1931 Triumph-Gloria Model ‘H’ Full Roadster
No, Triumph did not make this fabulous chrome mascot for its Gloria bicycles. Though over the years I’ve often thought of buying one to fit to this Gloria bicycle. The mascot is for the Triumph Gloria range of sporting saloon cars that Triumph introduced in 1933, after discontinuing their Gloria Cycle range soon after this machine was built. It seems the Gloria name was just too good for a humble bicycle…
1931 Triumph-Gloria 26 inch Model ‘H’ 3-Speed Full Roadster
3-Speed Sturmey Archer Gears
A skilled workman is just as incapable of producing inferior work as an unskilled one of producing good work. Here is the reason for the difference between Triumph bicycles and others. Triumphs are built as no other bicycles – in a MODEL FACTORY by SKILLED MALE MECHANICS ONLY. There is nothing cheap about a Triumph.
- Triumph Cycle Co advert
All Triumph bicycles are rare and sought-after. It’s not surprising when you consider that the company was Great Britain’s primary motorcycle manuafacturer: vintage motorcycle collectors compete with bicycle enthusiasts to find vintage Triumphs of every type. Vintage car collectors also prize Triumph Gloria bicycles as they are even rarer than the 1930s Triumph Gloria Sports Saloon.
Due to feedback from their cycle agents, Triumph tried to make cheaper machines. But, of course, everything made in the same factory went through the same expensive processes and quality control, so selling cheaper machines just made their top-of-the-range products look overpriced. Using a different factory, and made with different fittings, Triumph’s Gloria Cycle Co was the therefore the solution to selling bicycles that were cheaper than Triumph Cycle Co‘s own products, but still took advantage of their distribution network and agencies worldwide.
All early Triumphs are large machines, and this 26″ frame Beast is no exception. The paintwork is original and very well-preserved, with its original transfer (decal) on the headstock (faded but readable), as well as on Triumph’s patent oil-bath chaincase (above).
GLORIA CYCLE Co Ltd
The Triumph Cycle Co was established in 1896, while the Gloria Cycle Co was apparently set up in Coventry two years later. I’m not sure at what stage Gloria became a subsidiary of Triumph, or whether it was a Triumph company from the outset, but Triumph used both names for their bicycles, the Gloria name being used for cheaper machines.
Gloria bicycles were extensively advertised (1913 advert above) and also exported, as can be seen from the following advert in New Zealand’s Wanganui Herald, from 11 November 1903:
With the increasing success of their motorcycle business over the first three decades of the 20th century, that became Triumph’s main focus. This Gloria Roadster would have been one of the last Triumph bicycles to bear the name because, from 1932 the Gloria became a motorcycle and, from 1933, a car.
My first postwar vintage motorcycle was a Triumph Speed Twin Combination purchased in 1973 (bought for £20, crashed, sold for £25). A 98cc Gloria (see below) was my first pre-war vintage motorcycle; I owned it from 1980-1993.
In 1933 Triumph Motor Co decided on a change in direction for their car production, and Donald Healey joined the company. The small Triumph saloon cars had helped the company manage through the depression years, but Triumph now decided to add some glory to their four wheelers. They decided the time was right for larger sports saloons, and the result was the Triumph Gloria series. This ran from 1933 to 1937 with around 30 variations based on three chassis lengths, four engine sizes, standard or Vitesse tuned and various bodies.
The Gloria was raced successfully. A 1935 advert in The Motor celebrating Jack Ridley’s 2346 mile run from the Arctic Circle in a Gloria can be seen below.
My favourite Gloria is the Flow-Free Saloon.
When I saw this bike it was love at first sight.
Unrequited love is love that is not openly reciprocated or understood as such, even though reciprocation is usually deeply desired. The beloved may or may not be aware of the admirer’s deep affections.
Falling in love with a bicycle? …which beggars the question ‘can a bicycle love you back?’
And how suspect is it to admit loving a Man’s bike named Gloria? How on earth can I talk myself out of this pickle?
Luckily, I happen to know that Triumph Gentlemen’s Bicycles, even if they sport a suspect name such as Gloria, were always made ‘by men, for men.’
The Triumph publicity department proudly announced in its advertising (below) that their products were built by ‘skilled male mechanics only.’
Triumph did not trust women in their factory!
As you can see from the pictures, this Gloria is a glorious machine, in original unrestored condition, with the patina one might expect from over eighty years of existence.
This Roadster boasts a full complement of accessories: lights, carrier, toolbag, pump, as well as the piece de resistance …a 1931 penny.
1931 GLORIA CYCLE CATALOGUE
Conveniently, the headlight has an arrow on it to show you which way to go
After Gloria Cycles ended – the name being needed to adorn the latest Triumph Gloria automobile range – the ‘Model H Roadster’ continued as part of the Triumph model range. Compare this 1931 Gloria with the 1939 Triumph Model H Tourist illustrated below.
During WW2, Triumph’s Coventry factory was destroyed by German bombs. After the war, trading as Triumph Cycle Co. Ltd, the company mainly produced lightweight sports bikes. In common with the rest of British industry postwar, the majority were exported to the USA to help repay the massive American war debts. BSA took over Triumph Cycle Co. Ltd in 1951, and BSA’s cycle division was itself taken over by Raleigh in 1956.
At various times, to help the company concentrate on more important parts of their business, Triumph bicycles had been made by other companies, a practice common throughout the bicycle industry from the start. Triumph was really a German company, but its British bicycle, motorcycle and car production turned it into one of the top classic British marques. Additionally, with Marlon Brando astride one, Triumph achieved iconic delinquent status.
Cyclists may not be quite as errant as the ‘wild one’ but, in my mind, whether sporting Triumph badges or the inverted levers of pre-WW1 Triumph cycles, any vintage machine bearing the Triumph name represents a nostalgic reminder of Great Britain as an industrial world superpower.