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Motorcycle Top Trumps (Part 2)

We here at CB-Net figured we’d chuck some interesting bits and pieces at you about Triumph, which John Bloor resurrected almost 20 years ago.

John Stuart Bloor made his fortune in the building trade, with Bloor Homes. He bought the Triumph name in 1983, began to research into motorcycle manufacturing in the late 1980s before launching a small range of modular motorcycles in 1990 for production during 1991.

Triumph has since gone on to become one of the biggest players in the motorcycle market and that’s something we should be proud of.

Any quotes come from a series of interviews originally carried in Triumph’s TORQUE magazine a number of years back with John Bloor. In 2011 Bloor’s son Nick took over as CEO of Triumph Motorcycles and in 2017 they opened a new visitor centre costing around £4 million.

Want to visit? Then check out:

The Triumph name was bought for around £105 or £108,000: Bloor himself can’t remember which!

Only the name was bought in 1983, not the factory as: “It was never the intention to carry on with what was happening then with that factory.”

A licence was granted to Les Harris in Devon to continue small-volume production of the Bonneville between 1983 and 1990.

When researching whether to build bikes or not with the Triumph name, a number of Bloor’s trusted employees in the 1980s were sent to motorcycle manufacturers across Europe and to Japan to research modern manufacturing and design methods, before returning to the-then HQ in Bedworth.

“Starting Triumph has been a hard slog: much more complex than the building business.”

“I never considered the name ‘Triumph’ reborn until the first bike was produced at Hinckley in 1991.”

“Japanese currency was weak in the late 1970s, but it was getting stronger and stronger so we knew that probably by 1987 or 1988 we could stand a chance to be competitive in the future.”

“Eventually the Japanese built bikes in other countries and the name effectively became a brand. Research and development is done at home and in some cases abroad, but the brand is controlled directly from Japan. They’re selling the brand abroad, at least that’s the way I see it.” Triumph opened their Thailand factory in 2002 and it’s since grown to three factories, making different machines and parts.

“To start building bikes, premises are the easy part. It’s people that are the difficult part. We trained most of them by taking raw material from university. I would say 95% of the people we employed then were under 30. You have to have good people – they’re your principal assets. Money is just a commodity.”

It’s thought that between £60-£100 million of Bloor’s own money went into Triumph between 1983 and 2000 when the company finally broke even.

On starting Triumph Motorcycles and beginning the manufacture of motorcycles: “I think I was an idiot to be honest! It was a large part of my life: and everyone else’s. We were here day in day out, every hour of the day. We lived it. When the first bike rolled off the production line I just felt that ‘it will be good.’”

After 2002’s factory fire: “The staff did exceptionally well, remarkably well, but then they’re well organised. All our people are well organised, team supervisors and team leaders.”

Triumph may be a small factory compared to the Japanese but: “We were one of the first manufacturers to use fuel-injection on a large capacity, mass-produced bike – the T595 – three years before the FireBlade had it on the bike.”

“Most of our clients are individualists, so these are the people we’re making motorcycles for.”

People stay at Triumph to work for a long time because: “It’s an interesting place to work. We treat people as well as we can, we look after them. It’s a trust thing that goes both ways. We are careful about who we hire.”

If bikes aren’t well received: “We always care: if we have a bike – maybe like the TT600 – it isn’t well received but (as we did) we modify it and it turns out to be the Daytona 650, then that’s a lesson learned. Criticism is good as long as it’s positive.”

The normal Triumph owner is: “Quite discerning. Everyone wants quality and everyone is extremely well-informed today.”

“I once put my business card on one of our bikes. It was in Llandudno in North Wales. I wrote on it: ‘Thank you for buying one of our bikes.’”

In his time in charge, Bloor is proudest of: “If I’m proud of anything it’s that we kept making little progressions each year. That’s what we’ve done. There’s no high moments or low moments, really, just continuous improvements.”