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Bike Profile - Posted 31st December 2010

Triumph T100R Daytona: Frankentriumph - Part 2
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Choosing a professional to rebuild your bike? Andrew Wegg has some useful advice, learned the hard way when his classic Triumph twin needed a proper job doing...

Those of you that read part one of my FrankenTriumph tale might not be surprised to hear that the Daytona was in bits again just a few short years after I had rebuilt the bike onto a new frame following the perfect storm of a DVLC mix up and an illegible frame number.

Faced with the threat of a 'Q' plate I'd obtained a replacement frame to rebuild the bike around and had re-registered it on an age-related number. In the course of this I'd gone along the route of 'rebuild' rather than 'restoration'; to put it another way, I'd made some compromises. Although I had removed a lot of old bodges as I rebuilt the bike, I had stripped the bike back to the main component groups rather than down to the last nut and bolt and only gone in deeper where there were obvious problems.

First it was white, and unreliable... Triumph T100R Daytona - in white, first time round

Using the bike fairly regularly over the next few years began to show up the weaknesses and worn parts. Some of the issues were fairly obvious - such as a set of forks that were quickly becoming well past their best and the increasingly leaky crankcases. Other problems were more difficult to fathom, such as why the right hand carburettor had a tendency to fall off while the left hand one was limpet-like in its grip on the manifold.

So I eventually returned to the same dilemma as I had a few years before - whether to repair, or to cut my losses and sell or break the bike.

Call me sentimental, but having put so much time and energy into the bike, I just couldn't face breaking it - however much more sensible that might have been - and selling it still seemed an unlikely option.

With less time on my hands than when I had rebuilt the bike myself, I began to wonder about finding someone who could rebuild the bike and apply the specialist knowledge that was obviously needed to get things right.

It's a truism of all old vehicles that they consume time and money in varying proportions - to a degree, if you can increase the time put in then you reduce the money component, and vice versa.

500cc Triumphs on Right Now......

Of course, it's also true that the costs of restoring an old vehicle will always exceed its value. The cost of a complete professional rebuild would easily buy me another T100 although this would come with the consequent risk of buying into more problems, however much more careful and knowledgeable (or not) I might be now than I had been when I bought FrankenTriumph.

However the attraction of a restoration over replacement is the promise of having an old friend rejuvenated and returned to its youthful vigour while retaining most of its character and history. It's a shame we can't get ourselves restored, really.

Then it was red, and unreliable... Triumph T100R Daytona - in red, second time round

Obviously there are far fewer people doing this sort of work now than there were only a few years ago - although on the other side of the coin, expectations and standards tend to be higher now. However, you still hear of restoration horror stories which means that time spent researching the who, what and how is absolutely essential. Internet forums and contacts in the industry can be invaluable in chasing out the more obvious cowboys - word does get round. It's probably worth summarising some basic guidelines to think about if you're wondering about going down the professional restoration route.

  • Visit the restorer's premises to check out their workshop and equipment - you won't get a high quality result from someone working in poor conditions with worn out equipment. Ask to see examples of both work in progress and completed work and ask if you can get in touch with anyone else that has used the firm to get their impressions of the results.

  • Discuss your requirements with the restorer in detail, agree exactly what is to be done and set it out in a fully detailed letter, backed up with relevant photos or drawings. List any specifications that might be important, such as precise paint colour codes or paint schemes.

  • Get a detailed written estimate with a schedule of the work to be done with timescales, labour costs and whether VAT is inclusive or not. Agree whether the parts to be used will be new, pattern, second-hand or refurbished from your own machine and what will happen with any parts removed from your machine that are not reused. Keep this all filed away properly and if you need to send out copies to anyone make sure you keep the originals.

  • Make sure you know if any work is to be farmed out to third parties, such as paint or specialist engineering. Find out who the third parties are and make sure that you are happy with them, what they will be doing and when and agree all of this with your restorer. Your contract is with the restorer, not the third party, so you need to be sure you are happy with the arrangements as it can be very hard to unravel if it goes wrong.

  • Get (and keep) a copy of the firm's guarantee on both parts and workmanship. Check the guarantee very carefully for exclusions or conditions and make sure you understand exactly what the guarantee is actually guaranteeing.

  • Make sure you can visit the workshop during the restoration and do so regularly. A lot of the work will be hard to check or correct later on. If timescales or expectations start to slip, get on to it straight away. It's always easier to sort out any misunderstandings or mistakes if you address them immediately.

  • Make sure the restorer has the right contact numbers for you. There is always going to be something that crops up unexpectedly in the course of a restoration so it's important that he can discuss anything with you promptly, if needs be. Get estimates for any additional work agreed before the new work commences. Make sure that both you and the restorer understand how much latitude the restorer has to make any minor decisions or if you want to be consulted on all the details however small - the latter will obviously slow progress.

  • Make sure you get detailed, dated receipts for all payments you make, with full details of address and the firm's VAT number along with identification details for both you and the machine.

  • It may be worth taking out legal expenses insurance in case there is a dispute later on. Legal cover is relatively inexpensive.

  • On delivery, check the work as far as possible against the receipts and guarantee and make sure any problems are reported as quickly as possible. Follow up any phone calls or conversations with a written note of what was said and agreed.

  • If any rectification work is needed after the work has been completed, obtain a listing of the work to be done from the firm and check whether the guarantee covers it. If not, again make sure you have estimates and agreements for all the work.

    And now it's black, and?... Triumph T100R Daytona - in black, third time lucky?

    Having made a (short) shortlist of potential specialists, I set about getting quotes and asking around about the likely suspects in more detail. The decision was made and so FrankenTriumph was packed off for Rebuild No. 3. The instruction to the restorer was to bring the bike to a common standard as far as possible but with an eye to reliability, longevity and use in modern road conditions as this wouldn't be just a 'Sunday afternoon' bike. Strict originality wasn't an issue as the bike was hardly original anyway and I was quite prepared to have improvements incorporated if they would make the ownership experience better, however wherever the old parts could be sensibly be reused or refurbished then they should be.

    The restorer soon made contact to say that the initial strip down had revealed the bike to be even more of a bitza than I'd realised, but the rebuild should be relatively straightforward. After a while, things seemed to slow down with reports from the rebuilder becoming less frequent and little progress to speak of when I called up to enquire how things were proceeding.

    I came up against the reality of using someone working a fair way from where you live. People can ignore e-mails and make excuses on the phone - if things start dragging or things don't seem to be happening the way you expected then you really need to be able to bang on the door and make a nuisance of yourself. Not being easily to hand also means that you can't keep an eye on what's being done (or not). In retrospect I would strongly advise using a local specialist- or if that is not possible, just make sure that you are able to visit regularly to see what is going on.

    It seemed that work on FrankenTriumph was proceeding, but in fits and starts with long delays between the various stages as the restorer prioritised his cash flow rather than his long term projects. A degree of this is to be expected but eventually my patience with the constant excuses was exhausted.

    A long discussion ensued, resulting in an agreement on deadlines for the remaining phases of the work and the work began to progress as it should have. As with pretty much every restoration, the rebuild threw up a few surprises but eventually the call came to say that everything was complete and the rebuilt bike was ready for delivery…

    **************

    What could possibly go wrong? There's a Part 3 coming...


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