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Book Review: The Complete Book of Classic and Modern Triumph Motorcycles: 1937-Today

Clement SalvadoriOctober 29, 2015

The Complete Book of Classic and Modern Triumph Motorcycles: 1937-Today, by Ian Falloon

For anybody wanting to know about post-1936 Triumph motorcycles, this is a must-have book. The 256 large (9.75 x 12-inch) pages include 500 illustrations, 300 of them in color, and they will make any Trumpet fan’s heart beat a little faster. The book is not exactly bed-time reading, as it weighs a hefty four pounds, but it is perfect for the coffee table. And even the occasional non-motorcyclist who shows up at your house will be found turning the pages.

This reviewer may be a bit biased as he had a decade-long affair with Triumph, beginning with a 1960 Bonneville TR7A that he picked up at the Meriden factory. And he currently owns a Hinckley Bonneville.

Ian Falloon has done a wonderful job at collecting info and photos on all models, from the unlamented 150cc Terrier of the middle fifties to the superb Speed Triple of 1994—an excellent name, reminiscent of the Speed Twin of 1937. The pictures are what make the book, as one can go from an ad for a 1938 Speed Twin (75 pounds, or $225) to a photo of Johnny Allen’s 650-powered streamliner in which he set a record of 214.17 mph in 1956, to an exploded drawing of a 1969 T150 Trident.

Falloon focuses on facts, and effectively notes all the changes that take place in all the models over the years covered —not that one necessarily wants to know that the TT600’s compression ratio was raised from 12:1 to 12.5:1 in 2001. But the information is there. He remains quite factual when it comes to things like questionable design changes, such as the unpopular P39 oil-in-frame created by the R&D minions at Umberslade Hall (a.k.a. Slumberade Hall). Brief mention is made of the U.S.-mandated change-over to left-side shift, with Brits complaining about being in thrall to America. Though we were the major market for the bikes. And political frays like the union crisis in the mid-seventies and eventual collapse of the Meriden company are treated circumspectly.

Still waiting for some serious writing is the success of the new Triumphs under John Bloor, who is noted for his hands-on style of management. It was a financially daring move to resurrect the name, using a slightly altered logo and new designs. The marque was promoted as being cutting edge, not retro, using liquid-cooled 3- and 4-cylinder engines with four-valves per cylinder, operated by twin overhead camshafts. He has done extremely well, especially with the “retro” Bonneville—and the new 2016 1200cc Bonnies should have great sales.

Bloor’s one “error of judgement” might be considered his Rocket III, the humongous 2300cc longitudinal triple introduced in 2004, the biggest stock engine on the market. Some dealers have complained that in order to get the better-selling models, they are required to take these undesireables. However, it should be noted that Triumph is hoping to retake the motorcycle land-speed record by going over 400 mph in 2016—using two of these engines, turbocharged, in a streamliner.

The book is published by motorbooks.com, and is available from any bookstore for $50—money well spent. Or somewhat cheaper on amazon.com.

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