The Triumph Motor Company is a kaput British motor manufacturer with over 100 years of history. Triumph has always had a distinctive character and history of creating bikes that have become design classics since they first came to market in the 1900s. Like the rest of the British motorcycle industry, Triumph went out of business by the late 1980s. But the brand was resurrected by the British Industrialist John Bloor who built a line-up of sports bikes with a classic-themed throwback. The Triumph marque is currently owned by BMW Group.
Triumph was born in 1885 when Siegfried Bettmann and Moritz Schulte from Germany founded Bettmann & Co. The company was selling Triumph bicycles in London and from 1889 onwards, started making their own machines in Coventry, England. In 1902, the first Triumph motorcycle was produced in Coventry, England by the Triumph Cycle Co. Ltd. Prior to producing motorcycles, the company imported sewing machines and sold bicycles.
The company flourished when it got major orders for the 550 cc Model H by the British Army during the First World War, and by 1918 Triumph set its mark and became Britian’s largest manufacture of motorcycles. It was in 1930, when Bettmann & Co was renamed to Triumph Motor Company. The company was hit by financial issues and in 1936 the Triumph bicycle and motorcycle firms were sold.
After a devastating wartime bombing in Coventry in 1940, the Triumph factory was destroyed. Two years later, the company began producing motorcycles again, in Meriden, England. Production of Triumphs continued at this site until 1983. With World War II taking place at the time, the motorcycles produced at the Meriden facility until 1946 were made for military use. Approximately 40,000 Triumph cycles were produced for military use during the war, and many of these bikes were repainted and put into civilian use when the war ended. During World War II, Triumph also produced various products for the war effort, including stretcher carriers, steering housings, generators and aircraft components.
When the production of civilian model Triumphs resumed in 1946, the company focused on producing the Speed Twin, as well as the 350cc 3T touring bike, and the Tiger 100.
By 1948, Triumph was producing 12,000 motorcycles per year, with more than half that number being exported. The 500cc Trophy TR5 model, which was the first trail bike made by Triumph, was introduced in 1948.
In the early 1950s, some of the World War II veterans who became familiar with Triumphs and other types of motorcycles during the war, started riding motorcycles in civilian life. Sometimes, these machines were outfitted with custom and high-performance parts, giving the cycles an unusual appearance.
In late 1953, an action-adventure motion picture named "The Wild One" is released. In this movie, lead actor Marlon Brando plays the leader of a motorcycle club that wreaks havoc on a small California town during a scheduled motorcycle race. The type of motorcycle that Brando rides in the movie is a Triumph 650cc Thunderbird 6T.
In 1975, workers at the Meriden Triumph factory formed a workers' cooperative in an effort to keep the company running. The production of Bonneville and Tiger models continued there until 1983. In 1983, the Triumph factory in Meriden closed its doors, leaving the future of Triumph motorcycles in question.
When the Meriden facility closed, a wealthy developer who was interested in purchasing the site, decided to save the Triumph brand from extinction by purchasing the Triumph name and all manufacturing rights. From 1983 through 1988, the new owner licensed a Triumph parts manufacturer to produce a small numbers of Bonnevilles.
In 1990, the Triumph company resumed higher production numbers and six new models were introduced to the world. The powerful Speed triple model was unveiled in 1994, and the new factory in Hinckley was completed.
It's great to see that Triumph motorcycles are still being produced in England. The Triumph brand has gone through a series of twists and turns over the course of the past 100-plus years. Although there have been lots of changes since 1902, the rich heritage of Triumph motorcycles still lives on today.