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1976 Triumph Cardinal

Model Years:

Cardinal - 1977
Police spec - 1975
1977 Triumph Cardinal 1977 Triumph Cardinal Production:

Cardinal - about 130
Police - about 450

"A touring motorcycle? My dear sir, the British machine is noted for its vivid acceleration, fine handling qualities and looks. It remains a rider's machine, a sporting thoroughbred, the two-wheeled equivalent of the Morgan car. How could we sacrifice these sterling virtues by fitting it up with - what did you say? - a screen, crashbars, panniers, western-style handlebars and spotlamps. You aren't a police officer by any chance are you, sir? No? Well, I think you'll find a Harley-Davidson dealer just around the corner . . . "
Sheik On It... - Bike

List of Special Equipment

The Triumph Cardinal
One of the last batches of triples was made at Small Heath in December 1975.
Of this batch 288 bikes were destined for Australia and another 224 for the USA. However, NVT diverted them from those markets (where they faced almost impossible competition from the big four Japanese manufacturers) to fulfill an order of Tridents for the Saudi Arabian police force . Police forces in the UK had, for the most part, switched to BMW motorcycles but some like Yorkshire had been using Tridents. Five shipments, totaling 450 bikes, were sent to Saudi Arabia. Another 130 were still in the UK when the Saudis cancelled the order and in early 1977 NVT Motorcycles decided to sell them on the home market as the Triumph Cardinal.

At the time the list price of a stock T160, if you could find one!, was 1,211 (inc VAT) with most dealers listing them for 1,198. The accessories were worth about 150 - including crash bars, spotlamps, air horns, tri-point screen, panniers, single seat and radio rack. NVT listed the Cardinal for 1,522.80 (inc VAT).

The weekly paper Motor Cycle News even had a 'Mark the Ball' competition with a Cardinal as the prize.

Time passes . . .

Interest in classic bikes, especially triples, grows to the extent that people start to wonder what happened to all those bikes sent to Saudi Arabia. Those 450 machines were about 6.25% of the total production of just over 7,000 T160s.

Dealers in the UK began bringing the bikes back. In the early '80s two dealers in Sweden and Finland went to Saudi Arabia and brought back 180 bikes. They began to restore and resell them - mostly in stock T160 trim. The bikes were found to have incredibly low mileage (some no more than a couple of hundred miles!) - but they were very abused and, as might be expected, were totally encrusted in sand with desert dust everywhere.

Here's yours truly just after I bought a new Cardinal in August 1977 from Allan Jefferies, a Triumph dealer in Shipley, Yorks.
A Swede, Kjell Winlund, bought one of the ex-police bikes and restored it himself.

Send e-mail to Kim Rowden