Triumph’s Bonneville name is inexorably connected to the Salt Flats and their 120mph record-breaking success, but their T110 was the model that set a 650cc production record of 147mph in 1958. Announced in September 1949, the 650 Thunderbird was Triumph’s response to demands for more power emanating from American racers and British sidecarists alike. A spectacular launch stunt saw three Thunderbirds lap the banked Montlhéry circuit in France at over 90mph for 500 miles, after which they each achieved a flying lap of 100mph-plus and were ridden back to the Meriden factory.
The obviously very capable T110 was developed from the Thunderbird tourer, proving itself when the prototype performed brilliantly in the 1953 ISDT, thus providing the production version – launched later that year – with invaluable publicity. The first Triumph with swinging-arm rear suspension, the T110 came with a revised engine incorporating a stronger crankshaft, high-compression pistons, larger inlet valves and ‘hotter’ cams. The T110 remained in production into 1961, one of the most important developments along the way being the introduction on this model for 1956 of the aluminum-alloy ‘Delta’ high-compression cylinder head, which increased power and pushed the T110’s top speed towards 120mph.
The T110 on offer here was part of the famed John Howard Collection of Christchurch, New Zealand. Quite a rare machine, with only 1,872 manufactured for export, it was restored by Frank Malin, of Ontario, Canada some years ago, the subsequent museum environment was very kind to the bike, which has held up exceptionally well. Cobering only 8 miles since restoration, it is offered in excellent condition throughout. And now, having just been full re-commissioned, the bike runs as well as it looks. To be honest, it actually needed very little to get it to run well – testament to the quality of the restoration and its meticulous care since.