History of Triumph

Triumph imageSiegfried Bettmann founded the Triumph Cycle Company in 1887 and promptly acquired premises in Coventry in which he began manufacturing bicycles. As technology advanced the company moved into the production of powered cycles in 1902. By 1905 the factory output had reached 500 motorcycles per year, with the machines being designed, manufactured and built at the Coventry site.

For the next 18 years Triumph enjoyed steady growth and in 1923 the company added automobile production to their portfolio. By 1925 the motorcycle plant in Coventry occupied 500,000-sq. ft. and employed 3000 people; with production at around 25-30,000 units per year.

The motorcycle industry remained fairly stable throughout the early 1930s, and in 1935 the decision was taken to separate the car and motorcycle divisions (the bicycle business had been sold off in 1932). In due course the motorcycle arm was sold and renamed Triumph Engineering Co.

During the Second World War, the Government requisitioned virtually all of the machines manufactured and, despite the Coventry factory being destroyed in the 1942 Blitz of Coventry, production continued throughout the war years, firstly at a temporary site in Warwick and then at a new factory in Meriden.

Civilian production began again in 1946 and with supply lines open again Triumph set about re-establishing a dealer network in America. In 1951 the BSA group bought Triumph, although the Triumph marque was retained and the company remained a separate concern within the group.

Production and sales had grown steadily since the war and by 1965 the Meriden plant was producing around 800 units per week, with 80% of these destined for the USA. Production peaked in 1969 at around 46,800 units per year. In 1968 the first triple - the Triumph Trident - was produced (prior to this the company had concentrated on the manufacture of singles and twins).

By the early 70's the slow supply of parts, coupled with tooling problems led to production delays and in 1972, in a Government sponsored move, the BSA Group merged with Norton Villiers and Norton-Villiers-Triumph (NVT) was formed. In 1973 NVT announced that the Meriden plant was to close - which provoked a workers' sit in. As a result production ground to a halt and in the following year, 1974, virtually no motorcycles were built. In 1975, after much negotiation, the Meriden Workers Co-operative was formed and, with capital provided by way of a grant from the British government, production of 750cc Bonnevilles and Tigers resumed at the plant. The co-operative subsequently bought the rights to the Triumph marque from NVT and production gradually crept up to 350 units per week. Despite further support from the government the co-operative went into liquidation in 1983.

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