The times when motorcycles were equipped with a separate engine block and a separate gearbox even passed in England. That new era began before Triumph in 1957 with the 350 cc 3 TA. The 500 cc twins did not get a unit block until two years later, the 650's even six years later. In 1957 the Triumph Twenty-One out with the first by Edward Turner and Jack Wickes. designed 'Unit construction' engine. Twenty One stands for the American volume measure: 21 cubic inches (348cc), but also for the 21st anniversary of Triumph Engineering Co Ltd. Apparently it is just what you want.
As a serious means of transport
But the 350 cc twin was not designed to take the American market by storm. After all, the Yanks went for big, bigger, biggest. The doubly interpreted name brought little more success than a faint smile. The 350 cc twin's official name was '3TA', by the way, it got a plate casing at the rear that was soon called a “bathtub”. That happening with all that sheet metal was a marketing mistake. An error that also occurred with the Norton Navigator DeLuxe, the Vincent Black Prince and the Velocette Vogue. It was a little bit of a time as the manufacturers were concerned about the rise of the scooters. And after all, they also had so much sheet metal? Success had to be in that!
In the time of this Triumph motorcycles were still mainly consumables for people without money for a car. So they were widely used for commuting. And anyone who has ever heard about the English weather knows that it can be quite humid on that island. So the idea was that the better-suited motorcyclist should be protected against mud splashes and other inconveniences. Hence all that sheet metal. That the sheet metal seriously hindered the cleaning and maintenance of the engine? There had not been enough meetings about that. The model sold poorly, many dealers removed the plating, including the 'nacelle' from their shop daughters, as a Triumph if 'naked bike' was more popular. All that sheet metal was thrown away and therefore an original 'wrapped' Triumph now quite a rare and sought after thing. There were more, by the way Triumphs equipped with the 'bathtub cladding'. The 500 (490) cc Triumph 5 TA and the T 110 were also dressed that way. And that we received the Honda Pan European much, much later?
The 350cc 3TA Twenty-One was Triumph's first unit block.
It was still a 360 degree twin with a crankshaft that was only journalled on the outside. The central flywheel was demountable. That was a construction that stood in the way of high revs, but with this kind of cylinder capacity it did not matter very much. Moreover, this kind had Triumphs no circuit aspirations. The construction only got beyond its limits when the British twins got bigger than 650 cc. The cylinder block was cast iron, the head was alloy and the twin breathed in through a single Amal Monobloc carburettor. The four-speed paddle was played with the right foot. With the Twenty One, the ignition unit stood proudly on top of the block. Just like with cars. The cover around it may not have deserved a beauty prize, but with that English weather we've been talking about, was just some sort of shower cap to keep the divider dry.
All in all, such a winter blue sky metallic has been sprayed Triumph Twenty One just got a local clearance. The blue in combination with the beautiful full aluminum of the block and the chrome ensures that you will feel very happy when you see the small twin. And that 'small' is not meant to be bullying about the cylinder capacity. But the 3 TA is just a small motorcycle. A motorcycle from so long ago that the average Western European was about four centimeters shorter than the current standard ones. But the certainly not substandard owner is also comfortable with it. Maneuvering the Twenty One by hand for the photos is a piece of cake. The thing feels almost nothing. And that while the plating makes it look a bit 'chubby'. Such a Twenty One is a wonderful device for dancing on the back roads and back roads.