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’65 Triumph TR6SC – Retro Wrench

Posted on August 17, 2013 by Andrew in Bobber, Classic. 36 comments

There’s a lot of talk of ‘barn finds’ in the bike restoration scene; that mythical, magical moment that happens once in a lifetime (if you’re lucky) where you stumble upon a bike lost to the world that turns out to be the last of its kind in existence. And then you win the Lotto twice in the same day and become the President of the World. That’s right… chances are it’ll never happen. The more likely scenario is that your dream bike is a basket case that’s been abused beyond all recognition by an army of previous bad taste owners and you’re the only one who sees the diamond in the (chopper) rough. Because that’s exactly what happened to Donny Greene and the lads at Retro Wrench in Louisville, Kentucky.

As with most of bikers, the Retro Wrench boys obviously keep a close eye on the classifieds. A typical neglected project chopper/digger project popped up on Craigslist and the emails amongst them began to fly. It was exactly the build they had been waiting for. They ended up with a 1965 Triumph TR6 that hadn’t run since the early 90’s. Upon further inspection, they found matching serial numbers that showed it was a limited edition “SC” racer also known as the “Desert Sled”, built at Johnson Motors in Southern California and TriCor in Baltimore.

The first order of business was removing the Harley peanut tank and ape hanger handlebars and getting it back to its racing roots. So Matt Westbrook, James Kemp and Chad Francis from the Retro team went to work. The bike came equipped with a belt driven ARD magneto and with a little tinkering, a few parts and a complete rewire the electrical system was back up and running without the battery one of the previous owners had installed.

The boys developed an effective, if not drastic, answer to Kentucky’s tail gating epidemic

The focus then moved to the motor. Despite their worst fears of metal shavings and siezed internals, the antique lump was in much better condition than they had expected. With the carbs rebuilt, gaskets replaced, a bunch of TLC and a couple of tickles later… she was ready and running.

Sweet copper highlights and one of the nicest fuel sight gauges we’ve ever seen

Meanwhile, shop fabricator Brad White aka the ‘WhiteNoiseMaker’ was busy, too. With his eyes on a suitable tank replacement, he started with a Yamaha T1 gas tank which was narrowed by an inch and a half, cut on the bottom to clear the engine and frenched for fuel sight glasses down each side. Then the ACME cartoon bomb oil tank (formerly an aircraft fire extinguisher) was shaved of all gauges and brackets, cut and welded back together to clear the fender and chain. The stainless wick was conceived by Louisville chopper legend, Jinx.

Remarkably, the paint was also done in house at Retro Wrench Garage, with cups and cups of pearl in the clear coat while Josh at Culver Customs laid down the tasteful pinstripes. The bars were dropped beneath the shortened girder forks and cut narrow for lane splitting. The 21″ dirt bike front wheel and knobby continue the digger look.

Good ol’ Triumphs – they’ll run on just about anything

The finishing touches included the seat and fender, which were built to accent the bike’s original old school sissy bar. With all the compression and subsequent giddy-up of a bona fide desert racer, the bike is aptly referred to by the Retro Wrenchers as the “F-Bomb”. The end result is a vintage bike with great lines and a silhouette as evil as Electric Wizard sounds. And as someone who’s just heard them for the first time, that’s really saying something.

[Photographs by Nicholas Karem]

  • xb12r

    Interesting, unusual and totally rad. Love the girder and the brass touches, and in fact the whole damn bike. Change nothing and ride till those knobbies are slicks.

  • dirtydan, front end has, board tracker elements with a springer front, lone lamp, drop bars, the spoked up knobby, which all have a fine and engaged look..then the ‘bomb’ oil tank, seat, rear end all fall off the planet. I guess the no-theme look is what they were going for but this thing looks as mismatched as Kermit and Piggy.

  • hah

    look, its the moped crook!

  • As someone who saw this bike when they first rolled it into the shop, it definitely took some effort to find the style in this piece. I hear what dirtydan is saying, but there are plenty of bikes out there with the style “you expect”. This is thing is off the planet, which is what makes it rad.


    What a thing to do to a classic old desert racer… just short of criminal in my book.

    • Davidabl2

      “Sacrifices made for Art” isn’t an excuse that cuts it for you, I guess.
      P’burn maybe should run the before pictures on some of the bikes shown, like this one.
      So the cognoscenti know if a crime has been committed. Or not.

  • 3s and 7s

    If this was a matching numbers, limited edition bike I wonder how many triumph enthusiasts would’ve rather seen it restored to original? Perhaps it was to ruin by previous owners to make that possible. To me it kinda looks like the halts of two bikes stuck together. That said the girders are nice, the bomb is unique and the tank and other touches are well done and interesting. Maybe just not my cup of tea.

    • arnold

      Not what I would do (or plan doing is closer to it), but I will not be very critical of people that actually turn derelicts into dreams.
      One Triumph enthusiast voting.

      • 3s and 7s

        Yea fair enough. I’d rather see this on the road instead of sitting in ruined condition in a barn. These guys are more skilled than me by a long way so I defiantly have respect for them.

  • That looks to be a really comfortable riding position.

  • Dig the gas tank shape with the frenched in sight glasses. The girder is a nice touch, too. There are a lot of nice Trumpets in museums and collectors’ garages to satisfy the purists. Kick the tires and light the fires and ride it like you stole it.

  • arnold

    Well, no great worries about wet sumping, and thanks for doing the Mag thing.
    The seating arrangement goes well with the style, but my old big butt would be bruised and raw just taking it around the block.
    Yep, it wasn’t built for me.
    Pretty damned good any way. ald

  • Brett

    Well it doesn’t have to be in a barn to be a find but they blew it imho.

    Matching #’s, Johnson Motors! Desert Sled!
    Bill Johnson is pretty much synomous with Triumphs success in the US.
    Johnson motors was where Steve McQueen bought his bikes, where he met Bud Ekins.
    This is the model that McQueen won the 1964 ISDT races with

    and they choose to come up with this?

    No question, Nice build but there are still a lot of old bitser Triumphs avaiable that could have got them there – instead of up something with a bit of history & provenance.

    As Forest gump says in the movie ” stupid is as stupid does”.

    • As detailed in the article, it was already altered pretty drastically before they got their hands on it. And their intention was never a resto job. They aren’t that kind of shop.

      I’d also ask you not to disrespect anyone in the comments section, please – especially a bunch of guys who have offered up their work for us to enjoy.

  • Lewn

    Surely there are still bikes from the 70s that look like this already and could be restored?

  • Joey Duncan

    I dig it! The bomb is hilarious

  • Schindo

    The greatest part of owning and being around motorcycles is the
    “mechanical pallet” that is available to anyone that has an imagination
    and the drive to create. A person who can take the” common” and make it
    a conversation piece is a true artist. Respect the artist!! This
    transformation is a job well done. It turns heads and drums up

  • Stephen

    Rat bikes and rat rods are built by guys with few resources, a bone yard to dig through if their lucky, not a custom bike shop. I was one of those guys growing up, we built what we could afford, enjoyed them and returned them to the boneyard. We didn’t offer them up as some work of fine art. I’m sorry, I have an irrational soft spot for old Triumphs. I understand they started with a box of parts, I just wish they would have took it another way.

    • WhiteNoiseMaker

      I don’t really see how by posting it on the internet was offering up a work of Fine Art. Trust me we know the difference. Anyone that has followed Retro Wrench on Facebook for the past ten years already knows we aren’t into the ordinary or expected and I have a healthy respect for built not bought, regardless of resources. This bike has become my daily rider and it is in every way a race motor, this thing effortlessly eats bikes twice its size and it doesn’t need to be returned to stock to do that. Thanks everyone for all the kind words, check out our other builds maybe you’ll hate them, alot of times Art is simply in the reaction to it.

      • Stephen

        I apologize for the “fine art” comment, no where in the article or at your website did you make that claim.

      • dropdeadfred57

        I like it, even if it is a triumph. But then again I like almost anything with two wheels and an engine. Much nicer than a wide back tire easter egg paint looking monstrosity. Good Job.

  • It’s the same old issue – some people like restores, some like customs. Some people like retro tires, some people like modern rubber. Turn signals, no signals, and on and on. How about you just comment on what it is? It’s just a wicked chop. When it was first underway, I thought, how about match up the wheels and rubber a bit, some stuff is painted, some chrome…in the end, awesome. It has a bit of a f*ck you mentality to it, and I think that’s what pushes it over the edge. I’m over all the pristine show bike shit. Brad rides the PISS out of this thing. It’s goes like stink, looks legit and upsets traditionalists. Success all around in my book.

  • DougDevine

    Congrats to Brad and the rest of the Retro wrench crew!! As to the negative commenting people, as in art, bikes and women we all have different tastes. With that being said, just because I’m not attracted to you significant others doesn’t mean you should find a new one!! Again good job retro wrench!!! Controversy sometimes are the best accolades.

  • revdub

    The tank work is awesome.

  • Davidabl2

    I’m showing some old-fogyism here but I gotta say “tha Bomb” just ain’t.
    For me that oil tank takes the whole project way to close to “theme bike” territory -but we can thank the chopper gods (if any) that the bike didn’t fall into the hands of somebody who really does theme bikes ala OCC Jesse James etc.

  • Davidabl2

    If, as an experiment , while looking at the last picture, you hold up a couple of fingers so all you see at one time is first the section behind the riders leg, then the section from in front of the guy’s leg to his hand and then look last at the front end, well then it looks like three different bikes. From three different historical eras and at least two different continents. While “Art is Art” this is kind of a “stretch.” At least for me.

  • dropdeadfred57

    Forget art and look at the great detail and craftsmanship. Some people can’t see the trees for the forest.

  • KP

    Cool bike, I imagine the brake and shifter assemblies are really hard on the legs. Looks like they need to be lifted up a bit from horizontal.

  • coldsunshine

    Nifty. Lose the sissy bar.

  • Kenny

    Not a fan of the rear half of this bike, everything else I love except maybe the front brake *shivers*. But each to their own.

  • Those are amazing!

  • StainlessButcher

    I’ve got an un-restored original condition version of this ’65 tr6 sc sitting in my shop now. There are still a few left around. Less than 800 were built, most for the west coast as desert sleds, the remainder for the east coast as on/off road bikes including lights, instruments, etc.