Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A lesson in avant-garde streamlined design.

Every once in a while in the world of motorcycle design, something comes along that either divides people or unites them in common bewilderment and repulsion.
On some occasions, after years, sometimes decades, people come around and realise that a particular design or model was simply ahead of its time and is only now becoming appealing. The Fastback iteration of the Commando is one example, as is the Suzuki Katana. And while it is satisfying to see a design finally appreciated (some might say vindicated) it can also mean that there is a measure of conformism creeping in. But there is one trend which is still to be appreciated and understood by the masses, and that is the streamlined British motorcycles of the 1950s. Many manufacturers had a stab at it, including Vincent (for those who deride this trend as silly, well if Vincent thought it was a good idea it probably wasn't silly now, was it?), Triumph, Velocette and Norton to name but the most famous. To this day these wonderful machines are laughed at and the original bodywork often lies buried in landfills across the globe. It will have archaeologists scratch their heads one day. I think perhaps one of the biggest hang-ups people have about such strikingly special shapes is that they belittle them as "scooter styled" whereas in fact they were always meant to be streamliners for a world bursting at the seams with optimism, trust in technology and a desire to conquer the cosmos. These would have been the sleek mounts on which to swoosh along smooth sun-dappled highways, as three-finned rocketships would be blasting off to Mars, silhouetted in the bacground against a glorious blue sky.
And so without further ado, I give you what I think is the most spectacular example of avant-garde streamlined design: the 1957 Triumph 3TA "Twenty-one", from an era that ushered in Sputnik and the beginning of forward-thinking technologies that brought man to the moon and living in space. Rather than bury their nose in clip-ons, some people chose to reach for the stars.


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