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When old relics are resurrected, like vehicles from a hundred years ago, enthusiasts and collectors are thrilled. So, when the original, and we mean the first-ever, Triumph prototype was unearthed by the avid collector, Dick Shepherd, he knew he had something extra special. Shepherd took to restoring this iconic gem, dating back to 1901, with plans to restore it to its former glory. The finished product was astounding, and Triumph founders would be proud.

The Triumph Prototype is back on two wheels again

A burgundy and cream Triumph tank.
Triumph motorcycle tank | Getty Images

It was an amazing find. A Triumph prototype resurfaced, and there was only one many to bring it back to life. Motorcycle News recounted the story of veteran collector Dick Shepherd’s restoration. Because this bike was a prototype, it predates Triumph’s first official production model by one year, making it extra special.

Both Triumph and Shepherd knew this Triumph prototype existed. But no one was certain where it had ended up in recent years. It wasn’t until a tour guide at the Visitor Experience told Shepherd a friend had died, and the iconic 1901 bike was left behind. Everyone was skeptical about it being the actual Triumph prototype. But as Shepherd said, upon further investigation, and the owner having “the right answers to the questions” he asked, he knew it was legitimately the one.

He expected the 120+-year-old bike to be in rough condition. But it wasn’t unfixable. Shepherd got to work and began restoring the Triumph prototype. Making improvements to the drive belt, the brake system, and the fuel combination, he could bring it back to life.

How the Triumph came to be over 100 years ago

Looking back, the Triumph is generally accepted to be the first motorcycle. The prototype was a bicycle design with a small engine fitted for propulsion. The first model officially rolled off the line in 1902, but as previously mentioned, the prototype was the first-ever, produced in 1901.

Low Brow Customs recapped some of the Triumph motorcycle’s history. The brand behind the bike was the Triumph Cycle Co. Ltd., in Coventry, England. Before transitioning to the bike business, Triumph primarily sold traditional bicycles and imported sewing machines.

The original Triumph motorcycle came with a 2.2-hp, single-cylinder and Belgian Minerva engine. It was attached to the bicycle frame along the downtube. The JAP engines came later, in 1905. And by 1907, Triumph surged ahead as the leader in the motorcycle racing world. The brand started making the 450cc models and soon ramped up production to over 1,000 bikes every year.

By 1937, the Triumph Tiger 90 NZ 500cc engine could achieve 90 mph, incredible for the times. However, a tragic wartime bombing in 1940 took out the Triumph factory, a setback that put motorcycle production on hold for nearly two years. Meriden, England, was the home of Triumph motorcycles until 1983.


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Where is this Triumph Prototype today?

According to LiveMint, if you want to see the original Triumph prototype, it was on display during the dedication event at Triumph’s Factory Visitor Experience last December at the Triumph Headquarters in Hinckley, England. It was ridden for the first time in public in over a century. It stood alongside the one-millionth Hinckley Triumph on display for free and public viewing.

Triumph motorcycles are still top choices and continue being produced in England today. And as popular as they continue to be, none may be quite as special as that first Triumph prototype, now restored. It’s a brand that proves the company and its original prototype can stand the test of time.