In 1949, three motorcycles were shown riding 500 miles at an average speed of 92mph. This was the world's introduction to the Triumph Thunderbird. From 1949 until 1966, Triumph produced the 649c.c. motorcycle which acquired the American market for the company. It was a useful long-distance touring motorcycle and that is how it was often outfitted. After the 1966 model, the next Thunderbird was the TR65 version – a small-bore version of the T-140 Bonneville. It lasted for three years. Finally, in 1990 John Bloor resurrected the marque and had its manufacturing plant relocated to Hinckley.
From that factory, the Thunderbird 900 was born in 1994. Just three years later, Triumph set loose on the world the Thunderbird Sport 900. The same 885c.c. engine powered both machines. However, the sport engine was massaged to produce more power – 82hp and 56ft / lb versus 69hp and 52ft / lb in standard trim. To help with bringing all that power to a safe stop and better control, a second disc brake was added to the front wheel. Speaking of wheels, the Sport carried 17 inch hoops instead of the 18/16 front / rear on the standard model; plus, the wheels were significantly wider to provide mounting for more sport driving oriented tires. To hold the bike on the road, the suspension was upgraded as well – and it was fully adjustable, front and rear.
As for looks, the classical styling of the Thunderbird remained on the Sport – beautiful two-tone paint, historic Triumph badges, finned engine cylinders, and round chrome-accented headlight nacelle. However, the Sport took on a 'darker' character by eliminating most of the chrome on the original and replacing it with satin black. The fancy stitching and buttons found on the standard Thunderbird were missing from the Sport. Even the airbox did not escape the designers' eyes; it was covered with a 'cheese-grater' piece to make it look like classic racing motorcycles. Both exhaust pipes exit on the right side of the bike through a set of upswept reverse-cone mufflers. This allows for better ground clearance when riding at a swift pace.
The final Thunderbird came off the line in 2004. It was the Thunderbird Sport that closed this chapter of the Thunderbird's history. It had been a very popular machine and many were sold and accessorized all over the world. Triumph did not forget how important this model was to their existence, so they decided to release yet another Thunderbird to the public. This one was a twin again, but a very large 1600c.c. twin designated as a cruiser. The Thunderbird flies again!