Thursday, May 6, 2010


While the rest of the world was busy hacking itself to bits in 1940, American motorcycle 'Class C' racing carried on until deep in 1942 while we distracted ourselves from joining the fray.  While England and the Triumph factory specifically were occupied with military production, the lure of cash from abroad for a special racing model must have been impossible to resist.  Plus, helping competitors abroad was not yet forbidden, and the Competition Department surely relished the chance to build one last racing machine before the grim reality of a new war in Europe took hold.

Thus in March of 1940, Rody Rodenberg, a well-known racer from Indiana, ordered a new 500cc Tiger 100 to full racing specification from the Triumph factory, which was to include open megaphones, rearset footrests, a BTH racing magneto, a TT carb with rubber-mounted remote float, 8:1 compression pistons, a bronze cylinder head, and a specially-tuned motor 'guaranteed to provide 120mph top speed'. Destined for 'Class C' (production) racing and an eye to the high speed beach race at Daytona, political events finally caught up with the Triumph, and it sat out the war in Rodenberg's garage.

When officially sanctioned racing resumed in 1947, the Tiger was finally raced at Daytona by Lowell Rettinger, who went on to win the Peoria TT on the machine that year.  Rodenberg used the Triumph at Daytona in 1948, and it won a 5-Mile national race at Iowa City in 1951.  It appears the Tiger was put away shortly afterwards and simply preserved unscathed, for it remains in exactly as it finished its last race, in remarkably original condition.

How do we know the history of the Tiger?  All of the correspondence between Rodenberg and Triumph have been retained with the racer, and are included with the machine in its sale at Bonhams on May 8th, at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering.  Factory prepared racing Triumph twins are rare, period, as Edward Turner was no fan of risking the factory's reputation on events as uncontrollable as a motorcycle race.  A factory tuned pre-war Tiger 100 with full documentation is even more unusual.  That it exists in such a beautiful state today is exceptional, and probably unique.  I envy the new owner!

If you're interested in more details on this machine, I have scans of all the factory correspondence.