The first gas-powered motorcycle was created by Gottlieb Daimler in about 1885. Since then, the motorcycle has evolved into the ride you recognize today. One of the companies that have been there almost from the beginning is Triumph Motorcycles. How much of the history of your Triumph in Charlotte do you know?
A German man named Siegfried Bettmann arrived in Coventry, England in the 1880s, and shortly after his arrival he began the S. Bettmann & Co. Import and Export Agency in London. With this company, which he would rename the Triumph Cycle Company in 1886, Bettmann would sell bicycles created by other businesses. When a German engineer by the name of Schulte was introduced into the company, he would help Bettmann begin actual manufacturing of bicycles. In 1902, Triumph produced their first motorcycle, known as No. 1, using a bicycle frame with a 2.2 hp Minerva engine. The company would continue producing bicycles and motorcycles, and would supply over 30,000 Model H Roadsters to allied troops in WWI. This motorcycle would come to be known as the Trusty Triumph, and is often regarded as the first modern motorcycle. In 1919, Schulte would leave the company, wishing to begin automobile production, but finding little support from Bettmann.
Automobiles and More
The new partner to Triumph, Colonel Claude V. Holbrook, would also show an interest in automobile production, and in the 1920s, automobile production would begin. The Super Seven would prove to be a popular Triumph vehicle. Bettmann would retire in 1933, shortly after the bicycle manufacturing portion of the company was sold. Facing financial trouble, the automobile and motorcycle portions of the operation would split in 1936. Jack Sangster would acquire the motorcycle side of things, and began exporting to the United States. In 1940, Triumph would begin production for WWII, selling over 50,000 motorcycles to the military over the course of the war.
Popularity and Longevity
In the United States, celebrities would bring fame to the Triumph motorcycles, with Marlon Brando riding a 1950 Thunderbird in the 1953 movie, “The Wild One,” Bud Elkins and Steve McQueen riding a TR6 650 Trophy in “The Great Escape” in 1963, and EvelKnievel performing stunts on a T-120 Bonneville and 650 Bonneville, such as his jump over the fountain at Caesar’s Palace Casino in Las Vegas. In 1959, the T-120 Bonneville 650 would become the highest selling British twin of all time. In the 1980s, Triumph would again face financial trouble, but would be purchased by John Bloor in 1983, confirming that Triumph would be the largest and longest running British motorcycle manufacturer, and to be considered by many as the longest running motorcycle company in the world. Today, you can still find a Triumph in Charlottesville and across the United States and around the world, with models such as the iconic Bonneville, the Daytona, Rocket III, and many more still in production.