The Unique 1981 Triumph TS8-1 Prototype By Bonhams

Following the ending of the workers’ occupation of Triumph’s Meriden factory, the reconstituted firm soldiered on into the 1980s with what was essentially a one-model range based on the ageing Bonneville. Nevertheless, the design continued to be developed, gaining an electric starter for 1980 and an eight-valve cylinder head (on the TSS) in 1982.

The eight-valve head had been developed by Weslake many years previously as a bolt-on performance aid before being taken up by Triumph. It had first appeared in a factory-built Triumph in 1981 when the Ian Dyson-styled TS8-1 prototype (the machine offered here) was displayed at the Motorcycle Show at London’s Earls Court.

Emphasising just how low Britain’s motorcycle manufacturing industry had sunk, only two home-grown companies were officially represented: Triumph and Hesketh, and within a few years both would be gone. Further evidence of Triumph’s straitened circumstances was the fact that their stand was a joint venture with the Abbey Garages dealership and the Triumph Owners’ Club. Displayed alongside the TS8-1 were the TR7T trail bike, the Thunderbird 650 and, of course, the Bonneville.

The TS8-1’s power unit was rubber mounted in the frame to a design by Bernard Hooper, the engineer responsible for the Norton Commando’s famous Isolastic engine mounting system. With its twin headlamps and wedge-shaped bodywork, the TS8-1 was an obvious attempt to create a Grand Tourer in the manner of BMW’s R100RT. Sadly, it all came to nought as the minimum numbers of orders required to start production (50) was not forthcoming. What Triumph really needed was sufficient investment to produce an entirely new range of thoroughly modern motorcycles, and it would not get that until entrepreneur John Bloor bought the company and started afresh at Hinckley.

Unlike many factory prototypes, which end up either dismantled or in the crusher, the TS8-1 was purchased by Bill Crosby and for many years has been on display in the London Motorcycle Museum. A total of only one ‘push’ mile is displayed on the odometer, and far as is known the TS8-1 has never been road-tested by any motorcycling magazine. The machine is offered with a V55/3, which records a frame and engine number of TS8 EXP 83-001.

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