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Les Harris Bonnevilles

Les Harris Bonnevilles Rise from the Ashes

The story of the Les Harris Bonnevilles is one of the more fascinating in all of Classic British Motorcycles lore. Such was the reputation of the Triumph name & the enthusiasm & optimism of its most devoted followers that after the 1983 collapse of the Meriden Co-operative-owned Triumph Motorcycles, Ltd., two men stepped up, ready to pick up the pieces & start building Triumph Motorcycles again. Interestingly, both would take very different approaches to doing this.

The first was wealthy English homebuilder John Bloor, who bought the Triumph name, manufacturing rights, patents & trademarks with the intention of reintroducing the Triumph brand as a modern, state-of-the-art company producing world-class motorcycles that would compete with any motorcycle produced anywhere. The second was Les Harris, a successful supplier of aftermarket parts for the Triumph twins. He wanted to keep producing the venerable old Triumph Bonneville pretty much as it was at the end of 1983. As it turned out, both got their way.

Bloor went on to build a brand new high tech factory in Hinkley, England & began producing great new Triumph Motorcycles in 1991 & is very successful today. And the new Hinkley-based Triumph Motorcycles, Ltd. now makes…you guessed it…a new version of the time-honored Triumph Bonneville. An 800cc DOHC twin, it’s styled to look like the classic pushrod Triumph twins of old.

Les Harris bought all the old tooling, parts & supplies left over after the old Triumph’s collapse & obtained a license from Bloor to produce T140 Bonnevilles under the Triumph name. It took some time to establish a supply network for the needed components, mostly outside England in Europe. Finally, on June 25, 1985, the first L.F. Harris Triumph Bonneville rolled off the assembly line in Newton Abbot, Devon, England. A total of 1,255 motorcycles were produced before his license expired in March 1988. Considering the minuscule size of his operation & no doubt his budget, building 1,255 motorcycles was a monumental undertaking & a great achievement.

But the story gets just a tad more interesting: The 5 years that Les Harris produced Triumph Bonnevilles bridged the gap between the closing of the Meriden plant & the opening of John Bloor’s new Hinkley Triumph factory. This allowed Triumph Motorcycles to claim the fame of being the oldest continually-operating motorcycle manufacturer in the world, having built its first machine in 1902 (one year ahead of Harley-Davidson).

Check out these TRIUMPH BOOKS

2018 Classic Triumph Calendar

Triumph Motorcycles: The art of the motorcycle

The Complete Book of Classic and Modern Triumph Motorcycles 1937-Today (Complete Book Series)

Triumph Motorcycles: From Speed-Twin to Bonneville

Triumph Bonneville and TR6 Motorcycle Restoration Guide: 1956-83

British Motorcycles Triumph (Little Books)

Triumph Motorcycles in America

McQueen’s Motorcycles: Racing and Riding with the King of Cool

Triumph Motorcycle Restoration

Illustrated Triumph Motorcycles Buyer’s Guide: From 1945 Through the Latest Models (Illustrated Buyer’s Guide)

Tales of Triumph Motorcycles and the Meriden Factory

Hinckley Triumphs: The First Generation (Crowood Motoclassic)


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