Triumph Motorcycles timeline

1973-1983: The Fight to Survive

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Edward Turner dies in his sleep at his home, August 15. BSA Group merged in July in a government-encouraged "shotgun wedding" with Norton-Villiers as Norton-Villiers-Triumph - with NV's chair, Dennis Poore as new NVT Chairman (Poore rescued Norton from the brink in the 1960s). Starts with 10 million-pound capital

Bonneville increased to 724cc then later that year to 744cc, renamed T140. Trident T150V gets 10-inch front disc brake. Tiger goes to 750cc as the TR7RV (street scrambler version) or TR7 Tiger road version with five-speed gearbox and front disc brake. The 490cc trail model becomes the TR5T Adventurer (and Trophy Trail). X-75 Hurricane model built from Trident (with BSA Rocket's sloping engine) for US market, designed by Californian Craig Vetter, with three exhausts all on right side, but it doesn't sell well. The Tridents are built at Small Heath alongside the BSA Rocket Three.

An experimental 1,000cc four-cylinder Triumph designed by Doug Hele, nicknamed the Quadrant was built this year, apparently capable of 125 mph, but it came too late to help the company. It was made mostly from existing stock parts, mostly Trident, but the camshaft was built outside the factory. The project is kept secret by Hele until completed.

Dennis Poore











Top: NVT chairman Dennis Poore. Middle: Craig Vetter's X-75 Hurricane. Bottom: Quadrant, four-cylinder prototype.
The experimental team was transferred to Kitts Green, Birmingham, where they continued working on the T160 and the Norton Wankel engine. TR5MX Avenger, a 499cc motocross single, is built. Really it's a BSA B50M with Triumph badges. Last year for the TR6.

Without warning, in September Poore announces the closure of Meriden works effective February, 1974. Of 4,500 employees, 3,000 are to be let go. Faced with unemployment and having their products handed over to a rival firm, the workers rose up. This immediately starts an 18-month employee 'sit-in' and the closure of the Meriden plant. By late 1973, all models except the T120 are discontinued. Poore considers using the Triumph name on cheaper Norton models.

BSA's abandoned factory was soon in ruinsThe BSA name was abandoned this year, the inglorious end of one of Britain's greatest - and largest - motorcycle companies. Trading in BSA is halted on the London Stock Exchange and the remaining assets were passed to NVT. NVT makes prototype Wankel-engined Norton in Triumph frame, using T140/T150 parts. NVT continues to market 850cc Commando. Kawasaki introduces 900cc Z1. Simonini (Italy) founded.BMW releases R90/6 and R90/S, at 900cc their largest displacement models to date.


Bert Hopwood retires. Trident production launched at BSA Works, Small Heath. Tiger 100 dropped. TR5MX in last year. When BSA Group introduces modernized production process using non-craftspeople as assembly workers, quality falls. Sir Harry Ricardo, designer of the Riccy, dies (but his company would live on to design the Hinkley Triumph engines).

The Quadrant is shown to the NVT on October 29; Dennis Poore was amazed by it. Tiger 100 road model dropped. The newly-elected Labour government announces the formation of the Meriden Motorcycle Cooperative under the supervision of Tony Benn, and gives the group a 5 million pound grant. However, Norton-Villiers retained the rights to the name, and to market and sell the motorcycles. This resulted in constant fighting between the Cooperative and NVT.

Only a few machines are produced this year because of blockade at the Meriden plant. The blockade was temporarily lifted mid-year, but after talks broke down, it was resumed in October.

First year for the British Grand Prix race at Silverstone.


Trident NT160 electric-start model announced. In March, Meriden workers' cooperative started manufacturing of 750cc Bonnies and TR7V Tigers resumes in Meriden (the famous T120 and smaller twins are discontinued). This was also the last year the Trident, one of the great British bikes, was made. Lord Weinstock's giant GEC company bought 2,000 Bonnies for 1 million pounds, saving the company, and advised the Cooperative on establishing a sales and marketing operation. Trident
Late model Triumph Trident.
Last batch of T120 (650cc) Bonnies is released by Meriden Co-op. From mid-year on, the factory only made 750cc machines. Ten-lap Production TT won by 'Slippery Sam', fifth consecutive win of this single machine! American market shows signs of collapsing. T150 becomes T160, restyled with BSA's angled engine (like Rocket 3 - both engines were made in the BSA factory) and improved frame. Trident gets front and rear disc brakes, electric starters and left-hand gear changers. A total of 27,480 Tridents would be made in its seven-year life.

Tiger and Bonnie are made with left-hand shift pedals for US market to meet new American legislation. Right-hand shifts were still available as factory modifications - at extra cost. Jack Wilson rides 1,000cc turbocharged Trident at 192.33 mph (309.65 kmph). British government turns down NVT's request for more funds.

Quadrant is run and tested in January. Alan Barrett rides it at 90 mph, but keeps it below 6,000 rpm. Hele was impressed and called it a "nicer machine than the Trident." But the accountants at NVT decided the project was too expensive and killed it. The single working prototype would later (post 1976) be purchased by the National Motorcycle Museum. Triumph was still contemplating Hopwood's five-cylinder machine at this date, a 1250cc machine called the Grand Superbike.

Several top Triumph employees were fired this year, including Henry Vale, Jack Wickes, Les Williams, Ivor Davies, Arthur Jakeman, Norman Hyde and some of the company's best and most experienced managers and designers.

Ailing Dutch motorcycle firm Eysink is bought, but closes in 1977.


Only two models are made this year: T140V and TR7RV, both 750cc, five-speeds. The last batch of T160s are made for the Cardinal Police Service. New models also have to satisfy new and stringent US legislation under the Environmental Protection Agency. T140V
BMW launches 1000cc R100 RS, the first full-fairing production machine in the world. Triumph's T140V, made in Meriden.


After fighting over who had rights to sell Triumph motorcycles for many years, Triumph marketing rights and assets sold by NVT to Meriden Cooperative. NVT is bankrupt. The limited edition Silver Jubilee T140V is made to commemorate Queen Elizabeth's 25 years on the throne and to celebrate the acquisition of the marketing rights. The Silver Jubilee is a T140 Bonnie with cast alloy wheels and special finish.1,000 for UK, 1,000 for the US, and about 400 more made for export later. 1977 Bonneville
1977 Bonneville T140
Production creeps up to 350 machines a week, 60 per cent still going to the USA. The T140V was about 30lbs heavier than the old T120.
This year, Enfield Bullets made in India since 1955 go on sale in the UK. Norton P41 project moved to Birmingham. TT loses its status as a World Championship race. NVT makes Easy Rider moped, builds its last Commando. Yamaha and NVT cooperate to make 750cc triple for police use. British GP race gets full world championship status.


New smoother-running prototype vertical twin developed, with new electrics, designed for police work. Halogen lamp introduced. New Amal Mark 2 concentric carbs in use. T140E is fitted with new cylinder head and different carburation to meet US emission control laws.
British Leyland makes its Triumph car division part of the specialty group, Jaguar-Rover-Triumph Ltd. Scott Motorcycles cease production. Norton Motorcycles Ltd. formed as a motorcycle division, makes several Wankel-engined prototypes. NVT only making mopeds and Yamaha-engined motorcycles now. NVT drops agreement to market Meriden products. Don and Derek Rickman have now become second largest UK motorcycle manufacturers.


Model T140E Bonnie comes in American (small tank and high bars) and European (low bars, large tank, replacing the T140V) models. T140D Special has alloy wheels. Electronic ignition is introduced. The Bonnie wins the "Machine of the Year" award in Motor Cycle News (MCN) - a questionable honour this late in the Bonnie's life, owing more to the bike's reputation than its competency against the (mostly Japanese) competition.

The T140D special is released for the American market, with new head, new Amal MKIII carbs, Lucas Rita ignition system, and a lower7.9:1 compression to reduce vibration.

First Paris-Dakar rally held, 9,320 miles (15,000 kms).


The Meriden debt reaches 2 million pounds (above the earlier loan). T140E Bonneville 750 Executive (with fairing, panniers and top box - also noted as T140PE?) announced (doesn't make it to the US market until 1981). Electric starter announced. Electronic ignition becomes standard. Executive
T140 Executive model with fairing and panniers.
In October, the British government writes off 8.4 million pounds owed by Triumph, but still leaves company owing two million to Britain's Export Credit Guarantee Dept. Triumph would experiment with several designs in its last years, none able to stop the decline.
BMW launches enduro R80/GS using monolever full-swinging single arm suspension on rear wheel.



T140 Bonneville Royal celebrates marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana (only 250 made. It had electric start and a chrome fuel tank). 650cc Thunderbird revived as low-budget machine. Phoenix model rumoured: 900cc ohc twin with modular concept for one-four cylinder bikers, 500cc-1200cc sizes. Nothing came of the project. The TS8-1 has an eight-valve engine and twin headlamps. Eight-valve TSS model planned but doesn't reach production until 1983, too late to save the company. A 744cc Tiger Trail is shown at the Paris motorcycle show, and a 649cc version also built using the Thunderbird engine. Electric start is standard issue now.

The Labour government waives the Cooperative's debt and allows the group to become a limited company with the workforce as its shareholders.

Lord Hesketh tries to launch his own motorcycle company with a V-twin that had promise, but the company was underfunded and died shortly after, in 1982. Norton Motors makes its rotary-engined bike, the Mark II, later called the Interpol II, sold mostly to police forces and the British armed forces. Civilian version (P43) is called the Norton Classic, and is made until 1988.


TSS model, with alloy, eight-valve engine (based on an earlier Westlake kit) and optional rubber-mounted frame, and TSX custom, with alloy wheels and high bars (designed by Wayne Moulton, the man behind Kawasaki's LTD model), are manufactured. They proved to be super-fast bikes with 60bhp and a top speed of 130 mph, lumbered with badly-manufactured, porous engine cylinder and head from outside suppliers.

John Minnono wins the BoTT Modified Production class in Daytona on a TSS model. Triumph's fabled "Phoenix" bike project promises to be the great British revival - but never appears.

Lord Hesketh closes his plant for the first time.


TSS-engined T58-1 with rubber-mounted, eight-valve engine aimed at police use is designed. The TR6 is reduced to 600cc. A prototype water-cooled, 900cc bike called the Phoenix (the engine was also known as the 'Diana') is designed in early 1983 (a water-cooled, twin OHC vertical twin). Also, the Thunderbird was reduced to 600cc, and offered with twin carbs as the Daytona 600. Last year for the TSX. But Meriden's money was running out and car sales were rising while bike sales were dropping. Hesketh-Triumph!?!
Triumph-badged Hesketh in front of the Meriden plant
Production of Bonneville was discontinued at Meriden when the firm went into liquidation in the fall. This year the almost-penniless company flirted with taking over the Hesketh motorcycle and even took one and put Triumph badges on it.

John Bloor, a 53-year-old wealthy English property developer and builder, with no personal interest in motorcycling, becomes interested in the Meriden factory site for development. He rescues Triumph by buying the name and manufacturing rights (Enfield India lost, bidding 55,000 pounds to the Official Receiver).

Bloor licenses Les Harris, of Racing Spares, in Newton Abbott, Devon, to continue to produce the Bonnie in small numbers for five years, 1983-1988. Due to problems with liability insurance, the Harris Bonnevilles were never imported into the USA. About 14 were built a week in peak production.

This was the peak year for sales for many motorcycle companies around the world. Hesketh restructures and comes back with a revised Vampire motorcycle, but closes after making only 40. BMW K series launched at Paris Motor Show.
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