Long before the first Triumph Trophy came out in 1948, Triumph Motorcycles were cutting their teeth in the dirt, gleaning off-road experience designing & building military motorcycles for the British Army in World War 2. The 1940 Triumph 3TW 350 twin was built to a War Ministry specification, it was a lightweight at only 230 pounds, thanks to liberal use of expensive aluminum alloy. It’s uncertain how many were built during the war, but they were highly successful in the field.
1953 Triumph TR5 Trophy, the last year for the rigid frame.
POSTWAR COMPETITION BIKES
At war’s end, everything from steel to electricity was being rationed in England & priority was given to export products. Triumph wanted to produce twin-cylinder models only, as these showed the greatest promise in the burgeoning US market. But, their competition bikes had traditionally been single cylinder 250cc & 350cc bikes. The decision was made that their new competition machines would be twins. The first was the 349cc twin-cylinder 3T, which turned into a very capable trials machine & won major national trails awards in 1946 including the Cotswold Cup, the Mitchells & the Beggars Roost. Triumph Motorcycles decided to participate in the 1948 International Six Day Trials (ISDT) in San Remo, Italy & immediately began working on a 500cc replacement for the 3T.
1955 Triumph TR5 Trophy, second year for swingarm suspension.
TR5 TROPHY IS BORN
The new Triumph Trophy 500 was light light the 3T, but powerful like the 6T Speed Twin. And the engine was essentially a 6T 650, but with lower 6:1 compression ratio, although it could be optioned higher. The first Triumph TR5 Trophy appeared at the 1948 Earls Court Show. The new Trophy won the ISDT the next 3 years running (1949, 1950 & 1951). It’s lightweight & high power made it an ideal machine for US desert racing & it proved also to be a very versatile motorcycle & a capable street bike.
1956 Triumph TR6B Trophy, first year for the TR6.
TOO MUCH IS ALMOST ENOUGH
The demand for more & more power was relentless, especially in America. The 500 twin had been punched out to a 650 in its street bikes in 1950. Now the off-road Trophy was about to get the same treatment. The 650 twin had started with the Triumph 6T Thunderbird in 1950 & it was the hottest bike on the market at the time. It was trumped in 1953 by the Triumph T110 Tiger 650. Now it was 1956 & it was about to get trumped again, this time by the Triumph TR6. The first TR6’s all came with a 2-into-1 single exhaust that high along the left side of the bike, above the primary cover. They all came trimmed out for off-road work, with removable headlights (with quick-disconnect electrical connections), light alloy fenders & gaitored forks. It was a handsome machine & an instant hit, especially in America, where they liked it’s lean, stripped-down look, compared to the stodgy Thunderbird & Tiger, with their valanced fenders & headlight nacelles. The 500cc Triumph TR5 Trophy was still being produced also, side-by-side with it’s new, bigger brother, and it would continue as such until the end of 1958, when the 500 twin went unit construction in 1959. For the next decade, all Trophy’s would be 650’s.
1970 Triumph TR6C Trophy with trademark high pipes on left.
RETURN OF THE SMALLER TROPHY
Following the ill-fated changeover to oil-bearing frames in their 650 twin line, Triumph’s fortunes turned bad. The new bikes were loaded with problems & weren’t received well by the public. Triumph Motorcycles was paring down its selection of different models & the 650 Trophy was a casualty. However, they revived the sacred Trophy name for a couple of rather tasty 500 twins. The first was the 1971-72 Triumph T110C Trophy 500. And in 1973-74, perhaps one of the finest 500 twins ever built, the TR5T Trophy Trail/Adventurer followed. It was a wonderful piece with the lightweight oil-bearing frame from the BSA singles & the venerable 500 twin engine with long-travel suspension, conical hubs & a polished alloy tank. A very cool looking machine. Of less interest perhaps, the Triumph Trophy TR25W was a 250cc single that ran from 1968 to 1970.
1974 Triumph TR5T Trophy Trail/Adventurer 500 twin, truly the last classic Triumph Trophy. The new Triumph (Hinkley) builds a modern bike they call the Triumph Trophy.
Triumph Trophy YEAR-BY-YEAR
Triumph’s hot 500 twin goes off-road. A compact 2-into-1 high-pipe and knobby tires made it the ultimate desert sled. Yet many were driven on the street.
Triumph’s all-aluminum 500cc twin in Trophy form became the model of what a dual-purpose off-road bike was supposed to be in the 1950s.
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