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1958 Triton Pictures

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Garry Laurence’s Triton named "Spirit of the Sixties".
Spirit of the Sixties Motorcycles


Some of you will have seen My Triton at the Ace Cafe at last years featherbed day or read articles about it in Classic Bike and Classic Bike Guide. This machine has impeccable build quality and is probably one of the best ever built in my opinion.
So I had a real problem when thinking of what to build next to top it or equal it. It had to be something different or at least the best of its kind. I would have liked a twin Norvin and in fact had hired a van and travelled some two hundred miles to view and buy one as a starting point but couldn’t let my heart rule my head and part with some serious cash for a bag of nails. It was awful, so it was back to looking for another project. I had at this stage been looking for a chap I had met some years ago with a Vincent twin in bits but couldn’t find his house. Then by a stroke of luck, which is a long story I found it, unfortunately the guy had sold it to someone in France. I was walking away and for some reason I asked him what he done with the other bikes he had “What’s left is in the back garden” I went and looked and saw the basis of the machine.

It was attached to a sidecar and had laid there for the best part of ten years. After some discussion I left him to consider my offer for the machine, which was accepted later that day .I went and hired a van detached the bike from the sidecar and along with a load of other parts collected my next project. Unfortunately I was in such a hurry to collect it I didn’t take any photos of it in situ, but I am never happy until its sitting in my workshop. So begins the story of Spirit of the sixties two.

I began by stripping all the old wiring off the bike and fitted a six volt ignition system, the strange thing was when I checked the engine oil in the matchless oil tank it was brand new, I later found out that the engine had been completely rebuilt and not used. I changed the petrol having washed the tank out and tried to start it. It fired up and ran with slight tappet noise. Things were looking good. Next I completely stripped it down and threw away most of the bike retaining only the engine, gearbox and frame.

At this stage I had to make a decision as to what I was going to build in terms of style. I thought long and hard between a flat track style and café racer. In the end I settled on a café racer, as I had never personally seen one of this configuration, although I am sure they have been built. It’s at this stage I suggest to anyone building a special to have a detailed picture in your mind of what it is going to look like at the end. I didn’t have anything to look at so my spec was Manx tanks and seat, belt drive, electronic ignition, Manx style wheels, chromomeric clocks, swan neck clipons, high level two inch pipe, all finished in black and silver. Sounds easy enough. The first job was to make the engine plates, oil platform and frame gusset plates. The way to do this for those who haven’t done so is to make cardboard cut outs and transfer the detail onto dural aluminium then cut all plates oversize to begin with. Next linish plates to size and drill all the holes, but measure, measure, measure and drill once, theres nothing worse than unwanted holes they look horrible. The plates I made dropped the engine as low as possible in the frame and are unique to this frame and engine. Once the engine was in place and I was satisfied with the fit I turned my attention to head steady and gusset plates. The easiest way to cut your plates is on a band saw but I have made them using a jigsaw.

Next came the belt drive as none are available, I enlisted the help of Tony Haywood. I used a BSA front pulley machined to fit the Vincent spline and an adaptor for the Norton box and fitted a Triumph clutch. The chain cases had to be machined away on the inside to give the belt clearance and a distance plate made between the crank and chain cases. I had to move the chain cases back and tilt them up at the back to accommodate the clutch. The centre line of the gearbox and crankshaft are out of line. I stripped the engine and gearbox of the black paint, which had been gloriously applied only to find that the front of the Norton lay down box, had been ground through and fibre glassed up. This along with various other components were tig welded locally and I ground back the welds and polished the cases. Whilst the chain cases were being tig-welded after I had cut off all surplus mounts etc, copious amounts of araldite fell out but all was made good again I ground back the welding and polished these. I fitted new bushes and bearings to the gearbox etc. A modification I carried out was to machine grooves on the kick start and gear change shafts and fitted `O` rings to ensure they were oil tight. The Vincent logo on the inspection cover had to be repositioned as it was now out of line. A simple matter of drilling and tapping. I replaced the entire engine and gearbox studs, nuts and bolts with stainless. Next with engine installed it was off to Campbell Geometric to have the high level exhaust made in stainless steel. I wanted a two inch straight through pipe which has turned out really well but in the end I had to put some baffles in it as it was too anti social at six in the morning. I etched into the exhaust shield “SPIRIT OF THE SIXTIES TWO” this is achieved by glass bead blasting the cost of having it cut out was outrageous. Finally I had the engine fine glass bead blasted to achieve that new look. The engine and gearbox were treated to Aero Equip hoses, a final polish and waited on the bench for installation.

Next item to receive treatment was the frame and forks. The forks were de lugged of mudguard stays fitted with new bushes and oil seals and stainless steel oil seal retainers. Next I cut off the rear loop which on the early bolt up frames is far to low to support seat and mud guard and rewelded it in the correct position along with brackets for the horns and spring clips for the Aero Equip hoses. To support the central oil tank platform I welded two nuts onto the frame spreader and use socket headed bolts to secure the platform. It looks like the oil tank is suspended in mid air, the platform again made in dural alloy. With the entire frame modifications done it was off to my local tank maker for him to make the petrol and oil tanks as well as the Manx seat. These took longer than expected but the results are well worth the wait. I opted this time for the four and a half gallon Manx petrol tank as it gave a lower profile to the machine.

Whilst this was going on I visited Kempton park auto jumble and managed to get original Manx swan neck clipons, head light brackets, alloy top yoke, barleycorn rear sets and various other bits and pieces. I opted for chronometric clocks having a Speedo converted to a rev counter and the 150 MPH Speedo overhauled these I put into commando housings making alloy base plates along with ignition switch housing etc.

Next I turned my attention to the wheels I decided that the Manx style hubs I made for my Triumph/ Norton are so nice that they were the obvious choice for this project. I enlisted JH Motorcycles to lace them up and powder coat the hubs and brake plates having fitted cooling mesh in the brake plates and machining front plate and brake shoes to suit.
At this stage it’s easy to start to rush things but I completed the dry build to ensure all the modifications worked or appeared to before powder coating and painting begins, which is the easy part. There are a million and one jobs that need to be done to get to this stage, as I am sure most of you know and to be honest, I can’t remember every last detail I just do it but the smallest detail can often take the longest to achieve.

With frame powder coated, tanks and seat painted and fresh chrome and everything else rebuilt or renewed it was time for the final assembly. This is where it pays to really take your time as all the hard work can be spoilt by the slip of a spanner etc. It took about three days to re assemble the bike taking it easy.

With the bike assembled it was time to make the wiring loom. The advantage of making your own loom is that you can tailor it to where you put the components and there is no excess wiring, it looks so much better and its easy to do. I personally solder all bullets and joints. It was my intention to run this bike the same as my Triumph / Norton with no battery. I fitted Boyer transistor ignition and power box with an Alton alternator; unfortunately the alternator at cranking speed does not produce enough wattage to excite the ignition system. In the end I fitted a 1.7 amp hour dry cell battery, it appears to do the job as most of my riding is in daylight hours. With everything working it was down to the MOT station where it passed first time. Three faults showed up on the way being the centre stand wouldn’t stay up, the Speedo didn’t work and the gear change toggle on the gearbox slipped around. I modified the clip arrangement for the stand I don’t use a spring the stand stays up and doesn’t rattle. The inner Speedo cable lengthened sorted out the Speedo. The gear change mechanism is another story. The highly modified rear sets have too much give in them so I have opted for a reworked reversed gear lever. This seems much better but I am still looking for an alternative I might change the kick-start lever to give better access to the gear lever. The throw on this particular gearbox “Norton lay down” is quite long unlike the Triumph box which is the problem given the position of the kick-start lever.
I hope this article has given someone somewhere some inspiration to get on with their project. The final result, which took seven months from start to finish, is I believe quite unique. I am now looking for that elusive Vincent twin engine or project to build “SPIRIT OF THE SIXTIES THREE” if anyone out there knows of anything suitable I would appreciate a call. Garry 07952 866193″

  • Manufacturer:
  • Model:
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  • Year: 1958
  • Decade: 1950s
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2 Responses to “1958 Triton”

  1. richard morris on June 15, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

    i am in the middle of a triton project myself..the stage i am at is that the engine is in and the bike is running mot’d etc and i am now in the throws of a tidying up project, your mention of your 2″ exhaust interests me…i have a nourish racing engine fitted with 8 valves and the bike goes like a rocket, but as i am at the point of ordering a new exhaust which has to be tailored made from scratch to match the pipes i have with the bike as the nourish exhaust ports are different to the triumph ones that the engine would have had originally. my question is this, do you think it is possible to fit a 2″ exhaust system to mine? would it up the performance even further? i am talking about conventional 2 pipe system not 2 into 1… also do you know anyone who is decent to deal with at making one off sets of pipes?

  2. richard morris on June 15, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

    forgot to mention i am on 1″ 3/8ths pipes at the moment

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