IT SEEMS that everywhere you look at a custom bike show, you’ll see any number of different brands with some more popular than others. Many are a style popular at the time; some are just plain weird! But every now and again you see one that stands out from the crowd. Not because it’s loud and outrageous, or that it cost a small fortune, but because it’s uniquely crafted. Individually styled. Tasteful. By tasteful I mean sympathetic to an era without being a copy of anything. It will have its own personality, displaying its roots without pledging allegiance to the brand. A presence that doesn’t dominate, but surely commands respect. The subtle statement made by a true artisan.
A close look at this 1958 pre-unit Triumph only provokes you to look again, which further encourages you to have another look in case you missed anything! Stripped back and carrying no extra fat, only the essentials required to make this machine operate are present, with nothing else welcome, not even a pillion.
The style, along with some of the materials and the finish of this pre-unit classic is reminiscent of 1950’s motorcycling, with leather, chrome, brass and copper all coming together in a cohesive mix. It could easily pass as being a bit steampunk for the same reasons.
When I first saw this bike it had a custom-made pair of highly-polished stainless steel fuel tanks, one literally mirroring the other on either side of the frame, but as Ian, the builder/owner at Black Cat Customs pointed out, “When the sun hit the top of the tank it was total white-out, you just couldn’t see where you were going.”
So the decision was made to have Fonzy’s Customs paint panels onto the tanks, leaving a hint of the finely crafted stainless exposed, and while they were at it, the upper frame rails were subjected to the same treatment which was as much about safety as it was aesthetics.
Shack-o Pinstriping finished the job with a hand-painted logo to remind us what brand of bike it is and the name of one of Ian’s dogs, Benjamin Humphrey, at the rear. You’ll note also that the right tank incorporates the engine oil for the Pommy twin, hence the two filler caps.
The engine is a 650 cc unit with a set of custom alloy barrels punching the capacity out to 800 cc, backed up by a Triumph five-speed gearbox.
The polished donk is fed fuel via some beautiful copper plumbing to a pair of highly-polished Amal 930 carbies running mesh-covered open bell velocity stacks for wide open throttle heavy breathing.
A pair of custom-made, straight-through stainless pipes let the neighbours know you’re coming and allow the British twin to really sing!
Rakish clean lines are courtesy of the OEM hardtail frame giving the bike a cool bobber style.
Keeping the whole package pointing in the right direction is a set of custom 1950-era Triumph forks.
The 21-inch Morad (Spain) rim is wrapped in Avon Speedmaster rubber, wearing a ribbed tread pattern.
In keeping with the period style, a big ventilated, twin leading-shoe drum brake slows Benjamin Humphrey down when required.
The rear traction is attended to via a 19-inch wheel dressed in Avon rubber too.
Rider comfort relies on the sprung leather saddle, stitched up by Stitched Up Trim on the Central Coast. They also made up the tidy tool bag sitting below the rider’s perch as well as the straps linking the twin fuel tanks and supplied the tan leather thonging used for the hand grips. The tan leather offers a great vintage element to the style-palette and contrasts nicely with the chrome, brass, copper and black paint.
At the pointy end there’s detail aplenty without any excess clutter. A very vintage looking Smiths Chronometer throws all the information the rider needs to know what danger the bike and their licence is in! Hidden cables are routed through the handlebars to the bar-end mounted brass levers.
A chrome headlight sits on its chrome mount on the chrome triple clamps that hold the chrome forks, which in turn have chrome handlebars and the chrome chronometer mounted to them… This bike is shiny and according to Ian, quite a chore to keep looking pristine, but you’ve got to admit, it does have what it takes to be a stand out amongst any gathering of bikes.
The current trend among many ‘bike builders’ is to take a bike of any genre and strip a heap of parts off and call it a ‘custom build’. However, the Benjamin Humphrey Triumph is a genuine, bona fide, custom-built motorcycle — and you might have noticed there is a number plate on it too… Yep, Ian does ride it — it ain’t no show pony!
Words: JT @CrotchRocketMotorcycles; photos: @iShootPix