In July of 1937, Edward Turner, Triumph’s chief designer and managing director, introduced the 500cc Speed Twin, priced at 75 pounds.
It was a 500cc OHV vertical twin in a lightweight frame and the first truly successful British twin, setting the standard for many to follow.
After World War II, the Speed Twin was responsible for the survival of Triumph – and every major British marque offered a 500cc twin designed on similar lines to the Speed Twin.
This 27bhp parallel-twin model (some say was based on the engine design of the Riley 9 car, which Turner owned) set the trend for motorcycles for decades to come. It was capable of 145km/h and weighed 166kg.
Turner’s Triumph twin was a major turning point for the British motorcycle industry, the 5T Speed Twin model was lighter than many contemporary singles with significantly more power and torque.
The unit 500 engine continued development in the parallel Tiger 100 range ending with the Tiger Daytona models which ceased production in 1973.
The general configuration made it well into the eighties, when pressure from the Japanese offerings saw the parallel twin finally put its cue in the rack – only to be resurrected in much more modern form by the rekindled Triumph marque in 2001. The more things change…
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 26 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.