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|Earliest known Triumph
Motorcycle Logo (1902).
Possibly made of pot
metal or a cloth patch.
|How this logo may look, if,
assembled using today's
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumph_Motorcycles_Ltd Triumph Motorcycles Limited
|How this logo may look, if,
assembled using today's
technology and in colour.
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|The company began in 1885 when Siegfried Bettmann emigrated to
Coventry in England from Nuremberg, part of the German Empire. In
1884 aged 20, Bettmann 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 brand name. Bettmann also distributed sewing machines
imported from Germany.
In 1886, Bettmann sought a more universal name, and the company
became known as the Triumph Cycle Company. A year later, the
company registered as the New Triumph Co. Ltd., now with financial
backing from the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company. In that year,
Bettmann was joined by another Nuremberg native, Moritz Schulte.
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 opened a factory in Nuremberg for cycle
production in Bettman's native city.
In 1898, Triumph decided to extend its own production to include
motorcycles and by 1902, the company had produced its first
motorcycle - a bicycle fitted with a Belgian Minerva engine. In 1903, as
its motorcycle sales topped 500, Triumph opened motorcycle
production at its unit in Germany. During its first few years producing
motorcycles, the company based its designs on those of other
manufacturers. In 1904, Triumph began building motorcycles based
on its own designs and in 1905 produced its first completely in-house
designed motorcycle. By the end of that year, the company had
produced more than 250 of that design.
In 1907, after the company opened a larger plant, production reached
1,000 machines. Triumph had also launched a second, lower-end
brand, Gloria, produced in the company's original plant.
Model H, the "Trusty Triumph", 57000 were made between 1915 and
1923 Confusion between motorcycles produced by the Coventry and
Nuremberg Triumph companies led to the latter's products being
renamed Orial for certain export markets. However there was already
an Orial company in France so the Nuremberg motorcycles were
renamed again as "TWN", standing for Triumph Werke Nürnberg.
World War I 1914-1918
The outbreak of World War I proved a boost for the company as
production was switched to support 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.
Bettmann and Schulte fell out after the war, with Schulte wishing to
replace bicycle production with cars. Schulte left the company, but in
the 1920s Triumph purchased the former Hillman car factory in
Coventry and produced a saloon car in 1923 under the name of the
Triumph Motor Company. Harry Ricardo produced an engine for their
By the mid-1920s Triumph had grown into one of Britain's leading
motorcycle and car makers, with a 500,000 square feet (46,000 m2)
plant capable of producing up to 30,000 motorcycles and cars each
year. Triumph also found its bikes in high demand overseas, and
export sales became a primary source of the company's revenues,
although for the United States, Triumph models were manufactured
under license. The company found its first automotive success with
the debut of the Super Seven car in 1928. Shortly after, the Super Eight
When the Great Depression hit in 1929, Triumph spun off its German
subsidiary as a separate, independently owned company, which
became part of the Triumph-Adler Company. The Nuremberg firm
continued to manufacture motorcycles as TWN (Triumph Werke
Nürnberg) until 1957. In 1932, Triumph sold off another part of the
company, its bicycle manufacturing facility to Raleigh. By then,
Triumph had been struggling financially, and Bettmann had been
forced out of the chairman's spot. 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 going 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 rival Ariel
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's formed the Triumph
Engineering Co Ltd largely led by ex-Ariel employees, including
Edward Turner who designed the 500 cc 5T 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. This honour falls to the Val Page designed, but
unpopular, 6/1. After Turner arrived, in his usual brusque manner, the
6/1 was dropped, later to be replaced with Turner's design. The 6/1
engine later resurfaced, 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.
World War II 1939-1945
Motorcycles were produced at Coventry until World War II. The town
of Coventry was virtually destroyed in 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 Triumphs 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.
Triumph Speed twin 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 dropped. The American market applied considerable
pressure to reverse this backward step, 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
499 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
To satisfy the American appetite 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 on a car). Only
one year after the Thunderbird was introduced a hot rodder in
Southern California mated the 650 Thunderbird with a twin carb head
originally intended for GP racing and named the new creation the
Wonderbird. That 650 cc motor, designed in 1939, held 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 BSA by
Sangster in 1951. This sale included Sangster becoming a member of
the BSA board. Sangster was to rise to the position of 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 bike. 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.
Triumph Tiger 100In 1959, the T120, a tuned double carburettor
version of the Triumph Tiger T110, came to be called the Bonneville.
As Triumph and other marques gained market share, Harley became
aware that their 1 litre-plus bikes were not as sporty as the modern
rider would like, resulting in a shrinking share of the market. The
Triumphs were models for a new, "small" Harley Davidson as a result:
the now-fabled Sportster, which started out 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.
In the 1960s, despite internal opposition from those who felt that it
would dilute the macho image of the brand, Triumph produced two
scooters; the Triumph Tina, a small and low performance 2-stroke
scooter of around 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
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 down tube for the unit construction models that followed.
The twin down tube, or duplex frame, was used on 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 dropped in
1962, with the advent of the unit engines for the 650 range. The 3TA
was the first unit construction twin, soon followed by the short-stroke,
490 cc "500" range.
Continued on Page 2, see below.