1961 Triumph Speed Twin, 5TA - Part 1 - An introduction

First a few disclaimers.

  1.  This is about old bikes so my apologies are due to Thomas.  I know you don’t think old bikes are worth more than their weight in scrap steel.  Hard luck; this is one of the few things we disagree on.
  2. Sorry too to general readers.  This whole series of stories relates to a motorcycle that is approaching 60 years old.  If you have no knowledge of the bits and pieces that make infernal combustion engines work, you may need to use Google on some of this stuff.
In my mis-spent younger years, my brother in law told me of an old Triumph motorcycle which was for sale.  He reckoned that the number plate on it could be sold for more than the cost of the bike, which we could then sell as well, thus making a decent profit on the two transactions.  Never one to ignore the chance to pocket a few quid, I agreed to go and see the bike with him.  That was over 30 years ago now.

It turned out to be a 1961 Triumph Speed Twin, and had not run for years.  It was complete though, the engine turned over, and the seller, (who was a car mechanic), claimed that the engine had been rebuilt shortly before it went into storage.  We got a quote of £1000 for selling the number plate and ended up buying the bike for £600, so things initially looked good for this little enterprise.  Incidentally, I cannot understand why anyone thinks their life will suddenly improve if they pay a vast sum to have their initials or some vaguely recognisable version of their surname on the back of their car.  When driving they cannot see it, so other than making their vehicle marginally easier to recognise if parked next to an identical vehicle in a large car park, I can see absolutely no advantage to their purchase.  On the other hand, I am quite happy to take their money. J

To sell the number plate, the bike had to be Mot’ed and taxed, so it had to run, and since I was doing the work, I added it to the insurance I had at the time.  It wasn’t difficult to get the bike running.  I can’t remember doing much more than replacing the rear tyre, the chain and sprockets, cleaning out the carb and setting the ignition points properly.  It did not run well though.

Of course, once it was road legal my curiosity got the better of me and I took it out for a few runs.  Despite running roughly, leaking oil, and being very slow for a 500cc motorcycle, it had real charm.  It was comfortable, and the deep bass of the exhaust note was sonorous as we glided along local back roads.  I found myself liking it, and then spent a fair amount of time fixing the ancient electrics and improving the somewhat ineffectual period brakes.

Sorry for the bad photo.  This is a scan from an old photo print.  I don't have many photos of my bikes from back then.

It took nearly a year for the number plate to find a buyer, but long before that happened my brother in law lost patience with the project and sold his share to me.  Meanwhile in the run up to the number plate’s sale, the bike had started to run increasingly badly, and there were a few ominous noises developing in the engine.  At the time I didn’t care, because I still intended to sell it, so minimal intervention to maximise profit was the order of the day.

There will be more about this old bike in later posts.


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