• Vintage Projects

ROCKING HORSE POO: The Triumph Tiger 80

My Triumph Tiger 80 while I was still thinking of sprinting it

The 205 GTI had gone leaving a space in the garage and a couple of grand burning a hole in my pocket. So I hired a van and headed down to the Carol Nash Netley Marsh and Beaulieu autojumbles with the goal of picking up a project. I had a pretty specific checklist of what I was looking for:

· Pre-war

· British

· Single cylinder

· Girder forks

· 350cc or 500cc

Pickings were slimmer than I was expecting, there were a lot of ‘50s and ‘60s bikes, but not many early models. I spotted a couple of girder fork singles on a stand. They were both loosely assembled with the core parts in place, frame, engine, gearbox, tank, wheels, forks. A quick chat with the owner revealed that one was a Triumph Tiger 80 and the other was a 3HW. The T80 looked to be the more original of the two. I wandered around the rest of the field while “umming” and “aahhing” about the T80.

There were a few really interesting bikes available, but all of them were out of my price range, so I went back to the stand to see if I could strike a deal for the T80.

On the way back to the van I was stopped by a few different people asking if I had just bought the bike and wanting to reminisce about their past ownership or similar bikes they were working on. One chap had travelled all the way from Australia looking for a primary drive cover for a T80. This rang an alarm bell that I promptly ignored. Doing some research in the back of the van at the campsite that night I became very aware of just how rare the T80 was. I couldn’t find another one for sale in the whole of the UK!

Triumph Tiger 80 in the back of the van. Where we would both spend the night.

The next day I went to Beaulieu autojumble. The scale of the autojumble was massive, covering four different fields. The stands ranged from ‘Steptoe and Son’ style scrap merchants to high end clothing manufacturers. I managed to pick up a couple of books, but the rest of the day was spent meandering around the stalls admiring fascinating bits of old cars and bikes. I did find a fully restored Triumph T80 for sale. It gave me a glimmer of false hope as to the availability of parts until I saw the asking price and I was back to thinking I was out of my depth.

Back home I started researching T80s in earnest. I contacted a chap I had stumbled across on Instagram who was building a replica of the Triumph T80 that Freddy Clarke obtained the 350cc Brooklands record on. He was a really nice guy and offered to come and take a look at the bike the next time he was in the area. He kept his word and called in within a few weeks. Unfortunately, his visit confirmed my fears, some of the bits that were missing were as rare as hens’ teeth and had taken him years to find for his project. This didn’t bode well for for me trying to get the bike up and running over winter. I needed to find a new owner for the project, someone with a longer term focus.

The stunning Freddy Clarke replica built by @Pezpix and the Brooklands Museum Motorcycle Team

The Triumph sold really quickly on eBay and went to a Father and Son pairing that were looking for a long term project to complete together. They were going into it with their eyes wide open as they knew about the scarcity of parts. This left me, once again, with a little bit of cash and an empty garage.

I heard about a gentleman that was clearing out his motorcycle collection after having a stroke. I spoke to him on the phone and found out he was a retired engineer and was passionate about British classic bikes, he sounded like the kind of person you would want to buy a classic bike from. I took the van and made the journey down to his house to see what he has available. His collection ranged from a number of BSA bantams, through to some larger capacity AJS and Ariel scramblers, but the bike that really caught my attention was a slightly tired looking little 350cc Velocette MAC. The bike turned over, but didn’t start. It was last on the road about 10 years ago and had a thin layer of workshop dust all over it.

As is often the case with me, if I head somewhere in the van I find it very hard to leave with it empty, so this MAC was coming home with me. The owner drove a very hard bargain, and we ended up shaking hands at a price that was a little higher than I was hoping to pay, but then he started pulling out boxes and boxes of spare parts for me. From spare sprockets, to a 2nd set of tin ware. So with a van full of Velocette and spare parts I had to decide what I was going to do with it...

Check out my "Prelude" post to find out what happened next.

The Velocette MAC and all the spares in the back of the van

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