A Triumph Thunderbird Bluebird Brought Back from the Dead
Owner and Photographer: Michael S. Marino
I think that the 1950-’53 Triumph rigid frame Thunderbirds are amazing examples of art deco design, as well as post-war technology. These bikes were advertised as able to race 500 laps, non-stop, at an average speed of 90 mph. They were reliable, powerful and they looked amazing with several singular styling cues.
This bike was so good, Marlon Brando used his own 1950 Bluebird, which he painted black for the movie, in the movie The Wild Ones. Though the Triumph company was originally not pleased with how Brando portrayed motorcycle riders (and specifically Triumph riders), it caused Triumphs to become very popular and created significant demand in America. (I’m also lucky enough to own an original “Blackbird” produced by Triumph in 1953 to commemorate The Wild Ones.)
As an owner, I may sound partial, but these Triumphs offer an amazing vintage experience not matched by other period bikes. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the feel are all there. And they are blue, all blue. Everything. Triumph said you can have any color you want, as long as it is blue! The bike is industrial art and has a build quality that is unmatched.
If that’s not enough of an endorsement, Brando, Dean, McQueen, Elvis and Newman—each owned one!
It may not look like it now, but my ownership of this 1951 Triumph Thunderbird “Bluebird” started out disassembled in three Rubbermaid containers! I say my love of vehicles is genetic, inherited from my father, so like many of you when I saw a small Craigslist ad for the motorcycle indicating only a “matching frame and engine”, I knew exactly what I was in for.
My 1951 was literally a basket case. It took several years and a lot of help to get it back together. No corner was cut, and the bike is now as it was when new. Since it has been together, it has won first place at the Greenwich Concours Festival of Speed, first at the Lime Rock Historics, and second at the New England Motorcycle Exhibition. Additionally, you can see it on the cover of Classic Bike Guide Magazine for October, 2014.
That said, only one thing really matters to me: on this motorcycle, any back road in New England is perfect.
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