The Triumph story is now a hundred years old as the first motorcycle, known as No.1 found its way into the Triumph’s catalogue in 1902. Since then of course an endless stream of famous models flowed off the lines at Priory Street, Meriden and now Hinkley.
Names such as the Trusty in 1914, the Ricky – a fast roadster brought out in 1922, and could reach a speed of 65mph, Horsman, Tiger and the best motorcycle of all the pre war machines, the famous Speed Twin. All these names evoke in the imagination of those who know, on both sides of the Atlantic, a picture of power combined with that special Triumph individuality that all the machines had.
During the war tragedy struck the factory which was destroyed when Hitler’s airforce attacked Coventry. But from this disaster the most famous of all Triumph’s works grew – the factory at Meriden. Although there was a long gap in production along with a crippling shortage of man power by the end of the war, Triumph still managed to produce nearly 50,000 machines for the military.
After the war more famous names graced great new machines – Trophy, Thunderbird, and of course in 1959, the Bonneville, the engine of which owed a great deal to American racers. Other names such as Daytona and Trident also graced the roads of the USA, Britain and many other countries all around the world, but he Japanese influence started to take its effect and Triumph sales dropped until the company ceased production. Also sadly an attempt by the ‘Meridan Co-operative’ with government help also failed to keep Triumph afloat and in 1983 production of the last Bonneville at Meriden ceased when the receiver was called in.
Now we come to the second part of the story. In 1983 John Bloor purchased the site at Meridan along with all rights to the name. Five years later, after lots of speculation and whispers in the industry, a press release finally announced that a whole new range of Triumphs would be manufactured from a new works in Hinckley. 1992 saw the end of the first full year of production during which nearly five thousand motorcycles had been produced, this figure increased annually to reach over thirty thousand today.
So we reach 2002, a hundred years after No.1 was first advertised in the Triumph catalogue. Today I feel quite sure that if we speculate on the future and look forward to 2102 I am confident that we shall still see on the roads, magnificent machines graced with names such as Sprint, Tiger Thunderbird, Trident, Daytona and of course Bonneville. Why not? Special thanks to the National Motor Museum.