Fonzie's Triumph



Fonzie's Triumph..the TRUTH.  Several years ago there was quite the buzz about Fonzie's bike that was coming up for auction.  Cycle World magazine in their November 2011 issue devoted a full page to the event, and wire services across the country picked up the story.  I am going to set the record straight regarding the bike that went up for auction through Bonhams.

The bike for sale was a 1949 Triumph TR5 that was once owned by the famous Bud Ekins (who did supply motorcycles to the entertainment industry including the Happy Days sitcom).  This is the bike in the photo at the bottom of the page.  There was a 1949 or 1950 TR5 used in factory "still" photo shoots for advertising purposes.  However, and this is important.....the actual bike that Henry Winkler usually rode in the series was a later model (1951-1954) Triumph TR5 (rumoured to be a 1952 which I have recently confirmed).  The most obvious difference between the 1949/50 models (very rare and desirable in their own right) and later models (1951-54) is the square cylinder barrel, forward exiting exhaust pipes and unique cylinder head used only in 1949 and 1950.  All later models utilized the round "close pitch" cylinder barrel, splayed exhaust pipes, along with matching cylinder head.  This is the tell-tale proof in identifying the rare 1949/50 models from the more common 1951-1954 models. 

Starting with Season Four, the opening credits clearly show Henry Winkler riding the later model , 1952 TR5.  I have included several photos that prove this point.  It could very well be that the bike that went up for auction was the same bike used in the still photographs.....but the point is that the bike the "Fonz" normally rode in the series was the '52.

I did notify Cycle World about this discrepancy (no response) and Bonham's Auction (who was conducting the sale).  Bonham's did address my concerns at length and decided to market the 1949 "as the last remaining Triumph used in the series" as they agreed that there were several bikes used and that this probably was the only/last one that is actually attainable.  The 1947 Harley Davidson Knucklehead that was used in Season One only (which I have built a replica of) has apparently been restored to it's original condition and is in a museum, and the 1952 TR5 (which is the one Henry Winkler is actually seen riding) was sold off by Bud Ekins years ago to an unknown buyer through a now defunct auction house.  Where is this bike now?  It still exists people!  I am personal friends with the owner (Irish Mick), have seen the bike, and have even sat on it (besides taking lots of pictures of course).  Mick has owned the bike since the early '90s.  It is currently on display at the Gilmore Museum in Michigan.   There was at least one later model "oil in frame" model used in filming but this bike is of no significance.  Bonham's apparently confirmed (through Henry Winkler's agent) that the 1949 being auctioned off was "used in the series at one time".

A small note regarding the 1952 TR5.  This bike was unique in it's own right as it did not have the proper close pitch alloy top end installed.  At some point (before it was used in the series) the engine was replaced by a  6T (650cc Thunderbird) assembly with the top end painted silver.  These particular Triumphs used the wider pitch cast iron cylinder and head, clearly evident (as being installed in the 1952) in numerous photos and reviews of the episodes it appeared in.  Another clue is that the 1952 bike utilized a SU Type MC2 carb (TR5s came with the Amal 276) which was unique to the 52 and later 6T Thunderbird engines.   These couple of facts/details (among various others that I am not willing to disclose for fear of someone trying to build a replica and pass it off as the real thing) makes it particularly easy to authenticate the actual '52 that was used in the series, the one that was ridden by Henry Winkler.  Those that continue to try and peddle the aforementioned '49, don't even have the sense to ensure that the pictures they are supplying to potential buyers are correct.  On several occasions, pictures of the '52 have been used, even in Bonham's original brochure advertising the original auction.

Mick knows what he has, and cherishes his "real deal '52" for the historical significance that it holds.  And no, it is not for sale.

Hopefully this brief discussion clears up a number of questions regarding the bikes that were used during this seriesCool.


This is the bike that is going up for auction Nov 2011.

*Lest we forget*
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