1938 Triumph Speed Twin

To celebrate the 80th anniversary of Edward Turner’s transformative ‘Speed Twin’, Triumph has re-introduced an updated version of its iconic motorcycle, but in a look back at the original, ground-breaking machine, David Curry takes a trip into the Mortons archive.

When originally introduced in 1937, the Speed Twin received rave reviews from test riders, who commended the engine’s compact design and performance in all situations. A test rider for The Motor Cycle said: “It is in the engine’s performance that the real delight of the ‘Speed Twin’ lies. So versatile did the engine prove, that the machine was equally at home in the thickest traffic or on the fastest main road.”

Gleaming in the sunshine, the original Speed Twin still looks as glorious as it did upon its release.

Turner’s parallel twin engine was not the first on the market, but the lightweight frame combined with significant improvements in power made it the first successful British twin-engine motorcycle. The 500cc engine continued to be used until the 1970s.

Motorcycling’s test rider commented on the engine’s compactness: “The most interesting feature of this new model is the design of the twin engine. The cylinders are so neatly laid out that it has the appearance of being a conventional two-port single.”

The Speed Twin was introduced at the National Motorcycle Show and went on sale for £75. Originally, it came in one finish, Amaranth Red.

Having created Ariel Motors in 1932, Jack Sangster bought the ailing Triumph Cycles in 1936, moving Edward Turner across from Ariel to become general manager and chief designer of Triumph in 1937.

Read more in the January 2019 issue of OBM – on sale now!

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