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Life with a Triumph T90

The Holy Grail - 1960's Specification (Within Limits!)

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At the start of the nineties I was getting a bit fed up with the presentation of the bike. The paintwork was starting to look a bit sad as the bike inevitably acquired numerous little knocks. After rebuilding a Series III Land Rover in 1990, I decided that the bike need a rebuild - this time I was going to attempt to get it right. All of the frame parts went off to Wigton in Cumbria for repainting; I also sent off the wheels for rebuilding.

So the goal was to try to get as much right as possible. Roy Bacon's book "Triumph Twin Restoration" was invaluable as it had a lot of detail photographs. Unfortunately there was only one of a 1964 T90 and some key details were missing from the book (how to mount the coils). If you're a purist then it might be best to skip to the next paragraph. However, I was prepared to deviate from the standard. Wherever possible all fasteners were going to stainless. I was fed up of the plating washing off bolts within a couple of months and spoiling the look. Andy Molnar in Preston was excellent and a succession of odd studs and bolts were sent down as templates .A 12V upgrade with a decent power regulator was a must. The standard system of using the battery as a big capacitor was useless and you needed 12V lighting to stand a chance of competing with the lighting around you. Electronic ignition was another must. I had one trip around Bolton when I noticed a funny stain on the silencer. The battery had exploded and leaked acid all over the silencer. A good way of stripping chrome.

Life got complicated when I had to move into rented accommodation. 2 bikes in kit form went into the attic - including a petrol tank full of fuel! Little progress was possible for 2 years. I was able to slowly amass bits ready for assembling at the first opportunity.

1994 saw a move to a new house with a garage. The Bantam went into that loft and didn't reappear for 15 years, whereas the Triumph started to form shape. Painting was assigned to Lewis & Templeton (as they were then). I decided that I didn't like the gold of the 64 paint scheme so i went for the 65 paint scheme

pic3 Here's the bike fully stripped down in 1992 waiting to go off for painting. You can see where the cables have worn off the paint on the steering head.
pic 3_1

Here's the bike shortly after being finished in 1995. The coils are in the wrong place as I couldn't get a replacement for the flat bottom petrol tank. If you look closely, you can see when someone fitted a dummy air scoop in its chopper days. I fitted stainless steel oil pipes - I'd got stainless on the brain by then; they've gone in the latest reincarnation.

The coils are in the wrong place as the flat bottomed petrol tank leaves no option. They're also too big - these are 48mm diameter and they should be 40mm

pic3_2 All shiny and new! The rev counter was an optional accessory on the original bike so I got a matching set from Gaggs in Nottingham to replace the chronometric sppedo I fitted in the seventies. That was suffering badly as the mounting bracket (made in school) only held it on by one nut. The steering damper had holes drilled in by the previous owner. I've retained it as you have to have a few battle scars as you go through life. Millers in Hastings cut the ammeter hole in the headlamp shell for me - 15 years later and it still hasn't rusted! At the time, I couldn't get a shell with the ammeter cutout.

I had another major engine problem in the mid nineties. The embarrasing thing was that I'd been at a meeting in Watford and one of the people in the meeting had been worried about their car. We had an inspection at lunchtime and found that they needed to put some oil in their engine. On my way home I got a phone call and had to go to Kendal urgently in the evening. I decided to go by bike but should have checked ......... the oil first! So I got to Kendal OK but halfway back there was a sort of embarassing cough from the engine and I instantly knew that I had a big problem. So home by AA and a strip down showed that I'd damaged the crank. The engine had to go to SRM Enginnering in Aberystwyth and they had to do a bit of searching for a new crank as there wasn't enough metal left on the old one.

I also managed to sort out the front brake a little bit. The new Brian Bennett company in Preston (now extant) fitted some milk float brake linings to the shoes. This allowed the front brake to feel if it was trying to brake, even if it wasn't! Basically the best technique is to use engine braking as much as possible and rely on the rear brake to stop you.

See page 4 for the next chapter in the saga >>