Triumph Bonneville

Triumph Bonneville

 

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The origin of the Triumph Bonneville

Triumph Bonneville

 

The great Edward Turner could be much more interested in scooters, the new wave that was breaking into the motorcycle world and with the new developments of Triumph with the bathtub style (rear wheel fairing), Daimler V8 engines and the unification of the C range of the brand. All this could be a great personal and professional challenge for the wizard Turner, but the reality and strength of the money ruled.

In 1958, Triumph was the most important imported motorcycle brand in the US and the Americans only wanted more power, they didn’t care about the scooters or the new style of motorcycles that were becoming fashionable, they just wanted a 650cc with double carburetor.

Triumph Bonneville

Bill Johnson y Edward Turner | Triumph Bonneville

TriCor and JoMo, their American partners, pressed hard for Turner to dedicate himself to what his market was demanding. The only concern that Turner had about it was how this fragile T110 could withstand this increase in power, he was aware that he should strengthen the crankshaft assembly in some way.

In March 1958 Meriden tested a T110 with one-piece forged crankshaft, E3134 cams, two carburetors and an 8.5: 1 compression ratio. The test was a success and the engine’s power climbed to almost 50 horses. At a meeting with Denis McCormack of TriCor and Bill Johnson of JoMo they decided to call the new motorcycle “Bonneville.”

As the new launch was preferably intended for the US market and Johny Allen’s recent achievements were still fresh, the name was very well received among the public. The new motorcycle would become an iconic model of the brand and the world of motorcycle in general, perpetuating until today.  

In March 1958 Meriden tested a T110 with one-piece forged crankshaft, E3134 cams, two carburetors and an 8.5: 1 compression ratio. The test was a success and the engine’s power climbed to almost 50 horses. At a meeting with Denis McCormack of TriCor and Bill Johnson of JoMo they decided to call the new motorcycle “Bonneville.”

 

 

 

 

1959 and the difficulties of the first years

Triumph Bonneville

 

As it was a Tiger T110 with a series of engine updates, the principles were not good for the newly introduced Bonneville. It was not easy to hide their roots and the colors chosen by Turner for the first units did not help either. However, it would be one of the fastest motorcycles of its time.

Triumph Bonneville

Triumph Bonneville 1959 | Triumph Bonneville

In addition, the first Bonneville would suffer Turner’s obsession with strict cost control, the frame and the 8-inch front brake were not up to the new engine power delivery and were taking the new vehicle to the limit. The front fork and the swing arm without reinforcement also did not inspire confidence in new users.

The new motorcycle did not attract buyers and its sales were quite discreet. Even so, despite its unpopularity, the 1959 Tangerine Bonneville is one of the most precious by collectors today. Luckily, it did not take Meriden a long time to realize that the colors chosen were not to the liking of his customers and they changed the mandarin for the Royal blue, a color with much better acceptance among young people.

The new motorcycle did not attract buyers and its sales were quite discreet. Even so, despite its unpopularity, the 1959 Tangerine Bonneville is one of the most precious by collectors today. Luckily, it did not take Meriden a long time to realize that the colors chosen were not to the liking of his customers and they changed the mandarin for the Royal blue, a color with much better acceptance among young people.

 

 

 

1960 and take off. Triumph Bonneville

Triumph Bonneville

 

For this year the Bonneville had a deep update, not only mechanical but also aesthetic. The tangerine color, the gondola of the headlamp and the fenders were removed from the catalog by an alloy like those used by the TR6.

With the headlamp and the instruments separated from the fork plus the new fenders, the appearance of the motorcycle was more sporty, a new frame improved stability, however, the rear part of the frame was quite weak and was prone to fracture, this It was what caused a fatal accident in the Big Bear Run at the end of 1959, which forced a new development and solution for the mid-1960s.

Triumph Bonneville

Triumph Bonneville 1960 | Triumph Bonneville

A Lucas electric alternator was also incorporated, with inappropriate voltage regulation, this caused malfunctions, sometimes causing the batteries to evaporate. The ignition was then maintained with the magneto Lucas. Changes were made to the front fork and a couple of new Amal carburetors were installed.

The motorcycles with the specification of the United Kingdom and the USA diverged a lot, the British had a 15-liter fuel tank and low handlebars while the American ones had an 11-liter and high handlebar.

Finally, following all these updates, the Bonneville was gaining momentum and the brand began to achieve the desired successes and consumers as well. This same year, Gary Richards with a T120, achieved the record of 240 km / h precisely in Bonneville, exceeding the following year in the same place, reaching this time, 256 km / h. The new Triumph motorcycle amply met expectations.

Finally, following all these updates, the Bonneville was gaining momentum and the brand began to achieve the desired successes and consumers as well. This same year, Gary Richards with a T120, achieved the record of 240 km / h precisely in Bonneville, exceeding the following year in the same place, reaching this time, 256 km / h. The new Triumph motorcycle amply met expectations.

 

 

 

1969 a path to perfection

Triumph Bonneville

 

In the following years, the Bonneville continued to evolve year after year, receiving gradual improvements not only aesthetic but also mechanical, the motorcycle was perfected to become an absolutely fun and reliable vehicle. From 1960 he was reaping success after success, this helped establish Bonneville as the most emblematic British sports motorcycle of the time. Such was the appeal of the Bonnie that in the 1960s it sold three times more than the Norton and BSA twin-cylinder.

Triumph Bonneville 1969 | Triumph Bonneville

In 1969, the most refined Bonneville T120 of all was achieved, with the standardization of the engines for the Bonnies, Trophys and Tigers range started in 1963, a series of improvements were developed that would make the T120 an unbeatable product.

The work with the Amal carburetors had been completed by solving some reliability problems, the cam shafts hardened to prevent premature wear of the cam, the crankshaft included a heavier flywheel and to reduce noise, the exhaust pipes incorporated a tube noise balance. This allowed the UK versions to have shorter silencers than the US versions. Some updates on the chassis were also carried out.

The successes achieved this year in the 24-hour endurance race in Barcelona were the height of a very productive year for the T120. Cycle magazine in its March 1969 test published: “As it has been for a long time so far, Bonneville is one of the two or three most desirable motorcycles that are manufactured today in the world.”

The successes achieved this year in the 24-hour endurance race in Barcelona were the height of a very productive year for the T120. Cycle magazine in its March 1969 test published: “As it has been for a long time so far, Bonneville is one of the two or three most desirable motorcycles that are manufactured today in the world.”

 

 

 

2001 and the rebirth of a myth. Triumph Bonneville

Triumph Bonneville

 

After relaunching most of the most famous names in its history, it was a matter of time before the brand gave life to the most emblematic of all, the T120 Bonneville.

In the US alone, they had sold more than 300,000 units, its return was full of nostalgia and symbolism, a few generations had enjoyed their benefits and eagerly awaited to see it again on the roads.

The project began in 1997 and was based on the most successful model of all those years, that of 1969, a restored unit from the US was taken as a model to replicate aesthetic and ergonomic parameters. The premise was to get a light and agile motorcycle, leaving aside speed and performance, the main features enjoyed by the old models.

Triumph Bonneville 2001 | Triumph Bonneville

When choosing the engine that would carry the new model, it was considered a 750cc engine, one even thought of a 650cc engine, but finally it was decided to install a 790cc parallel twin-cylinder with camshaft double and oil-cooled.

The appearance should be the closest thing to the old Bonnie and tried to maintain the retro aesthetics, but the public demanded modern technology and worked scrupulously to meet this premise at all times.

The front oil drain tube was designed to resemble the original pushrod tube, and changing the gearbox position allowed the traditional triangular engine cover on the right and larger left clutch housing.

Also traditional in design, the chassis included a tubular steel cradle frame with twin tubes. Front and rear disc brakes and 19” front wheel. For the relaunch the scarlet red color was chosen replicating the iconic model of 1969.

With the new Bonneville, Triumph had created a compact retro motorcycle, finally something heavy if but very maneuverable. It also offered a wide range of accessories and silencers that could increase their horsepower by 10 horses.

The revival of the old T120 was a success, but the most important thing is that Bonnie was once again among us.

The revival of the old T120 was a success, but the most important thing is that Bonnie was once again among us.

 

 

 

 

 

Source: “Triumph motorcycles 1937-today” of Ian Falloon

Klauer & Iannuzzi | 2019 | Triumph Bonneville