Electric Blue Triumph Bobber

“I know it’s not practical but the visuals and its exhaust note overwhelm any need for practicality,” said George.

TRACKSTERS and bobbers, with their back-to-basics style, no frills or clutter, ditch all the ugly brackets and bits, that’s the way I like it. But we don’t always start out with what we want as our ride. As a kid growing up in Bendigo we had lots of scrub to thrash through but with little choice of bikes to ride. An old codger up the road had a collection of Vespas, and on my school-kid budget, a tired Vespa was all I could afford. Hippies had attacked the old scooter with the flower treatment. It was embarrassing but at least I had a ride… till it died and we dumped it down an old mine shaft. Now some hippie’s hipster kid would probably cream over its remnants…

 I evolved from that Milano machine to a Hodaka Super Rat scrambler before my life of Triumph began.

Back in the 1970s a Harley-Davidson was out of reach so a Pommy bike was a realistic option with street cred. Who remembers Elizabeth Street Melbourne on a Saturday morning? The curbs were crammed with cool bikes, posers everywhere, Heaven on asphalt! We’d fit a Harley 16-inch rear rim and some ‘hangers and we were styling! Full noise with slashed pipes till caught was and still is the go.

But it was a pin-up page in one of those counter-culture hotrod magazines that spurred me on to build this bike. The tattooed girl I can’t describe but the blue bobber Triumph in the background is etched into my brain, every detail of it. So the hunt was on for the parts and ingredients to bring it to life.

Bendigo has its annual swap meet and it’s huge. There’s a large motorbike section; it’s easy to locate at the show-ground’s motorbike site; just look for lots of rust, a sprinkling of chrome and often crazy prices… One fella had a pile of Trumpy bits and a stack of frames. I told him I was after a rigid pre-unit frame to build a custom.

“You can’t have a good one to butcher,” he said, “but there’s an old chopper frame over there with the lugs ground off it…’ Perfect!

I scrounged some early Bultaco forks and fitted some BSA scrambler shrouds with some plated exhaust tubing above the sliders. The clamp that holds the bars to the top triple tree was missing so a custom one was milled for the job. Vespas seem to haunt me as I’ve used their neat white rubber grips.

As a power-plant I latched onto an older fella who used to race a Triumph outfit in scrambles in the old days. He had the race engine out of his old sidecar outfit. It took a while but finally he sold it to me and it’s perfect for this bike. It was still a good runner with its race cam, high comp pistons and ported head. I just rebuilt the top-end and it’s fine. It’s originally a ’50 Triumph Thunderbird 650 engine. I added a Modak manifold with two 32 mm Amal carbies.

There are still many custom parts available for the old Triumphs. I jumped online and sourced a neat chopper style seat in a white crocodile skin pattern and a chrome oil tank. I made up a seat support frame so that the seat and tank mate, whereas this seat behind a stock tank would have resembled a monkey mounting a watermelon! That old pin-up picture influence set me in the right direction.

The fuel tank is off a ’66 Triumph TT and is nice and skinny compared to an original ’48 version. The eyebrow tank badges have a neat retro look.

I’ve a mate who restored a Harley XR750 to concours condition and he wouldn’t use any parts that weren’t 100 percent perfect. His loss was my win! I bought the alloy front wheel and the original XR750 handlebars from him. At the rear I used a Triumph hub laced to a Borrani style polished rim. 

Tyres were a challenge but a swap-meet find landed me some flat-tracker rubber even with the grooving of the 4.00 x 19 Pirelli on the front. At rear is a Sears 4.00 x 18.

To complete the trackster style is the compulsory push-bar which doubles as a fender support; the rear fender having previously been a front fender off a ’60 Triumph.

A side-mounted Stop! light is a hotrod accessory, and on the triple tree I fitted a tractor headlight — that’s about as flash as the electrics get apart from the magneto.

To complete my pin-up package I had a bloke whose name I can’t recall whip up a custom mix of electric blue metallic with a Bultaco grey for the frame. There’s enough glitter and polished alloy to compliment the metallic blue.

A prime and a few kicks gets the Thunderbird engine alive and kicking through trackster header pipes and the cocktail-shaker token mufflers.

I know it’s not practical but the visuals and its exhaust note overwhelm any need for practicality.

My next bike build is a rat style trackster that’s well on its way, and I’m collecting bits to build a Steve McQueen desert racer tribute bike.

photos by Rob Warden; words by George Hutton

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