiger 800 was joined by the shaft-driven Triumph Tiger Explorer.

Here is an example of model families around 2015–2016 and their classes

  • Adventure & Touring
    • Trophy SE ABS
    • Tiger 800 Family
    • Trophy Family
  • Cruisers
    • America & Speedmaster Family
    • Rocket III Family
    • Thunderbird Family
  • Modern Classics
    • Bonneville
    • Bonneville T120 Family
    • Street Twin
    • Thruxton Family
    • Scrambler
  • Roadsters & Supersports
    • Daytona 675 Family
    • Speed Triple Family
    • Street Triple Family

Triple Connection & celebrity marketing

In 1995, the Triple Connection clothing range and the accessories range of products were launched. Triumph made a commercial decision to design all their own motorcycle clothing rather than license other producers. In the 21st century, Triumph marketed lines of clothing highlighting their association with celebrities strongly associated with the old Triumph marque such as Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan, James Dean, Elvis Presley and particularly,Steve McQueen, for whom the company named a special edition of their Bonneville motorcycle.

Triumph Engineering Co Ltd

Known as the Meriden, West Midlands, UK era, 1902–1983.


A new company,Triumph Motorcycles Ltd based in Hinckley gained the name rights after the end of the company in the 1980s and is now one of the world's major motorcycle manufacturers.

Industry Motorcycles
Fate Bankrupt
Successor Triumph Motorcycles Ltd
Founded 1885
Defunct 23 August 1983
Headquarters Meriden, England

Key people

Jack Sangster
Edward Turner Val Page
Products List of Triumph motorcycles


The company was started by Siegfried Bettmann, who had emigrated from Nuremberg, part of the German Empire, to Coventry in England in 1893. In 1884, aged 20, Bettmann had founded his own company, the S. Bettmann & Co. Import Export Agency, in London. Bettmann's original products were bicycles, which the company bought and then sold under its own name. Bettmann also distributed sewing machines imported from Germany.

In 1886, Bettmann sought a more specific name, and the company became known as the Triumph Cycle Company. A year later, the company was registered as theNew Triumph Co. Ltd, now with funding from the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company. During that year, another native of Nuremberg, Moritz Schulte, joined the company as a partner.

Schulte encouraged Bettmann to transform Triumph into a manufacturing company, and in 1888 Bettmann purchased a site in Coventry using money lent by his and Schulte's families. The company began producing the first Triumph-branded bicycles in 1889. In 1896 Triumph also opened a bicycle factory in Nuremberg.

In 1898 Triumph decided to extend production at Coventry to include motorcycles, and by 1902 the company had produced its first motorcycle — a bicycle fitted with a Belgian Minerva engine. In 1903, after selling more than 500 motorcycles, Triumph began motorcycle production at the Nuremberg factory. During the first few years the company based its designs on those of other manufacturers, but in 1904 Triumph began building motorcycles based on its own designs, and 1905 saw the first entirely in-house designed motorcycle. By the end of that year, the company had produced more than 250.

In 1907, after the company opened a larger plant, it produced 1,000 machines. Triumph had also initiated a lower-end brand, Gloria, also manufactured in the company's original plant.

Confusion between motorcycles produced by the Coventry and Nuremberg Triumph companies resulted in the latter's products being renamed Orial for certain export markets. However, a company named Orial already existed in France, so the Nuremberg motorcycles were renamed again as "TWN", standing for Triumph Werke Nürnberg.


The beginning of World War I was a boost for the company as production was switched to provide for the Allied war effort. More than 30,000 motorcycles—among them the Model H Roadster also known as the "Trusty Triumph", often cited as the first modern motorcycle—were supplied to the Allies.

After the war, Bettmann and Schulte disagreed about planning, with Schulte wishing to replace bicycle production with cars. Schulte ended his association with the company, but during the 1920s Triumph purchased the former Hillman company car factory in Coventry and produced a saloon car in 1923 under the name of theTriumph Motor Company. Harry Ricardo produced an engine for their latest motorbike.

By the mid-1920s Triumph had become one of Britain's main motorcycle and car makers, with a 500,000 square feet (46,000 m2) plant capable of producing as many as 30,000 motorcycles and cars each year. Triumph also found its bicycles demanded overseas, and export sales became a primary source of the company's revenues, although for the United States, Triumph models were manufactured by license. The company's first automotive success was the Super Seven model, which debuted in 1928. Soon after, the Super Eight model was developed.


When the Great Depression began in 1929, Triumph sold its German subsidiary as a separate, independently owned company, which later merged with the Adler company to become Triumph-Adler Company. The Nuremberg company continued to manufacture motorcycles as TWN (Triumph Werke Nürnberg) until 1957. In 1932, Triumph sold another part of the company, its bicycle manufacturing facility to Raleigh Bicycle Company. By then, Triumph had been struggling financially, and Bettmann had been forced out of the job of chairman. He retired completely in 1933.

In 1936, the company's two components became separate companies. Triumph always struggled to make a profit from cars, and after becoming bankrupt in 1939 was acquired by the Standard Motor Company. The motorcycle operations fared better, having been acquired in 1936 by Jack Sangster, who also owned the rivalAriel motorcycle company. That same year, the company began its first exports to the United States, which quickly grew into the company's single most important market. Sangster formed the Triumph Engineering Co Ltd. largely directed by ex-Ariel employees, including Edward Turner who designed the 500 cc 5T Triumph Speed Twin—released in September 1937, and the basis for all Triumph twins until the 1980s. Contrary to popular belief, however, this was not Triumph's first parallel twin. The first was the Val Page designed model 6/1, introduced in 1933. This first twin performed well as a racer but was ultimately unpopular with the public and did not sell well. After Turner arrived, with his usual brusque manner, the 6/1 ended, later to be replaced with Turner's design. The 6/1 engine was later reused, somewhat modified, as the BSA A10. In 1939, the 500 cc Tiger T100, capable of 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), was released, and then the war began.


Motorcycles were produced at Coventry until World War II. The town of Coventry was virtually destroyed by the Coventry Blitz (7 September 1940 to May 1941). Tooling and machinery was recovered from the site of the devastation and production restarted at the new plant at Meriden, West Midlands in 1942.


The Triumph Speed Twin designed by Edward Turner before the war was produced in large numbers after the war. Efforts to settle the lend-lease debts caused nearly 70% of Triumph's post war production to be shipped to the United States. Post War, the Speed Twin and Triumph Tiger 100 were available with a sprung rear hub, Triumph's first attempt at a rear suspension.

Privateers put wartime surplus alloy barrels on their Tiger 100 racers, and won races, inspiring the Triumph GP model. By 1950 the supply of barrels was exhausted, and the GP model was ended. The American market applied considerable demand to reverse this action, and a die cast close finned alloy barrel was made available. The alloy head made the valve noise more obvious, so ramp type cams were introduced for alloy head models to reduce the noise.

Another motorcycle based on the wartime generator engine was the 498 cc TR5 Trophy Twin, also introduced at the 1948 Motor Cycle Show. It used a single carburettor, low compression version of the Grand Prix engine. Britain won the prestigious 1948 International Six Days Trial. The Triumph works team had finished unpenalised. One team member, Allan Jefferies, had been riding what amounted to a prototype version.

To satisfy the American demand for motorcycles suited to long distance riding, Turner built a 650 cc version of the Speed Twin design. The new bike was named the Thunderbird (a name Triumph would later license to the Ford Motor Company for use for a car model). Only one year after the Thunderbird was introduced, a motorcyclist in Southern California mated the 650 Thunderbird with a twin carb head intended originally for GP racing and named the new creation the Wonderbird. That 650 cc motor, designed in 1939, had the world's absolute speed record for motorcycles from 1955 until 1970.

The Triumph brand received considerable publicity in the United States when Marlon Brando rode a 1950 Thunderbird 6T in the 1953 motion picture, The Wild One.

The Triumph Motorcycle concern was sold to their rivals Birmingham Small Arms Company by Sangster in 1951. This sale included Sangster becoming a member of the BSA board. Sangster was to become Chairman of the BSA Group in 1956.

The production 650 cc Thunderbird (6T) was a low-compression tourer, and the 500 cc Tiger 100 was the performance motorcycle. That changed in 1954, with the change to swing arm frames, and the release of the alloy head 650 cc Tiger 110, eclipsing the 500 cc Tiger 100 as the performance model.

In 1959, the T120, a tuned double carburettor version of the Triumph Tiger T110, came to be known as the Bonneville. As Triumph and other marques gained market share, Harley became aware that their 1 litre-plus motorcycles were not as sporty as modern riders would like, resulting in a decreasing share of the market. The Triumphs were models for a new, "small" Harley-Davidson as a result: the now-fabled Harley-Davidson Sportster, which started as Harley's version of a Triumph Bonneville. With its anachronistic V-twin, the Sportster was no match for the Bonneville, but it proved a solid competitor in US sales and eventually also in longevity.

During the 1960s, despite internal opposition from those who believed that it would reduce the macho image of the brand, Triumph produced two scooters; the Triumph Tina, a small and low-performance 2-stroke scooter of about 100 cc with automatic clutch and a handlebar carry basket, and the Triumph Tigress, a more powerful scooter available with either a 175 cc 2-stroke single or a 250 cc 4-stroke twin engine for the enthusiast.

In 1962, the last year of the "pre-unit" models, Triumph used a frame with twin front down-tubes, but returned to a traditional Triumph single front downtube for the unit construction models that ensued. The twin down tube, or duplex frame, was used for the 650 twins, as a result of frame fractures on the Bonneville. Introduced in 1959, for the 1960 model year, it soon needed strengthening, and was ended in 1962, with the advent of the unit engines for the 650 range. The 3TA (21) was the first unit construction twin, soon followed by the short-stroke, 490 cc "500" range.

From 1963 all Triumph engines were of unit construction.

In 1969 Malcolm Uphill, riding a Bonneville, won the Isle of Man Production TT race with a race average of 99.99 miles per hour (160.92 km/h) per lap, and recorded the first ever more than 100 miles per hour (161 km/h) lap by a production motorcycle at 100.37 miles per hour (161.53 km/h). For many Triumph fans, the 1969 Bonneville was the best Triumph model ever.

American sales had already maximised, in 1967. In truth, the demand for motorcycles was increasing, but Triumph could not supply the demand.

During the 1960s, 60% of all Triumph production was exported, which, along with the BSA's 80% exports, made the group susceptible to the Japanese expansion. By 1969 fully 50% of the US market for motorcycles more than 500 cc belonged to Triumph, but technological advances at Triumph had failed to match those of the foreign companies. Triumphs lacked electric start mechanisms, relied on push-rods rather than overhead cams, vibrated noticeably, often leaked oil, and had antiquated electrical systems; while Japanese marques such as Honda were building more advanced features into attractive new motorcycles that sold for less than their British competitors. Triumph motorcycles, as a result, were nearly obsolete even when they were new. Further, Triumph's manufacturing processes were very labour-intensive and largely inefficient. Also disastrous, during the early 1970s the US government mandated that all motorcycle imports must have their gearshift and brake pedals in the Japanese configuration, which required expensive retooling of all the motorcycles for US sale.

The British marques were badly equipped to compete against the massive financial resources of Japanese heavy industries that targeted competitors for elimination via long-term plans much subsidized by the Japanese government. Triumph and BSA were well aware of Honda's ability but while the Japanese were only making smaller engined models, the large engine market was considered safe. When the first Honda 750 cc four cylinder was released for sale to the public, Triumph and BSA had trouble. Despite developing and releasing a 3-cylinder 750 cc engined motorcycle prior to the Japanese fours: theBSA Rocket 3/Triumph Trident, the Japanese bikes were praised in the press for their modernity (disc brakes, 4-cylinder engines, leak-free engine casings, etc.) The British triples outperformed the Japanese fours (top speed, acceleration, and handling) but the Japanese fours required less maintenance and they didn't leak.

The 1970 Tiger/Bonneville re-design and taller twin front downtube oil tank frame had a mixed reception from Triumph enthusiasts at the time, and was insufficient to win back those already riding the Japanese bikes that had been vended since 1969; the Honda 750 Four, and the Kawasaki 500 Mach 3. The Triumph 350 cc Bandit received pre-publicity, but its development was quietly brought to an end. Triumph was still making motorcycles, but they no longer looked like the motorcycles Triumph fans expected. The Trident attracted its own market, but the Japanese motorcycles were improving more rapidly.

The parent BSA group had losses of £8.5 million in 1971, £3 million for BSA motorcycles alone. The British government became involved. The company was sold to Manganese Bronze Holdings, which also owned Norton, AJS, Matchless, Francis-Barnett, James-Velocette and Villiers.


After the BSA group went bankrupt in 1972, Dennis Poore, the chairman of Norton-Villiers (a subsidiary of Manganese Bronze Holdings) was induced by government aid to assume control of BSA/Triumph. Norton and BSA/Triumph were merged under the umbrella of a new company, Norton Villiers Triumph (NVT). Poore was made NVT Group chairman and put in charge, even though Norton had produced far fewer bikes than the once-mighty BSA/Triumph.

Poore then held consultations with factory personnel to propose consolidation plans he thought necessary to compete with the Japanese. In September 1973 he announced that the Meriden factory was to close in February 1974, with 3,000 employees out of 4,500 being made redundant. Concerned about unemployment and losing their products to a rival factory, the workers at the Meriden factory demonstrated against the proposed relocation to Small Heath, Birmingham, the BSA site and staged a sit-in for two years. With political aid of the newly elected Labour government and, in particular, the then-minister for Trade and Industry, Tony Benn, the Meriden worker's co-operative was formed, supplying Triumph 750 cc motorcycles to its sole customer, NVT.


After the collapse of NVT in 1977, the co-operative bought the marketing rights for Triumph with more government loans, later becoming Triumph Motorcycles (Meriden) Limited. The venture, with only two 750 cc models, the Bonneville and Tiger, started well with a successful variant, the 1977 Silver Jubilee Bonneville T140J and by 1978 was the best selling European motorcycle in the vital USA market.

Emissions-compliant models during 1978 and 1979 such as the alloy-wheeled Triumph T140D Bonneville Special and T140E Bonneville were introduced to the dominant USA market, but the strong UK pound made these bikes prohibitively expensive and they failed to sell in significant numbers. Moreover, despite updates such as electric starting and a faired Triumph Bonneville Executive T140EX with luggage, by 1980 Meriden's debt was £2 million—additionally more than the earlier £5 million loan. In October 1980, the new Conservative British government wrote off £8.4 million owed but still left the company owing £2 million to Britain's Export Credits Guarantee Department.

Meriden introduced several new models such as the dual purpose TR7T Tiger Trail and budget 650 cc Triumph TR65 Thunderbird during its last years but none were able to stop the decline, worsened by a UK recession and a continuing strong pound harming sales to the US. However, the Triumph Royal Wedding T140LE Bonneville celebrating HRH the Prince of Wales' nuptials was a popular collector's item for 1981 and that year a 750 cc TR7T Tiger Trail won the Rallye des Pyrénées on/off road rally. Large orders for police motorcycles from Nigeria and Ghana were won at critical moments thereby saving the firm during 1981 and 1982 respectively. 1982 was the last year of "full" production, with the custom-styled Triumph T140 TSX and 8-valve Triumph T140W TSS model initiated—although a porous cylinder head made by external contractors and insufficient development quickly eroded the latter's initial market popularity.

In 1983, the debt-ridden company briefly considered buying the bankrupt Hesketh Motorcycles, and even badged one as a marketing trial. Despite also touting a 900cc prototype water-cooled twin at the 1983 National Exhibition Show to attract outside investment, Triumph Motorcycles (Meriden) Ltd itself became bankrupt on 23 August 1983.


Triumph Motorcycles (Hinckley) Ltd is the largest surviving British motorcycle manufacturer. When Triumph went into receivership in 1983, John Bloor, a former plasterer who acquired his wealth from building and property development, became interested in keeping the brand alive, and bought the name and manufacturing rights from the Official Receiver. The new company, initially Bonneville Coventry Ltd, ensured that Triumph has produced motorcycles since 1902, winning it the title of the world's longest continuous production motorcycle manufacturer. A licensing agreement granted to pattern spares manufacturer, Les Harris, kept the Triumph Bonneville in production until 1988 until Triumph re-initiated a new range during 1990 and 1991. Triumph now makes a range of motorcycles reviving model names of the past, including a newly designed Bonneville twin.


Model Engine Years Notes
First model   1902-1904 used Minerva, JAP and Fafnir engines
Second Model 3 hp 1905 Triumph used their own engine for the first time, 250 were made
Model 474 cc 1908-1909 production up to 3000 in 1909
Model Roadster 500 cc 1910-1913 single speed, optional rear hub clutch as the 'free engine' model
Model C 550 cc 1913-1914 Three speed Sturmey Archer rear wheel hub
Model TT 500 cc 1909-1914 short wheelbase and no pedals. Types, D,F and K
Model H 550 cc 1915-1926 Fitted with a three speed Sturmey Archer gearbox
Model SD 550 cc 1920-1926 The SD(Spring Drive)SV, three speed Triumph gearbox
Model R 500 cc 1921-1926 Designed by Harry Ricardo. OHV with a 4 valve head
Model P 500 cc 1925–1926 made down to the price of £42.17.6
XO 150 cc ohv 1933  
2/1 & 2/L1 (Light Weight) 250 cc ohv single 1934-1936  
6/1 650 cc 1933-1935 Parallel twin. Predates the "Turner Twins". Scrapped when Turner came in, the design later resurfaced, modified, as the BSA A10.
2H, 2H, 3S, 3SC, 3SE, 3H, 5H, 6S,   1937-1940  
Tiger 70 249 cc ohv single 1937-1940  
Tiger 80 349 cc ohv single 1937-1940  
Tiger 90 497 cc ohv single 1937-1940  
5T Speed Twin 498 cc ohv 1937-40,1946–58 parallel twin
Tiger 100 498 cc ohv 1938-40,1946–59  
2HC 250 cc ohv 1938-1939 C stands for coil ignition


Model Engine Years Notes
Triumph Grand Prix 500 cc OHV 500 cc 1947–9 Used an all alloy stationary engine, designed to power military generators during the war.
TR5 Trophy 500 cc 1949–1958 Competition bike winner of ISDT Trophy for 4 years
Triumph TRW500 500 cc 1950–1964 Side valve military production motorcycle
6T Thunderbird 650 cc twin    
3TA or Triumph Twenty One 350 cc (i.e. 21 cubic inches) 1957–1966 First 350 cc unit construction machine and debut of the distinctive "bath-tub". Alternator electrical system.
5TA or Triumph Speed Twin 500 cc 1957–1966 First 500 cc 'unit construction' machine. Alternator electrical system.
T90 350 cc 1963–1969 "Tiger 90", sports version of the 3TA (still single carburettor). (Note, there'd been an earlier Tiger 90, a 500 cc in 1937).
T100 500 cc 1959 Sports version of the 5T "Speed Twin"
T100A   1960–1961 Sports version of the 5TA, first Tiger with 'unit construction', 'bathtub' rear enclosure
T100SS   1962-1968? Sports version of the 5TA
T100S Tiger Sports      
T100R Daytona 500 cc 1966–1974 Road version of the racing twin. Built as an answer to Honda's 444 cc Black Bomber. Tested at 110+mph, topped 150 in race trim.
T110 Tiger 650 cc   Sports model capable of 110 mph
TR5T Adventurer/Trophy Trail 500 cc 1972–1974 On/off road style
TR25W Trophy 250 250 cc 1968-1970 Single-cylinder engine based on the BSA B25 Starfire (not the Tiger Cub).
T100C Trophy 500 cc 1958-? First use of twin carb splayed head, later used on T120
TR6 Trophy 650 cc 1956–1968
TR6C Trophy 650 cc   C is the 'Competition' Model. High pipes on left side. Frequently referred to as desert sleds when used for racing in the Western US. Lower overall gear ratios.
TR6R Tiger 650 cc 1969-72 R is "Road" Model. Trophy renamed Tiger for the 650cc single carb as distinguished from the twin carb of the Bonneville (TR120) 650cc. 500cc Tiger single carb renamed Trophy.
TR7V Tiger 750 cc thru78 Almost identical to the T140; differentiated by the Tiger having a single (as opposed to twin) carburettor. Other differences being cosmetic. "V" identifies 5 speed gearbox.
Terrier 150 cc    
Tiger Cub 200 cc 1954–1968 Single-cylinder based on the Terrier.
T120 Bonneville 650 cc   Descended directly from the Tiger 110. Twin Carburettor.
Thruxton Bonneville   Built May 1965 Production racer (52 total machines built)
T140 Bonneville 750 cc 1973-1983 Produced at the Meriden factory and after its closure, for a short time in Devon.
Tina Scooter (later T 10) 100 cc 1962–1970 Re-designated "T10" in 1965.
Tigress Scooter 175 cc 2-stroke / 250 cc 4-stroke 1959–1965  
T140W TSS 750 cc   8-valve head
T140D Bonneville Special 750 cc   Custom style
T140E 750 cc   Emissions-controlled
Triumph T140 TSX     Custom style
TS8-1     Show prototype anti-vibration 8 valve
Bonneville Executive     faired tourer with luggage
Triumph TR65 Thunderbird 650 cc   T140 derivative, 76x71.5 giving 649 short stroke engine
TR7T Tiger Trail 750c   On/off road style
TR65T Tiger Trail 650 cc   On/off road style with TR65 engine
T140LE Royal Wedding Bonneville 750 cc 1981 250 of these to commemorate the Prince of Wales' marriage
T140J Bonneville Silver Jubilee 750 cc 1977 2500 of these commemorated Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom's Silver Jubilee
T140AV, TR7AV,TSSAV     Anti-Vibration police models
TR7VS Tiger Electro     Electric start
T140ES Bonneville Electro     Electric start
TR6 Thunderbird 600 cc   Show prototype custom style
Daytona 600 600 cc   Show prototype
TSX8     Show prototype 8-valve custom style


For full detail see BSA Rocket 3/Triumph Trident (for corresponding BSA models see BSA Triples)

Model First year Last year Notes
T150 1969 1972  
T150V 1971 1974 5-speed gearbox
X75 1973   The first production 'Custom' motorcycle–styled by Craig Vetter
T160 1975    

See also: Triumph Legend 741cc

From 1985 to 1988

  • Triumph Bonneville

Triumph Motorcycles Limited

Known as the Hinckley, Leicestershire era, 1990–.

Model Engine Years Notes
Daytona 750 748 cc 1990–1992 Triple with short-stroke crank fitted (900 has the long-throw crank). Aimed at Super sports market but more of a sports-tourer. Only circa 240 made. These are now very collectable.
Daytona 1000 998 cc 1990–1992 Sports bike using four-cylinder version of the short-stroke 750 Daytona/Trident engine
Trophy 900 885 cc 1990–2002 From 1995 it received a completely new (and much larger) fairing, designed by John Mockett, standard fit panniers and a new exhaust system with low slung silencers to allow the panniers to fit.
Trophy 1200 1180 cc 1990–2004 Initially 141 bhp sports tourer, using 4-cylinder long-stroke version of modular engine. From 1995 it received a completely new (and much larger) fairing, designed by John Mockett, standard fit panniers and a new exhaust system with low slung silencers to allow the panniers to fit. Engine retuned to 108 bhp with improved torque.
Trophy SE 1215 cc 2013- Full touring motorcycle, sharing its all-new (and shaft-driven) 1215 triple with the (Adventure styled) Tiger Explorer. Initially sold as a "basic" Trophy and an "SE" (the "basic" version was never available in the US), only the SE is currently listed.
Trident 750 748 cc   Naked version of short-stroke triple-engined bike.
Trident 900 885 cc   Naked version of long-stroke triple-engined bike.
Trident Sprint 900 885 cc   Standard Trident, fitted with very effective twin headlamp half fairing.
Sprint 900 885 cc   As above but, as model became well known in its own right, Triumph decided to drop the "Trident" part of the name. Facelifted in 1995 to include new (unique to the Sprint, at the time) side panels and tail light.
Sprint 900 Sport 885 cc   Sprint with improved suspension, higher pegs and exhausts (all taken from the, then current, speed triple) and lower bars (taken from the early Trophy). Probably the best mix of all parts from the initial modular range of Hinckley Triumphs.
Sprint 900 Executive 885 cc


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