The Thunderbird has an interestingly choppy production history at Triumph, something that has become part of its charm. Introduced in 1949, it remained in steady production through 1966 with a few changes. Conceived as a way to further capture the American market with a larger bike, bigger engine and more power, the Thunderbird had a unique Euro-American style, making it a relatively unique bike. When production ended in 1966, the Thunderbird name was shelved until 1981 for just one year, before returning again in 1994. As a side note, in the 1953 film “The Wild One,” Marlon Brando rode a 1950 6T Thunderbird, something Triumph’s U.S. importers objected to in a letter to the producers. Simply put, they didn’t want their machine being associated with unruly motorcycle gangs.
Purchased in 2005, this 6T Thunderbird is a lovely, pre-unit model with matching factory frame and engine numbers. Powered by the twin-cylinder, 650cc engine and a 4-speed transmission, the bike shows 18,542 miles on its odometer. Thanks to a recent tune-up and new battery installation, the Thunderbird starts easily and runs nicely.
Early pre-unit models are getting difficult to find, and this one appears to be a fabulous gem. Beautifully presented in red with black and polished components, the bike also sports the stunning speedometer within the headlight nacelle, a design element that makes these Triumphs a design treasure.