Shopping the New Triumph Catalog…in 1959

Triumph Motorcycle Shopping Down Memory Lane

In 1959, I was only four years old.

But, a lot of discriminating motorcyclists were in the market for a new motorcycle then, the Lucky Buggers!

Thousands of them made a stop at their local Triumph, USA dealer to take a look at the new models, jawbone with the salesmen, and maybe pick up a catalog to drool and dream over. The really lucky ones left the dealer with their new ride.  The really, really lucky ones still have that 1959 Trumpet sitting in the garage.

Picking out your new Triumph was not all that easy in 1959. The catalog, which was actually released to the public on October 15, 1958, had photos and technical details about 13 models.

The range included the T120 Bonneville at the top—touted in the catalog as the “fastest Motorcycle made in the World today”—down to the Tigress scooter, which was available with a 250 cc OHV four-stroke twin cylinder engine or a 175 cc two-stroke single. A range of optional equipment and special features like Triumph’s unique “slick shift” made sorting the choices even more demanding.

For the wafflers who were unsure of the pedigree of the Triumph line-up, there was even a page in the catalog that gave a no-nonsense accounting of the AMA speed records set by the brand at the speed trials held at the Bonneville Salt Flats August 28th, 1958.

Those records ranged from the Class A 650 cc streamlined, non-supercharged record of 214.47 MPH set by Jess Thomas to the Class A 200 cc non-streamlined record of 104.68 MPH set by Mike Ward on a Triumph Cub. After whetting the need for speed, Triumph even included two ready-to-race models in the catalog.

One of the race-ready models Triumph offered in ’59 was the T100/RS 500 cc Spring Frame Road Racer. Despite being stripped of generator, lights, horn, tool kit, parcel grid and stands, the Triumph road racer came bearing the weight of the two-up saddle, standard tank badges and knee pads.

Nonetheless, the T100/RS was much more a race-ready mount than almost anything else available from other manufacturers of the day, and it could be had for under $1,000.  How sweet was that?

Along with the Bonneville, Triumph had four other models based on the 650 cc (40 in.3) twin.  The T110 Road Cruiser, the TR6/A Trophybird Road Sports, the TR6/B Trophybird Scrambler and 6T Thunderbird.

The Trophybird models featured removable chrome headlight nacelles in place of the non-removable streamlined nacelles on the other models, sidewall reveal sports fenders, rubber fork slider covers and upswept exhaust pipes on the Scrambler, but otherwise were generally the same as the other models.

Triumph offered three mid-range road bikes built around its venerable 500 cc (30.5 in.3) twin cylinder engine.

They were the T100 Tiger, TR5/A-D Trophy Road Sports and 5T/A Speed Twin Streamliners.

Nothing bespeaks the fascination of the time with aerodynamics more than the “bathtub” rear section of the 5T/A Speed Twin Streamliner and the 3T/A Twenty-one Streamliner. The 3T/A shared most of the features of the 5T/A, but came with a 350 cc (21 in.3) OHV twin.

Triumph had three lightweight models in the ’59 lineup, each built around a 200 cc single-cylinder four stroke OHV engine. The T20, T20/J, T20/C-A Road Sports Tiger Cub and T20/S Scrambler or Racing Tiger Cub models gave an impressive array of choices to those buyers seeking everything from an elegant streamliner for the road to a down-and-dirty competition machine.

The final page of the catalog is devoted to the accessories available for each model line and included a picture of a full-dress 5T/A Speed Twin Streamliner.

The equipment shown included the black leather saddle bags with chrome studs and white piping, chromed rear-view mirrors, chrome crash bars, Plexiglas windshield, and molded plastic grid (tank-mounted) case.

The paper the catalog is printed on is beginning to yellow now, owing to the acid used in processing the paper and its 55 year age. When it was printed and picked up by a wistful wanna-be Triumph owner, I was toddling around, not really knowing what to wish for. After finding this old catalog and being able to take a look back across all those years—now I know.

Catalog reprinting courtesy of Triumph