Triumph Bonneville Celebration

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This two-disc DVD set re-lives the weekend of the Bonneville’s 50th birthday, and offers an overview of the world’s most famous classic motorcycle. Matt Vale spent an evening by the box…

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I have just spent an enjoyable time watching the Triumph Owners Motor Cycle Club (TOMCC) DVD chronicling the Bonneville Celebration held at Gaydon in Warwickshire in 2009. It’s a two DVD set; disc one showing the lecture given by Craig Vetter, the opening speech by Edward Turner junior and various short chats with other luminaries and a personal view of the event. Disc two gives a potted history of the Bonneville, from its birth in 1959 to the present day and the Hinckley models.

This is a really difficult DVD to review. It is obvious that it was not professionally shot and produced but take this on board and it is still a bit of a curate’s egg – good in parts. My heart dropped when I started to watch the Craig Vetter lecture – it was videoed from the back of the hall and the sound reproduction of the introduction was very, very bad. But once Vetter took the podium, his speech was clear and the filming was fine. The lecture itself was fascinating — Vetter’s take on the Triumph Bonneville, his TT model, is well described, as was his thought processes behind the Hurricane styling and how it led him to the TT model were eloquently described.

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I was not so impressed with his cheap jibes at Ogle Design, a company that has a longer and broader involvement in design than he had, and his photoshopping of a Bush radio to make it the same shape as the original Rocket 3 fuel tank to notionally demonstrate that Ogle just had one idea that they applied to everything they designed was just juvenile. However, he did make some good points, had interesting views and insights into the industry and was entertaining.

The Interviews section seemed to miss the point – there was Edward Turner Junior making the welcome speech (was the Bonneville really the ‘centre of what was right or wrong with our national ethos’ – jeeze, it’s just a motorbike, not a movement) and the other interviews were just unfocussed and plain boring.

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This was supposed to be a video about the Bonneville, so what about talking to the owners or the designers? John Nelson, ex-Meriden man was there so why not interview him on the development of the Bonnie – he has written the definitive book after all (‘Bonnie The Development history of the Triumph Bonneville’), and John Rosamond, author of ‘Save the Triumph Bonneville’ was caught on the DVD signing copies of his book on the day – again why not interview him?

Random Triumphs on Now…

The Personal View was interesting in its own way – it started with some nice views of the bikes in the field and the owners chilling out, but it didn’t give anything else. It could have used some sort of commentary, brief chats with the owners, things like ‘that’s a nice ’59 Bonnie’ or ‘this guy has ridden in from Belgium on his 65 Bonnie’ but there was nothing – no context, no commentary just the video. Now I could identify Jonny Allen’s record breaking streamliner and a Hyde Harrier and the BSA Vetter prototype, all of which appeared in this section, but it would have been nice to have had them mentioned in a commentary.

A Triumph Bonneville DVD advert, yesterday...

The second disc was a more professional affair, giving a gallop through the Bonneville’s history. It was quite slick, with a backdrop of a bunch of modern Triumphs cruising through the USA (presumably Route 66 but we were never told) but as well as a couple of Bonneville Americas there was a pair of Triumph Rocket 3s… This backdrop was interspersed over film of Triumph production at Meriden from the 1950s – it was a bit of a giveaway that the film was pre-Bonneville as it showed T100 alloy barrels and the three piece, bolt-up crank being assembled.

Roy Shilling of the TOMCC wrote the commentary and it was pretty good – there were a couple of minor errors I picked up – the first 724cc T140Vs were produced from August 1972 not 1971, and there were three types of Royal Wedding Bonneville specials produced. It was also a shame that there were lots of pretty salt and sky shots of the Bonneville salt flats but no mention or shots of Jonny Allen’s streamliner. The history rather skipped over the later Meriden models, and I thought that Harris used Italian suspension and brakes on the Devon Bonnevilles because the original UK types were no longer available, not to improve them.

The Bloor era Hinckley Bonneville was well described and illustrated, and all in all, the DVD is a creditable effort and gives as good a view of the Bonnie’s history in the time available.

So what’s the verdict? Actually, although the DVD is obviously an amateur production, I feel that its plus points outweigh the minuses. Look past its production shortcomings and it does have some nice shots of some nice bikes, gives a useful history of the Bonnie, and at the end of the day I think that it is worth buying just to get Craig Vetter’s lecture.
A Triumph Owners MCC logo, yesterday...


The Bonneville Celebration DVD set costs £12 plus delivery from the TOMCC:

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