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Bike Review - Posted 5th September 2014
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Triumph T100R Daytona: FrankenTriumph - Part 3

Episode number three and rebuild number four for Andrew Wegg's classic Triumph 500 twin. Could it finally be sorted? Better not stray too far from home to start with...

In the first two parts of this tale, I reflected on the length of time that I've owned this unit construction Triumph 500 and the process of taking it from an unreliable, mismatched bitza to a solid, useable classic. This bike and I go back a long way, nearly thirty years - I say 'this bike' but after all that time and four rebuilds, there's not a lot left remaining from its 1986 incarnation. To be exact, the only 'original' bits left now are the fuel tank, oil tank and side panel, the headlight supports, the front TLS brake, the twin carb head, the primary chain cover, the swing arm, the foot pegs, the gear lever, foot brake and kickstart and the control levers. It's Trigger's Broom, in mechanical form. Hang on - four rebuilds? Didn't the last part of this saga end with the bike just back from Rebuild No. 3?

Triumph T100R Daytona: FrankenTriumph

Rebuild No. 3 had been farmed out to a specialist rebuilder. I'd asked him to make the bike less of a mongrel, partly to make it more reliable and partly to make maintaining it easier as the mix and match of bits of Triumph from various eras made doing any work an exercise in guesswork with the only certainty that any replacement parts ordered wouldn't fit. However, after a promising start to the rebuild, the expected completion date started to drift and the inevitable excuses started to wear thin.

Eventually the bike was delivered but there were immediately several problems, not least the need for remedial work on the head and a new, new speedo. It's unreasonable to assume that a rebuilt bike won't have any teething problems at all, but with hindsight, it did seem that the restorer's attention to detail had been lacking, an impression that didn't fade over the following couple of years as the 500 began to suffer from poor starting, a snatchy clutch and, increasingly, rough running.

Triumph T100R Daytona: FrankenTriumph

I'd become convinced quite early on that the work wasn't up to the standard I had expected, an impression heightened while investigating the poor starting, only to find the carburettor needles were at different heights. Moving on a couple of thousand miles, and noises from the engine indicated all was not well - again. This is one of the pitfalls with dealing with firms a distance from where you live - with a major rebuild you really need to be able to turn up and inspect the work in progress from time to time so that any issues can be sorted out there and then. I had lost all confidence in the firm that had done the work and their post-restoration customer service had left a good deal to be desired, so I sought out another firm to look at the Triumph.

Once on the bench, the full horror of what had been inflicted on my poor bike became clear. The bottom end of the engine hadn't been cleaned out properly after being blasted, with inevitable consequences for the pistons and main bearings. Elsewhere, the clutch was made up of mismatched parts and there were other issues elsewhere both in the engine and the cycle parts. There was nothing for it but to strip the motor back down and start again. A stroppy letter to the original restorer brought an unexpected result - I didn't expect I'd get far with getting any money back without solicitors and small claims courts, but faced with the all too obvious evidence, the restorer paid up for a good deal of the remedial work. He'd have rather done the work himself, of course, but although I was grateful for his candour in accepting responsibility I wasn't willing for him to touch the bike again. It turned out that the engine work had been farmed out to a third party and he'd obviously not checked anything when it came back.

Triumph T100R Daytona: FrankenTriumph

So, while the bike was apart - again - it seemed worth getting it to where I'd hoped it would have been after the last rebuild. The engine was fitted with an SRM clutch and Morgo oil pump and the crank was dynamically balanced as the 500 is a revvy beast for a Triumph. Elsewhere, the bike was treated to reworked brake drums, a rewire and the LHS switchgear cluster from a Suzuki GT380 which brought all the lighting, indicator and horn controls into one ergonomic switch unit in place of the jumble of generic switches that had been fitted previously. A new ignition switch was also needed, and this came from a Jaguar E type!

With the bike coming back together, the paint also needed some attention - not long after coming back from the previous rebuild, I'd managed to stumble when putting the bike on its stand in my garage and it fell sideways onto its neighbour, my Suzuki DRZ Supermoto, putting a crease in the Triumph's tank. I'd had the crease repaired before redoing the paint myself, going from the previous all red to a black and orange scheme. It looked OK, but OK wasn't really good enough. I'd recently been to the Alexandra Palace Classic Car & Bike show and seen a Norton with a spectacular chequerboard paint scheme; that would look good on the Triumph. Combining chequerboards with the Triumph tank flash was going to be beyond my rattle can skills, but the result using Yamaha "Purplish Blue Cocktail" - R1 blue to the layman - over a silver base coat for the chequers was worth the cost as it sets the finished bike off perfectly. It's not standard, but then little on this bike is.

Triumph T100R Daytona: FrankenTriumph
'Classic' Triumphs on Now...

Getting the bike back on the road was a great moment, after so much work, heartache and expense. The Triumph 500 feels heavy as you push it about but once on the move, it's a beautifully balanced machine with none of the heavy vibes that the larger capacity Triumphs can produce, although as the revs rise, a high frequency buzz comes through the bars and footpegs.

So far I've not taken the bike more than 40 or 50 miles from home as I've been running in the newly rebuilt engine and spending time getting to know the bike again, and regaining my trust in it. There have been a couple of issues since - the old Boyer ignition unit failed and has been replaced with a new Boyer Mk IV unit and the primary chain adjuster tunnel started to leak and defied all attempts to fix it until the ultimate sanction of a thread insert was applied.

Triumph T100R Daytona: FrankenTriumph

Those aside, the bike has been easy to live with starting easily, running smoothly and being a joy to ride. Fingers crossed that the bike has been through its last rebuild - for a few years at least!

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