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Floral Tribute Triumph

That’s a 1953 Triumph TR5 Trophy – a development of the Speed Twin - tucked away in the shrubbery at the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show. My wife’s an occasional visitor, and it should have been on this week. It’s cancelled, of course, so the BBC is showing footage from previous years. When this Trumpet came on screen I was astounded - “Oh yes, that old thing” said my wife “I took a photo of it and forgot to show it to you.” So now I finally know that it was in Kazuyuki Ishihara’s gold medal winning garden ‘Green switch’. Apparently the idea was to provide a place of calm to take a shower (in the garden!), relax with tea, surrounded by the things you love. Which, for Ishihara-san, included a Trophy from Ideal Motorcycles. Yes, the Trophy won a gold medal. The irony is that the Trophy moniker came from the three gold medals Triumph won in the 1948 Italian ISDT, winning them the manufacturer’s trophy. The Trophy was designed as an off-road Speed Twin, including for competition. Racing in the AMA Class C until 1969, US models included Tiger 100 upgrades. The original 1949 Trophy used the aluminium cylinder barrels and heads from a generator motor Triumph had supplied to the War Department in WWII. This was Triumph's first aluminium alloy cylinder head and barrel combination, the factory speculating during hostilities that the alloy heads, with their superior cooling properties, could easily be adapted for a motorcycle. The TR5 Trophy models from 1949-50 used modified versions of these cylinder heads, nicknamed the square barrel. From 1951 the 498cc engine was updated with new alloy barrels and heads with finer-pitch finning and a rounded profile, shared with the Tiger 100. The TR5 was replaced with a new range of unit construction twins in 1959. James Dean bought a Triumph TR5 Trophy inspired by Marlon Brando's 6T Thunderbird in The Wild One. Phil Stern's iconic photographs of Dean show him on the bike. Rather less cool was The Fonz, a character in the American sit-com Happy Days, who rode a 1949 Trophy TR5. The motorcycle was supplied and mildly customized by Bud Ekins. Yes, him again. Steve McQueen’s mate and the man who made That jump in The Great Escape.

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