Monday, 24 September 2012

Wabi Sabi

We have some progress !   The first batch of parts have been painted.

From this:

to this:

All the parts were cleaned, blasted to a bare metal finish, sprayed with a zinc rich primer and then powder coated. Powder-coating is a paint finish that has come a long way in recent years: the colour range has got bigger and the tones better. Essentially I think you get the same finish as a very good stove enamel - but when correctly applied it is also incredibly durable too.

The top yoke fitted to the bike was the wrong sort to fit with a nacelle - so it was put to one side and only the bottom one refurbished.

I'm a big fan of powder-coating - but if there is a criticism of it it's that it goes on so evenly and smoothly that it doesn't hide the condition of the underlying metal. Therein lies a judgement.

If you were seeking visual perfection you would put the countless hours in with filler, high build primer and stopper to remove any pitting or surface imperfections. All of which wouldn't survive the powder-coaters oven, so it would need spraying with 2 pack - a good finish but not as durable.

Somehow though the emphasis seems wrong there - a motorcycle is for riding and in addition, they lose something when all of the patina is gone. They cease to be an honest machine.

So I feel powdercoating the cycle parts helps keep the bike honest. Like Hagi Ware pottery and Wabi Sabi - where the beauty comes through because of the (carefully acknowledged) imperfections rather than despite them.

But don't worry....... we'll get all anal over the Tin Ware  :-D

Tuesday, 11 September 2012


Following on from the last entry - the thought occurred to me that with the bike being dispatched in 1960, perhaps the blog should be renamed from '59 Thunderbird ?

However ......

1960 was the year a few things changed on the Thunderbird - most obviously to look at was the new 'bathtub' and deeply valanced and flared front mudguard. Perhaps the most obvious in riding it was the improved handling from the new duplex frame.

The original frame had, I believe, become somewhat notorious for flex - a problem that the new duplex front tubes went a long way to resolving - though I've read that the model never fully recovered from the bad publicity of the earlier set up.

The 'bathtub' seems to have been almost universally disliked - particularly in america. Leading many owners to dispense with them (as happened with this bike). In america apparently the Triumph dealers actually retrofitted earlier mudguards to sell the bikes on.

So what we have is missing original rear tinware, thats amazingly rare, and largely disliked - even today. So we are going to spurn 100% originality, go with what we like, and fit the '59 mudguards with the '60 nacelle and the '59 toolbox and oil-tank.

So the blog stays as '59.

To that end - I've found another set of hens teeth ...

A complete original duplex Nacelle. A little bit out of line - though it looks to have been like that from new! I expect that the grille and side flashes were strategic additions by Triumph to hide small 'tolerance' issues. But its a lovely thing and a real find in this condition.

(That little circle holding it balanced - is the friction disc from the steering damper.)

More updates shortly - with hopefully the beginning of assembly....


I have now heard back from the Vintage Motor Cycle Club (VMCC) who hold the Triumph's works record in their archives. I had to send them photographs of the bike as it is now, with close ups of the engine and frame number.

On the telephone they informed me this is because they were receiving requests for details of engine and frame numbers for certain marques - and then noticing that 'lo and behold' a suspect looking bike came for sale shortly afterwards with those numbers.

The classic example of this is BSA's rocket gold star - with that model commanding the kudos and a price to match (but many parts in common with another model), fakes are rife. The VMCC estimate their are twice as many RGS's registered than BSA ever produced ...

Anyhow ! I didn't get a lot of information - but what is there is good. The bike was dispatched from the factory on the 10th of July 1960, to Burns of Stafford. The order number was 4461, and the invoice number was 35345.

The parts book tells me Triumph supplied two types of rear wheel - a standard hub or a QD hub, QD being quickly detachable. Our bike came with a QD hub - so I'll shortly be looking to see what we have in the garage....

The gearbox ratios were for a solo (as opposed to a combination / sidecar) and should be numbered 116774 (though that last digit could be a 6). Looking at our box that number is different:

So, looks to be a bit earlier ?  The front though, with its little chrome cover and two screws, point to it being a slick shift box (that disengages the clutch on activation) .... so a bit more digging to do here. When did the slick shift come in etc ? it may be that an older outer casing was used to replace one damaged by a chain break ?

So a bit of history in place and a few lines of enquiry open to pursue.