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Triumph Motorcycle History

It’s almost three decades since Triumph burst back onto the scene with an amazing array of new bikes – CB-Net decided to have a little look at the history of this amazing manufacturer…

John Bloor, from Bloor Holdings purchased the Triumph name way back in 1983.Classic bike logo

Initially, he kept the name alive through former Triumph parts dealer Les Harris who was allowed to license-build small numbers of classic Meriden Bonnevilles, but – by 1988 – Les had built his last bike.

John Stuart Bloor (known as JSB to his employees) was born in the early 1940s in a Derbyshire mining village. He finished his education at 15 and began his career working for a local building contractor. Just two years later at 17, he took the plunge and became self-employed, initially as a plasterer, before taking on a project that led him to build his first complete house – all of this before his 20th birthday – from this start Bloor Homes blossomed, becoming one of the largest privately-owned house building companies in the UK.

Bloor (as his staff would attest) wasn’t some dreamer, instead he wanted to resurrect a big, British name as a business. Speaking in an interview in TORQUE magazine (Triumph’s in-house mag) he said: “When I was 16 I used to have a Tiger Cub. To be honest, I didn’t think a lot of it, as water used to get into the points. I’d be coming back home from work on a winter’s night at 6pm I was always having to pull over and start fiddling with the points. I wasn’t best pleased!”

With Bloor Homes doing well he wanted to start a business that was one with a completed product, but which could be successfully exported abroad. Bloor had put together a close-knit design and development team based at Unit 14, Bayton Road, Bedworth and they began working on a new range of Triumphs. They visited motorcycle factories across the world, some in Japan, some in Europe and they formulated their own plans for a new range of modular Triumphs that would spark the re-birth of mass-produced British motorcycles.

That re-birth took place officially on June 29th 1990, seven years since the hard work had begun. This was when the press gathered at the new factory in Hinckley, Leicestershire, to hear the announcement that Triumph Motorcycles is back in business again.

The assembled journalists were told that Triumph was not aiming at low-volume production instead they intended to mass produce British designed and built motorcycles once more. The invited guests were ushered around a brand-new, state-of-the-art motorcycle production facility, ready to manufacture and assemble a six-strong ‘modular’ range of multi-cylinder motorcycles for the 1991 model year.

The approach was called the ‘modular’, because models would share common parts, be it chassis or engine, from which you could build a number of different machines. This would prove to be a cost-effective way of getting a wide-range of motorcycles out to the buying public and a concept which was originally mooted back in 1973 by BSA-Triumph’s Bert Hopwood.

During that June day in 1990 the guests were told that Triumph would be producing a range of triple and four-cylinder motorcycles which would have a power output of anything between 90 to 135bhp and would not only be competitive with anything then produced in Europe, the US or Japan, but also employ the latest market-leading production processes.

These new machines would be officially launched at the Cologne show in September 1990. The layout of these new triples and fours was up-to-date, featuring liquid-cooling, DOHC and four-valves per cylinder. The frame was a steel-spine, upon which the various engines would hang. The new factory would produce an annual projected total of 10,000 bikes.

Following the detailed factory tour, the journalists were ushered into the boardroom, where two machines were unveiled: one a 750cc naked three-cylinder roadster – the Trident and a fully-faired three-cylinder sports tourer, the Trophy.

That original factory stood on a ten-acre site which today looks small in comparison to Factory 2, which was completed in 2000 and sits upon a site four-times larger than the original factory. In the early 1990s, Triumph’s Factory 1 could produce up to 200 crankcases and cylinder heads per week by 2010 that same number of completed bikes was being crated for delivery every single day…

The level of initial investment was huge and guessed to be around £60-£80 million with Bloor and his company bank-rolling everything until Triumph Motorcycles could finally send out its own invoices in the spring of 1991. A total of 10,000 units a year was reached in the mid-1990s and production topped 50,000 units a year in 2008.

The company finally posted a profit in 2000 after which it is thought around £100 million had been invested in the firm. Interestingly, Triumph Thailand was formed in 2001, where components were manufactured leading to some models now being built there.

Today Triumph has around 40 motorcycles in their range, spawned from 19 distinct motorcycles, covering all the bases from sports machines, adventure bikes and naked street bikes. With around 700 dealers in 35 countries and a huge side business in clothing, aftermarket goods and equipment, Triumph has been a real success story!