The 1901 Triumph prototype has been restored to working order

When old relics come to life, like vehicles from a hundred years ago, enthusiasts and collectors are thrilled. So when the original, and we mean the very first Triumph prototype, was unearthed by avid collector, Dick Shepherd, he knew he had something very special. Shepherd set out to restore this iconic gem, dating back to 1901, with plans to restore it to its former glory. The finished product was stunning and the founders of Triumph would be proud.

The Triumph prototype is back on two wheels

Triumph motorcycle tank | Getty Images

It was an amazing find. A prototype Triumph surfaced, and there was only one to bring it back to life. Motorcycle News told the story of veteran collector Dick Shepherd’s restoration. Because this bike was a prototype, it predates Triumph’s first official production model by a year, which makes it even more special.

Triumph and Shepherd knew this Triumph prototype existed. But no one knew exactly where that had ended up in recent years. It wasn’t until a Visitor Experience tour guide told Shepherd that a friend had died and the iconic 1901 bike was left behind. Everyone was skeptical that this was the true prototype of Triumph. But as Shepherd said, after further investigation, and the owner having “the right answers to the questions” he asked, he knew it was rightfully the one.

He expected the 120-plus-year-old bike to be in poor condition. But it was not irreparable. Shepherd got to work and began restoring the Triumph prototype. By improving the drive belt, braking system and fuel combination, he could bring it back to life.

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How the Triumph was born over 100 years ago

Looking back, the Triumph is generally considered the first motorcycle. The prototype was a bicycle design with a small engine equipped for propulsion. The first model officially rolled off the line in 1902, but as mentioned earlier, the prototype was the very first, produced in 1901.

Low-Browed Customs recapped part of the history of the Triumph motorcycle. The brand behind the bike was the Triumph Cycle Co. Ltd., in Coventry, England. Before moving into the bicycle business, Triumph mainly sold traditional bicycles and imported sewing machines.

The original Triumph motorcycle was fitted with a 2.2 hp Belgian Minerva single-cylinder engine. It was attached to the bike frame along the downtube. JAP engines came later, in 1905. And in 1907, Triumph established itself as the world leader in motorcycle racing. The brand started making the 450cc models and quickly increased production to over 1,000 bikes each year.

In 1937 the Triumph Tiger 90 NZ 500cc engine could reach 90 mph, unbelievable for the time. However, a tragic wartime bombing in 1940 destroyed the Triumph factory, a setback that suspended motorcycle production for almost two years. Meriden, England was the home of Triumph motorcycles until 1983.

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Where is this Triumph prototype today?

According to Live MintIf you want to see the original Triumph prototype, it was on display at the Triumph Factory Visitor Experience dedication event last December at Triumph’s headquarters in Hinckley, England. It was staged for the first time in public for more than a century. It stood alongside the millionth Hinckley Triumph on display for free, public viewing.

Triumph motorcycles are still the top choice and continue to be produced in England today. And as popular as they continue to be, perhaps none are as special as this first, now restored Triumph prototype. It’s a mark that proves that the company and its original prototype can stand the test of time.

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