Triumph Motorcycles timeline

1919-1945: The Classic Years

See bottom of page for links to other eras in Triumph's history
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After a quarrel, Maurice Schulte leaves company and retires with a generous 15,000 pounds 'golden handshake.' Schulte had apparently argued with Bettmann who was opposed to Schulte's proposal to drop bicycle production and move into car manufacturing. Schulte did not want to stay with two-wheelers, but Bettmann did.

Colonel Claude V. Holbrook joins, and takes over Schulte's role as General Manager. Holbrook, however, agreed with Schulte about car manufacturing and would quickly drop bicycle manufacturing and start car production.

Colonel Holbrook
Col. Claude Vivian Holbrook
Triumph announced the end of its participation in future TT races, but this would prove short-lived. Model D, single-gear version of the H model is rushed into production. Triumph designs a roadster seat with adjustable tension spring to regulate seat firmness.
Iron foundry strikes in Britain reduce output of all motorcycles. Danish firm Nimbus founded: making 750cc in-line fours with shaft drive until the late 1950s. BSA makes its first V-twin, a 770cc machine aimed at the sidecar market. Francis-Barnett makes its first motorcycles. Alfred Scott leaves the motorcycle company to found a car company. DKW (Germany) founded by Danish Jorgen Rasmussen. In the first three years following the war, about 100 new motorcycle manufacturers were started in the UK. William and Tom Henderson leave Excelsior to form a new company, Ace, making in-line fours until 1924. Carl Neracher (USA) takes out patents on a new motorcycle design, to become the Ner-A-Car of 1921, also manufactured in UK. Fritz Cockerell produces the Pax, a three-cylinder rotary-engine motorcycle with the engine in the rear wheel. Adalberto Garelli (Italy) establishes a factory to build his motorcycles (prototypes were built from 1914-18). First post-war Olympia motorcycle show in the UK boasts 112 companies making motorcycles. Post WWI: manufacturers change from bicycle saddles to softer, longer seats designed for motorcycles. Indian (USA) launches model 101 Scout.


Model 'SD' (Spring Drive), 550cc, offered with large-diameter rear spring shock absorber outboard of clutch and first all-chain transmission through Triumph's own three-speed gearbox. Based on the model H engine, with new frame. German branch of firm now back in business and building own models (variations on British models). An enlarged version of the Junior is offered at 269cc and built under license in the USA and Germany.  Bettmann establishes the charitable Annie Bettmann Foundation.
TT races resume with alterations in course. Carlo Guzzi designs the first bike for the Italian firm Moto Guzzi, a 500cc four-stroke single. Swedish firm motorcycle firm Monark founded (first motorcycles are labelled Esse). 200,000 cars registered in Britain, 260,000 motorcycles. Bicycle sales top 3 million this year. Just under 2 million cars made in the USA. Gene Walker (USA) races Indian to record 72.6 mph (116.9 kmh). Indian (USA) launches Chief model.


Rim brakes replaced by internally-expanding drum brakes. 500cc four-valve first Triumph ohv machine, Model 'R' introduced; 20-21bhp, four-valve ohv head with twin valves set at 90 degrees apart. Similar to SD model (below the crankcase mouth), the top half was designed by fuel technologist and engine designer Harry Ricardo (later Sir Harry) and Major Frank Halford (an enthusiastic motorcycle racer at Brooklands who rode a TT Racer). Earns the nickname 'Riccy' from its designer. Uses a machined steel cylinder and an aluminum piston. Only one Riccy finishes in the TT race, coming in 16th. Ricardo was an engineer who developed the modern understanding of engine breathing and combustion processes.

In November, Halford broke the 500cc world hour record at 76.74 mph on a Riccy, along with 50-mile standing start (77.27 mph) and the one-mile British record (87.8 mph). Triumph engineers also build 500cc side-valve for TT races.

Britain introduces "tax discs" to register license fees on motorcycles.Petrol pumps go into general use in the UK. BSA produces its first motorcycle, a side-valve 770cc V-twin. BSA also unveiled an exciting new machine, intended to race in the TT. Used inclined engine, duplex frame, vertical valves, aluminum slipper-type pistons, one-into-two exhaust manifold, two independent oiling mechanisms. Secret project cost over 10,000 pds and took 18 months. Initial tests at Brooklands had promised speed, but at the TT, all six machines entered were sidelined by the end of the second lap -mostly the result of melted pistons.
After a family disagreement, George Brough leaves his father's motorcycle factory and sets up his own operation, Brough Superior. Carl Neracher launches his Ner-A-Car motorcycle; 221cc two-stroke, later upgraded to 350cc four-stroke. Production only lasted until 1926.  Italian Benelli brothers build their first motorcycle. DKW manufactures its first motorcycle. Scotland Yard creates its first motorcycle squad, using BSA machines. BMW (Germany) makes its first motorcycle engine, a twin. Bianchi (Italy) expands, shows its first unit-construction 600cc sv V-twin. Douglas Davidson, riding a Harley-Davidson, is the first to break 100 mph on a motorcycle at Brooklands. Autoglider introduced: one of the very first scooters. 373,000 motorcycles registered in Britain.


Riccy appears in production, but with a cast-iron cylinder, hand shifter, shorter stroke, bicycle-type brakes and Druid front forks, at a cost of 120 pounds.  Top speed is 135 kmh (84 mph). Electric lights and horn offered as options on Triumph bikes.

Maj. Halford breaks the flying mile, 50 mile and one hour record at Brooklands, riding a Riccy. He also broke the 500cc one-hour record at 123.49 km/h (76.74 mph). Walter Brandish on a Triumph Riccy finishes second in the Senior TT.

The Triumph 'Riccy' model
Norton makes its first ohv singles. First endurance race, the Bol d'Or held in France. First Indian Chief produced in USA, designed by Charles Franklin. World land speed record set at Brooklands: 108.48 mph. P&P (Packman and Poppe) make first motorcycle using a 250cc White and Poppe engine. New lightweight class, 250cc, added to TT races. Car company Vauxhall Motors hires Maj. Frank Halford to design an in-line four motorcycle, but the project is dropped in 1924. British firm Sheffield Simplex makes Ner-A-Cars under licence. Packman & Poppe launch their first motorcycle prototype, a 250cc two-stroke. Bianchi (Italy) opens sales office in the UK. First Italian grand Prix held. Jack Sangster, production manager at Rover automobiles, goes to work for his father at Ariel.


350cc unit-construction, three-speed Model LS announced - very advanced for its day but it proved unpopular. Has Triumph's first engine-driven oil pump - rider no longer required to pump oil pressure by hand. Bettman buys the premises of the Dawson Car Company at Clay Lane. The Dawson was originally designed by Arthur Anderson (formerly of Singer and Lea-Francis), but was unsuccessful on the market. First Triumph cars produced: Model 10/20, an open tourer based on the Dawson, with 23.5bhp 1393cc four-cylinder engine designed by Ricardo, hydraulic rear brakes, and produced until 1925. "Junior" increased to 249cc, gets clutch and kickstart. A 'Riccy' comes in second in the Senior TT race.
Bayerische Motoren Werke - BMW - (Germany) makes its first motorcycle, the 500cc R32 twin, powered by a boxer engine and using shaft drive, designed by Chief Engineer Max Fritz. Alfred Scott dies. First sidecar race entered into TT program. Douglas introduces a banking sidecar, designed by Freddie Dixon. First Manx Grand Prix is run. First real moped is produced (the Clement, from France). French firm Motobecane is founded, produces first motorcycle, a 175cc, belt-driven machine. Chater Lea (UK) rider breaks 100 mph (160.9 kmh) barrier.


Internal expanding brakes are put on chain-driven models. Triumph introduces its own spring front fork and drops the popular Druid fork still used by several other companies. Last year for Ricardo four-valve machines, last year for Model H "Trusty." 346cc LS produced, an advanced three-speed machine that wasn't very popular.
World's first competitive 'scramble' cross-country race is held on March 29 on Camberley Heath, Surrey, giving birth to the sport of motocross. Racer and engineer Howard R. Davis founds HRD. American Motorcycle Association (AMA) founded, takes over the ailing Federation of American Motorcyclists (FAM). Ace (US) closes. Ultralight class, 175cc, added to TT. BMW (Germany) develops sports model from R32, called R37 - racer Franz Bieber wins first Germany Road Championship for BMW


Mass-produced 500cc side-valve Model 'P' with three-speed gearbox and all-chain drive at 42p.17s.6d - least expensive 500cc ever offered. It causes a sensation. Produced at a rate of 1,000 a week. However, the standard of production is low on the P model (including discarding valve guides and an asbestos-rope front brake). Triumph's reputation is tarnished by the low quality and design flaws. Twenty thousand were produced before the improved Mark II (late 1925) restored some of the public confidence in Triumph.
Competitor George Bell, manufacturer of the Banshee, closes shop and joins Triumph. Junior's ("Baby's") last year. Triumph production occupies 500,000 sq. ft. and employs 3,000 people to make 25,000-30,000 units a year. Sidecars are also made in-house. Triumph sales depend heavily on export, with catalogues in ten languages (including Japanese).
Val Page joined Ariel this year. James Norton, 56, dies. Czech-made Bohmerland in production (until 1939). Claude Temple breaks the 100mph lap at Brooklands on a Temple-Anzani. Female riders Marjorie Cottle, Louise Mclean and Edyth Foley compete in the ISDT and win gold medals. Construction of 17.6-mile Nurburgring racing circuit (Germany) started. First German Grand Prix held. Czech-made Bohmerland motorcycle starts production (ends in 1939). UK bans all motorcycle events on closed public roads. The Motorcycle publishes drawings by Edward Turner of a single-cylinder engine with overhead cams.


Strong sales of Model P continue, with models N, Q and QA offered as well.
In New York City, USA, Reggie Pink opens his motorcycle shop. He would later become the first major American dealer in Triumph motorcycles. Sidecar races dropped from TT program because of lack of entries, didn't return until 1954. BSA manufacturers just under 30,000 motorcycles this year. Front-wheel brakes introduced. First British Grand Prix (auto).


Production reaches 30,000 machines a year. Triumph's first "modern" motorcycle, 500cc two-valve two-port ohv Model TT developed by Victor Horsman, Brooklands racer/tuner, and later a Liverpool dealer. This supersedes the Riccy model R which is dropped. Horsman's two-valve design would be the basis of Triumph engine design until Val Page's models in 1934. Lineup includes eight models including introductions of Model W and Model P (?) with unusual 274cc engine. Model 13/35 car produced this year only; 1873 cc, four cylinders. Model 15, 2170cc, four-cylinder car made 1927-1930. Gloria sidecar with a 1927 SD
1927 SD model with a Gloria sidecar attached
Edward Turner, an independent working alone in his own shop, designs and builds his first bike, a 350cc single. This would bring him to the attention of Ariel's Jack Sangster. Cleveland (USA) closes. Auto Cycle Union selects as British B squad for the ISDT the team of female riders Marjorie Cottle, Louise Mclean and Edyth Foley. Nurburgring racing circuit (Germany) completed. Because of the 1925 ban on road events, sand-track racing develops popularity in the UK (continued until 1939). Oil-lubricated engine with dry crankcase introduced. First European speedway race organized. The Motor Cycle publishes a photograph of Edward Turner's first patented engine, called the Turner Special.


Triumph adopts fashionable saddle tank instead of their traditional flat gas tank, but only on certain models. First move away from traditional green colour scheme to black with gold lines or pale blue panels on black. Motorcycle lines slashed to four models. A two-valve TT sportster is offered.

Super Seven car introduced, 747cc, four cylinder (*see note below) with hydraulic brakes, worm drive, dual connecting rods and three speeds (the early Super series of cars were named according to their horsepower). Triumph would make 17,000 Super Sevens in seven years.

Bettmann is elected president of the British Cycle and Motorcycle Manufacturers and Traders Union association, 1928-29.

This year Edward Turner was invited by Jack Sangster to join Ariel. Vincent HRD founded by Philip Vincent after buying the rights to HRD, which had gone into liquidation. Stanley Glanfield designs a new model Rudge for dirt-track racing. It becomes very popular and other companies rush to copy it. At the Motorcycle Show in Olympia, 17 manufacturers exhibit dirt track models for racing, including Scott, Zenith, Royal Enfield, Triumph, Rudge Whitworth, Douglas and others - 138,417 people paid for admission to that show. Vincent HRD introduces the first triangulated, swing-arm rear suspension. Velocette offers first positive-stop foot-change gear system. First speedway grass track races held in UK. BMW makes its first 750cc motorcycle, the R62 - the largest displacement for the company until 1973.


Annual production of 30,000 units a year achieved. Back to eight models, now with saddle tanks. German branch TWN (Triumph Werke Nurnberg) achieves autonomy, sold off after Wall Street crashes, continues to make motorcycles until 1957, but also made typewriters with Triumph logo. A 350cc TT model is offered 1929-30 only. 350cc CO provided enclosed OHV gear and a dry-sump pressurized oil system. Triumph cars competed at the Monte Carlo and Irish TT races.
This year at Ariel, Jack Sangster sets up Edward Turner, Val Page (boss) and Bert Hopwood to work in the design shop. Jawa is founded in Czechoslovakia. This year 731,298 motorcycles are registered in Great Britain, 18,000 more than in 1928. Numbers would decline after the Crash and not reach this high again until 1950. Cleveland company (USA) stops production. NSU drops sports cars to concentrate on motorcycles. Italian firm Mondial founded in Milan. First JAWA produced (Czechoslovakia). Britain's premier 'Wall of Death' stunt rider, Tornado Smith starts his rides, doing 110,000 miles of wall-riding stunts by 1948. He retired in the late 1960s. NSU (Germany) stops building cars. Almost 4.5 million cars made in the USA.  Edward Turner, 28, marries Edith Webley. Ernst Henne sets world motorcycle speed record at 216km (134 mph) on a BMW.


175cc Model 'X' two-stroke, two-speed at 23p.17s.6d. with lights and leg shields (also called 'Junior'). This is their first all-unit construction motorcycle. Triumph tries inclined engines in its new lineup. 500cc ohv CTT offered.

Due to financial problems and pressure from creditors (notably Lloyds Bank), Bettmann is demoted from Managing Director to Vice-Chairman, and Lloyds bank appoints a "Mr. Graham" as manager. Holbrook is promoted to Assistant Managing Director. Super 8 car introduced, 832cc, 21 bhp, four cylinder. Triumph's Scorpion car - a 1.2 litre, six cylinder - was also released in October this year.

Donald Healey finished 7th at the Monte Carlo race in a Triumph Super Seven, the highest place for any British car.

S. Bettmann
Bettmann was demoted to Vice-Chairman of Triumph in 1930
Ariel closes its doors, but comes back after Jack Sangster (son of founder, Charles) buys it and restructures it in 1932. Their Square Four is the hit of the 1930 Olympia Motorcycle Show. JAP introduces a new line of speedway motors. The motorcycle industry suffers great losses after the Wall Street Crash. New Hudson launches a revamped line of motorcycles this year, but as the Depression sets in, there are few buyers. CZ (Czechoslovakia) makes its first motorcycle. NSU (Germany) purchases its competitor, Wanderer. UK Road Traffic Act does away with overall speed limits. Sachs (Germany, founded 1895) produces its first motorcycles. Puch (Austria) makes first supercharged racer.



250cc ohv model WO introduced. 343cc NM introduced. Britain issues its first Highway Code laws. Inclined engine designed by Val Page. Jack Wickes, 16, joins Triumph as print boy. This year triumph puts the Coventry Climax engine in its cars. Ariel releases its Square Four, designed by Edward Turner. It would continue in production until 1959. Model X reduced to 150cc and joined by new models, including the Silent Scout. 1.2 litre Scorpion
The 1.2 litre side-valve Scorpion was introduced by Triumph in 1930.
Matchless takes over AJS to form Associated Motor Cycles. Ariel starts producing its Square Four bike. Henderson (USA) ceases production. Australian engineer Philip Irving joins Vincent HRD to design an engine. Excelsior (USA) Closes its doors, leaving only Indian and Harley as major US manufacturers. Metropolitan Police (London) create their first motorcycle squad using BSA and Matchless machines.


Val Page (age 40), designer for JAP (he designed the engines used in the Brough Superior SS100 and SS80 models) and more lately Ariel fame (where he was Edward Turner's boss), joins Triumph (Ariel closed in 1930 but was reconstituted in 31-32).

Bicycle manufacturing plant is sold to a Mr. Downes, who took over the manufacture of Triumph motorcycles in Coventry (Bettmann later wrote he considered giving up bicycles a mistake).

The car company switches to engines built by Coventry-Climax.

Southern Cross
The Southern Cross 1.2 litre sports car Designer Val Page
Sophisticated 150cc two-stroke (later ohv four-stroke) 'Silent Scout' models, designed by Page, introduced with special cams and followers to reduce clatter. Silent Scouts boast inclined engine. Page also designs 250, 350 and 500cc sizes. Called Model A (548cc - about 600-800 sold) , B (493cc - about 1,000 sold) and BS (S for Sport, high-compression 7:1 model - only about 200 sold). Britain scraps motorcycle taxation by weight and adopts engine capacity instead.

Several Triumph cars are made this year: Super 9, 1018 cc (30 bhp), four cylinder; Model 12/16, 1203cc (27 bhp), six cylinder; Southern Cross in 1087cc (40 bhp) and 1232cc four-cylinder models. The Southern Cross gained the company distinction in successive Monte Carlo and Alpine rallies. Scorpion is withdrawn from production. Doug Healey is Technical Director.

Triumph wins the prestigious Maudes Trophy for excellence for their road models.

Bert Hopwood becomes Chief Draughtsman at Ariel. The first sodium street lights in the UK are erected in Purley Way, Croydon, Surrey. The first pedestrian-operated street-crossing lights are put up on Brighton Road, Croydon. Rear-view mirrors become compulsory in the UK. Brough Superior offers a four-cylinder three-wheeled model using a modified 796cc Austin Seven automobile engine. New Hudson ceases motorcycle production. Italian bicycle maker Antonio Malaguti sets up shop; began making motorcycles in 1934.


New range of single cylinder machines designed by Val Page. Page's 'flagship' model 6/1- 25bhp, four-speed 650 vertical twin (designed for sidecar market, it had a 360-degree crankshaft and a helical gear primary drive) proves a commercial failure. Other companies' twins at this time were all V-twins. Single cylinder 500cc CD model has Bowden carb. Engine closures introduced to reduce noise and save cost of polishing hidden parts. Page's design philosophy favours modular engine and bike design, with units sharing the same chassis and other components. Model 6/1
Val Page's Model 6/1, also Triumph's first vertical twin
Triumph puts 98cc and 150cc Villiers engines in XV/1 machines  (but sold under the Gloria badge) to take advantage of new tax laws. They soon replaced them with Triumph's own inclined 147cc engine in the X05/1 and X05/5 models (the latter was the sporty version).

Siegfried Bettmann, 70, retires and is replaced by Col. Holbrook as Managing Director. Harry Perry breaks 500 mile record on a 6/1 at Brooklands. The Gloria line of cars is introduced with the Gloria 10, 1087cc, 40 bhp, four cylinder. The company decides not to manufacture family cars any more.


Name changed to Triumph Co. Ltd. The model range stabilized Triumph's motorcycle business. Page designs single 493cc 5/2 (a basic utility-plus-sidecar model), 5/4 (deluxe: the same engine as the 5/2, but with a chrome tank and headlight) and 5/10 racing models. NM model no longer produced. Gloria car
Gloria car was produced 1934-37
Triumph team forced out of Senior TT following mechanical problems in their early Mk 5/10 racers.

Gloria 12 car is produced in 1232cc (40 bhp) and 1496cc (42 bhp) , four cylinder engines (made through 1937). One ragtop model was called the Monte Carlo. Also introduced were the Gloria 6, 1476cc (52 bhp), all six cylinders, and Dolomite 8 Super Sports, 1990cc (140 bhp), eight cylinders. The Dolomite came with a 100 mph Brooklands certificate. But if the highly-advanced car was greeted with excitement by the automobile press, some sources say it also faced several suits over patent infringements (others say this is just an old rumour). Only a half-dozen were made.

Foot shifters were now in common use throughout the motorcycle industry, replacing hand shifters. Vincent HRD releases motorcycles using Irving's new engine design. Grindlay-Peerless ceases production. A New Imperial laps Brooklands at 103 mph, but a Triumph later does it at 105. German firm Maisch Company (Maico) founded. Italian government drops road tax for motorcycles; Malaguti begins making his first motorcycles. Austrian company Steyre-Daimler-Puch AG Puch is formed, an amalgamation of three firms.


Mark 5 (Mk 5) models 5/5 and 5/10 (a full-blown racer) 500cc in production. It was a two-port racer, specially tuned, special tank, alternative pistons, etc. Model 3/1 offers 343cc, side valves, but limited performance. Still, it was a truly modern roadster.

Triumph offers foot-change gear shifters as an option on their 650cc vertical twin models.

Ad for Gloria cars - click for more
Ad for Gloria car (click above for more)
The motorcycle industry remained stable, but the car side of the firm ran them into financial difficulties, so motorcycle production was halted to focus on building automobiles at their Foleshill Road plant, in Coventry. They stop building smaller cars to concentrate on the larger Gloria models (the 2.3 litre model was based on the Alfa Romeo 8C - a joint venture with Alfa Romeo for a Coventry-built version of their classic 8C 2300 Monza sports car). But only three were made. 

Gloria 6 car made (1476cc, 52 bhp), plus Gloria 6/16 (1991cc, 55 bhp), Gloria 6/16 Sports (1991cc, 65 bhp). The Gloria Southern Cross (SX) was made, a short-chassis Gloria.

An urban speed limit of 35mph (30mph?) is established in the UK. Also, this is the first year for UK driving tests.  TT organizers allow engines to be warmed up before races. On May 13, T.E. Lawrence, riding his Brough Superior SS100 crashed. He died in hospital six days later. Norman Cycles founded in Kent to manufacture bicycles. BMW adopts telescopic forks. Indian (USA) launches Sport Scout model.


Triumph decides to split car production from motorcycle into two separate and independent companies in January. Ariel owner John Young ("Jack" but known to the company as "JS") Sangster buys the Priory Street (motorcycle) works for 5,000 pounds (41,530 for the entire purchase according to Ivor Davies) and assembly-line workers take a drop in pay. He changes the company name to Triumph Engineering Company (registered by Sangster in 1906).

Sangster appoints Ariel's Edward Turner, 35, (designer of the Ariel Square Four) as General Manager and Chief Designer. Turner also receives a 5 per cent commission on net profits of the company, and is a shareholder with 4.9 per cent of the equity. His first act is to clear a space on the production floor for his office and an adjacent drawing office. After a brief period during which Stanley Evershed is Chairman,  Bettmann is asked by Sangster to be the chair of the new company because of his reputation in the industry. Val Page joins BSA (he left Triumph four months before the takeover). Bert Hopwood joins Triumph as Turner's Design Assistant. Ted Crabtree, of Ariel, is appointed Chief Buyer. Racer Freddie Clarke becomes Chief Development Engineer.

Jack Sangster






Edward Turner

Jack Sangster, top, and Edward Turner, bottom.
Turner revamps the line of 250, 350 (3H) and 500cc Mk 5 singles into just three sports roadsters: the Tigers 70, 80, and 90 are the result. He adds polished cases, new paint designs, upswept exhausts, single-tube frames, enclosed valve gears and chrome petrol tanks. Last year for the 5/10 and 6/1. Reggie Pink, New York, first imports Triumphs and becomes the first major US Triumph distributor.

Dolomite 14/60 car made by Triumph Motor Car Company, 1776cc, 65 bhp, four cylinders. Production of Gloria 12 continues. The car company decides not to make any more 'pure' sports cars and would not make any more until 1951 when the TR series was started. The car company reverts to using its own engines.

Calthorpe ceases production. Bob Fisher rides a New Imperial motorcycle to win the 250cc TT race. It is the last time a British motorcycle will ever win in this class. Husquvarna offers its first moped, a 98cc machine. Suzuki is first Japanese motorcycle company.


In July, Turner introduces the 500cc Speed Twin, selling at 75 pounds. It takes the motorcycle world by storm and would prove the definitive British bike. This 27bhp parallel-twin model (some say was based on the engine design of the Riley 9 car, which Turner owned) set the trend for motorcycles and its form continued well into the 1980s. It was capable of travelling 90 mph (145kph) and weighed 361 lb. (166kg). Speed Twin
Speed Twin - pre-war model
Triumph wins the Maudes Trophy again for its designs this year.

A 600cc side-valve model 6S is introduced for sidecar work. Alf Camwell, Works manager, is responsible for closing down the car side. Freddie Clarke joins Triumph to head up an engine development section. This year 'Experimental 1" is made, a prototype Tiger T100 with a new tank shape.

Sunbeam is sold to Associated Motorcycles (AMC). Italian firm Moto Morini is founded. First Daytona 200 held. Cimatti (Italy) is founded. Ernst Henne sets new land speed record for motorcycles on a BMW at 279.5 kmh (173.3 mph).


Original Triumph works in Much Park Street sold. Last year for the Tiger 90 single. Tiger 100 twin announced. It is a sporty version of the Speed Twin: 33bhp, reaching 100mph (160kph) but proves to have handling problems and steering wobble at high speeds. Holbrook is knighted. Triumph begins plans to rebadge New Imperial's 200cc single with some design upgrades, and sell it as their own small bike. However, it never got to market. 1938 T80
1938 T80
Bill Johnson and Wilbur Ceder buy British and American Motors, a small motorcycle shop in Pasadena, California. They sell Triumphs, Ariels, BSAs and Indians. They also host their first motorcycle show to give the public a look at the new bikes.

After several tests of motorcycles from numerous manufacturers, the Metropolitan (London) Police choose the Speed Twin for their own use. They buy two dozen initially, and would buy thousands over the next several years. 

Chater Lea ceases motorcycle production. New Imperial factory closes, the company bought by Jack Sangster. He continued production of their motorcycles until war broke out in September, 1939. Norman releases its first motorcycles, a 98cc autocycle similar to a modern moped, plus a 125cc single. BMW adopts rear-plunger suspension system, delivers its 100,000 motorcycle. DKW rider Ewald Kluge becomes first German to win the TT.



Tiger 90 discontinued. T100, with top speed of 95-100 mph, becomes a popular model in US. TT races put on hold again. Reggie Pink concentrates on Triumph sales. The Tiger 85 is announced, but never produced.

Edward Turner's wife dies in a car crash near Coventry. 

1939 T100
Freddie Clarke sets a new 350cc lap record at Brooklands, doing 105.97mph on a Tiger 80, then sets another doing 118.02mph on a bored-out 503cc T100. Val Page returns to Ariel. Sangster buys the bankrupt New Imperial name for use as a manufacturer of no-frills machines. But plans to resurrect the line are halted by the war, and never brought back.

World War II declared and within six weeks, 1,400 Triumph motorcycles are requisitioned from the factory for war use. This year, Reggie Pink, New York, offers all of Triumph's 13 bike models in his shop.

Car company is in receivership, acquired by Standard Motor Company. Later, the Triumph car company was taken over by Ward's, internationally-known coach makers headed by former Technical Director, Donald Healey. Because of the war, the car plant closed in October and would never re-open as just Triumph again. Financial troubles force Rudge Whitworth to close, but production is taken over by Norman. Norman later halts production during the war. Velocette puts a swing-arm rear suspension on its racers. First vintage race for machines built before 1930, held at Donnington Park. The last speed records are set at Brooklands: 143.39 mph by Eric Fernihough, plus a 124.51 lap set by Noel Pope. The track closed when war broke out and never reopened. First international motocross event is held, in France. British motorcycle exports are only 19,000, compared to almost 34,000 for Germany. BMW riders win top two TT races.


In January, the British government reduced production demands, allowing Triumph to manufacture bikes for the civilian and export markets again. In March, the French government contracts to buy 500cc side-valve bikes from Triumph. In May, the British government again requisitions bikes, halting civilian production. By July production for the military is up to 300 machines a week. Coventry bombed
Coventry factory bombed
350cc side-valve vertical twin with rigid frame and girder forks (3TW based on Tiger 85 design) and 3HW (350cc ohv based on the Tiger 80; a "potentially great" bike, it offered a top speed of over 70 mph, weighed 240 lbs. and had a six inch ground clearance) singles approved for Services. Bert Hopwood believed the 3TW was a seriously flawed design. Fifty prototypes were made for testing, but destroyed in the Blitz. Hopwood wrote this was a "favour" to the War Office.

Priory Street works destroyed by German bombers on November 14 during blitz of Coventry. Initial batch of 50 350cc twins ready to go out are destroyed. This was the end of this model and motorcycles were never again built at this plant. The staff salvage all of the usable tools and parts from the rubble, only stopping when an unexploded bomb is found among the debris. The Blitz also destroyed all of Triumph's technical records, drawings and designs. Production moved to temporary location in Warwick, while a new factory on the Birmingham-Coventry road outside Meriden is being built.

Sangster sells Ariel to BSA group. Canadian distributors Sammett & Blair (east) and Nicholson Brothers (west) selling Triumphs into US market, bringing much-needed foreign currency to Britain. Bruce "Boo Boo" Pearson wins 32 out of 36 competition events in California riding a Tiger 100. Johnson and Ceder move shop to Los Angeles, rename it Johnson Motors. Edward Turner visits Johnson Motors. 

First US drive-in gas station with island pumps is built in Detroit. Brough Superior ends production after making about 3,100 motorcycles. Royal Enfield builds its first twin, a 500cc. Velosex (France) makes its first motorcycle, a 38cc two-stroke. Edward Butler, one of the earliest motorcycle pioneers, dies. Francis-Barnett factory is demolished in same night raid that destroys Triumph. in 1940, German bombing raids also damaged the BSA factory in Birmingham, including a large section of the 1915 workshop, killing 53 workers on the night shift. A second raid, two nights later, almost completely destroyed the old 1863 structure. In two raids, BSA lost 1,600 machine tools - more than lost in the entire blitz on Coventry. At this time BSA had 67 factories across the country.


Temporary premises acquired in Warwick and production restarts in June. 310 and 500cc side-valves in production by June for Services (advanced 3TW never built). Work on new factory at the village of Meriden started (reputed to be at the geographic centre of Britain). The company also built 6kW generators for RAF based on the Speed Twin engine, but using light alloy cylinder head and barrel. Called the AAPP (Airborne Auxiliary Power Plant), the design went on to become the basis of the post-war Grand Prix engine. Triumph also worked on a target-towing winch for the Navy.

Annie Bettmann dies. Triumph exports are cut off.

Turner's "sprung hub" was supposed to go into production this year, adding 17 lbs to the weight of a bike. But the war delays introduction until 1948.

Levis ceases production. BMW builds R75 motorcycle with sidecar for German military.


New factory at Meriden in production mid-year for military, with single-cylinder 350cc ohv 3HW based on pre-war 3H (basically a Tiger 80 but without an air filter, which required major servicing every couple of thousand miles), but improved with enclosed valve gear, etc. Forty thousand built for military during war, out of a total of 49,700 motorcycles produced. Triumph also made aircraft components, track links, steering housings and two-wheeled stretcher carriers. Turner designs a generator using a Triumph vertical twin engine for the Air Ministry. 

After a blazing row with Jack Sangster, Turner quit and moved to BSA as chief designer, where he worked on a side-valve vertical twin. Bert Hopwood becomes Triumph's new designer and works on a new side-valve model to challenge Turner's military machine for BSA.

W. 'Smokey' Dawson, in Wolverhampton (starts manufacturing plunger-type rear suspension for motorcycles, starting the DMW company's road into motorcycle production. Sanglas (Talleres Sanglas SA, Spain) starts motorcycle production.


Bert Hopwood designs the 500cc, side-valve twin TRW model for the military, at the request of Jack Sangster (partly to challenge Turner at BSA who was working on a military 500cc twin), but it was never produced. prototypes were released in february, ahead of BSA's planned launch. The design would become the post-war TRW model. In late October, Edward Turner returned to Triumph. Hopwood worked on design for an inline four-cylinder 700cc engine that could produce 50 bhp. Turner's return to Triumph scuttled the plan.


Edward Turner is Managing Director again. Alfred "Rich" Child, Harley-Davidson's Asian sales agent, approaches Triumph to become their exclusive, factory-authorized importer into the USA. Turner and Sangster decide to stick with Johnson as their official distributor.
Ariel, still run by Charles Sangster and his son Jack, is sold to BSA. Reggie Pink signs an exclusive deal with Harley-Davidson and stops selling Triumph motorcycles. Spanish motorcycle firm Montesa founded.


During the war years, Triumph built 50,000 motorcycles. Large stock of used 3HW and 3SW (side-valve) models bought from War Department for reconditioning and repainting in new colours, sold in Britain for civilian use. In March, four twins and one single are announced, but the single and one twin never see production. The Speed Twin, Tiger 100 and 350cc 3T are made. They are fitted with telescopic forks (replacing the old girder front forks), but are otherwise the same as pre-war models. Turner designs the forks, but first models spew oil when bottoming out, so they are reworked by Freddie Clarke.

Johnson draws up plans for a US nation-wide dealer network and accepts applications for Ariel and triumph franchises. JoMo moves to a new location in Pasadena, investing $85,000 in renovations, including six hydraulic lifts in the service area. JoMo drops its Indian franchise, but picks up California-made Mustang, Lucas electrical products, Amal carbs, John Bull and Dunlop tires.

The car company, independent since 1936, is purchased by Coventry automobile maker, Standard Motor Company (est. 1903 by Reginald Maudslay) to form the Standard-Triumph Group. A subsidiary, Triumph Motor Co. Ltd. was formed and produced the Triumph 1800 Saloon and 1800 Roadster this year. MV (Meccanica Verghera) Agusta (Italy) makes its first bike, a 98cc two-stroke. German motorcycle manufacturers restricted by Allies to making 60cc machines after the war. AMC releases its first hydraulic front forks, based on BMW design.

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Note -
re: 1928 cars

One source says the Super Seven car was 7747cc (7.7l) although this is unlikely. However, many other contemporary manufacturers produced equally large big-litre automobiles: Minerva made a 6l car in 1929 and Hispano Suiza a 6.6l racer (increased to 8l around 1930). Mercedes Type S (1927) was 6.8l, the Grosser Mercedes of 1930 was 7.7l. Seven-litre vehicles were built by Renault (7.5l) in 1906; Leyland (Straight Eight), Dusenberg and Peugeot. Packard made a  6l Twin Six (a V12 from around 1916). Austin also had a 10l car around 1910. But these weren't the largest engines of   their day. Mercedes also made an 11.5l in 1906 and 12.75l in 1908. Fiat made a 7l Vee Twelve in 1921 and a 10.5l in 1910. In 1929 Itala built a 12l car, Napier a 16.5l in 1901 and a 14.5l in 1907; Panhard a 13.7l. But the largest of all was the 21-litre giant made by Benz in 1913!. Source (among others): Early Cars, by Michael Sedgwick, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1962.

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