As Seen On TV: Fonzie’s 1949 Triumph Trophy 500 for Sale

1949 Triumph Trophy 500

Normally we use the term “sportbike” on this site to refer to street and track bikes with a roadracing style or intent. But obviously offroading is a sport, so I’m going to stretch our usual definition to include today’s iconic motorcycle: the Triumph Trophy 500 as seen on the TV show “Happy Days.”

1949 Triumph Trophy 500 L Side

Today, rebels without causes and 1%-ers wouldn’t be caught dead with anything but one of Milwaukee’s finest slung between their legs. But Henry Winkler’s Arthur Fonzarelli was a different kind of rebel, a good kid with a rebellious streak, a kinder, gentler tough guy and his greaser image harkens back to an earlier era, when bad boys rode whatever they wanted. In fact, the original motorcycle hooligan, Marlon Brando’s character in The Wild One, rode a Triumph Thunderbird. His whole crew actually rode British iron, although rival gang members rode Harleys.

1949 Triumph Trophy 500 R Side Engine

Named for Triumph’s success at the Italian International Six Day Trial in 1948, the original Trophy was an offroad special derived from the Speed Twin. A rigid frame housed a 498cc parallel-twin backed by a four-speed gearbox, with a 1951 redesign adding an aluminum head and barrels.

This particular example isn’t in particularly nice shape and, if not for the association with the show, you might simply dismiss it as a “barn find” in need of a restoration.

1949 Triumph Trophy 500 L Side Engine

From the original eBay listing: Happy Days 1949 Triumph Trophy 500 for Sale

“The Fonz” Henry Winkler’s  Iconic  Fully Documented Happy Days Televison Series  used 1949 Triumph Trophy 500 Motorcycle.

Found by Cycle World Magazine and later sold and fully documented by Bonhams’ Auctions.

Sold in its unrestored “as filmed condition” with all its studio scars and its almost 70 years of age. (Fully documented and vetted by Bonham’s Auctions)

Built by non other than Bud Ekins, the premier builder for the studios and sold by him to the prior owner.

The Television show ran for 10 years from 1974 to 1984 making it one of the most beloved television series in history.

So iconic that his motorcycle jacket is on permanent display at the Smithsonian Museum and a toy model was made and sold throughout the world.

This could be one of the most iconic motorcycles ever!

AYYYE!  Thumbs up! 

1949 Triumph Trophy 500 Tank

Certainly the seller is probably correct that this is one of the most iconic motorcycles ever. Maybe not among motorcycle fans in particular, but certainly among people in general. With a $100,000 Buy It Now price, you’re certainly not paying for the machine itself. Instead, this is a bit of entertainment history. So what to do with it? I’d keep it as-is in terms of patina, but I’d give it a good mechanical restoration so I could put on my Schott Perfecto 618 and ride it to motorcycle shows, hair slicked back in a pompadour, like the rest of the romeos wore…

-tad

1949 Triumph Trophy 500 Fonz

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3 Responses

  1. micky says:

    “could be one of the most iconic motorcycles ever” but it isn’t. Maybe if it was The California Hot-rod.

  2. sr88 says:

    It’s ironic but Henry Winkler didn’t like to ride motorcycles when the show was running, thought they were dangerous. He rarely actually rode this bike during filming. Stuntmen usually actually rode it. Not a Steve McQueen.

  3. tad says:

    I’d read that before! Looking at his career after Happy Days, it’s pretty funny to think of him being cast as a bad-boy…