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1955 Triumph Thunderbird

The Triumph motorcycle pictured here in 1959 in Lafayette Indiana is a true classic. It is the motorcycle equivalent of the Raleigh DL-1 roadster, the Ford Model A, and is one of the most successful British motorcycles ever made. Triumphs were sold all over the world and were legion in America during the 50's, 60's, and 70's. It was a Triumph that Marlon Brando rode in the movie; "The Wild One".

I bought my Triumph Thunderbird in the spring of 1956 from a dealer in Muncie Indiana who had reposessed it. A young man had bought it new the previous fall and could not keep up payments after being drafted into the army. The odometer showed that it had been ridden 4700 miles. The condition was as new. Due to the fact that the dealer had several identical models on the floor I bought it at the bargain price of $675 as opposed to the new price of $895.

1955 was the last year that black was the standard color for the Thunderbird model. It may be that black could be ordered special though. The contrast of black paint and chrome is very striking. Accessories include; raised, rubber isolated handlebars, 4 inch diameter megaphone mufflers, and molded plastic saddle bags-all made in the U.S and installed by the dealer. The dealer also told me that he always installed a larger main jet to prevent blueing of the exhaust pipes. Whereas the British were concerned about mileage, we in the U.S. were not. One of the unusual features for 1955 is that 6 volt power is generated by an alternator feeding through a silicon rectifier. A feature of the alternator is that one winding provides emergency starting when the battery is discharged. This system was identified as an energy transfer system by the manufacturer.

Some of the specifications of the Triumph are;

  • 40 cid 38 hp vertical twin engine
  • Oil damped suspension
  • 4 speed transmission, foot operated
  • Oil bath multi-plate cork lined clutch
  • Coil and distributor ignition
  • Monobloc side draft carburation
  • Reserve fuel valve
  • Dry sump lubrication system
  • Twin seat
  • Weight = 385 lbs. dry
I rode my Triumph for many years solely for pleasure. I never rode on dirt or gravel. The only time it was ridden in the rain was when it rained during a ride(no more than 6 times). It served as a great escape machine during my college years and after until 1967. At that time I had a very demanding job, two young children, and all the pressures a young family man has. As free time diminished so did the opportunity to ride. Since 1967 the Triumph has been stored in my garage. Each year I uncover it, start it up, ride around my yard and remember the pleasure it gave me for 26,000 miles and 11 years. There are times when I'm tempted to license it again but with the increase in traffic I think better of it. I have been approached many times about selling it but I always refuse. It would be like selling a member of the family.

I hope you enjoyed looking at my Triumph and I welcome your comments. If you would like to see more Triumph motorcyclesCLICK HERE and scroll down.


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Last revised: 9/22/99