Fifty years ago, Triumph Motorcycles launched what would become the most successful model in the British manufacturer’s storied history, the Bonneville. More than any machine Triumph had built before or would build later, the Bonneville came to define the British motorcycle industry. Stylish and fast, it’s still so good looking today even its detractors have to admit its rightful place as one of the great bikes in the motorcycle history pantheon.
Yet less than 15 years after the Bonnie’s introduction, the failure of Triumph/BSA — and the rest of the British motorcycle industry — to embrace changing markets and technologies, and to adopt new strategies for development and market share, led Triumph and the entire British motorcycle industry to ruin.
The full story behind the rise and fall of the British motorcycle industry is long and complex, and perhaps that’s why we haven’t seen more books on the subject. Yet in Shooting Star, a short book of just over 150 pages, author Abe Aamidor manages to succinctly and skillfully explain how the major players in this motorcycle drama (Triumph, BSA, Norton and to a lesser degree AJS and Matchless) were able to squander decades of manufacturing and racing success. Aamidor, a veteran reporter currently working on a book about the fall of the U.S. automotive industry, uses his training to good effect, personally interviewing players close to the drama including BSA’s star rider Jeff Smith and three-time Daytona winner and Norton rider Dick Klamfoth.
Focusing mostly on England’s post-World War II motorcycle successes (big twins. racing) and challenges within the British industry (labor issues, the rise of the Japanese motorcycle industry and changing economics). Aamidor examines things the British did right — the Bonneville rises as a perfect example — and things they did wrong, poor engineering chief among them.
Engaging and well-researched, Shooting Star tells the story of the British motorcycle industry’s fall in a way even the non-historian will enjoy. 153 pages, $29.95. Published by ECW Press. MC
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