Founded in 1887 as a bicycle manufacturing company, The Triumph Cycle Company went on to become today's Triumph Motorcycles Limited. The company has produced some of the finest motorcycles, from the original Bonneville in 1959 to today’s model. The Triumph factory has produced thousands of classics since commencing motorcycle production in 1902.
Race Track Success:
Long renowned for their sporting nature, the company can trace its racing success back to 1908, when Jack Marshall won the Isle of Man race and set the fastest lap. Due in part to their racing success, the company mass-produced more than three thousand units the following year. But it was the First World War (WW1) that brought Triumph to the forefront of motorcycle production when they supplied the allied forces with more than 30,000 machines.
Between the first and second World Wars, Triumph added car manufacturing to their range (1923) but the introduction of the 500cc Speed Twin, and its subsequent sales in the United States, really put the company on the global map.
New Factory at Meriden:
During the Second World War, the original factory was destroyed and a new one built at Meriden, a site that became synonymous with Triumph's motorcycle production. The factory at Meriden, in the British midlands, produced motorcycles from 1940 to 1983.
Triumph Sold to BSA:
In 1951, Triumph was sold to rival British manufacturer The BSA Group for £2,500,000 (UK pounds), equivalent to $7,000,000 at the time. The two companies produced motorcycles independently at first before joining design teams and labeling each model differently.
One of the all time classic Triumphs, the Bonneville, was introduced in 1956. The street version, the T120, followed on from the company's success on the Bonneville Salt Flats where they set a new world land speed record of 214.5 mph.
NVT is Born:
A number of different management teams tried to fix the company, but after a reported loss of £3,300,000 in 1972 a new (government sponsored) company was formed known as Norton-Villiers-Triumph (NVT). However, as a result of the NVT management wanting to relocate the Triumph production facility to Small Heath in Birmingham, the union organized a sit-in that lasted nearly two years.
A deal was eventually agreed to allow a workers cop-op to produce some Triumph models - namely the 750cc Bonneville for the American market. The company operated until 1983 when rising debts, and a virtual take over of the market by the Japanese motorcycle industry, forced them into liquidation.
New Owner, New Era:
Eventually, the intellectual property rights were purchased by John Bloor (a property developer who was interested in the Meriden factory site) in 1983. Bloor kept up production of the Bonneville by licensing motorcycle frame maker Les Harris to produce them. Between 1983 and 1987, Bloor assembled a team of designers to produce a new line-up of Triumph motorcycles.
In 1990, the first of the new designs was formerly introduced at the Cologne (Germany) motorcycle show; they were an immediate success resulting in sales of 12,000 units per year by 1995. Sales continued to rise, and within a decade Triumph was selling more than 41,000 units a year. And that was during a period when the entire factory was destroyed by fire!
It was 2002 when the Triumph factory, now based at Hinckley in Leicestershire, was burned to the ground. But by September of the same year, production had restarted.
Today the Triumph factory produces 16 different models supplying enthusiasts on every continent. Employing over a thousand staff members, the company has sales of more than $200 million per year.