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Bike Review - Posted 19th December 2012
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Buying a 1970 Triumph TR6

Mal Burgess lives in Australia. He wanted to buy a classic British bike. So he bought one from a dealer in Britain and had it shipped halfway around the world...

I've been a subscriber to RealClassic magazine since issue #1 and am a member of Townsville Restored Motorcycle Club in Queensland, Australia. The club has an excellent social side, meeting once a month and doing a run every fortnight. I think at the moment there are about 80 members. Last year, we went to the Atherton tablelands for a week. It's a scenic highland area with great motorbike roads. I went on my 2007 Hinckley Bonneville, and I must admit I did feel a bit of a fraud… although all bikes are welcome in the club.

I also have a 1959 Triumph 500cc Tiger 100A which I use for the local runs and such. On one of those runs for a coffee and ice-cream, about 40 miles from home, I was pottering along, as you do, with my wife, Sandra as pillion. I did what you must never do on an old bike. I thought to myself; 'my, the old T100A is running well.' I kid you not - within two minutes the bike just cut out. No coughing or spluttering or anything. I pulled in and lifted the seat up, and a lead had come off the coil. I replaced it and away we went.

Farewell, Hinckley Bonneville...

Anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to sell my Hinckley Bonnie to buy a classic bike which I would use on the club's longer runs, when the T100 wouldn't be suitable. As second-hand vehicles are very expensive here in Australia, I decided to have a look on the websites in the UK. I know that there are a lot of good dealers in the U.K., but it is still a bit of a risk. So who do I chose? I bought my T100A from Andy Tierman in 1999 (www.AndyBuysBikes.com) and was very pleased with it, but he didn't have what I was after this time. I've had heard Chris Spaett's name mentioned regularly in RealClassic, in a good light (www.ventureclassics.com)

I looked through a few sites and came back to Chris; he had a 1970 Triumph TR6 Trophy for sale. It had a good write-up, not concours condition but I wasn't after a show bike. The photos deliberately showed a small blemish on the bike - a dealer who is willing to show a bad point before the sale is OK with me.

I hummed and haa'd, as you do, worried, checked permission was still forthcoming (it was so no let out there), worried again and took the plunge. And bought it!

So, yes, I bought a bike unseen, unridden, and not checked by an independent person. Do you ever get one of those 'WHAT HAVE I DONE?' moments? Did I mention being worried? That wasn't the half of it.

Classic Triumphs on

The bike left England in September 2011 and arrived in Brisbane, Australia in January 2012. The cost of insurance and shipping was £1070 pounds. But the insurance is something of a sore point. While in transit, the bike straps inside the substantial crate came loose. I guess that the crate had been knocked while on board ship (I am being very polite here, if I put what I really think the computer would burst into flames!). The first I knew about the problem was when customs contacted me with pictures of the bike leaning over in the crate, to show that damage had been done before arrival. I contacted the insurance company, I emailed them all the pictures of the crate and bike, and they sent their man to take all the pictures of the crate and bike.

Ouch... 1970 Triumph TR6 - In the crate..

The side of seat had torn where it had rubbed on the crate and the tank had scratches where the wooden stay had come loose. It took over eight months to resolve the claim, and in the end I was offered £150 for the replacement seat and £380 for new paint, less their 1%. In the end I was left with £280, which makes you wonder if it's worth paying insurance premiums at all. I must admit that if I had done the damage in my garage I would have put it down to wear and tear. But why should I have to put up with the damage when I have paid the shipping company all that money, including insurance?

New paint job. Nice...

Throughout the ongoing saga about the insurance claim Chris of Venture Classics could not have been more helpful and patient. Even though the fault was not his, he even offered to pay the £100 pounds excess because it hadn't been made abundantly clear on the shipping paperwork.

Meanwhile, we decided to sell our house! Sold it, bought a block of land, sought out builders, and signed a contract. Did I mention worry? Our son was good enough (or foolish) to say we could live with him, his wife, two young grandchildren, cat, dog and two guinea pigs. As a result we have stored all our furniture in his garage, plus a Triumph GT6, plus a Triumph T100A, plus the Triumph TR6. (Me, a Triumph man? Never!) To say it's a bit tight to work on the bike is a something of an understatement!

Oh, and in this area you have to push rags in the exhaust pipes and air intakes to stop geckos going into them…

This is the bike as it arrived... 1970 Triumph TR6

And now to the Triumph: it arrived in the condition as stated and looked really good. I changed all the oils, checked the battery and tyres, then I started it. it fired up reliably on the first or second kick, so I took it around the block. I didn't like the US bars so ordered and fitted UK bars, then fitted cables to suit and took it to get a roadworthy certificate before registering it. I decided to have the tank resprayed (regardless of what happened with the insurance) as I wanted to show the bike at its best. A club member said it looked like a new one!

I then added saddlebags, ex-Bonneville, but I'm hoping to get some new ones off Santa. I think they spoil the line of the bike but are essential for carrying the bits and pieces we all require like sun cream, hat and shorts (is it winter in England? Ooops, sorry.)

Also indicators are really needed here, because drivers can overtake on the inside! It's like the blooming dodgems sometimes. I have even seen people STOP on roundabouts, because they do not know what to do... I sometimes think a suit of armour would be safer than bike gear.

Time to inspect the new house...

I have used the TR6 on the longer distance runs, two and three overnight stays, and local shows, BBQs, and even a sun-up run which involves getting up at 4:00am. Ugh. The only incident happened on its first run out to a club show after about 80 miles. The front end bottomed out going over a bridge and broke the zener diode bracket. I tie-strapped the zener to the fork shroud and carried on. The bracket had been put on upside down... One of our club members, Volkard, said to call at his house on the way back and he would make a new one. Volkard also makes the best home brew I have ever tasted, so it would have been rude not to, wouldn't it?

The TR6 does use a bit of oil, around a third of a litre for 200 miles, but there's no excessive sooty exhaust pipes or clouds of smoke, so I can live with that. On the bike's first long-distance test, travelling 500 miles for a long weekend, it passed with flying colours. To date I have done 1,610 miles on it. I will whisper the next bit… shhhh… but I am very pleased with the bike. It goes well, I find it more comfortable than the Hinckley Bonnie, and it is plenty fast enough for me. The main difference is that I feel more involved with the TR6 than the Bonnie.

So would I do it again? Yes, and use Chris of Venture Classics.

Two Triumphs Together...

Australia does not make it easy to import any vehicles. To get it through customs cost £1700 plus the £1070 to ship the bike from England, and £250 from Brisbane to Townsville, plus the cost of the bike. Even so, when all is said and done it still worked out the same price or cheaper as buying a TR6 of the same standard here.

And here is a weird thing: when I bought my T100A in 1999 it had 26,384 miles on the speedo. When my TR6 arrived it had 26,379 miles on the speedo. Spooky!


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