Most classic bike fans would have "clocked" Steve Mc Queen using a Triumph in the bike stunt scenes in the 1963 movie "The Great Escape". The left footed braking was something of a "give away".
I find it a tad ironic that when you look at the history of "Triumph" it was founded by a German.
Seigfred Bettman was born in Nuremburg in 1863 to a prosperous family. His ability as a linguist landed him a job in Coventry as a transloator. This lasted only six months before the lure of the capitol brought him to the "The White Sewing Machine Company".
Seigfred tried his luck importing and selling sewing machines as a side line to his day job. By the 1880s Britain was firmly caught up in the new craze for cycling. He wasted no time in grabbing this new opportunity.
Sales weren't brisk, so a marketing "rethink" was initiated. It was felt that the Bettmann name was too Germanic for the British market. Siegfried changed the name to "Triumph" This was because it meant the same in both languages. His linguistic skills had spawned a legend.
A fellow German called Schulte became a junior partner in 1886. Schulte was a trained engineer and persuaded Bettmann to start manufacturing their own machines. Up till then they had rebadged other bike firm products.
With monies borrowed from their respected families they built a factory in Coventry. In 1889 the first
"Triumph" bicycles rolled off the production line.
Both partners were keenly aware of the fragile nature of European politics. This led them to found "TWN". This was a German subsidiary based in Nuremburg. This German offshoot produced bikes until 1956.
In 1902 Triumph marketed their first motorcycle. They strengthened a bicycle frame and mounted a Belgian Minerva engine. They tried several other firms engines including a JAP . It wasn't until 1904 that they finally took the plunge and produced an entire motorcycle.
Early petrol engines lacked the reliability required to temp people away from horse power. Schulte badgered Bettmann to commit to regular endurance trials to showcase their new machines. Basil Davis of
"The Motor Cycle" magazine was engaged to cover these events. A distance of 1200 miles in 6 grabbed the publics attention ,and many more £45 Triumphs found grateful homes.
Successes at The Isle of Mann TT races led to demand way out stripping supply. A new factory was built in 1908 to accommodate the publics new found interest is two wheeled machines.
With his rise in fortunes Seifred Bettmann became a pillar of the community in Coventry. He was one of the founding members of the Local Camber of Commerce. The pinnacle came in 1913 when he became the first foreign mayor of Coventry in 1913. Unfortunately he was asked to resign at the start of the First World War latter due to his German background.
His loyalty to his adopted country couldn't be doubted as he threw himself in to the war effort.
He ignored the Jewish sabbath and crated a large Army order for their Model H. 30,000 Triumph machines were bought by the government meaning that they became the countries largest supplier.
After The Great War Schulte tried to encourage Bettmann to focus solely on car production. This Bettmann strongly disagreed with. In 1919 Moritz Schulte was given a £15000 "golden handshake" and asked to leave.
Despite this the firm produced many popular cars in the 1920s but Bettmans heart was always in "two wheels".
The Great Depression forced Triumph to sell its bicycle wing to Raleigh in 1931. The firm was still in a dire financial position. This led to Seigfred Bettman being forced off the board in 1933. He retired a year latter.
The motorcycle part of the firm was bought by Ariel owner Jack Spanger in 1936. He and his inspired designer Edward Turner would revamp the brand with chrome badges and catchy model names like "Tiger". This is more the image that people in the second half of the twentieth associate with Triumph. Triumph cars "limped" on until eventually going bust in 1939. The production plant was completely destroyed in an air raid in 1940. What was left was bought by The Standard Motor Company in 1945.
Triumph motorcycles was sold to the ever expanding BSA in 1951. Duplication of similar machines and perpetual mismanagement led to the death of both companies.
The bike wing reappeared in 1983 as "Triumph Motorcycles Limited". They still provide the "Glamour and Glitz" of the Jack Spanger era to this day.
Standard Triumph cars were bought by Leyland Motors in the early 1960s. Eventually Triumph was absorbed in to British Leyland.
After the demise of BL the firm was renamed "The Rover Group". This was in turn bought by BMW. In 1994 they sold these holdings but insisted on retaining the Triumph name. I wonder what their founder Seigfred Bettmann would have thought about this continuation "The Teutonic Triumph"?