Men who mattered: Bert Hopwood


Hoppy was always one for the art of getting a move on.

Words: Adam Rear

Herbert ‘Bert’ Hopwood was a Midlander who held very definite views and had no hesitation in expressing them in a forthright manner.

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Born in Birmingham in 1908 to a poor family, he left school aged 14 and started work at as a learner in an iron foundry at Components, Ltd. Here he laid the foundation for a successful engineering career through evening classes at technical college.

By winning a memorial prize he came to the notice of Ariel’s chief designer, Val Page, who took him on as a junior draughtsman at the Components Drawing Office.

In the late 1920s, and with Britain heading for a depression, the department closed down… but Ariel survived and operated on a reduced scale.

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By 1929, having impressed many senior members at the company, Hopwood was made an assistant of Edward Turner, then engaged on the preliminary work for a machine which would later be the Square Four.

The prototype was fantastically light, but finances lead to difficulty in creating unique parts; thereafter items already in production were incorporated into the design, resulting in a heavier motorcycle.

Hopwood stayed as chief draughtsman at Ariel; in his time there he helped in the design of the original Red Hunter.

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Early in 1936, Edward Turner became general manager, later managing director at Triumph. Hopwood joined Turner there and was appointed head of the design department.

Shortly after the employment of the duo emerged the Speed Twin, a machine that was to herald a new trend in motorcycle design.

Hopwood remained at Triumph until 1947, when he took the position of chief designer at Norton.

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Although Hopwood respected Turner as an inventive designer and an astute businessman, he lived too long in his shadow and their relationship was often uneasy.

Read more in the September 2019 issue of TCM – on sale now!

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