Triumph Motorcycle History

The Triumph brand lives on. Its history spans more than 100 years as an all English motorcycle brand … although it was founded by Germans 😀

Triumph motorcycles was founded by two Germans named Siegfried Bettman & Muaritz Shulte. Siegfried changed his old company name to Triumph, and the company was born in 1902. The first thing the two friends did was add a small Minerva engine to a bike – the first Triumph motorcycle. Later they designed their own engine.

Around the First World War Triumph developed the H model, followed by the Model R and the popular 1920s model P with a 500cc engine. Despite the high production of motorcycles during these times, Triumph hit financial problems in 1936 and was sold to Jack Sangster.

Jack Sangster appointed Edward Turner as manager, which turned out to be an excellent move. Edward managed to turn Triumph around by upgrading the old designs and renaming them to Tiger 70, Tiger 80, and Tiger 90.

In 1937 Edward launched the Speed Twin 500cc model, unleashing competition with then traditional single engines. A smart trick was that the engine of the Speed Twin fit nicely into the Tiger 90 frame. The overall pricing at the time wasn’t much more that the single models and the Speed Twin became a huge success.

Triumph upgraded the Tiger 90 to the Tiger 100 model, and together with the Speed Twin dominated the market for years. The Tiger 100 was said to be able to reach the 100 mph mark – a highlight at the time.

Once again the older models were updated and for the overseas market (USA) the Thunderbird model was introduced in 1950 with a 650cc engine (T-Bird was it’s nickname). Nine years later the famous Bonneville was launched from the development of the tiger 110. The Bonneville nickname came from the Bonneville salt flats where the modified model was timed at an amazing 214 mph (345 kph) in 1956. Unfortunately this record was never officially recognized.

The Bonneville model was updated many times over the next years, but kept most of it’s original design. By 1972 over 250,000 models had been sold. In 1969 the three cylinder T150 Trident was launched – a powerful (740cc) retro model. The frame used was that of a Speed Twin, adjusted for its time. The ride was said to be good, although not everybody liked the style in those days.

The triple cylinder engine used in the Trident was also used to Triumph X-75 Hurricane. A custom style bike which led the Japanese factories to their versions of custom bikes later on.

Between 1973 and 1983 the company had hard times keeping its head above water. Even a redesign of the Trident to a modern T160 Trident, which had a remarkably good reputation on the market, could not help the financially unstable Triumph. The company fought against high tech designs that rivals like Honda were producing. Triumph went into liquidation in 1983, and was subsequently bought by John Bloor.

Mr. Bloor decided to develop a new range of Triumph Motorcycles in secret before launching them. It took him 8 years to develop a range of 6 roadsters that could use many of the same components and had similar styling features — all major cost savers.

The base model to all the roadsters was the Trident model with a three cylinder 750cc or 885cc engine. The bikes used a strong frame with Japanese brakes and suspensions. The Trophy 1200 and Daytona 1000 were launched to great success.

In 1994 the street look bike was launched called the Speed Triple also the 885 cc engine. Carefully timed, Triumph launched a new Thunderbird model with a stylish retro look based on the 885cc triple engine. The old stylish look was a great success worldwide.

Have monitored the Japanese market closely for years, Triumph adjusted it’s modular building of motorcycles and developed the first purpose built model – the Daytona TT600. Triumph proved it could compete against the design of Japanese bikes with this successful range of models. The launch of the new 2003 model was even more stylish. Also, sports touring models were developed like the Sprint ST & RS.

John Bloor orchestrated a re-introduction of the super famous Bonneville. With a very similar look, Bloor introduced the Bonneville model to a new market who once again trusted the triumph brand name.