I ALWAYS wanted an old school custom. It’s good to build a custom bike as there are no rules on what to use.
I started work on building the bike from scratch about three years ago, on and off. It took some time due to finding parts for it. I had no plans on what it would turn out like; I just made it up as I was going along.
The work was done outside in the yard and in my dinning room. It was a typical backyard job. I had no garage, funds were short, so all the work I did myself. I started looking for old second-hand parts at wreckers, swap meets, etc.
When I got the 1954 Triumph Thunderbird 650 cc motor it was a mess. Most of the parts had to be replaced. It was hard to find side-covers that were not cracked or scraped but I found some in time. I accepted the integrity of the motor and left it standard but restored.
The late ’50s BSA A10 frame needed some welding done so I had to borrow a welder. The only electric tools I had were an old bench drill and a grinder.
The gearbox is a late ’50s Triumph slick-shift. It was not in too bad a condition but still had to pulled apart and restored.
Most of the gaskets for motor and gearbox I cut myself; and all the alloy I restored by sanding with wet-and-dry then polishing with a T-shirt and Brasso — this was fun!
The front wheel I found at a swap meet. It was so rusty that you could fold the rim into a shoe-box. That was fine as I only needed the hub, a Trumpy twin-leading shoe which needed a lot of sanding and re-chroming. I got a new English 19-inch rim and spokes and laced it up.
Thanks to running a magneto, the wiring-harness was easy to make and I found an aftermarket 12 volt rectifier and regulator in one.
The battery box as well as forward controls, number plate holder, linkages and brackets I had to make out of sheet metal — this is where the grinder and hacksaw came in — then they were sent off to be chrome-plated.
Spraying the bike I used acrylic blaze red (spray tins) as it is easy to touch up; polished with the T-shirt and Brasso again.
Making the seat pan was easy for me as I have worked with fibreglass before, and I got it covered by an upholsterer down the road.
The mirror, headlight, speedo, handlebars are new aftermarket. I will replace them in time for ’50s — ’60s ones once I find some.
Given the way I scratch-built the bike, it handles great. This is the first time I have built a bike. It was a challenge but I will never look back.
words by Peter West; pics by George