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Steve McQueen's Twin

Another example of Steve McQueen’s golden touch is this 1938 Triumph 500cc 5T Speed Twin, which he had Bud Ekins restore. Bonhams sold it for $175500: over £143000 to us Limey’s, so ten times what you might otherwise expect. Still, a lovely bike and the vertical twin template for the entire British motorcycle industry. Edward Turner first considered the idea at Ariel, as half of his Square Four. When Ariel bought Triumph in 1935 Turner embarked on creating the Speed Twin, which first appeared in 1937. There had been vertical twins before, but Turner's was lighter and narrower than even the single-cylinder Tiger 90, whose cycle parts it shared. The Speed Twin proved an enormous success for Triumph, setting it on the road to prosperity. Performance proved exemplary for a road-going 500: a top speed of around 85mph with the Tiger 100 sports version the potential to reach the magic ton. The twin cylinder engine was a long-stroke 498cc (63mm bore x 80mm stroke) which, with an Amal 276/132 LN 15/16th inch carburettor, a Lucas Magdyno and a 7:1 compression ratio gave 26bhp at 6000rpm. There was a separate oil tank and a 4-speed gearbox: dry sump and pre-unit construction. A Girder front fork and a sprung saddle provided the suspension with drum brakes in both the 20-inch front wheel and 19-inch rear. Total weight was 355lbs / 161kg. Although McQueen was a long-time Triumph fan and raced them at events around the world there are few Trumpets left in existence (or can be proven as such) that he actually rode. This lovely example was restored by friend and fellow ISDT team member Bud Ekins in the 1970s. There is an Ekins decal still on the bike, and in a perfect world there’d be proof that the pin striping had been done by Von Dutch, a friend of both McQueen and Ekins, but sadly there is no evidence. But the style is his. Could there be a more desirable Speed Twin in existence? Swipe for more images, courtesy of Bonhams. If you’d like advice on selling with us please get in touch

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