1959 Triumph TR6 Trophy

One look at the 1959 Triumph TR6 Trophy and it's no wonder Triumphs were the best-selling big bikes of the late 1950s.

| July/August 2006

  • Author riding Triumph TR6 Trophy, facing left
    The 1959 Triumph TR6 Trophy motorcycle was designed to be a desert racer, but I works well on the street too.
    Photo by Roland Brown
  • Author riding Triumph TR6 Trophy, facing right
    The author crouches low and opens the throttle.
    Photo by Roland Brown
  • riderless Triumph TR6 Trophy parked on gravel
    The TR6 Trophy at rest.
    Photo by Roland Brown
  • engine and gas tank of Triumph TR6 Trophy
    The TR6 Trophy’s single-carb aids reliability while its aluminum head keeps engine temps down.
    Photo by Roland Brown
  • Gauges of Triumph TR6 Trophy
    The fuel gauge and speedometer/odometer of the TR6 Trophy.
    Photo by Roland Brown

  • Author riding Triumph TR6 Trophy, facing left
  • Author riding Triumph TR6 Trophy, facing right
  • riderless Triumph TR6 Trophy parked on gravel
  • engine and gas tank of Triumph TR6 Trophy
  • Gauges of Triumph TR6 Trophy

1959 Triumph TR6 Trophy
Years produced:
1956-1973
Total production: N/A
Claimed power: 42hp @ 6,500rpm
Top speed: 110mph (approx.)
Engine type: 649cc overhead valve, air-cooled parallel twin
Weight: 180kg (396lb)
Price then: N/A
Price now: $6,000-$10,000
MPG: 45-55

Even Steve McQueen himself couldn’t have looked much cooler than that, I thought with a grin, as the 1959 Triumph TR6 Trophy came to a halt, its rear wheel waaaay out to the left, with what must have looked like a perfectly planned and executed rear-wheel skid.

In reality, it hadn’t been planned at all. I’d been following a car at slow speed in traffic (and keeping a reasonable distance, I might add), when the driver suddenly braked for no apparent reason. Squeezing the front brake lever made almost no difference to the Triumph’s speed. So I stepped on the rear brake pedal with my left boot, at which point the contrastingly over-powerful rear drum locked the wheel, sending the bike to a gentle, sliding halt without ever feeling out of control.

That skidding stop might not have been planned, but when you’re riding a high-piped Triumph TR6 Trophy twin like the one ridden by movie icon and biker McQueen (on the silver screen and in real life, too), acting cool comes with the territory.



You only have to take one glance at the TR6 Trophy, with its lean lines, handsome parallel twin engine and high-level exhaust system, to understand why Triumphs were the best-selling big bikes on the West Coast in the late 1950s and 1960s — and why the TR6 Trophy was one of the most popular of all.

Scrambled, not Fried

The importance of the TR6 Trophy goes further than its sales figures and dollar-earning ability for Triumph. When it was launched in 1956, the offroad-oriented twin was the first “street scrambler” from a major manufacturer, introducing a style that continues to this day. It was created specifically for export, targeted not simply at the States, but more precisely at the desert-racing hotbed of California.



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