The name Triumph is still associated with classic sports cars, although the last model was produced in 1981, some 30 years ago. The Triumph Motor Company began as a bicycle company in 1885 in Coventry, England. Siegfried Bettmann from Nuremburg, Germany, imported bicycles from Europe and sold them in London under the name Triumph. Joined by Moritz Schulte in 1887, they began producing their own bicycles, forming the Triumph Cycle Company, Ltd. in 1897. By 1902, they were making Triumph motorcycles. The Triumph Motorcycle Company became the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the country.
In the 1920s, Bettmann took over the Dawson Car Company and its manufacturing facility. The Triumph 10/20 was introduced in 1923. The Triumph Motor Company, formed in 1930, began producing upscale, more expensive cars rather than mass-produced models. After the launch of the Super 7 in 1927, Triumph became a major player in British automobiles. The Southern Cross and Gloria were produced in this early phase.
In 1936, financial problems resulted in division of the business. First, the Triumph Motorcycle Company was sold. Later, in 1939, the Triumph Motor Company was sold to T. W. Ward. World War II caused a halt in production and in 1940, the plant was bombed. After World War II, Triumph Motor Company was purchased by Standard Motor Company of Britain. The Triumph Motor Company Limited, a subsidiary formed in 1945, made Triumph sports cars, while Standard Motors produced saloons. The Triumph Roadster was launched in 1946, made of aluminum because steel was scarce. The Renown (1949-1954) and the Mayflower (1949-1953) were also aluminum-bodied saloon-style cars, discontinued when aluminum became more costly and steel more affordable.
In 1953 the Triumph TR2, designed by Giovanni Michelotti, was launched under the name of Standard-Triumph. TRs continued to be produced until 1981, but the TR 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8 were under the Triumph marque. Triumph was one of the first sports car manufacturers to feature a removable hard top. The TR2 also featured Michelin X radial tires, a new innovation. Triumph TRs were entered into several races including Le Mans and the RAC Rally. The Herald, a saloon-style car also designed by Michelotti, was launched in 1959. The car featured several technological innovations and was popular until the end of its production days in 1971.
Triumph was bought by Leyland Motor Company in 1960, which became British Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968. Leyland Motors launched the Spitfire in 1962, another Michelotti design. Models Mk 2, 3 and IV were produced between 1962 and 1970. The Spitfire 1500, produced between 1974 and 1980, was the last of this series.
British Leyland became, successively, Austin Rover Group and Rover Group in the 1980s and 1990s. The TR7 and 8 were the last of the sports cars put out under the Triumph marque. A saloon called Acclaim was produced until 1984. BMW acquired Triumph in 1994 as part of the sale of Rover to BMW. BMW retains ownership of the marque.... View more