Help Find Elvis Presley's Triumphs
Elvis bought nine Triumphs in 1965. Now Triumph is trying to find them.
Triumph Motorcycles Confirms Elvis Presley's Motorcycle Gift to Memphis Mafia in 1965
Triumph Motorcycles, in collaboration with Graceland archives and recollections from Jerry Shilling, a close friend of Elvis Presley, has confirmed the truth behind the famous motorcycle myth surrounding the music legend. Elvis purchased nine Triumph motorcycles in 1965 as gifts, so he and his closest friends could go riding together in the hills of Los Angeles.
Elvis Presley, renowned as both a music legend and cultural icon, was not only a prolific entertainer but also a passionate motorcyclist. He showcased his love for motorcycles in films such as "Stay Away Joe" in 1968, where he rode a red and silver Triumph 650 Bonneville 'Desert Sled.' However, his affinity for Triumph motorcycles began earlier in 1965.
In June 1965, while taking a break from filming the musical 'Frankie and Johnny' at Samuel Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood, Elvis spent time with his inner circle, known as 'The Memphis Mafia,' at his Bel Air home. Jerry Schilling, a friend of Elvis and a member of the Memphis Mafia, purchased a Triumph T120 650 Bonneville at Bill Robertson & Sons on Santa Monica Boulevard. Elvis, after taking a ride on Jerry's bike, was so impressed that he immediately ordered one for each of his friends that same night.
Bill Robertson & Sons managed to deliver seven Triumph motorcycles that evening, comprising a mix of 650 TR6's and high-performance 650 T120's. They embarked on a late-night ride around Bel Air, only stopping when neighbors complained and the police were called. The remaining two bikes arrived two days later, and the group made the most of their downtime by riding together on Sundays along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Jerry Schilling fondly recalled Elvis's enthusiasm for riding, stating, "Elvis loved to ride, and I knew that when he saw my new Bonneville, he'd want to try it... and when he did, he wanted all the guys to have one so we could ride them together!"
The 1964 Triumph 650 TR6 And Bonneville T120
The motorcycles Elvis purchased are believed to be 1964 models of Triumph's iconic 650 TR6 and 650 Bonneville T120, which were mostly the same bike with one or two carburetors and different states of tune. The '64 Bonneville came in the sophisticated Gold and Alaskan White and the TR6 in the distinctive 'Hifi Scarlet and Silver Sheen' with gold pinstriping, black frame and forks. These motorcycles played a pivotal role in establishing Triumph as a leader in the 1960s for performance, handling, and style.
Help Find The Memphis Mafia Triumphs
Presently, all nine of the original motorcycles have been lost to history, with no formal records of their whereabouts after the summer of 1965. Triumph is launching an appeal to motorcycle enthusiasts worldwide to help locate or uncover the fate of these historic bikes. Researchers are eager to hear from anyone with leads or information regarding the bikes' whereabouts. The hope is that one of these historic motorcycles will eventually resurface and find its place alongside other historic Triumphs.
If you have any information related to the whereabouts of these historic bikes, please contact Triumph at ElvisTriumph@TriumphMotorcycles.com.
A One-of-a-Kind 'Elvis Presley' Custom Triumph Motorcycle And Matching Gibson Les Paul Guitar
The revelation of this captivating story has filled a gap in history books and added an untold chapter to Triumph's legacy. To celebrate this shared history between two iconic brands, Triumph and Elvis Presley Enterprises have commissioned a one-of-a-kind custom motorcycle to support a charitable cause.
This custom Bonneville, based on a brand-new T120 model, features a design scheme by award-winning custom artist J Daar. It draws inspiration from the 1964 Memphis Mafia motorcycles, Elvis's 1968 "Stay Away Joe Desert Sled," and his iconic 1968 Comeback Special look. The design includes gold block lettering, silhouettes on a red background, and references to Elvis's name written in lights.
The bike was unveiled at the 2023 Barber Vintage Festival in Birmingham, Alabama, alongside historic Triumph motorcycles. Additionally, a Gibson Les Paul guitar, temporarily customized to complement the motorcycle, was on display. Both the motorcycle and guitar will be auctioned, with proceeds benefiting one of Elvis's favorite charities, Goodwill Homes Community Services in Memphis.
Speaking at the show, custom motorcycle artist J Daar said: "I was honored to pull the sheet off this amazing motorcycle. Tribute bikes are always special, but an homage to The King is one of the coolest projects I've worked on. This bike is something the new owner can be incredibly proud to have in their garage. Not only is it a unique design celebrating a great story, but it's also a great way to raise money for such a worthy cause."
The Les Paul, donated by Gibson, will also be painted by artist J Daar and is to be auctioned along with the motorcycle. The choice of guitar was inspired by another instance of Elvis’ generosity; when rehearsing for the ’68 Comeback Special, Elvis played a Les Paul, which he then gifted to his chef. The design adopts the same red, silver and gold scheme as the motorcycle, as well as the prominent Elvis graphic featured on the fuel tank and side panels, and incorporates silhouettes of The King around the body, inspired by his iconic ‘’68 Comeback Special’ look.
Beth Heidt, Chief Marketing Officer for Gibson commented: “We have had the honor of working in partnership with the Elvis team to celebrate his legacy over many years, so when we heard that our friends at Graceland and Triumph were working together on a custom motorcycle to raise awareness and funds for a good cause, we wanted to join in honoring Elvis’ spirit of generosity – and similar to what we did with our ’59 Legends Collection in support of The 2022 Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride, this customized Gibson Les Paul model pairs perfectly with the amazing design scheme of the bike.”
“We are excited to be partnering with an iconic brand like Triumph to bring this one-of-a-kind custom Bonneville T120 to life while benefitting one of Elvis’ favorite charities, Goodwill Homes Community Services in Memphis,” says Dana Carpenter, Executive Vice President, Entertainment at Authentic Brands Group, owner of Elvis Presley Enterprises. “The added generosity of our friends at Gibson for contributing a matching custom Les Paul guitar, strengthens the legacy of generosity and community that Elvis Presley stood for.”
The custom Bonneville T120 motorcycle and matching Gibson Les Paul guitar have been donated to the Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation to support Goodwill Homes, a facility in Memphis that provides counseling and services for abused children and their families. More details about the auction will be available soon at Graceland.com.
More by Motorcycle.com Staff