The End of the Line: 1983 Triumph Bonneville TSS for Sale
Reader Jess pointed out this Triumph Bonneville TSS the other day, so I thought I’d write it up for you all. A bit of a forgotten bike from the early 1980’s, it highlights both the best and the worst of what Triumph had to offer at the time. It’s also a fascinating snapshot of the state of the industry, and it was also the very last motorcycle Triumph produced until their rebirth in the Bloor Era.
It may seem like a cop-out that smaller manufacturers like Triumph, Ducati, and Moto Guzzi have relied on nostalgia in recent years for at least a good part of their appeal. But for the most part, these companies really are the scrappy innovators, struggling in the face of the overwhelming onslaught of much larger manufacturers, who can bring far greater weight of resources and engineering might to bear on problems. Still reeling from the sudden Japanese onslaught of the late 1960’s, the smaller European manufacturers were forced to improvise and introduce less expensive, creative solutions to stay competitive.
But work-arounds like Norton’s Isolastic frame will only get you so far, and Triumph knew it was going to lose the Horsepower Wars if it didn’t apply some real muscle to the problem: simply going with bigger pistons to boost performance was going to lead to increased vibration issues, and there’s a practical limit to just how big you can make your cylinders and valves before you run into problems with fueling.
Introduced in 1982 with an electric starter to compliment the traditional kick, the TSS featured a Weslake-derived 8-valve head originally designed for racing. Limited resources prevented a full-redesign of the engine, so the Weslake head basically bolted-onto a revised bottom end. It wasn’t a dual overhead cam engine, but used forked, pushrod-actuated rockers to operate two valves apiece for vastly improved breathing.
These improved pushrods were now supported by head castings, making the whole assembly stiffer and more oil-tight to improve reliability. Extensive use of aluminum reduced the weight of the 748cc engine overall, and a much stiffer crankshaft significantly reduced vibration, allowing for a wide, smooth spread of power that peaked at a claimed 59hp and allowed a top speed of almost 125mph. The machine also featured five-spoke alloy wheels as well as an option for dual Lockheed disc brakes up front, providing a complete spectrum of performance improvements.
From the original eBay listing: 1983 Triumph Bonneville TSS for Sale
Garage find, rare 1983 TSS with low mileage. I bought this bike 10 years ago and rode it 3 times. Its been stored in my garage the entire time. I rode it 1 year ago and everything worked fine. I need to sell it soon for several reasons and have not had time to get a battery and try to start the bike. I have NO reason to believe that it would not start and run fine. The previous owner was a Rolls Royce technician and took very good care of the bike. If you are an enthusiast, you know that they only made about 185 of these for the United States. I hate to part with it but I must. It will not be a projest, just a battery, fresh gas and TLC.
The electric starter worked but grinded just like many do and is not recommended based on the poor design. The tank is original paint and looks great. The frame and all features are in very good original condition. If you have any questions please email. If you have offer, please keep them reasonable. I would rather keep it than give it away.
Unfortunately, while the design itself was sound, manufacturing problems plagued production and the new heads leaked oil badly, casting a dark shadow over the bike. Traditional oil-drips aside, the improved performance was not nearly enough to compete with bikes from Honda, who introduced their revolutionary V4 Interceptor that same year, and the two bikes are at such opposite ends of the spectrum it’s hardly fair to compare them. A total of 438 bikes were built before production ended in 1983, with even fewer making it to the US.
But as with so many machines of the era, what was “outdated” then is often considered “classic” now. Unfortunately, a design that bridged the 1970’s and 1980’s still looks pretty clunky to me, more like some Honda twin aping an older Triumph than a classic in its own right.
But while styling may not have been Triumph’s best, it is very rare, and certainly noteworthy for being the end of the line for the original Triumph. In addition, if you do get a good, non-leaking example, performance should be pretty impressive for a 750 twin.