This is me old Triumph Thunderbird. I’ve had it over 30 years now, cos I could never bear to part with it. I bought it from a bloke in Manchester, can’t remember where it was advertised, but it was sat under a tarpaulin in a council house back garden, so it’s cred was already established. I give 200 quid for it, and it ran dead cool. Them old iron-head models are the best motors Triumph ever made, dead torquey and really sweet, they just run forever. I stuck a peanut tank on it, and some wider bars, and cut a coupla coils off the rear shocks, and that was it, rode it everywhere, to work an back right through the winter, just me and the bike cutting the first tyre tracks in the fresh white snow at 4am on me way to the wholesale fruit and veg market.
It was such a cool bike, I took it on a pilgrimage back to its roots, the old Triumph factory at Meriden. I’d seen which way the wind was blowin, and knew the factory wasn’t long for this world, so one weekend I loaded it up with all me campin gear and away we went. Got the photo of the place, and the logo cut into the factory gates (where are they now, did they just get scrapped?). Sure enough, only a year or two afterwards the place all got sold off and demolished – for building houses I guess – so I was right to capture a bit of history I suppose.
I ran the bike on and off for years, then when our kid turned 17 he wanted a bigger bike than his Honda 50, so I decided to stick a chair on it (you could ride an outfit on L-plates in those days). I got hold of a chassis, and spent all bloody day makin brackets and weldin it on and settin it up – took nearly a full box of rods. We didn’t have a chair, but I had a coupla lengths of that thick corrugated steel they use for stopping the side of road works fallin in when they’ve dug a hole, so I tied them onto the chassis with a pile of rope, and with our kid in the chair we set off home. That was okay, but then he wanted a ride, so we made some L-plates with writin pad and red felt pen, and I gets in chair and away we go.
But he wasn’t used to havin a chair on the side, and kept ridin too close to kerb. Sure enough, we’d only got about half a mile from home and he catches kerb with chair wheel, and it rides up onto pavement. Then the bike wheels get stuck in the gutter, so we’re zoomin along with me on pavement, until we hit a lamp-post.
There’s a huge clangy bang you could’ve heard in hell, and the bike goes one side, the chair the other, then comes to a dead stop (presumably the brackets at the rear were more substantial than the ones at the front). Our kid flies over the bars and bounces off the lamp-post, and I shoot off front of chair (pretty lucky there’s nowt in front of me really). The bang was so loud everyone comes out of their houses to see what’s happened, I’m crawling out of the bloody hedge, our kid’s in the road groanin and holdin his leg, and honest to God, there’s two parallel black lines of rubber down the pavement, which were left by the heels of me boots as I skated 30 feet down the pavement on me arse….
Anyway, that was the end of our kid and sidecar outfits, so the bike went back to being a solo. Eventually I stuck some Honda Superdream wheels and forks on, which meant it went round left-handers okay again – something it hadn’t done since the lamp-post had bent the original forks.
It also grew a hot motor at some stage, I think just cos I fancied the idea. So I built a Morgo 750 lump for it, 10-stud T140 head, all ported out, Somerton cams (yeh, they were rare even then), twin MkII Amals.
It went like fuck, but stretched the single row primary chain to buggery (it had run exposed even since the lamp-post had demolished the primary cases), so I converted it to duplex, but even that used to stretch, so in the end I stuck a Hayward belt drive on it.
An excellent mod, I’d recommend it to anyone. Anyways, the bike would pull a genuine ton-thirty, but it used to blow head gaskets every 200 miles and do the main bearings every 500, so in the end I got sick of the spannering and stuck the old iron-head T-bird lump back in. I kept the tall gearing tho, so it had a real relaxed 70mph touring speed.
I went to Germany on it for the first Honky Tonk Custom Show in the Black Forest. It took me three days to get down there, cos I wasn’t sure where I was going, but I made it back in 19 hours, only stoppin for fuel and a coupla hours on the ferry– not bad going for 800 miles on an early 50’s motorcycle. I’ve still got it, it looks like it does here on the left, only the tank’s painted a cool Bantam Green with cream panels, but the only full photos of it in it’s current flat-track guise have got me with me knob out on them, cos I did a naked photo session for 100% Biker magazine when they featured the bike cos I thought it wasn’t right they only used naked girlie pictures (it got them in loads of trouble – Tee Hee…), so I thought it best not to include them here…
And some more (knob-free) photos here: