Triumph Thunderbird

In 1949 Triumph design chief, Edward Turner, on a trip from New York to the motorcycle races in Daytona Beach came across the Thunderbird Motel in South Carolina. The name stuck with him and the Triumph Thunderbird was launched that same year. The original Triumph Thunderbird, with its 650cc parallel-Twin engine, was developed for the American market where motorcycle enthusiasts were demanding more power.

To prove the performance and durability of the new Triumph Thunderbird model, four bikes were entered in a 500-mile torture test staged by Turner. During the early 1950s the 650 Triumph Thunderbird would set numerous speed records in the United States. In the 1953 movie, The Wild One, Marlin Brando rode a Triumph Thunderbird. Also in 1953, Triumph Thunderbirds were available in an optional black paint with gold pin-striping alongside the traditional blue color. In 1954 Triumph gave Ford Motor Co. permission to use the Thunderbird name on its new sports car. The Triumph Thunderbird would soldier on largely unchanged until the company’s demise in the early 1980s.

When a revived Triumph was launched in 1991 there was no Thunderbird model. In 1995 Triumph launched the Thunderbird as a retro-styled motorcycle powered by a liquid-cooled, inline, 885cc, three-cylinder engine. The new Triumph Thunderbird came with a host of classic styling cues including Burgess mufflers, scalloped fuel tank paint scheme and polished engine cases. The new Triumph Thunderbird quickly became one of the re-launched Triumph’s best selling models.

2011 Triumph Thunderbird Storm

The Triumph Thunderbird was constructed on a modular concept that allowed the entire line of Triumph models to share engines and parts without expensive retooling. It also made creating variations on the same Thunderbird theme easier and more cost effective.

In 1997 Triumph introduced the Thunderbird Sport, a higher-performance version of the standard Triumph Thunderbird with better suspension, wider rims, a six-speed transmission and a power increase to 82 horsepower. Most notably, the Triumph Thunderbird Sport featured two upswept exhaust pipes on the bike’s right side which was a hallmark of Triumph’s legendary X75 Hurricane with its three upswept mufflers. Triumph withdrew the Thunderbird from its model line-up n 2003 and the Thunderbird Sport in 2004.

Triumph wasn’t through with the Thunderbird name, though, and in 2009 the company launched the new Triumph Thunderbird 1600. Powered now by a 1597cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, parallel-Twin engine with 85 hp and 108 lb.-ft. of torque, it was quite the performance upgrade. And if that’s not enough, there’s an optional 1700cc big-bore kit available that increases power to 100 hp and torque to 115 lb.-ft.

For 2011 Triumph debuted the Triumph Thunderbird Storm. Powered by a big-bore engine available as an option on the standard Triumph Thunderbird with 97 hp and 115 lb.-ft. of torque, the Storm is a stripped-down version sans chrome and available only in black. The Triumph Thunderbird Storm is recognizable by its straight bars and distinctive twin headlights.

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Triumph Thunderbird Comparisons

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Looking for a specific make, model or year of Triumph Thunderbird, and how it compares to the competition? Looking to design your own Triumph Thunderbird? Use our Motorcycle Finder, below, to get everything you need on 2004 to present Triumph Thunderbirds.
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