Triumph Motorcycles timeline

1984-Present: Triumph Resurgent

See bottom of page for links to other eras in Triumph's history
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1984

Meriden factory is demolished, and the site acquired for a housing estate, which retains a link to Triumph's history by using Bonneville and Daytona in road names. New Triumph company initially examines the Phoenix ('Diana') engine as the basis of a new line, but is soon dropped in favour of a modular three- and four-cylinder design. Meriden demolished

 

 

Meriden factory demolished
Last year for the final car to carry the Triumph name, the Acclaim, made by Leyland working with Honda.

1985

Bloor continued with the development of his new line. He bought machine tools required for prototype work and set up a state of the art facility in Hinckley, Leicestershire, two kilometres from the old company's headquarters. In June, Harris started producing and selling his Bonnevilles, with Italian forks and German controls, but British engines and frames. They are built by five-man production teams at Harris' Newton Abbot site. The engine was based on the pre-electric start Bonnie, with a TSS-type crankshaft.
Last year for street-legal two-stroke motorcycles in the USA. After Watsonian Sidecars is bought out by its managers, it moves from Birmingam to the Cotswolds to continue production. BMW launches first triple-cylinder engines in K75.

1987

The first new Triumph engine - a 1200cc four cylinder - ran on a test stand. 
Investors headed by Philippe Le Roux take over Norton, forming Norton PLC. Le Roux leaves in 1991 and the UK Dept. of Trade launches an inquiry into the company's activities. BMW launches largest enduro in the world: R100 GS, using double-joint rear wheel winging-arm paralever suspension.

1988

Manor Hotel in Meriden, much used years ago by the company for sales conferences and similar functions, builds a new bar called the 'Triumph Bar', decorated with a photographic display illustrating the history of Triumph from start to finish. Production equipment is ordered for John Bloor's new company. The last Harris Bonneville is produced and Harris decides not to renew his manufacturing licence. A 10-acre site is purchased in Hinckley for the production facility.  John Bloor
John Bloor, saviour of today's Triumph company
Last Norton Interpol produced, although Norton Commander (P52) made for police and army. Civilian version P53 is also made. Production continues until 1994. BMW is first company to offer ABS on motorcycles.

1989

Production tools arrive for John Bloor's new company. Estimates of the company's capitalization range from 40-80 million pounds ($60-$120 million USD), all of it from Bloor himself, without bank financing. Bloor starts to set up his dealer network this year.

1990

Triumph lives again. At the Cologne Motor Cycle Show, six new Triumph models are shown, powered by three- and four-cylinder DOHC engines with high horsepower and torque, all liquid-cooled: Trident 750 and 900; Trophy 900 and 1200; Daytona 750 and 1000. 2,390 machines are sold this year, 974 into the UK.

Triumph's new factory is completed on an 11-acre site. The company has around 50 employees, producing about five bikes a day.

factory.gif (5928 bytes)
Triumph's new factory in Hinckley

 

1991

Six models are produced based on first models shown: Daytona 750 and 1000. Trophy 900 and 1200, and Trident 750 and 900 roll of the Hinckley production line. About 1,200 bikes are produced with a workforce of 91, in a plant that took up a small patch of their 11-acre site. First Triumphs are sent to Germany before UK distribution begins, followed by Holland, Australia and France

Anthony Smith of Ricardo Consulting Engineers, Sussex (related to the same Ricardo who designed the Riccy model in 1921) and Triumph engineer S. G. Stewart read a paper called "The Design of Lightweight Reciprocating Components for a New Family of High-Speed Motorcycle Engines" at the Society of Engineers international congress, in Detroit, Mich. This paper divulges some of the origins of the new Triumph engines - as an original Ricardo design.

The T3 and T4 motors use wet cylinder liners. Triumph production uses a 300-hour salt-spray test on their parts - their closest competitor uses only 250 hours. Each hardening furnace does cold slow-bake nitriding on-site, a process used only by Mercedes and Porsche, but Triumph's process is longer, at 30 hours.

BMW makes its 1,000,000th motorcycle.

1992

The 5,000th motorcycle leaves the Triumph factory in October. GM challenges Triumph over use of name "Bonneville" but attorneys work out a deal between the parties (details unknown). The Daytona 1200 is launched at the NEC show in Birmingham, with a claimed 147bhp, higher than allowed on British roads.

1993

Introduction of the Daytona 1200 to the European market. The 10,000th motorcycle leaves the factory in July. This year saw the introduction of in-house painting and plating - a huge investment to back the place of Triumph as a quality product. All engine and frame components were treated to an epoxy powder coat in graphite for Sprint and Trophy, and wrinkle black for Trident and Daytona models. The Sprint and Daytonas were also restyled with lighter rear bodywork and solid colours. The Daytona 750 and 1000 models were replaced by 900 and 1200, long stroke versions of the modular motor. The 900 was identical in spec to the Trident and Trophy 900s but the 1200 retained the high-compression pistons (12:1) and high-lift "red" cams of the 1000 to produce 147ps (to DIN standard measurement) against the 1000's claimed 125ps. Daytona models replaced with new versions. Tiger introduced.
Canadian investors take over the Norton and BSA marques. Their first act is to demand the return of 10 classic motorcycles loaned to British museums by their predecessors. BMW introduces new generation of boxer engines in its R1100 RS. BMW launches first single since the post-war years, the F650. This is also BMW's first chain drive bike, uses a Rotax engine made in Austria and is partly built by Aprilia in Italy.

1994

Launch of Triumph in Canada at the Toronto bike show, January. Plans of expansion to in crease capacity for production of Triumph in the next century receives the green light with permission to construct a new plant on a site greater than 400,000m2. Founding of "Triumph Motorcycles of America" completing the return of Triumph to the largest market in the world.

Triumph re-enters the competition ring with the introduction of the "Speed Triple Challenge Race" in Donnington Park in England. At the Cologne show Triumph launches the much-awaited Thunderbird with its nostalgia styling and detuned (70bhp) engine. The engine castings were also new and the frame substantially modified: a ground-up redesign of the T309 standard to meet a particular set of design objectives, within the limits of modular production. The machine took 18 months to develop at a cost of over 1 million pounds. It took the company 9-12 months to re-tool for its production, including adding extra chrome plating facilities. The 1994 Triumph catalogue shows the floor plan of the factory

Speed Triple caf´┐Ż racer also launched. The Super III was also released, mostly known as a 'go faster' Daytona 900, with plenty of carbon fibre ancillaries, high compression motor with hot cams making 115ps. It also sported mega Alcon six-pot because the diecasting method for the cylinder head was beginning to fail, due to wear on the dies. The Super III was launched with a pressure sandcast method, developed and produced for Triumph by Cosworth, saving a lot of weight in the castings and improving quality by insuring consistency of dimensions. Brembo three spoke alloy wheels are used on Daytona, Trophy and Sprint models.

The Tiger is introduced: a new direction for Triumph and the first use of a plastic tank on a Triumph, plus the most sophisticated suspension on any Triumph ever. The Trophy 1200 was retuned for more low down by using the milder "blue" cam profile, shared with the Tbird and Adventurer models, instead of the original "green" cam profile of the Trident etc.


1995

Triumph enters the US market again for the first time since the close of the Meriden Cooperative. Triumph buys back UK dispatcher Andy Utting's 1992 Trident after 250,000 miles. Although the engine was hardly touched in that time, Utting went through 30 pair of tires, 120 oil changes, 24 sets of brake pads, two speedometer cables and 14 chain and sprocket sets. In exchange, he got a new Daytona 900. The workforce is up to 300 this year and production was around 12,000 units a year.

The Thunderbird is manufactured and Triumph dedicated 25 per cent of its production capacity to the bike this year. It has spoked wheels laced by the same firm that spoked Triumph's original wheels (36 spokes in front, 40 in back). The compression is dropped from 10.6:1 to 10.1:1, lowering the horse power from the stock 83 to 69. It reaches it maximum torque at 4,800 rpm (about 110 kmh). The braking system uses the largest diameter disks on Hinckley Triumphs to date: 320mm front and 285mm rear. The author gets his first test ride on the Tbird this summer, courtesy Triumph Canada and J&R Cycle.

Triumph launches its own line of clothing and accessories, called Triple Connection.


1996

Trophy redesigned for sport touring market. The Adventurer introduced, a 'custom' Thunderbird with a bobbed tail, different colour schemes and higher handlebars, meant primarily for the American market. Thunderbird suspension upgraded.

A black Thunderbird is the 30,000th Triumph made, delivered to Australia.

Barb Wire babe
Pamela Anderson starred in the movie Barb Wire, riding a new Triumph Thunderbird. She also a Triumph Tiger. Tom Cruise would later ride a Triumph Speed Triple in Mission Impossible 2.
Work starts on a second Triumph factory capable of producing 50,000 bikes a year (compared to 15,000 currently).

Jack Lilley's Daytona finishes 33rd in the Isle of Man Production TT. It's the first triple in the race.


1997

Thunderbird gets extra chrome components as standard. T309 Daytona model dropped, replaced by T595 Daytona - challenging the top-end sportbike market previously ruled by the Ducati 916 - and the 'naked' version, the cafe racer T509 Speed Triple, both sporting new engines, frames and computerized ignition systems. They are the first departure from the modular production philosophy of the Hinckley plant and receive generally rave reviews in the motorcycle press for their handling, power, style and comfort. T412 Daytona 1200 remains in production. My Tbird

 

 

Top: Author's 1996 Triumph Thunderbird in rare Aegean blue colour, one of only five of this colour to be imported into Canada. Below: MCN artist's conception of T600  sports twin to be named 'Bonneville.'T600 - due in 1999?
Total production passes 50,000 this year. More than 11,000 motorcyclists have toured the Hinckley factory since it opened in 1990. Triumph has about 350 employees working two shifts, from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., producing around 80 bikes a day for 35 countries around the world.

Motorcycle pioneer and competitor, Jack Lilley, 79, dies.

In June, Nick Sanders, 39, sets a new world record for circumnavigating the globe by motorcycle. He does it in 31 days, 21 hours on a Daytona 900, riding alone through four continents, covering 18,000 miles. Sander's first world record came in 1981 when he rode a bicycle around the world in 138 days, covering 13,609 miles. He broke that record in 1985, doing it in 78 days. In 1993, he practiced for the motorcycle event in 1993, riding 38,000 miles around the world.

In August, Motorcycle News (MCN) stuns the world with news of a planned T600, four-cylinder 600cc 110bhp sportbike from Triumph based on the T595 technology, weighing about 185 kg (407 lb). According to MCN, Bloor rejected a 750cc version of the Daytona and a 680cc triple. Triumph's share of the British market for 700cc-plus bikes has risen from 13.7 per cent in 1995 to 21.2 per cent, prompting Bloor to continue his success with a new model.

British TV show Two Fat Ladies features two outlandish but highly competent women chefs who travel around the UK on a Triumph Thunderbird with a sidecar attached.

TE Lawrence's final and fatal SS100 Brough Superior is sold to a private collector for $3.3 million. BMW launches its first cruiser, the R1200C.

1998

A new Triumph cafe racer emerges! The bottom photo shows the new Thunderbird Sports model, which boasts an 83 bhp engine (same as the Tiger), dual front disks and a different air system. See those upswept exhausts - shades of Craig Vetter and his X75 Hurricane! Triumph also announces a Sprint Executive model for 1998, plus (in the author's view) the most beautiful Trophy ever made, in exquisite "platinum" coloured finish (see below). The photo on the right is a French custom design Triumph, called the X90, which also hearkens to Vetter's design.

January 2-4: Triumph Canada again has a booth in Bar Hodgson's International Motorcycle Supershow in Toronto, Canada's largest motorcycle show. They show off the new Thunderbird Sport in yellow/black and red/black models, plus the new platinum Trophy 900 and the T509 in the 'unusual' new "roulette green" colouring.

X90
Tbird sport
Triumph Legend
Top: X90, French custom Triumph design. Middle: New Triumph Thunderbird Sport model. Bottom: New Triumph TT Legend, a stripped down Thunderbird, was announced for production in 1999.
The new Sprint Executive was not in evidence. Also on hand was marketing manager Chris Ellis' own T595, complete with racing decals and track wear. An unusual mild spell allows the author to ride his Thunderbird on Jan. 3, then most of the week Feb. 21 to 28, and again Mar. 9 - keeping alive the British tradition that Triumph riders will ride in any weather. 14,000 kms clocked by August.

Rumours of a twin-cylinder 800cc vertical-twin bike named the Bonneville are still around - production scheduled for 2001? Can anything live up to the Bonneville name? Classic Bike (Oct. 1997) even showed a drawing of what a two-cylinder Bonnie could look like in the Hinckley style. But are they ready to break away from the triple? All eyes are on Bloor's team at Hinckley, waiting for the return of the legend...

At the Frankfurt Motorcycle Show new models show include including a 600cc TT sportbike model and an enhanced Tiger.

A new company announces the revival of Norton motorcycles, with V-eight engines and astronomical price tags. The Norton Nemesis would never make it beyond prototype stage and the company folded in 1999.

1999

Triumph releases its awesome Sprint ST, along with a revamped Tiger. 

Triumph also launches 600cc sport bike, the TT600, getting awesome reviews in the motorcycle press. The ambitious entry into the heavily-contested 600cc class garnered a lot of attention, but the TT is still a work in progress, needing enhancements to better compete with the Japanese models.

Best damned bike ever made: Triumph Sprint ST

2000

In the last year of the old millennium, Triumph launches its new Bonneville 800cc twin in the fall.  The styling is more modern than the W650 (see below). The new Bonnie has optional accessories that make it look very nice (and much more traditional like the W650), but at additional cost. The author sees his first Bonnie at the International Motorcycle Supershow in Toronto, January 2001. Also: a new Tiger is released, using the 955 EFI engine common to the Daytona and Speed Triple. Production topped 100,000 total units and output is about 125 units a day. My new-to-me 97 Triumph Tiger

Triumph's new 800cc Bonneville

Kawasaki W650 - Bonnie look-alikeIn 2000, Kawasaki released it W650 in North America. This air-cooled vertical twin, with kickstart and centre stand, is based on the original W1. It owes its looks and styling to the mid-1960s Triumph Bonneville. The bike had been launched in Japan in 1998 to fuel the growing retro phase there. It was released for Europe in 1999, proving very popular among a small but boisterous crowd of admirers. Kawasaki allegedly gave in to pressure from North American riders to get the machine into their own market. Only two colour schemes were made available on this continent, although six are advertised on Kawasaki's Japanese web site.  The bike is a stable, comfortable mount, producing a claimed 48 hp. It handles well, can make around 180 kmph, and vibrates in a similar fashion to the original Bonnie. It uses a 360-degree twin engine, but has a bevel-gear driven cam (note chrome shaft cover on right side of engine). Read my review of the bike here.  BMW starts building its own engines for F650 series, adds fuel-injection to the line.

2001-2004

As a new millennium begins, Triumph continues to enhance and hone its lineup. The new 955 engine got placed in the Tiger and Sprint, while the Daytona received upgrades. More significantly, the 2002 Bonneville sees two new models, the T100 and the Bonneville America. The former is the same as the 2000 Bonnie, but with tachometer, knee pads and other cosmetic additions. It is designed to celebrate Triumph's 100th anniversary of motorcycle manufacturing. The America is designed to appeal to the cruiser market, with lower seat, straight-slash-cut pipes, gas-tank instruments and forward controls.
In 2003, Triumph announced its Speedmaster, a sportier version of the Bonneville America, and one that appears to be getting excellent reviews in the motorcycle press. The Thunderbird Sport was revived as a model in the lineup, despite lukewarm reviews in the past.
 

In 2003, I purchased a beautiful green-and-gold Triumph Bonneville T100. Unfortunately, personal circumstances, exorbitant insurance rates and increasing lack of time to ride forced my decision to sell it in June, 2004 - and spent the summer and fall without a motorcycle. However, I plan to return to Triumph in 2005 or 2006.


Notes

Many publications differ in dates for various models, depending on whether they print the date of the machine's announcement (often in the catalogue for the subsequent year's models) or its development, or if they print its actual production date (usually the year following the catalogue's publication). Where there are conflicts in dates, I usually choose Davies' timeline or Bacon's model dates. Also note that American models may have different dates and/or model identification. See the models page for more information and my list of sources. 1998 Trophy - If anyone wants to give me one of these, I will accept it with grace and smiles...
The beautiful Triumph Trophy in its platinum finish. Easily one of Triumph's most beautiful bikes - if not the very top of the aesthetic ladder!
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Compiled by Ian Chadwick. Send comments and corrections to me at:  ichadwick@rogers.com