Mile Eater: 1948 Triumph Speed Twin

This 1948 Triumph Speed Twin has traveled approximately 17,477 miles, all without the engine ever having been fired.

| March/April 2015

1948 Triumph Speed Twin
Claimed power: 28.5hp @ 6,000rpm
Top speed: 85mph (est.)
Engine: 498cc air-cooled OHV parallel twin, 63mm x 80mm bore and stroke, 6.5:1 compression ratio
Weight: 374lb (170kg)
Fuel capacity: 4.76gal (18ltr)
Price then/now: $450 (est.)/$7,500-$12,500

Only 49 miles show on the Smiths speedometer, but this all-original 1948 Triumph Speed Twin has traveled some hefty distances. Come again?

Before we get too far into the story, let’s chart the mileage. According to current owner and motorcycle collector Sid Chantland, this Speed Twin left Triumph’s factory in Meriden and went to Al Shirer’s Indian and British motorcycle shop in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a journey of 3,442 miles. When it left Allentown, the Speed Twin traveled to Japan, a journey of 6,710 miles. From Japan, the Triumph was shipped to Northern California, roughly 5,249 miles. Finally, it moved from California to Sid’s property near Minneapolis, Minnesota, another 2,076 miles.

The distances are approximate, of course, but that’s a grand total of 17,477 miles, all without the engine ever having been fired: The 49 miles accumulated while being rolled around during all those moves. As an essentially untouched Triumph Speed Twin, it’s an exceptional time capsule.

Beginnings of the twin

Triumph built an experimental 600cc side-valve vertical twin engine in 1913, but World War I disrupted further development. Unfortunately, not much is known about this early twin-cylinder powerplant.

Then, in the early 1930s, seminal motorcycle engineer and designer Val Page drew another twin for Triumph, which they dubbed the 6/1. It had a short life, being built only from 1934 to 1936. Page also designed a range of Triumph singles with 250, 350 and 500cc sidevalve and overhead valve configurations. None of these Triumphs were inexpensive to produce, and by the mid 1930s the company was facing financial

3/18/2015 11:25:44 AM

The '48 Speed Twin grew into my college ride -A 1953 T100C with a swingarm, twin shock conversion. Outfitted with the Triumph factory race kit that included an alloy cylinder block, twin leaky Amal carbs and head work, it was scary fast for the day. Still have a Triumph in the shop: a Hinckley Trophy 900.

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