THE dream of every boy in Britain in the 1950s and 60s was to own a Triumph motorbike.
Triumph bikes were fast and stylish and much admired around the world, especially by celebrities. Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan, James Dean, Elvis Presley and Steve McQueen all owned Triumph bikes.
Triumph dominated the UK market not only in sales, but also in the record books. With the exception of a brief 33-day period in 1957, Triumph held the title of world’s fastest motorcycle from 1955 to 1970.
It's been 45 years since those great days.
With the invasion of Japanese-made bikes, sales of British machines went into steep decline and most manufacturers went out of business.
When Triumph Engineering, founded in 1893, went into receivership in 1983, businessman John Bloor bought the name and manufacturing rights from the Official Receiver. Today the new company, now called Triumph Motorcycles, is once again the leading British motorbike manufacturer offering a range of bikes including the 2.3 liter Rocket III - the largest-engine production motorcycle in the world.
And now Triumph is seeking to reestablish itself as holders of the prestigious world land speed motorcycle record.
Currently, the land-speed record for two-wheeled vehicles at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah stands at 376.36mph (600 km/h). That mark was set in 2010 by the Ack Attack team, using power derived from Suzuki.
Triumph has now confirmed that well-known British motorcycle racer and television personality Guy Martin will pilot its Rocket III Streamliner in a new land speed record attempt at Bonneville in late August. The target? 400 mph (645 km/h).
The 25.5-foot-long streamliner is powered by two methanol-burning turbocharged Rocket III 2.3 liter three cylinder engines producing over 1,000 hp (745.7 kW) at 9,000 rpm and 500 lb.ft (69 kgm) of torque. Housed in a carbon Kevlar monocoque frame, the whole structure is wrapped in an aerodynamic carbon fiber shell.
Martin will sit in front of the engine in an enclosed, recumbent position. The bike sits on two, swingarm-suspended wheels shod in Goodyear Land Speed Special tires, and has a pair of small, retractable stabilizers to hold it upright as it starts and stops.
Said Martin: “The phone went about a month ago and I was asked if I'd fancy trying to become the fastest man on two wheels."
“Breaking the world land speed record isn't normally the sort of thing you get offered in your tea break is it and I’m well up for it. Bringing the record back to Britain would be mega too. Spot on, let’s get cracking.”
Unfortunately, it seems the remains of mudslides from recent flooding combined with rain and salt depletion across the flats have left the surface in poor condition and there may not be a good stretch of salt available for record attempts this summer.
Triumph has already had to delay this month's testing once due to weather, but is still targeting an August 24-27 window for the Rocket's run.