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The Slippery Slope

The parent of the Triumph, the BSA group made losses of 8.5 million pounds in 1971, 3 million for BSA motorcycles alone. The British government became involved. The company was sold to Manganese Bronze Holdings, which also owned Norton, AJS, Matchless, Francis-Barnett, James-Velocette and Villiers. A new company called Norton Villiers Triumph (NVT), managed by Dennis Poore, emerged.

NVT collapse

When the BSA group collapsed under its debts, government help led to a merger with the Manganese Bronze subsidiary Norton-Villiers. The three remaining brands to be produced by the company were combined to create the new group name of Norton-Villiers-Triumph (NVT). However, this restructuring would result in a number of closures and redundancies. Without warning, in September 1973 NVT Group chairman Denis Poore announced the closure of Meriden works effective February, 1974. Of 4,500 employees, 3,000 were made redundant. Faced with unemployment and having their products handed over to a rival firm, the workers at the Meriden factory demonstrated against a move to Small Heath, Birmingham, the BSA site and staged a sit in for two years.

The Bonneville engine size was increased to 724 cc in 1973, and called a 750

Edward Turner died at home in his sleep on August 15, 1973

The Cooperative

As scheduled, Trident production moved to the BSA factory in Small Heath in 1974, but as BSA used non-craft labour in manufacturing, quality fell dramatically. In October 1974 the Labour Government announced the formation of the Meriden Cooperative under Tony Benn, with a loan of 5million pounds - on the condition that NVT retained ownership of the name, and continued the sales and marketing of the machines. The cooperative resumed production in March 1975, but dropped production of the lightweight T120, to concentrate on the 750 cc twin machines, the Bonneville and the Tiger, primarily for the USA market. The cooperative needed additional cash, and agreed a deal with Lord Weinstock's GEC company to sell 2,000 Bonnevilles for 1,000,000 together with consultation on setting up a sales force.

Meanwhile, NVT stopped production of the Trident in 1975, and also killed off the development of the 1000 cc Quadrant due to cash flow difficulties. A number of key engineers left the company, including Henry Vale, Jack Wickes, Les Williams, Ivor Davies, Arthur Jakeman and Norman Hyde

In 1977, after fighting over who had rights to sell Triumph motorcycles for many years, NVT went bankrupt and the rights were sold to the Meriden Cooperative. The limited edition Silver Jubilee T140V was made to commemorate Queen Elizabeth's 25 years on the throne, a T140 Bonnie with hand-striped wheel rim and special sidecover badges. Nominally 1,000 were scheduled for the UK, 1,000 for the US, and about 400 more made for export later. The model sold well, and production increased slowly to 350 machines a week, 60% going to the USA. After this it was all downhill, with no investment in new machines, merely makeovers of the 750 cc twin.

However, the Bonneville T140D won the "Machine of the Year" award in Motor Cycle News - a questionable honour this late in the bike's life, owing more to the bike's reputation than its competency against the (mostly Japanese) competition. The T140D had Lester cast alloy wheels, a new cylinder head with parallel intake tracts, Amal MKII carbs, Lucas Rita electronic ignition system, and a lower 7.9:1 compression to reduce vibration. Triumph motorcycles was founded by (believe it or not) two Germans named Siegfried Bettman & Muaritz Shulte. Siegfried changed his old company name to Triumph, and the company was born in 1902. The first thing they did was take a small Minerva engine to a bike and their was their first motorcycle. Later they designed their own engine