Fair warning! What follows is a rant, but a well-reasoned one. …I hope.
Triumph has announced a “Steve McQueen Special Edition Scrambler 1200X” and it is a management and marketing error of epic proportions. Just when I thought Harley-Davidson had cornered the market on corporate bungles, along comes Triumph with an attempt to tarnish their own image, and the effort will succeed.
The bike in question is the 1200X scrambler, which is the scrambler model that comes equipped and prepared to go on dirt roads and rugged terrain. It is a very capable machine. The SMSES is what my first boss in the motorcycle business called a “BNG,” a model that features “bold new graphics” when the manufacturer does not have the gusto or ability to improve last year’s model.
In this case, what you get for (considerably) more money is all of the available options, special paint (green), and a high mounted front fender.
Oh, but there’s more! On the steering head, an engraved plaque of Steve McQueen’s signature! Oh boy! And on the title will appear the signatures of Nick Bloor, Triumph CEO, and Chad McQueen, son of Steve.
There is so much wrong here. First of all, the “scrambler” used for the famous jump in the movie The Great Escape was nowhere near a standard Triumph model, but one highly modified for the task of looking like a German army bike that can soar over a tall fence. More importantly, although McQueen was a highly capable rider, raced successfully, and rode several motorcycles in the movie, he was not riding the bike for the famous jump. That was Bud Ekins, and Triumph already did a quite lovely special edition with his name on it last year.
On the title will appear the name of Nick Bloor, CEO of Triumph. It was John Bloor who rescued the Triumph brand from the dust and made a successful company out of it. Nick Bloor is his son. He is famous and noteworthy for… I don’t know what. Chad McQueen is Steve’s son, and seems to have made a life career out of promoting his father’s legacy and selling off things he owned, or touched. Chad may have done many other noteworthy things that I am not aware of.
So, we have a motorcycle that commemorates nothing that was ever sold by Triumph, extolling the fame of someone who did not ride it to glory, and endorsed by the sons of the CEO of Triumph and the son of the guy who did not ride it. Am I missing something here?
Not that Triumph are alone in this. The Ford Mustang has been available in a “special edition” of one sort
or another for almost every year of its existence, sometimes several in the same year. The CS (California Special), the Twister Edition, three (!) different versions of the “Bullitt” Mustang (at least McQueen did drive that one), and on and on. Corvette has celebrated every anniversary imaginable for decades. Some of these models had improvements over the base model, such as the Bullitt cars, but most were paint and graphics packages to boost sales and create profit.
Nothing wrong with profit, but the ice is thin. Remember in the 1990’s when Harley marketed their motorcycles to upwardly mobile types as the must have new thing. I worked at a dealership where every weekend attorneys and bankers rode in wearing their “tough biker guy” regalia, with leather jackets and boots and do rags. The ironed creases in their jeans gave them away, and I think the overall effect weakened Harley’s image.
In the early 2,000s BMW adventure bikes became the in thing (still are) and dealers sold all sorts of accessories to better prepare your BMW GS for that around the world trip hardly anyone would ever take. That gave birth to the “Starbucks Adventure Rider” label.
I do not want Triumph to become the next “cool guy” thing. Think of all the famous movie stars and celebrities of all sorts who have had their picture taken on a Triumph. After all, everyone looks better on a Triumph. Will we see the “Bob Dylan” Triumph (he did ride them), or the “Ann Margret” Special Edition (ditto), or any of another 100 or so?
I like Triumphs. I’ve purchased seven of them in the past 14 years, so I do have “skin in the game.” I’ve enjoyed a 2004 Sprint ST, a 2006 Speed Triple, a 2016 Bonneville T 120, a 2016 Thruxton 1200, a 2020 Rocket 3, (current), and a 2011 900 Thruxton I am about to trade for another new Bonneville T 120. I have enjoyed them all for their looks and their essential honesty. They have all performed as you would expect them too, with excellent design and reliability, and have been blissfully devoid of needless glitz and pomp.
I will be so disappointed if they try too hard to be “cool.”
Copyright 2021 David Preston