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Bike Profile - Posted 19th October 2009

1927 Model P Triumph
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When it was new, the Model P heralded Triumph's transition to mass production methods. For Graham Weatherly, it's been an excellent introduction to vintage motorcycling...

Any bike which has celebrated its 80th birthday is considered something special, even if it wasn't much to write home about at the time it was built. The debate about whether 'old' is an automatic entitlement to special status goes back to the days when the VMCC was first formed in 1946. Even then the founders had some stern words to say about motorcycles which were unremarkable apart from their maturity. However, we were happy to give this handsome 1927 Model P Triumph an award at the Royal Enfield Open Weekend, even if it wasn't considered to be the best of the bunch in the inter-war years.

Nice lawn... 1927 Model P Triumph

Triumph had established a solid reputation before the Great War and they leaned heavily on that rep for the decades that followed. The British economy, after decades of global dominance, couldn't support a luxury motorcycling market for much longer and an adherence to engineering excellent was an indulgence which the 1920s couldn't afford. Triumph saw the writing on the wall and so, while many of the top-notch marques of the era foundered and failed, they turned their talents to the mass manufacture of back-to-basics everyday transport. The Model P, launched in 1924, didn't break new ground or offer technical innovation. It was instead the cheapest 500cc machine on the market. At the same time, Triumph's top-notch SD model (a superficially similar 550 sidevalve but technically more advanced), sold for £83. The Model P went on the market for just £42.17.6d.

Nice drip-tray... 1927 Model P Triumph

The 494cc Model P was very much a bread-and-butter bike of its era with bicycle-type contracting-band brakes, a troublesome clutch mechanism, outdated (even then) hand-pump lubrication and a selection of leaks from the gearbox and crankcase. This was no-frills motorcycling indeed: the Model P topped out at around 50mph while the SD was good for at least 65. But the P shared some aspects of the SD's success; all-chain drive to three gears providing masses of torque at most speeds. The Model P would pull a sidecar at 40mph in top gear all day, without making a racket or pausing for breath on most slopes. This stolid performance combined with the bargain basement price to ensure the success of the P. One of the reasons that examples of this model still exist today is because Triumph were building 1000 of them per WEEK, such was the demand for this affordable, robust machine.

Nice recycling bin... 1927 Model P Triumph

The one area where the Model P did break new ground was in its method of assembly, on what we would recognise today as the start of a modern production line. This hampered the model's development somewhat, because the first year's run of over 20,000 were built before the specification could be adapted to iron out the teething troubles.

Nice springs... 1927 Model P Triumph

Thereafter the Mk2 Model P benefited from an improved clutch, a beefed up big end bearing, cast iron valve guides where there had been none and a - slightly - better front brake. Offshoots of the Model P underpinned the expanding Triumph range for the remainder of the decade, and those new models certainly benefited from the commercial success of the P. This is the motorcycle which saw the Triumph company evolve from craftsmen mechanics into a mass manufacturer, and it still has considerable appeal today.

Nice reflection... 1927 Model P Triumph

'I was new to vintage bikes' explains owner Graham Weatherly, who found the Model P in 2005 when it was a nearly half a century older than him. 'I bought it mainly because I liked the style and I am impressed by its great age.'

The Model P retains at least one aspect of its original appeal: 'it's just about the cheapest vintage bike available!' says Graham, although it's probably doubled in value since he paid for it with the recent rise in collectible classics. You'd be lucky to find one now for less than £5000.

"Vintage" (don't ask) bikes on :

And once you own a bike like this, you have to be prepared to put in some effort to keep it on the road. 'Being 83 years old it has many faults, but it is a pleasure to ride and I enjoy regular tinkering to keep it reliable.' The Model P had already been repainted when he took possession of it and since then Graham has rebuilt the engine, tank and gearbox, and has fitted the Lucas horn and acetylene lights. The latter are correct for the model year as they were originally offered as extras - although they probably cost less than the £400 Graham had to pay! He recommends Ian Jennings for veteran Triumph spares (1903 to 1927) and Fred Smith Engineering of Tewkesbury. Graham has also altered the gearing to allow for 'high speed' cruising… by which we mean a maximum of 40mph. Steady now.

Nice tax disc... 1927 Model P Triumph

Graham's Model P is a work in progress; the passenger pad has been replaced by a tres chic wicker basket while the rear light has been swapped over. A replacement saddle is next on the list of jobs to be done, and the P needs a front number plate to finish it off.

Graham obviously finds it very rewarding to own and ride; if you are prepared to tinker with it and don't mind going slow!'

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Show Off Yourself!

All kinds of classics are very welcome at the events we sponsor and almost any old bike might go home with an award. We sponsor several Shows spread around the country and throughout the season to give everyone a chance to pop along. All RealClassic readers are very welcome to attend, with the family or riding solo, possibly as part of an organised ride-in with the rest of your club branch or just on your tod. All kinds of classics are encouraged to come to our events, too, so that means of any origin and in any condition - be it a barn-fresh discovery or a recently restored replica. If you've upgraded your classic to make it practical for modern riding then our judges will be fascinated to see what you've done: we don't run up our noses at non-standard spec although we do, of course, appreciate the patina of ages on an unrestored machine…

There will be a selection of concours awards up for grabs at each event with different categories and classes, and the arrangements for entering differ between organisers and sites. The common thread for show-goers is that if you can prebook and enter your bike for the displays in advance then you will be given discounted - and sometimes FREE - admission to the Show. All you need to do is turn up in time to put your bike on display and then you (and very often a chum too) can enjoy the rest of the day without splashing too much cash (unless the bargains in the jumble lead you astray, of course).

Contact the appropriate organiser and get yourself signed in for an RC event this autumn…

Sunday October 25th 2009
The SOUTH OF ENGLAND CLASSIC BIKE SHOW returns to the South of England Showground at Ardingly near Gatwick from 10am to 4pm. Enter your classic early because places are limited. See www.elk-promotions.co.uk or call 01797 344277.

Sunday November 1st 2009
The MALVERN REALCLASSIC BIKE SHOW opens 10am to 4pm at the Three Counties Showground at Malvern (J7/8 off the M5 or J1 off M50). Entries via 01484 452002 or www.classicshows.org.

November 13th to 15th 2009
The Classic Motor Show at the NEC includes a dedicated CLASSIC BIKES HALL with displays from many major clubs plus private entries, museum displays, concours competition and more. Entries are invited to join the bike show (which provides parking pass and admission for the full weekend); call 0121 767 2772 or see www.classicbikesatclassicmotor.com.

Nice crumbling ruin... 1927 Model P Triumph at Tintern Abbey

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Going Vintage?

If you're inspired by Graham's Triumph and would also like to experiment with motorcycles from the first part of the 20th century, then the Vintage Motor Cycle Club will give you all the advice and support you could hope for (including the chance to try older bikes on their vintage training days). See www.vmcc.net


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