Thursday, May 06, 2010


While the rest of the world was busy hacking itself to bits in 1940, American motorcycle 'Class C' racing carried on until deep in 1942 while we distracted ourselves from joining the fray.  While England and the Triumph factory specifically were occupied with military production, the lure of cash from abroad for a special racing model must have been impossible to resist.  Plus, helping competitors abroad was not yet forbidden, and the Competition Department surely relished the chance to build one last racing machine before the grim reality of a new war in Europe took hold.

Thus in March of 1940, Rody Rodenberg, a well-known racer from Indiana, ordered a new 500cc Tiger 100 to full racing specification from the Triumph factory, which was to include open megaphones, rearset footrests, a BTH racing magneto, a TT carb with rubber-mounted remote float, 8:1 compression pistons, a bronze cylinder head, and a specially-tuned motor 'guaranteed to provide 120mph top speed'. Destined for 'Class C' (production) racing and an eye to the high speed beach race at Daytona, political events finally caught up with the Triumph, and it sat out the war in Rodenberg's garage.

When officially sanctioned racing resumed in 1947, the Tiger was finally raced at Daytona by Lowell Rettinger, who went on to win the Peoria TT on the machine that year.  Rodenberg used the Triumph at Daytona in 1948, and it won a 5-Mile national race at Iowa City in 1951.  It appears the Tiger was put away shortly afterwards and simply preserved unscathed, for it remains in exactly as it finished its last race, in remarkably original condition.

How do we know the history of the Tiger?  All of the correspondence between Rodenberg and Triumph have been retained with the racer, and are included with the machine in its sale at Bonhams on May 8th, at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering.  Factory prepared racing Triumph twins are rare, period, as Edward Turner was no fan of risking the factory's reputation on events as uncontrollable as a motorcycle race.  A factory tuned pre-war Tiger 100 with full documentation is even more unusual.  That it exists in such a beautiful state today is exceptional, and probably unique.  I envy the new owner!

If you're interested in more details on this machine, I have scans of all the factory correspondence.  


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to drop you a quick line and say thank you, first off, for a great blog. More specifically, thank you for linking your blog about the Triumph Tiger to info about the Peoria TT.
As a Peoria native and Flat Track fanatic, I really appreciate seeing information spread about it. Far too often when I talk to people about Flat Track, they reply, "They still do that?"
Thanks for letting people know it's still going strong.
Randon Swearingian

Anonymous said...

Jim Abbott Tucson AZ said...
Paul: It's hard to imagine the hardships that England suffered prior to the US entering the war, even in such a bottom rung sport as flat track racing. That Triumph would build and sell a real racer at that time and sell it overseas is a credit to English determination.

Jim A.

Don O'Reilly said...

what an original, one-of-a-kind beauty!
Would it be out of line to speculate on the cash value of it at Quail? Bonhams suggests somewhere between 30 and 40K... not a bad investment at 30, and it does run.
Many Thanks Paul, keep up the good work.

daveinnola said...

i read that the tiger engines were used as aux power plants in lancaster bombers

Clipstock said...

I am looking forward to your post on the Kestrel. I see your profile picture has already been updated with proof that you have had some enviable time with the newest raptor.


Anonymous said...

Given the dire situation in europe and the deprivations in the UK at the time I wouldn't have believed this project would have been sanctioned. Nice bike, nice piece, another plump raisen in the bread pudding of life.
ps. Re:daveinnola's post, thought it was the square barrel 350cc lump, no doubt Pd'O will shed light.

JDUSS said...

Excellent aricle on the 1940 Tiger 100. We had it at Amelia Island this year in the class featuring the Triumph Twin.While many comments focus on the British doing such things in the face of war their enemy was up to the same thing. Several years ago the Amelia bike class featured "Bikes on the Beach" and we had '39 BMW which raced at Daytona Beach beginning in 1940. Ironically, it is owned by the same owner of the Triumph. It was imported by Emil Recke in NYC and presumably was raced at Daytona by Rodeberg or Joe Tomas. Your blog is terrific. John Duss

brian b said...

From a fan of BMW, is there a chance that there will be a companion article on the Rody Rodenberg R51RS that is on offer at Bonham Las Vegas auction?

Anonymous said...

My great uncle lowell rettinger used to ride number 45 back in his days

Anonymous said...

I have just acquired a frame with a T.F. # on the headset, might like to run it by you to see if the features are correct.

mike keesling said...

My grandmother great uncle did as well..his name is lowell rettinger