The most emblematic British motorcycle producer has a long story of setting standards in the industry. It all started during the last decade of the XIX century, when Siegfried Bettmann and Moritz Schulte, two Germans living in Coventry, decided to turn their bicycle reselling business into something altogether different. The resulting motorcycle-producing company went through a few shadowy names until it was labeled Triumph and started production based on German models. Somewhere around 1905, production turned into original designs, and shortly after Triumph was making and selling motorcycles by the hundreds.
Business flourished, and the advent of World War I brought an exponential growth on demand, with the Model H, which became known as the Trusty Triumph due to its reliability under adverse circumstances, highly coveted by the allied forces for their war effort. By the time of the great depression, Triumph was one of the main industries in Britain, with sales both to the domestic market and abroad. The main plant ended up destroyed in the WWII bombings, and the company relocated to Warwickshire.
The 50s saw the birth of the Thunderbird. A 650 cc version of another model, it was created to meet the needs of the American market, by then the destiny of a significant part of the production. After Hollywood great Marlon Brando rode a Thunderbird in one of his iconic roles, the bike would become immensely popular across the United States. Apart from its image, the bike would also retain the speed world record for a decade and a half.
Some years later, and with the company already merged with BSA, a new model came out of the factory. Named the T120, it became famous under the name Bonneville. With recent versions of the original still in production today, the Bonneville has insured Triumph has its rightful place in the gallery of motorcycling hits.
The company fell into hard times during the 70s, in part because most of the production was assigned for export, leaving the domestic market ripe for the rise of the Japanese giants. The new models failed to have an impact on sales, primarily because of Triumph not being able to compete with the more advanced Japanese technology. Several attempts to rescue the brand failed, and Triumph went into receivership by the early 80s.
After a number of transactions, in 1983 John Bloor, an English businessman, took over the company, renamed it Triumph Motorcycles and set sights on returning the brand to its former glory. After a slow start, profound renovations and developments made Triumph return to the main stage, selling around 60.000 units a year. In recent years Triumph is associating itself with merchandising products related to motorcycling, transmitting an aura of classic revivalism.