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Inside Triumph Motorcycles

Old 21-Oct-2011, 03:18 PM
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Inside Triumph Motorcycles

Triumph is one of the most historic names in motorcycling. The British marque has branded itself into the collective riding consciousness with seminal bikes like the Bonneville and Thunderbird – not to mention a little help from Hollywood icons like Brando and McQueen. But that’s the storied past. Triumph’s history and lore make it easy to forget that its current incarnation, Triumph Motorcycles Ltd., is a young company of only 21 years. The modern Triumph is perhaps the greatest example of a brand rebirth in the motorcycle industry, and this summer Motorcycle USA paid a call to the English Midlands to see exactly how the new Triumph makes motorcycles.

Old Brand, Young Company

One of the more interesting aspects of the re-born Triumph is the dichotomy of old and new. Founded in 1887, Triumph Cycles produced its first motorized cycle in 1902 making it one of the industry’s oldest brands. From there the marque’s history weaves its way through two world wars and booming post-war popularity, both domestically and in the United States. But things unraveled in the early 1970s, with the original Triumph dwindling into obscurity (along with the rest of the once robust British motorcycle industry). The factory in Meriden (just down the road apiece from the current Hinkley locale) limped along under various mergers and eventually a worker owned co-operative, but it stamped out obsolete models with outmoded tooling – a far cry from the industry giant Triumph once was.

There’s nothing outmoded about company’s current facilities in Hinkley. Its 11,800 square-foot headquarters and factory is state of the art. Credit British business magnate John Bloor for the turnaround. Rising from modest means to amass a fortune in housing development (he started in housing as a plasterer), Bloor purchased the intellectual rights to the Triumph when it went into liquidation in 1983. He soon began assembling a team to re-launch the new company. During the interim, a limited amount of Bonnevilles continued to be produced thanks to a licensing agreement with former Triumph parts dealer Les Harris.

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