1952 Triumph Thunderbird

Compared to its smaller Speed Twin model, Triumph's Thunderbird had 150 cc more displacement and eight more horsepower, for total of 34. See more motorcycle pictures.

The 1952 Triumph Thunderbird motorcycle was introduced at a time when large, powerful bikes were becoming a fashion Triumph sought to emulate.

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Any foreign manufacturer that exports to the U.S. has to listen carefully to the changing demands of the marketplace, and that's just what Triumph did when it released the 6T in 1950.

While the company's offerings were generally well received in postwar America, there was a cry for more power from those accustomed to large-displacement Indians and Harley-Davidsons. And though the 6T's 650-cc engine was barely half the size of the thunderous V-twins of those rivals, it was at least a step in the right direction.

Triumph's popular Speed Twin was the basis for the 6T, and their engines looked the same from the outside.

But it was what was inside that made the difference: Some minor modifications and an extra 150 cc of displacement netted eight more horsepower, raising the total to 34.

New, too, was the styling. A monotone paint scheme bathed frame, tanks, forks, fenders, and even wheel rims in the same color, while new badges and a luggage rack graced the fuel tank.

The headlamp was housed in a streamlined nacelle that tapered into the telescopic front forks, and speedlines were added to fenders, the nacelle, and as part of the badge on the fuel tank.

As was Triumph's custom, the 6T was given a "stage name" in addition to its alphanumeric designation, and Thunderbird became the chosen moniker -- this, of course, years before it was applied to Ford's two-seat sports car.

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