Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Wild One

Everyone's got their own take on the Wild One. It was made in 1952 and gets credit for being the first outlaw motorcyclist film and also the best of the 1950's. Another good one to find is "Motorcycle Gang" from a few years later where most of the riders are on Brit, scrambler type bikes. From the article above we see that the Wild One (also titled "Hot Blood" early on) was not welcome by the motorcycle press and old Bill Johnson before it even hit the screens. Totally understandable from their point of view. I love the Wild One and all the other trashy biker flicks. Both lead characters played by Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin make it a classic.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

MCM Finned Valve Covers


ebay link

2009 Clubman's All British Bike Show

The San Jose California Clubman's meet this year was great. I've been going since 1994 and every year has been different. The featured Marque this year was Ariel and there was a lot of really nice examples to look at. Not much chopper stuff this year in the swap meet, but the Triumph Pre-Unit bits made up for it. The bike show was full and the turn out was really good. Loads of awesome bikes to see and only a couple crappy modern "bobbers" in the lot. I picked my favorite three bikes of the show to post here. The owners of these bikes all had great stories and were really fun to talk to. Thanks guys!

1938 Ariel Red Hunter 500 Drag Bike with a 1947 motor. This bike was built by Mort Kahn around 1949/50 and was part of the original drag race scene in Southern California. It was raced mostly in the early 50's until the Triumph Twins started to dominate. It was said that it would eat up BSA Gold Stars all day and never lost a race when piloted by Mort.

The 1947 Dual Port 500 motor has a Jerry Fairchild camshaft with roller followers and a 1 7/8" intake valve from a 1931 Cadillac! The carburetor is a AMAL TT with dual float bowls.

Mort gave the bike to his friend George Grant in 1975. The bike was a rust bucket at the time and George has cared for and carefully restored the bike to the condition it is in now.

The gas tank is from a Mustang. George said they would buy them new and unpainted from the dealer. This tank has had a Triumph Competition cap added and has been galvanised on the inside because the bike was run on Alchohol. The bike originally had a alloy sheetmetal seat that laid flat against the frame and up the fender so that the rider would be fully tucked into the bike with the footpegs located near the rear axle. The Bates seat was put on by George and I think it fits the part and would make the bike very rideable set up like this. I want to ride it!

George actually worked at Johnson Motors during the late 40's and early 50's and has a wealth of information on the subject including the story on the JOMO tachometer! The story goes that during that era tachometers were unavailable and racers were asking for them so some Smiths chronometric speedometers were converted in the Johnson Motors shop and the custom made JOMO faces installed. They originally sold for $20 but since George worked at JoMo he could get them for $15. He bought a couple at the time and has one on his 1938 Red Hunter street bike too. Around 1952 the SMITHS company got wind of what they were doing and put a stop to it by supplying their own tachs making these clocks some very rare peices.


This rigid Thunderbird is owned by Bill Sauer. He bought the bike in the mid 1950's from the original owner. Bill customized the bike and did all the performance upgrades. He raced the bike on the track, street & strip! This is a true Show & Go machine. Bill is in his 70's and just recently retired from his Lineman job. The bike had been taken apart and had been a basket case since the 1980's. Bill fully restored it with new paint, powdercoat and some chrome. He has just recently registered it and will install lights soon as he plans on riding this sweet old Triumph again.

The gas tank is off a late 1950's CZ with a custom cap. The oil tank was made by Bill as well as the neat fender braces. He has the original side mounted license plate/tail light mount he made that matches the fender braces and will be putting it back on the bike.

The head was modified by Bill with the use of welded on intake spigots and the carbs are a rare type of dual remote float AMALs that he had found on sale at a bike shop way back in the day.


This 1950 Thunderbird was lovingly restored by Matt Ameln for his father Tony. Matt told me straight away that he is not a bike guy, but after his Dad became ill he decided to rebuild the old race bike that had sat untouched since Matt was a kid. Matt did a hell of nice job on this neat old T-Bird! He restored it to be exactly as it was when his father raced it. Most of the gas tank was bare metal but he found the Thunderbird Polychromatic Blue on the underside and had it matched up for the parts that needed it. Perfect!

The bike was bought from Phil Cancilla as a stocker and modified by Clark Russer with a AJS rear frame section a TR5 gas tank and upswept exhaust pipes. The bike was raced by Tony in the 1950's in the San Jose area and kept by him all these years.

There were a variety of Swing arm conversions done to factory rigid frames in the early 1950's. This one was extremely well done. The frame is the Triumph GP rigid competition type with rearset footpeg lugs and the bottom frame section is cut and modified to mount to the rearset lugs. The quality of workmanship is top notch. I have a 1952 Martin Spring framed T-Bird myself in the works that will be very similar to this bike. The only thing Matt has left to do is restore and install the side mounted air cleaner and some neat trumpet shaped exhaust tips that are original to the build.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Triumph Range For 1953

This bike is the coolest. All Alloy 500 motor with the speed kit already installed. Showroom racer ready for the street or to be stripped down for the track. The Tiger T100C.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sidecar Rigs from the early 50's

A sweet looking Steib and Thunderbird combo with chromed forks & headlight nacelle, Flanders risers & bars.

From the "Triumph In America" Book

From the "Triumph Racing Motorcycles in America" book.

Classic example of too much of a good thing, but I'd love to try it for a weekend. The trailer probably didn't have any brakes so I'm thinking stopping and loss of control in general could be an issue.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

1952 Triumph Models

Good sound reasoning to buy an import in 1952. 50% more exports than importing to United States? What happened?

Monday, March 23, 2009

1952 Road Racing makes it to California

The dirt track boys give road racing a try at Del Mar and the "feet up" riding style is adopted. Triumph Thunderbirds rule the day.

Another good road racing story from 1952 at Torrey Pines. Good detailed pics and write up of the machinery of the day. Gotta love the thought of Vincent's, Triumph's and BSA's duking it out in the unlimited class.

The sport was very new in 1952 and everything was experimental on the West Coast. Unlike the highly specialized motorcycles used in Europe for road racing. The bikes used in the US were some of the same bikes used on dirt tracks and dry lake runs, but with modified foot pegs and controls.

More info on Dick White's Thunderbird road racer from a 1995 issue of the Old Bike Journal. Had some scanner troubles with the pics on this one.

The shop Jimmy Phillips opened in 1952. Could be that the Thunderbird road racer motor was built here.