Early Chops

Superbike magazine, 1976 edition. This page has been on one wall or another everywhere I’ve lived since then…

By the mid-Seventies I’d quite got into this bike-buildin lark. Here’s a Tribsa I built, on show at the very first Rod and Custom Show at Belle Vue in Manchester in 1976. I still didn’t know how to extend swingarms, so I cut the original mounts off the B31 frame and remounted the swingarm using plates I made fitted between the rear footpeg loops. It kinda worked okay, extending the bike by about 5 inches and dropping the rear end right down.


I didn’t need to rake the front end, just threw on some 7-inch overs, kept the stock 19” front and stuck a skinny Bantam tyre on, and cos the Beesa swingarm was wide enough to take a proper 500×16, I could stick one of them in the back finally. Yay! I still kept to my old trick of using extended slugs as fork nuts, so’s I could run a cut-down top yoke up high to carry the bars (in 30 years I still ain’t seen anyone else do this – was I inventive or did it just look crap…?).


There were some quite groovy bits, I cut away the primary so’s I could run an exposed clutch, and mounted the stock big long brake pedal on the forwards, with a chromed chain running back to the original brake cross-over spindle. This meant I had to take my foot off the peg and way up high to use the brake – something I thought was pretty cool after I seen Dennis Hopper do it in Easyrider. I ran an old D7 Bantam tank again, with the centre panel filled and a speedo frenched in. Could never tell how fast I was going tho, cos it was only a cut-down dummy face, with no internals, cos I didn’t want to make a hole in me tank… I did the paint was shiny black, and wapped on some swoopy flames in royal blue and turquoise candy foggin (I still bloody miss those candy-apple spray cans…), with the centre panel in Vreeble-effect in the same fogged-in colours. I ran bright orange hubs, just to be different, with chrome spokes and rims. Good old Jack Bottomley’s supplied the white tuck ‘n roll Banana seat – I just seen some at a bike show last year, they’re back in production again! The pipes were an old set off swept-backs off a cafe racer, cut down and with new stubs brazed on to get the right shape to drop right down and meet in the middle.


Lookin back I suppose it was a pretty groovy sickle. The photos have survived quite well, seein as how they were took with an early ‘point ‘n press’ Polaroid camera, the ones about the size and weight of a breeze-block and where you had to count to about a million before peeling the backing off after it had spat out the little three-inch square photo. The top photo has a story to it, I was out wagon drivin, down south somewhere, months after the show, and I just called in a newsagents to get summat to read. By chance I grabbed the latest Superbike mag, and that night while scoffin me butties in me cab, I found a photo of me bike. Cosmic eh?

(if you’re following the timeline, you may want to got to Anthill Mob next, if not then just read on… 😉 )

By 1981 I’d stopped drag racin (for the first time anyway…), and cos I’d had three jobs to pay for runnin the nitro bike, when I stopped I suddenly found I’d got heaps of cash. So I booked a flight to go see Smax in Canada. While I was there we went to score some gear off one of the local dealers, an he was into Harleys, and I managed to buy a second-hand genuine Bates solo seat off him. You still couldn’t buy such shit over here, so I was dead inspired, and when I come back I built a bike around it. That was how Truth came into being.

img_1144135315_14944_1146499778_mod_304_203Truth was an early 1955 Triumph Thunderbird. It was the really neat framed one, they only made it for a coupla years, after the rigid but before the one with the full seat loop, so it lends itself to cutting down real well.

img_1144135315_14943_1146499750I’d worked out how to extend swingarms by this time, so it got a few inches over, then I ran dummy rear shocks – solid struts with fake covers – so I could keep the back end real low, so it was still a rigid really. It got a Yammie DT175 front end, cos it had longer forks and a 21” wheel as standard, so with a skinny-ribbed Avon Speedmaster up front, it was a cheap an cheerful complete front end. I raked the frame a tad to give it a bit of kick-out an keep it all nice an low. Tank was the ubiquitous Bantam (no wonder they’re hard to find now…), California pullback bars, stock pattern big-bore exhausts extended back but still straight through. Groovy.


The girl is me mate Christina, we toured Europe on Truth together in I guess1982. We stopped off at the Kent Custom Bike Show on the way, which is where the photo from Bike magazine was taken, then did 4,000 miles in a month – Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France – with full camping gear, just pull off the road into a field or forest at night and stick the tent up. Pretty hardcore on a rigid I suppose – the roads were so rough in central Italy it split the back tyre wide open. The old T’bird never missed a beat tho, that iron-head engine is the best motor Triumph ever made. The alternator went sick quite early on, so we had no lights, but it had a mag for ignition so it was no sweat.


I made up a QD bolt-on sissy bar cum rack to help carry the gear, but even so we had stuff strapped everywhere. I told Christina to travel light, but she arrived at my place with heaps of luggage. ‘What’s in this big biscuit tin?’ I asked her. ‘Oh, that’s essential.’ ‘Why, what’s in it?’ ‘Oh, that’s all me hair stuff It was jam packed with ribbons, brushes, slides, combs… We cut it down to one of each, with an extra ribbon for Sundays…


We were ridin thro a big city in Germany, cos Christina reckoned it had lots of old architecture. We got totally lost when we spotted this Yank GI, so we pulls up on this noisy bright yellow chop. Christina’s lookin real cute, and she asks, ‘Excuse me please, can you tell me where the old buildings are?’ ‘Gee, there ain’t no old buildings here, we kinda bombed ‘em all in the war…’ So wide-eyed and innocent, Christina goes,’ Oh, but there must be. I’ve seen them in an Elvis film.’ Rather too slowly for my liking, he carefully explained to us that that was the movies, and that this was real life – ever wish the ground could swallow you…? I could just imagine him telling his mates that night about the crazy bikers who’d ridden all the way from England just to see some non-existent buildings they seen in an Elvis movie…