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Triumph is the largest surviving British motorcycle manufacturer although the name has passed through different hands since German immigrant Siegfried Bettmann introduced the Triumph Cycle Company in 1886, moving into motorcycles and producing its first motorised bicycle in 1902. Production took place in two factories, with one in Coventry and one in Nuremberg, Germany. Despite the split, the Allied Forces in World War 1 utilised Triumphs among their motorcycle forces, and by the mid-1920s, Triumph was one of Britian’s main motorcycle and car makes. The Great Depression of the 1930s caused Triumph to sell their German subsidiary, and by 1936, the British motorcycle company had been acquired by Jack Sangster, who also owned Ariel.
Following the bombing raids on Coventry during World War 2, the recovered tooling and machinery was moved to Meriden in the West Midlands in 1942. This period saw large sales of the Triumph Speed Twin, the Thunderbird for the American market, and the 1959 Triumph T120, which became known as the Bonneville. But due to the expansion of Japanese manufacturers in the late 1960s, financial problems let to Norton Villiers Triumph with redundancies and closures including the Meriden factory. That led to the a Meridien workers co-operative founded with Government loans, but this went into bankruptcy in 1983.
The name was bought by John Bloor in 1983, but it wasn’t until the late 1980s that the first engine and production models were appearing, following the construction of a new factory in Hinckley in Leicestershire. The new models used famous names from the past, with new 750cc and 900cc triple-cylinder engines. Early four-cylinder models were phased out due to a less enthusiastic reception, but parallel twins also became part of the focus for retro motorcycles with modern engineering. In 2004 the Rocket III cruiser launched as the largest production motorcycle in the world, but retro bikes such as the Bonneville, and modern nakeds including the Speed Triple, provide the bulk of sales.