The Thunderbird was one of the most popular British motor cycles of the post-war years, being particularly well suited to the requirements of police forces, sidecar users and club racing. Triumph wanted their new medium power machine to compete with American manufacturers, even giving it a native American name. The Thunderbird, introduced in 1949 features the 649 c.c twin-cylinder engine, developed from the range of vertical-twin overhead-valve designs introduced in the mid-1930s. The 649cc engine was one of the most versatile of all British motorcycle engines being used in trials and (in modified form) breaking the world motorcycle speed record. Production machines were capable of around 100 miles per hour.
The Thunderbird was used by Victoria Police in solo and sidecar form during the 1950s for traffic duties but it is perhaps best remembered for being riden by Marlon Brando in the 1953 film 'The Wild One'. The original Thunderbird was produced until 1965 at the Meriden Works of the Triumph Engineering Company Ltd, Allesley, Coventry.