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The Triumph factory in the fifties
The Triumph factory in the fifties

Today we are going to travel to the past, thanks to some advertising videos that were so popular in the fifties we can enjoy today a detailed documentary about how a Triumph was made in the fifties. Quite a technological show at the time, although over time this meticulous and manual manufacture would be the last responsible for the British brands ending up yielding the crown to modern Japanese production systems. But let's not anticipate events and we are going to first make a small review of the history of Triumph, the only British brand that has survived to this day.

curiously the brand was founded in 1885 by a German (Siegfried Bettmann) who was dedicated to importing and a little later to making bicycles. They were engaged in business until 1902 when they decided to manufacture the first motorcycle, a company carried out with the collaboration of another German (Mauritz Schulte) who imported the 1.75 hp Minerva engines. As early as 1905, the first Triumph-designed engine was produced, a 363cc single-cylinder four-stroke with side valves.

At the time Triumph made a good part of its reputation thanks to victories in races such as the 1908 Isle of Man TT. The business was running so well that in 1910 3,000 motorcycles were being made a year, and when the First World War broke out Triumph was able to supply 30,000 motorcycles to the army. In the 1920s, the manufacture of motorcycles for the general public was resumed with models such as the Triumph Ricardo or the Triumph LS, high-end models. Motorcycles such as the Triumph Model P were also manufactured, a 500cc which is credited with the brand's first economic hit.

Monolith of the Triumph factory in Meriden

During World War II Triumph refocused its effort on supplying motorcycles to the army, reaching 50,000 units during the war. At that time the models were two-cylinder around 500 cc and a little later 650 cc. Names like Triumph thunderbird, Tiger 110, TR5 and TR6 Trophy made the brand's fame even greater. In 1951 Triumph was sold to BSA (Birminghan Small Arms) its most direct British rival. Although both brands continued to operate independently for many years.

At the end of the sixties Japanese manufacturers arrived in Europe and with them BSA / Triumph began to see the ears of the wolf. The brand made an effort to put cheaper models like the 350cc, which cost a whopping £ 22 million, the last nail in the coffin on the road. The brand went bankrupt in 1972, and the only people who bet on continuity were the workers at the Meriden factory, which together with the Norton-Villiers rescue plan continued to manufacture the 750cc twin-cylinder until 1983.

Had to arrive John bloor in the nineties to recover the rights of the brand and re-manufacture motorcycles with the Triumph brand in the tank. And today it does not seem that the business is doing badly.

Now let's go back to the videos that were the initial objective of this article. In them we can see how almost all the parts that make up an engine are manufactured in addition to the different parts of a motorcycle. I would venture to say that the final model is a Triumph thunderbird, but the image quality is not exactly the best. What is observed throughout the documentary is that the pieces are controlled manually and despite the fact that almost everything is manufactured with machinery, its performance is quite low by current standards. I do not know the history of when random quality control was implemented in chain production, but I would dare to assure that in what we are seeing, too much time is wasted in checking parts, with what the final count of man-hours of work is sure that it takes a fairly large part in the price of the product. Something that the Japanese understood almost from the first moment and it helped them to make motorcycles much cheaper and with the same quality (or even higher) than the British ones.

Ale, you can now play the videos and see how a motorcycle was made in the fifties.

The Triumph Factory in the 1950s 1/3

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