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Bike Review - Posted 15th March 2013
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Triumph T100 Street Comp

In the 1960s, Triumph built a dedicated enduro version of their popular 500cc twin. Most of them were exported to America. Here's one which came back to the UK...

We're fans of Triumph's peppy unit-construction 500cc twins here at RC - no hint of bias, oh no, but there does happen to be one in The Shed - so we were fascinated when reader Alan Roberts sent us some photos of his T100SC, an American version which is rarely seen on these shores.

Alan Roberts' Triumph T100SC...

In the mid-1960s, Triumph enjoyed no small success with their off-road competition machines on both side of the Atlantic. In 1966, for instance, the works team included Sammy Miller, Arthur Lampkin and Ray Peplow, all of whom secured Gold Medals in the Swedish International Six Days Trial. Peplow's 490cc Tiger 100SC can be viewed hereabouts in its current, restored condition - it was sold by Bonhams in 2010 for a chunky £20k. Mind you, this machine has near-perfect provenance; the entire British team of six riders all scored gold, recorded no penalties, and finished second overall that year.

ISDT version, as sold by Bonhams...

Meanwhile, the Tiger twins were proving to be equally popular in Triumph's biggest export market in America in SC or 'Sports Tiger' spec. The longer and heavier T120 Bonneville wasn't entirely suitable for dirt track riding, so what the T100SC lost in outright power, it clawed back in agility.

The single-carb 500 run 9:1 compression and output around 37bhp at 7000rpm, while the twin-carb 650 produced 50bhp at 6500rpm. But the 500 was about 30lb lighter than the T120 and considerably more compact; it's about two inches shorter than the contemporary T120. The T100SC was considered to be extremely wieldy, too, with its high bars and slim seat: a potent little package, indeed, with the agile attitude more normally associated with 350cc machines of the era.

Brochure shot. From the days when a cock-eyed photo of a bike with a bungee over the back seat was perfectly adequate for the brochure...
500cc Triumphs on

In part, the SC's nimble nature was accomplished by leaving off some of the mod-cons you would expect to find on a road bike. It was considered to be an enduro model and used direct energy transfer ignition, so needed no battery. Best keeps the revs up if you wanted to see where you were going at night, then…

Another slight downside was that the SC's footrests don't fold, so if you took to the hills on an SC then you must be circumspect about landing any dabs and clipping your shin or calf. Ground clearance was excellent, however, with more than eight inches available for scrambling across ruts. The gearing was set up for that kind of activity so it romps away from the stop and tugs lustily through the mid-range. Where the T100SC lost out to its bigger siblings was, of course, on long distance road-riding where the smaller bike is noticeably more buzzy than a Bonneville, revving harder to achieve the same speeds.

Brakes on the T100SC were considered 'excellent' for the era and aren't bad by today's standards. The rear is a solid if unspectacular drum that's ideal for stabilising the machine on rough surfaces; the full-width alloy hub with seven-inch stopper up front proved better suited to road action.

Sold by Bonhams in 2011...

As you can see from the photos, it's not at all straightforward restoring an SC to its original specification. Another Street Comp T100 sold at Bonhams auction in 2011. This time it wasn't a famous racer, but was instead a customer machine which was delivered to Johnson Motors in California in 1965. At some point it was repatriated to the UK and registered for use over here, but during the recommissioning it lost many of its identifying features so now uses a standard fuel tank, high pipe and dinky mudguard. However, it started easily and was sold with a recent MoT for under £3000 - leaving scope for the new owner to return it to full SC spec if required.

Alan's bike turned up at The Bonneville Shop a while back. 'At the time' explains Alan, 'it consisted of an engine and frame with matching numbers, and a pair of wheels. The proprietor said it might be difficult to find the correct petrol tank but I got in touch with a dealer in the US and purchased a first class one at a very good price.'

95% Complete... Alan's bike, as it arrived...

Then Alan had the interesting task of trying to re-create a model with very little info to hand. 'From photos of other bikes I presumed the tank badges were the same as on the Tiger Cub but I found that these didn't fit. So I contacted the US again and Klempf's British Bike Parts came up with a brand new pair.

And as it is now...

'Now restored, the T100SC is a very light bike to ride and far smoother than my 1967 T120. It's almost as fast as the 650, too.

'I think the SC is one of the nicest looking bikes which Triumph ever made.'

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Words: Rowena Hoseason
Photos: Alan Roberts, RC RChive, bonhams.com

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