Founded in 1902 in Coventry, England, by the German – Siegfried Bettmann, the first Triumph motorcycle was fitted with a Belgian Minerva engine. Within a year they had sold over 500 motorcycles and by 1905 they were producing their first entirely in-house machine. Production rapidly grew and by the beginning of the First World War Triumph were commissioned to build over 30,000 bikes for the Allied forces … including the Model H Roadster aka “The Trusty Triumph”. By the mid 20s Triumph sales were flying out of the factory and Triumph became the largest motorcycle manufacturer in England … however, the early 30s brought a stream of obstacles for the company and in 1936 Jack Sangster of rival Ariel fame bought out the ailing Triumph. Sangster transformed Triumph: he began the first exports to the United States, employed Edward Turner who designed the 500c 5T Triumph Speed Twin (1937) which became the basis for all Triumph twins until the 80s and by 1939 the 500cc Tiger T100 capable of 100 mph was released.
The Triumph factory was destroyed during the Coventry Blitz … so an undeterred Sangster restarted a new plant in Warwickshire in 1942.
By the late 40s American demand for the Triumph became insatiable, so Turner designed a 650cc suited to long distance riding – the Thunderbird … which once modified by a Californian enthusiast became the Wonderbird – which went on to hold the World’s Absolute Speed Record from 1955 until 1970.
Marlon Brando famously rode a 1950 Thunderbird 6T in ‘The Wild One’.
With 1959 came the Bonneville and eventually the record breaking Isle of Man Production TT race in 69.
By the mid 60s Triumph provided 50% of the motorcycles for the U.S. market … but within a handful of years they were unable to compete with Japanese imports and by the early 70s the company was merged into Norton Villiers Triumph.