Triumph Motorcycles

Triumph Motorcycles, easily the most famous names in British Motorcycling history. Just where did it all begin? It may surprise you to learn that its origins come from a German named Siegfried Bettmann who came to England from Nuremberg in Germany in 1883. Initially Importing and Exporting, Bettmann moved from London to Coventry and sold bicycles made in Birmingham. Rather than continue with his own name for branding purposes Bettmann chose the name Triumph and called his company the Triumph Cycle Company. By 1902 Triumph had progressed to manufacturing its own bicycles in Coventry. This was the year when Triumph produced their first motorcycle. Similar to Norton’s first motorcycle the engine came from Belgium and it wasn’t until 1905 that the first completely British Triumph was produced.

By 1907 more than a 1000 motorcycles are made. Triumph is already on the way to becoming a racing success with wins in the first TT race on the Isle of Man. The company moved to larger premises and production increases.  During the war years Triumph was a major supplier for the war effort. By 1927 production had reached 30,000 units a year and was an established and trusted brand. Bettmann himself is a respected member of the community and was elected president of the British Cycle and Motorcycle Manufacturers Association.

During the Second World War and the blitz of Coventry much of Triumph production was interrupted by bombing. Production even had to be switched to Warwick and Meriden. Triumph produced a range of aircraft components and military parts for a variety of equipment for the war effort. During this time Triumph built 50,000 motorbikes.

In 1951 Triumph was sold to BSA. In 1959 the Triumph Bonneville was launched and became one of the most cherished and loved motorcycles ever produced. Further racing successes and exports ensured that the Bonneville became the legend that we know it as today. In 1967 30,000 units were sold to the USA and most were Triumph Bonneville’s. By 1969 Meriden was making 900 motorcycles a week but trouble was just over the horizon.

BSA was losing money and job cuts during 1972 and the strikes and upheavals of the seventies were contributing to Triumph’s decline. Japanese competition was fierce and had decimated most of the British Motorcycle Industry. To try and reverse the trend NVT – Norton Villiers Triumph was formed with £10,000,000 injection of capital.  During 1974 Meriden closed, the labour government forms Meriden Motorcycle Cooperative and a £5,000,000 grant supports the company. The company is in its death throes by 1975 and is only saved by GEC purchasing 2000 Bonnevilles. The production of the Trident ceases in this year.  NVT becomes bankrupt and this could very well have been the end of the Triumph Motorcycle Company. Production is at an all time low and the future looks bleak. However, during 1977 production increases, with over 60 per cent of machines going for export to the USA. An increased range of bikes and modern modifications have started to pay off and in 1979 The Bonneville is voted ‘Motorcycle of the Year’ by MCN (Motor Cycle News ).

In 1980 Meriden and Triumph are in debt. The British Government writes off Triumph debt and the company continues to struggle. Finally in 1983 production ceases and Triumph is facing liquidation. Like so many motorcycle firms before it, Triumph now seems destined for the history books.

A Phoenix from the ashes. A property developer by the name of John Bloor purchases the Meriden factory with a view to development. He also buys the name and manufacturing rights for Triumph as part of the deal.  John Bloor allows Triumphs to be built under license by Les Harris of Racing Spares, a company in Devon. Meriden factory is demolished and a new housing estate built in its place. Just when it seems that the history of Triumph as a motorcycle manufacturer has come to an end, John Bloor decides to set up a new factory in Hinckley. Bloor is most definitely the saviour of modern-day Triumph Motorcycles. By 1990 Triumph is up and running and in production again with several models. 2,400 machines are sold.  During 1993 things are looking up for Triumph and the 10,000th bike leaves its factory. Investment and modern facilities are starting to make an impression. Against all odds Triumph launches itself in Canada and Triumph Motorcycles of America is formed as Triumph returns to its once lucrative export market in 1995. By 1996 Triumph is building a second factory to increase production. Triumph enjoys a sustained revival and by 1997 is producing over 50,000 units a year. Triumph now employs some 350 staff working two shifts and is once again exporting its bikes around the globe. Things could have been so very different.

With a loyal and extended customer base, Triumph Motorcycles is one of the few British Motorcycle Producers to have escaped the death of the industry in Britain. It is fair to say that Triumph is not just a name – it’s a motorbikers cult icon. It’s a living legend!

excerpt from birminghamuk website

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