While practically everyone on the planet has heard of the Triumph Bonneville, the Triumph Thunderbird motorcycle has not achieved the same amount of fame. And yet, the Thunderbird was at least as important to Triumph as the ‘Bonny’ in terms of sales and popularity .. it simply doesn’t get mentioned as often. Among the Triumph faithful and aficionados though, the Thunderbird is perhaps the most important Triumph to be produced.
It all started with three riders driving across 500 miles at 92 mph on three different – but recorded as stock – Thunderbird 6T motorcycles. In 1949, that was a testament to durability, reliability and speed. From that year until 1966, Triumph produced the Thunderbird motorcycle out of the Meriden factory and shipped them all over the world. All models had a 649c.c. two-cylinder engine – a big increase from the 498c.c. Speed Twin it was modeled after – and was mated to a 4-speed gearbox. It proved to be so well liked – perhaps loved – in the U.S. that, after 1950, Triumph sold more bikes in America than it did in any other country including in the homeland of England.
The Thunderbird motorcycle went away after 1966 only to reappear in 1981 as the Thunderbird TR65. It was simply an ‘economy’ version of the T-140 Bonneville and was only sold in the U.K. and a handful of British Commonwealth countries. It lasted three model years and then Triumph suffered some very tough times.
However, John Bloor brought the company back to full-on production in 1990. Triumph Motorcycles Ltd. of Hinckley began another model run of the Thunderbird motorcycle in 1994. This beauty had an 885c.c. 3-cylinder engine connected to a six-speed transmission and rode on very confidence-inspiring 18 inch front and 16 inch rear wheels. A tractable 69hp and 52ft/lb of torque carried the 485lb dry machine over any distance in any place you could find fuel. It was blessed with classical good looks, two-tone paint and historical emblems and exhaust. Like the first T-bird, it was built for cruising and its parts and accessories catalog was ready to help with anything a rider may need or want.
The Thunderbird 900 Sport motorcycle was produced in 1997. It had many upgraded components – wheels, brakes, suspension, etc. – and put 82hp to the ground – a significant increase. The design was slightly modified as well, but it retained its lovely retro styling. The 900 Sport was the last 885c.c. Thunderbird motorcycle to be made ..
Until the 2010 Thunderbird motorcycle was developed! The latest addition is a rather large twin with 1600c.c. in displacement, a comfortable cockpit, great handling and smooth character. It still lives up to the needs of a cruiser or touring rider, and it is a very exciting and well-balanced ride. The Triumph Thunderbird motorcycle enters a new century and a new icon is born.