Even now, more untold tales of the original British bike industry still surface. This hardback book focuses on the efforts of Doug Hele and his Meriden development team in the late 1960s and early 70s…
It’s difficult to believe that even now, decades after the ‘old’ UK bike industry rattled to a stop, there are still tales untold. More than that, tales untold which are worth the telling. But there are, and Mick Duckworth has recently supplied a bookful of them.
You get no prizes at all for working out that Triumph Experimental is all about the activities of Meriden Triumph’s experimental department and the people who worked in it. The book is wider than that, in that it refers to more general goings-on in the old BSA-Triumph group, but basically this offers a wonderfully varied view of the life and career of Doug Hele. And it is a great read, even if you are not a dyed-in-the-wool Triumph man.
If you are that exclusive Triumph man, then be warned; Doug Hele, and Bert Hopwood, his long-time colleague, both worked for other concerns, and they are mentioned too, as is only correct, because the industry was a small one. Following Doug Hele’s path through the industry is a great read. You will learn and discover lots about personalities, which isn’t always the case in historical works, and you will discover a lot of the thinking behind the bikes themselves … as well as a lot of factory politics. A lot of it has been told before, but rarely in such an involving and entertaining manner.
Old Triumphs on Now…
Rather than bore you with a chapter by chapter description of the contents, I’ll suggest what makes the book special for this reader – that’s me. All the little add-ons, little boxes packed with details on engines, projects, bikes which never were, things like that. Examples? OK. Remember the P31? Of course you do. That was the dohc 650 Triumph engine, based around the T120. Everyone knows that. But … did you know that there was also a P30? That was the rather less glamorous 350 dohc twin engine. Had Triumph got a decent dohc small capacity twin onto the market in the mid-late 1960s, things may well have been different. And all the work on the P30 was almost not wasted: it almost made it into production as the Triumph Bandit.
A huge proportion of the developmental dept’s energies were spent on developing race bikes, and whether you consider that to be a good thing or a waste of time is up to you. However, race develop they did, and it is all in here for you to marvel at, along with the personalities ands the results themselves. As is always the case when I read accounts of the race track achievements of the time, I wonder whether things might have been different had those resources and energies been spent on developing a more sophisticated and modern range of road bikes. Road bikes earn the money, not the racers. Hinckley Triumph appear to do quite well selling road bikes. Whatever your views, you will discover oceans of info here; whether you nod approvingly is up to you.
There is – inevitably – a vast range of anecdotes. Norman Hyde also features highly in the book, and has some excellent tales to tell, and loads of other personalities from back then are revealed in all their witty glory. My favourite tale concerns Percy Tait and his pig farm…
Whether you simply fancy a good read or wish to learn more and gain a deeper understanding of how real life was in the last couple of decades before the old industry folded, you will find much of interest in here. It’s a great book. Very well illustrated and packed with … well … everything! Highly recommended.
RC Reviewer: Frank Westworth
Triumph Experimental by Mick Duckworth is available through Norman Hyde:
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