Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"The Sunsetter" FULL STORY

This is the perfect ending to one of the best survivor stories I've heard. The bike is completely restored to its original form from the mid-1960's, tuned to ride, back on the street and ridden to shows. Cheers to Scott Bemis for taking care of this old show & go cycle the way it is should to be done.

Found your blog on your website about the Zumbrunnen 61 trophy Sunsetter. Your article about the bike couldn't be more right. I am a purest at heart so preserving history is the best thing to do especially when there is so much history at stake. Don Built this bike in 1965, he and my buddy Alan Langdon were friends in the 60’s running up and down Valley blvd in San Gabriel, CA. Alan had a t-bucket that he would run against Don’s 13-1 compression AJ Lewis built drag bike. It was said back in the day it would wheelie in every gear and I believe it. Alan was always in love with that bike and he told Don back in the day if he sold it that Alan wanted to be first in line to buy it. Fast forward to 1992 Don finally decided to give it up. It had a little over 3000 miles on it since the build. It had been hiding under the blankets in his garage since the early 70’s.

 Alan had always talked about this bike but I had no idea what it was all about. Alan rode HD’s at the time but he always loved that Trumpet. Alan took possession of it sometime in 1992 for who knows how much. It had been sitting for over 20 years. He went through the top end installed stainless valves lowered the compression so you could ride it with today’s gas. Don had everything white show chrome including the carbs, left and right amal’s. AJ Lewis did all the engine work in the early days, he took a Trophy head and port aligned the intakes, then added the second amal, it’s truly a masterpiece. I have all the receipts for the work that they did, I am truly blessed to be the curator of this piece of history. All the chrome on this bike is from 1965 it’s amazing! Alan was a gifted painter and a perfectionist. The tank was in bad shape so he stripped the outside and coated the inside and repainted it with the original formulas that Don provided. Tangerine Orange over White Pearl. He also painted the rear fender. Alan suffered from a bad back from his fireman days and was very uncomfortable riding it with the drag bars. Alan installed the mini apes so he could ride it without pain. He also left the seat pillion off to show his paint job. This bike was Alan’s prize possession. He cleaned it then painted what needed to painted and left it unmolested, he too was a purest and also a Virgo. Unfortunately Alan took sick with cancer and it took his life in 2003. He was a good man loved riding bikes and seeing the people.

 Fast forward to 2008. Cookie, Alan’s widow and I became good friends, I understand why Alan married her she is a great gal. She rides her own HD, she is very outgoing and a lot of fun to be around. One day she sent me an email from the Sunsetter telling me how lonely she is and needs to be appreciated and ridden. I was instantly compelled just the way Alan was, only a little reluctant because I did not know her history as well as he did. Cookie new in her heart that I would respect and take care of her the way Alan and Don did. Cookie showed the bike a few times and had a fond respect for the history of that old 61 but she was not comfortable riding it and she knew she needed to be ridden.

 Cookie and I struck a deal and I took fond position of the Sunsetter. She is a cantankerous little machine. I cleaned the carbs while still on the bike, cleaned the tank and relined it again, drained and replaced all the fluids, put new Avon’s on it but kept the original Dunlop gold and ribbed tires in my shop. Did not want them to come apart since they were over 40 years old. I soon made friends with Keith Moore of Moore Cycles, RIP Keith, he welcomed me into the brotherhood of classic Triumph bikes. I bought my first set of Whitworth wrenches and sockets from him along with new tires and cables and came with it was some advice. What a great person Keith was and I am lucky to have met him. I soon found out that the Sunsetter does not like the heat. Don had the cases chromed and it holds heat like no other. I only ride this bike in 75 or below weather. 60’s is perfect.

 That same year I contacted The Horse Magazine to show them the bike. They loved it and made a date to shoot it. I gave them all the history including the Floyd Clymer Magazine article, they worked hard to get the rights to republish the article but went in another direction with their story. The actual history of this bike did not make the magazine. I was not disappointed at the time because the bike was not restored to its original glory.

 During the magazine process I contacted Don Zumbrunnen, yes the man that built this machine. He lives in San Gabriel at 74 years old. He gave me a lot of history about the bike and we have become good friends. I tell him I get a big smile on my face thinking of him and Alan while I am motoring down the road. This bike is made to be ridden and ride it Is what I do, I know I am a lucky man to get to take her down the highway when the weather is cool, wrench and ride. In 2011 I took the bike and Don to the Born Free 3 show at Irvine lake. There was actually a guy from Oregon that came up to me and asked if that was the bike that the casket fitter built, he had seen it in The Horse Magazine. I said yes it is and he is sitting over there at that picnic table guarding that bottle of Jack. Do you want to meet him? After all that is why I made sure to invite him to the show, this show is about bike builders and their dreams. I am a curator of this fine piece of history that has been bestowed upon on me. It is my desire to make sure the story gets passed to the next generation after I am gone. This is a responsibility that I embrace.

 This past year I obtained the drag bars, cables and seat pillion. Lucky for me Alan was a Virgo just like me and he never threw anything away that may have a purpose in the future. These items were essential for the ultimate restoration. I had the seat re-stuffed with new foam and hand stitched book binder placed on the bottom by the master Lynn Barnett at Thornton Auto Upholstery. (old school) I could have bought 2 new seats for what I paid him to do this fabulous job including the leather conditioning. But you just can’t buy Bates anymore. I installed the drag bars and cables and now it is complete. It rides like a dream and looks like it did when Don created it. 

 This past weekend I rode the Sunsetter back to Cookie’s house for a visit. The bike was in its old neighborhood from which it was created. I can’t help but think what it was like for Don and Alan to ride around the same streets some 50 years ago. I striped down Rosemead Blvd like I owned it! The Norton Owners Club of California is having a Run for the Roses ride on December 31. They meet in Pasadena then ride the San Gabriel Mountains, I am going to take the 61 and ride the Rose Parade route with her and show her off to all the Britts. 

 If you are ever in southern California on a cool day and see an orange classic it may be me and the old girl “Sunsetter” 

 Scott Bemis

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

1952 Triumph 6T Dragbike “The Black Widow”

This 650cc drag bike, a.k.a. "The Black Widow", was originally built for and by the Lockhart Bros. at Bud Hare’s shop in Westminster, California, according to Barry Severs of Bud Hare’s. The engine and transmission have been gone through at British Parts in Whittier, California. It is equipped with Jomo heads, cams, twin GP carburetors, custom gas and oil tanks, Borrani wheels with M&H race slick, plus a lot more. Was raced at the Santa Ana Drags during the 1950s. After seeing it raced at Santa Ana the seller came across it again in 1994 and purchased the bike. He then restored to original condition.

Going up for bid at MidAmerica Auctions in January at the Las Vegas Antique Motorcycle Auction.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Harman & Collins Triumph Desert Sled

This was the shop race bike for Harman &Collins. Was raced by Don Bohannan. Don was a Ram then became a Checker.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Triumph T&M Shop T110

Back in 2008 there was one of those very rare, actually worthwhile and super cool threads started on the jj by "Dusty" about his old T&M Shop, Street or Strip Triumph. Check it HERE. Well I got a neat email this week from another back in the day T&M Triumph owner that is hoping to track down his old bike and he sent me these pics of his old T&M T110  Triumph with a warmed up head, crank and flywheel with 9 and 6 cams and an 18 tooth engine sprocket for the quarter. 

"I had this bike custom built by T&M Motorcycle in 1963 while stationed at Turner AFB. I sold it to a guy from Calif stationed there also before I went overseas in 1965. I don't remember his name or where he was from in Calif. I worked for Duain Taylor during the day and preflighted four airplanes on second shift. Duain owned T&M and built The Deuce and Grandma. Anyway I was just wondering if you had ever run across my old bike or any remnants of it. Some of the gas tanks on your website looked similar to the one on my bike."   JO

From 1962 here is two other T&M Triumphs with Dusty on the left and Ernest McDonald, the shop painter, that rode "The Rebel" on the right. During the '50s & '60s some shops developed a local formula, show & go or street & strip, establishing a distinct style and these three bikes are a classic example of that.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Custom Aftermarket Engine / Gearbox Mounting Plates - 1960 - 1961 TR6C

 I bought these alloy engine / gearbox mounting plates off ebay about 7-8 years ago. I have no idea who made them but being right and left sides with rounded edges makes me think they are not one off parts and most likely production items from an aftermarket company. Anyone recognize? They are 1/16" thicker than the stock steel plates and a lot lighter.

All of the drilled holes are right where they should be, except for the top gearbox mounting slot.

So a stock plate was bolted up and slots were marked and center punched. 

Holes drilled and next the slots were cut with a jig saw. 

Due to the plates being thicker than stock the bottom two mounting points needed to be milled down. Down the street at my Dad's garage his low buck garage milling machine was put to use.

Next came some polishing and hand detailing and presto, custom alloy engine / gearbox plates. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012

1962 Bonneville For Sale

Bob has this sweet unrestored 1962 T120 Bonneville for sale.

Thanks Ton Up Jonnie for the luggage rack and Wellworthy Cylinders!


Monday, October 8, 2012

"Desert Special" Triumph Sled Oil Tank

Found this customized oil tank a couple weeks ago in a long closed down motorcycle shop that had specialized in Triumph's and BSA's. I searched far and wide in that shop but could not find any more related sled parts or any remnants of the "Desert Special".

In keeping with the "as found" patina philosophy, I only wiped the dust off, that way the tank could be put on a survivor bike and look the part. I'm usually bummed when I find any good old piece of formed sheet metal with a dent on it, but in this case the overall condition couldn't be any better.
The added breather tower in place of the old filler cap shows that this tank is modified for serious business. The relocated oil filler tube is baffled inside and keeps the cap at the top height of the tank. The caps were moved to the outside on sled oil tanks so the seat would not have to be disturbed to add oil.  

The mounts are for mid 1960's to 1970, 650 and 500 frames. I do not have a specific use for this tank right now and even though it would look great on my shop wall, I will entertain interesting trade offers. I'm looking for similar parts for 1960-62 duplex frame Triumph's. Skid plates, oil tanks, 15/16" throttle handlebars, seats, etc. OR....?


The 1970 T100C project I have is going to get this tank. No added breather and not the fancy baffled filler, but the bike is going to be more of a trail bike than sled. I took this to sell at the first MC swapmeet I went to over 20 years ago, but lucky for me it didn't sell for the $20 I priced it at. I wish I still had the other's I sold before I knew I was going to get over the bolt on hardtail scene.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

*** Ted's Triumph's Competition Special *** Desert Sled Blueprint

SoCal Gearhead Artist BOMONSTER hooked me up with this high quality scan months ago and now it's time to spread the word. In 1967 his dad published a motorcycle results paper called Rap Up. He wrote the articles, took the pictures and created the ads including this one. This is about as good a Triumph desert sled blueprint that you're going to find. There are a handfull of other mods that were done during that period, but this ad shows the majority of the most common. Check out his BLOG to keep up on his work and travels.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

El Camino Triumph Desert Sled

Looks like a Checkers Club machine and has many of the desert sled specific mods of the time, a little unique that it has lights. In recent years I've seen a few survivor sleds in unwashed condition like this one and I think it really adds to the story of the bike and is something that once lost is gone forever. Cheers to the guys that own these soiled survivors and are smart enough to leave them as is. Pics by Jon Rispante.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Forks Installed - 1960 - 1961 TR6C

I was going to do a post on what exactly was done with this custom fork build, but since it's all a bit experimental and I'm more into trying to get it right than take pictures constantly, here's the short story. Stock 1970 shuttle valve fork tubes with the upper small hole filled with weld because the inner spacer piece that goes between the two bushings has been shortened by one inch. This makes the forks one inch longer and more importantly gives an extra inch of travel. The shortened spacer idea came from old articles on desert sled fork tuning where they would sometimes remove the entire spacer for more travel. There are many different combinations you can do with the Triumph forks 1947-1970, some good, some not so. To make up for the shortened spacer you need to either use a longer spring or add a longer shock abutment on bottom or top. I used Cub top spring abutments that came on some models for a short period of time in the early 60's (anyone got the exact timeline?). These were turned down around the top to fit perfectly into the top covers and shortened slightly in a lathe to give a final spring pre-load of about 7/8" of an inch. For springs I used some of the progressive types sold on ebay for about $60. The covers are cut down and re-chromed MCM FC-2's. I love the way they look, but am really hoping that they work better than your typical mid 1960's stock type clunkers! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Lee Thiessen's 1969 Triumph 500 Sled

Got a message from Lee with a pic of his ongoing 500 sled conversion and good tip on running the Shinko Trials tires I have on my TR6C project.

I am in the process of finishing my sled - I think your tires are Shinko trials tires - I am running these on the 69 - I have played with tire pressures - at 35 lbs they are squirrelly on hard top - due to their soft compound - I am running them at 22 lbs now and have noticed a huge improvement - must admit that ridin gravel fire roads up here in Canada have alot of KTM dudes taking a second look at the sled!

Cheers, Lee

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gearbox - Shocks - Rear Wheel - 1960 - 1961 TR6C

 WR gearbox in frame. 20 tooth drive sprocket from the Dick Rios collection I bought last year. 46 tooth removable type sprocket on the rear wheel.

The shocks and rear wheel are installed for good after being removed for minor adjustments a few times.  The shocks are a mix of Hagon and Girling parts. Medium rate Hagon shocks with NOS 70/100 progressive Girling springs and rechromed Girling covers. Like a lot of stuff I am doing with this dual purpose project, these are EXPERIMENTAL.