1982 Triumph Bonneville T140 ES

British to the last

| September/October 2008

1982 Triumph Bonneville T140 ES
Years produced:
Claimed power: 50hp @ 7,000rpm
Top speed: 100mph
Engine: 744cc OHV, air-cooled parallel twin
Weight (dry): 194.6kg (429lbs)
MPG: 35mpg (avg.)
Price then: $3,295
Price now: $3,000 - $5,000

1982: It was the year of the Falklands’ War, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and the death of John Belushi. It was also when, in March, Bill Sarjeant’s Triumph Bonneville T140 ES rolled off the production line at Meriden and made its way, Bill reckons, to British Motorcycles on Fraser Street in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. From there, its story is a little vague until restorer par excellence Richard Brown in Victoria, British Columbia, bought it.

A little history
In 1975, the British motorcycle industry was pronounced officially deceased when Norton Villiers Triumph, the UK’s sole-surviving mass-producer, pulled the plug on its Commando and Trident range at the end of the model year. And that should have been that.

The huge BSA-Triumph conglomerate had foundered over the failed introduction of its 1971 model range and from increasingly intense competition in the U.S. — its biggest market by far. In 1972, Norton Villiers owner Dennis Poore bought the failed company and its two main manufacturing facilities (the BSA plant at Small Heath and the Triumph Meriden factory), naming the new company Norton Villiers Triumph (NVT). Poore planned to move all Triumph production to Small Heath and close Meriden, and announced his intentions in 1973.

The Meriden workforce had other ideas. They closed the factory gates, locking themselves in. Supported by other trade unions, the workers’ cooperative was determined to keep building Bonnevilles and produced a small number of bikes from their parts inventory. But no new supplies were forthcoming, and it was surely just a matter of time before the cooperative failed, too. When NVT shut down in 1975, it appeared the coffin was nailed shut.

But a change of national government ushered in a Labor administration, which decided the Meriden cooperative could become a bold, new experiment in socialist “enterprise.” Industry Minister Tony Benn persuaded his government to fund the workers’ cooperative. Suppliers were also encouraged to support the “venture,” and Bonnevilles were soon once again rolling out of Meriden, albeit in smaller numbers. The cooperative actually struggled on for another nine years, the last Meriden Bonneville being built in 1984. By that time, Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, and there was emphatically no more government money.

Bruce Hunt
7/1/2013 1:03:46 AM

I have an '82 Bonneville Royal LE anyone know how many were importwd to U.S. ??

8/1/2011 4:23:24 PM

As I was reading this article, I realized that I actually knew what happened to the TSS Executive bodywork that had originally been with that bike. Then I spotted the comment from Rod Y on 9/8/2008! If anyone could say positively where they are today, it would be him (greetings Rod).

Becky Calvert
5/14/2009 8:01:46 PM

Hi! We happen to own one of the 82 Bonneville Royal T140ES--It was purchased from the original owner about 10 years ago and has less than 7500 original miles. The bike had too much power for him and he laid it down one time and decided to sell it before he destroyed himself or the bike. It got some very minor scratches on the right side but no serious damage was done. We have it listed for sale on Ebay right now but will also sell it locally (Reno, Nv) or arrange transport if anyone interested. Call Mark or Becky 775-250-1981.

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