From the tracks of the high-speed British race course, to the streets of North America, the appeal of the Thruxton motorcycle has transcended generations while maintaining its vintage racing appeal.
The Thruxton name is derived from the RAF Thruxton. Once used by the U.S. Air Force as a tactical fighter airfield during WWII, the airport was converted to a racing circuit at the conclusion of the war, and in 1951, it played host to the first motorcycle race series as part of the Festival of Britain.
In 1955, the Southampton & District Motorcycle Club held the inaugural nine-hour endurance race at the track. Three years later the race became a grueling 500-mile event for production motorcycles featuring two-rider teams competing for the top spot. Tiger T110 riders Mike “the Bike” Hailwood and Dan Shorey won the 1958 race, and Triumph went on to claim seven more victories over the next 14 years.
Famed Triumph designer Doug Hele headed the development of the first Thruxton motorcycle in 1962 with the goal of winning the motorcycle’s namesake. Hele was no stranger to producing a motorcycle that excelled in the Thruxton 500. From 1962-1964, his Norton 650SS production racer won the competition three consecutive years in a row.
In May of 1965, the Triumph factory in Meriden assembled 52 Thruxton motorcycles to homologate for production racing, which were available for a mere 30 pound ($77) upcharge to the base price of 375 pounds ($925). Engineers took existing Bonnevilles from the production line and added special performance parts instead of creating a completely new motorcycle, a practice local Triumph dealers had already been doing with their stock Bonnevilles. Triumph would go on to win the Thruxton 500 successively, from 1965-1969.
The zenith of Triumph’s success was in 1969 when Thruxton riders claimed the top-three spots in the competition. Percy Tait, Thruxton 500 multi-winner, and Malcolm Uphill, who also won the Isle of Man production TT on a Thruxton that year with an average speed of 99.99 mph, partnered to win the race by averaging more than 84 miles an hour. In an issue of Triumph’s Spirit magazine, Tait said his Thruxton 500 victories were two of the most treasured highlights of his illustrious racing career.
After more than three decades, the Thruxton returned to Triumph’s model range in 2004. Based on Triumph’s popular Bonneville T100, the Thruxton is a stylish race-inspired machine that evokes post-war racing and the subsequent café racer movement.
The Thruxton returned to the track in 2005 when Triumph and the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA) created the Triumph Thruxton Cup Challenge as a “spec” race class.
Watch as riders talk about the ease of racing a Triumph Thruxton and the camaraderie the Thruxton Cup racing series offers.
Admiration and enthusiasm for the Thruxton continues today. Total Motorcycle said, “It’s a motorcycle to stir the hearts of those who remember it the first time around and for young riders looking for that authentic retro experience that only Triumph can deliver.” Actor Ryan Reynolds plans to build a modern custom Thruxton café racer. Read about his passion for Triumph in the latest issue of Triumph’s Spirit magazine.