Triumph T20B Bantam Cub History
A Brief History of the Triumph Bantam Cub and Super Cub
Introduced in 1954, the 199cc Triumph T20 Tiger Cub quickly established
itself as a popular, lightweight machine. A variety of models were
released over the coming years including sports and off-road versions.
Triumph had been owned by BSA since 1951 and over time the two
manufacturers started sharing components across their models to
reduce costs. The Triumph Tiger Cub and BSA Bantam gradually started
to use some common parts, such as forks, brakes, etc.
However, it wasn't until the mid-1960s that a closer merger of
the BSA Bantam and Triumph Tiger Cub models was considered to further
improve efficiencies and control costs.
1959 Promotional photo
an early T20 Tiger Cub
factory at Small Heath in 1968
Photo licensed under
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic
During the 1960s Triumph and BSA were under huge commercial pressures
as their traditional market was squeezed by the increasing popularity
of Japanese machines and a general move away from motorbikes towards
low-cost, family cars.
In 1966 the company made a desperate attempt to maintain a share
of the market and moved production of some Tiger Cub models from
the Triumph factory in Meriden, Coventry, to the BSA plant at Armoury
Road in Small Heath, Birmingham. The Cub engines continued to be
built at Meriden, but they were transported to Small Heath where
they were fitted into Bantam frames.
So, using the latest 199cc Cub engine in a Bantam D7 chassis, the
Triumph T20B 'Bantam Cub' was born. Later versions were based on
the Bantam D10 and branded the 'Super Cub'. However, those latter
models are also often referred to generally as Bantam Cubs.
For many people the Bantam Cub provided the best of both worlds.
The Cub engine was a powerful unit for it's size with plenty of
torque, while the Bantam frame offered superior handling with it's
longer wheel-base and stronger frame.
However, brand-loyalty meant that both Triumph and BSA followers
shunned the bikes as not true to either marque. There were also
problems with reliability as the BSA workforce resented the arrival
of the Triumph engines and badges in their factory. Many of the
early problems could be traced back to what was at best lack of
care, and at worse out and out sabotage!
So, the great little bike that was technically a perfect combination,
turned out to be a commercial flop. Dwindling sales meant that the
factory and the dealers were left carrying huge stocks and by 1968
a decision had been made to end production the following year.
From 1966 when the first Bantam Cub was built until 1969 when the
last bike left the factory, just over 1,700 Bantam Cubs and less
than 2,500 Super Cubs were built. This is a startling contrast with
1960 when over 13,000 Tiger Cubs were built in that one year alone.
1967 T20B Super Cub
All that now remains of
Triumph's Meriden factory
For several years after Cub production stopped, the company went
through period of change. In 1973 it was taken over, with all bike
production subsequently moving to Triumph's Meriden plant. BSA's
historic factory at Small Heath was demolished in 1975. Triumph
struggled on making larger machines mostly for export, but in 1983
the Meriden factory was also forced to close and in 1984 it too
was demolished. The site is now a housing estate.
However, times have changed. A successful new company in Hinckley,
Leicestershire now builds modern machines bearing the Triumph name.
Attitudes to Cubs have also changed! Bantam Cubs may have been shunned
in the 60's, but the T20B is now one of the rarest and most desirable
models of Triumph Tiger Cub.
For a more detailed history of all the Triumph Tiger Cubs, including
the Bantam Cub, I recommend the late Mike Estall's superb book,
Tiger Cub Bible' published by Veloce Publishing plc, (ISBN13:
9781904788096, ISBN10: 1904788092.)
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