Triumph Motorcycles in America Book Review
Triumph motorcycles have been a big part of the motorcycle scene in North America for so long we tend to forget that there was a time when the brand was not being routinely imported.
Indeed, it may surprise some folks to learn that even though the brand had been in production since 1902, the first Triumph motorcycles didn’t reach the U.S. as dealer-sold products until 1937, when Reggie Pink became the Stateside Triumph distributor.
In their new book, “Triumph Motorcycles in America,” Lindsay Brooke and David Gaylin track the history of Triumph from those days to the present. The authors also exploit Triumph history from growth to boom years, and the decline, collapse and resurrection under John Bloor.
Though the intended focus is on the company’s history in North America, the story is inextricably linked to the British motorcycle icon’s overall history and events in the U.K. and the world at large. Those aspects are woven into the narrative, as well.
An interesting part of the story not covered in most other books on the brand is the history of Triumph in Canada. As a British Dominion, Canadians enjoyed access to British products free of tariffs, customs and other impediments that might affect exports to everyone else, including the U.S. Indeed, the Toronto police department took delivery of four Triumphs for patrol use as early as 1911.
Brooke and Gaylin also provide a deep dive into the complications and conflicts that had to be dealt with as the appeal of the Triumph product line became apparent in both the U.S. and Canada. The pushing and shoving became intense as multiple parties competed for distributor-level status; some even asserting they had it in advertising when in fact, they didn’t.
The book explains the chaos:
“Many dealers boasted that they were ‘distributors’ for the marque when, in fact, Triumph had yet to name one for Canada. A photograph of the 1932 British motorcycle exhibition in Toronto shows a white sign proclaiming Walter Andrews to be the Triumph and Harley-Davidson ‘distributor,’ even though Andrews and others involved in the event were only retail agents. An ad in the 1936 Belleville 200 mile Canadian Championship flyer proclaimed J.E. Watson of East Toronto to be ‘Sole Distributor of Triumph-Levis-Excelsior.’ Nearly four years later, these and other dealers were still staking illegitimate claims.”
With an excellent array of black/white and color period images and classic advertising art, Brooke and Gaylin cover the motorcycles, the people (including a nod to those Triumph-mounted in the movies and TV such as Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, James Brolin, Henry Winkler, Tom Cruise, Richard Gere, Angelina Jolie), their often-unique personalities, racing (Gary Nixon, Buddy Elmore, Gene Romero, Bill Baird, Joe Leonard, Ed Kretz (Sr. & Jr.), Don Castro, to name but a few), land speed records, business and history in such a way that their portrait of Triumph motorcycles in North America is broad in scope, complete and compelling.
Even if you already have an array of books on the Triumph brand and its remarkable history, “Triumph Motorcycles in America” is likely to provide some insights you have not seen before.
- Title: Triumph Motorcycles in America
- Author: Lindsay Brooke and David Gaylin with Foreword by Peter Egan
- Published: 2018 hardcover, 224 9.75” x 12.0” pages, color and black & white images.
- Publisher: Motorbooks, Quarto Publishing Group, 400 First Ave. North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401 USA
- ISBN: 978-0-7603-5328-8
- MSRP: U.S. $60 U.K. £45.00 $78 CAN