The popularity of the Triumph 6T Thunderbird hit new heights in 1953, when it was ridden by Marlon Brando in the movie The Wild One.  This was despite protests from the Triumph American importers who were concerned about the motorcycle being connected to rowdy motorcycle gangs.  However, appearance in the movie provided perfect exposure to the American market, the original objective of Triumph when launching the Thunderbird in 1949.

Marlon Brando on the Triumph 6T Thunderbird in The Wild One
Marlon Brando on the Triumph 6T Thunderbird in The Wild One

The Triumph 6T Thunderbird was their first post-war 650cc twin engine motorcycle.  Even the ‘Thunderbird’ name was chosen by Triumph Managing Director, Edward Turner, with the American market in mind.  ‘Thunderbird’ is a legendary creature in many North American Indian’s history and culture and is considered to be a supernatural being of power and strength.

The Triumph 6T Thunderbird is widely regarded as a motorcycle that embodies the timeless style and performance of British engineering from the early 1960s.  The bike was the first to include a headlamp built into a distinctive housing or nacelle that also incorporated the instruments and switches; a Triumph feature used during the 1950s and 60s.

Triumph 6T Thunderbird 1951
Triumph 6T Thunderbird 1951

The launch of the Triumph 6T Thunderbird was fantastic PR stunt.  The motorcycle was unveiled publicly at Montlhery near Paris with three standard production bikes being ridden around a circuit by a team of riders averaging a speed of 92 mph over a distance of 500 miles.  They even completed several flying laps at a steady 100 mph before being ridden home.

The Thunderbird remained in production until 1966 and was a popular choice with Police forces.

SMITHS Gauges for the Triumph 6T Thunderbird

SMITHS Instruments already had a long-standing relationship with Triumph and designed and manufactured the speedometer.  It was mounted directly above the large front headlamp, perfectly located for the riding position.  The gauge showed a maximum speed of 120 mph.  The Thunderbird also featured a Lucas ammeter.

Triumph 6T Thunderbird Speedometer
Triumph 6T Thunderbird Speedometer

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