Meriden’s Last Hurrah: 1983 Triumph TSS 8-Valve

Only 112 Triumph TSS 8-valves were imported to the U.S. before Triumph closed its doors in 1983.


| May/June 2014



Left-hand Side View of Triumph TSS

1983 Triumph TSS 8-valve.

Photo by Nick Cedar

1983 Triumph TSS
Claimed power: 58hp @ 6,200rpm
Top speed: 125mph (est.)
Engine: 744cc air-cooled 4-valve per cylinder OHV parallel twin, 76mm x 82mm bore and stroke, 9.5:1 compression ratio
Weight (dry): 403lb (182.8kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 4.8 U.S. gal (18.2ltr)/52.7mpg (period test)
Price then/now: $3,800/$3,000-$9,000

Hope springs eternal, and the 8-valve TSS introduced in 1982 was Triumph’s hope for a brighter future.

Well-designed, comfortable, fast and good-handling, only 112 were imported to the U.S. before Triumph closed its doors in 1983. The reasons for Triumph’s failure are complex and reach back decades, but boil down to the Greek tragedy motif of hubris and unthinking pride. In the glory days of the Fifties and Sixties, Triumph thought its customers would always buy their products, no matter the competition. Triumph was wrong.

In the post-World War II era, Triumph found success in the U.S. with its sporting twins, while its smaller offerings brought in money at home. Up until the early 1960s, the number of American motorcycle enthusiasts was comparatively small and Triumph had no problem filling the needs of its dealers and customers. Quality control was good, and complaints were few, but the good times would not last.

As small, affordable automobiles became available in England, the market for small, economical motorcycles — then the major market in England — dried up. Triumph found itself increasingly reliant on exports and the U.S. market, to the extent that by 1966, 80 percent of Triumph’s motorcycle sales went to the U.S.

At the same time, Honda’s export effort was exploding. Honda had quickly become the largest motorcycle company in the world, mostly by selling small capacity machines to Third World countries. Unlike Triumph, Honda invested its profits in its factories. As a result, Hondas were made on state of the art equipment and featured overhead cams, electric starters, oil-tight engine cases and bright headlights.





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