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QEII Show recalls a special Bonnie

2012-06-11 09:32


Dunno what you did over the weekend – especially on Sunday afternoon – but in our household the TV was on for four hours non-stop while the wife watched the QEII’s Golden Jubilee celebrations that that day took place on the River Thames in London.

Think I could find the TV control? Fat chance!

In truth, I couldn’t help but glance over at the TV myself from time to time as I tried to concentrate on writing this week’s motorcycle column. So, what better subject to write about than the rather successful Triumph Silver Jubilee Bonneville made way back in 1977 – a bike that actually sold rather well all over the world for this ailing British motorcycle manufacturer.


The British bike industry was in the doldrums – and had been for some years – after the Japanese big four (Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki) had shown Europe, in fact the entire world, just how to make and market motorcycles that people could ride all day and not break down.

And yet there had been something of a resurgence in British machinery, and Triumph found itself to be the No.1 bike producer in the UK, building – and more importantly selling - close to 300 of their Jubilee Bonnevilles along with the run-of-the-mill Tigers each week.

An all-new model announced in the Triumph catalogue for 1977 (the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year) was the T140 Silver Jubilee, a model that in truth was probably little more than a styling exercise for the factory. Output was supposed to be only 1000 of these bikes in two-tone red, white and pale blue paint jobs plus some rather nice hand pin-striping to the chain guard and mudguards.

The rims received a stylish blue central band flanked by red and white pin-striping. The alloy fork legs were polished to a mirror gleam and a pair of ultra-modern Girling gas strut shock-absorbers were fitted to the rear of the bike.


The Brits were on to a winning formula this time around, it seemed. Motorcycle buyers were now – for a change – rushing to buy the Meriden product. Sales were so good another 1000 had to be built during the latter half of 1977, with a further 400 earmarked for Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Patriotism at its best!

I’m not sure if any made their way over here via Triumph dealers of the day around South Africa but I well remember a standard T140 model languishing in a Triumph showroom in KZN for well over a year – unable to find a buyer.

Fuel-tank badges on the Jubilee model were hand-painted – and a thoughtful touch was the specially printed handbook and embossed certificate issued to every new owner. Alas, this bike ultimately didn’t offer the fairy-tale ending the Meriden work force hoped for – the company finally went into liquidation in the early 1980's.

Thinking back 25 years or so, and if memory serves me correctly, that particular Jubilee model was quite a head-turner with its chromed crankcases and primary cover. Somehow or other I’d like to think they were put together a little more carefully – but I couldn’t be sure of that!

Triumph T140J
Motor: 744cc, twin, air-cooled
Power: 31kW@7000rpm
0-100km/h: 5 sec (Est.)
Top Speed: 180km/h (Est.)
Tank capacity: 18 litres
Kerb weight: 188kg
Wheelbase: 1560mm
Brakes: Discs
Final drive: O-ring sealed chain
Price (then): R7 000

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