1951 Triumph Custom The Black Cat

I’m originally from Sydney but moved up to the Central Coast of NSW about 7 years ago, I’m 35 years old and have been married to my wife Kayla for 10 years. I’m self employed as a plumber.
I’ve always been really into old bikes I’m just really into old stuff that you can see how it works and how it’s put together. I never had bikes growing up because my parents wouldn’t let me and in my later years they reckoned if I bought one I’d have to get out!

I sort of got the idea to build this bike 7 or 8 years ago I came across a photo of Falcon Motorcycles bikes somewhere on the internet and just knew I had to build something like that. It never actually occurred to me to buy a bike, having a bike and building it just seems to go together to me it sounds stupid but I just could never buy a bike and ride it.
My father in law rides Harleys so I rang him up and he gave me the number of his mate Peter Gallagher who is into restoring Triumphs I talked to him for ages about what I wanted to do and he recommended I buy a full running pre unit Triumph then modify etc etc to build the bike I wanted. I then had to actually build somewhere to build! So I spent pretty much a year of weekends pouring a 10m x 6m slab and building a workshop complete with bathroom.

I got impatient and couldn’t find any full bikes to molest so I tracked down some guys who sell parts and frames etc. I started with a set of 1951 crank cases, flogged out set of barrels that had already been bored out to +80, a totally shot Bonneville head, a set of cams that most of the hard facing had come off and a brand new Factory Metal Works frame stretched 6” and dropped 2”.
I kept magazine photos and printed out anything that I thought looked cool and had them taped up in the workshop, I don’t think I really had a concept in mind when I started building the bike but after I got the front end on and tank mounted I kinda vaguely knew what I was going for but I would often buy a part, put it on then change my mind and go a different direction entirely.

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing so I spent probably hundreds of hours on the net researching everything and also sourcing parts which was probably one of the hardest things and one of the reasons the build actually took five years, I really enjoyed scouring Ebay, swap meets and sites like Lowbrow to find parts. A big problem was the fact that I didn’t listen to anybody and bought the engine like I did in pieces, I found out there are fucking HUNDREDS of parts in a Triumph pre unit engine so I had to s find and buy every little nut, bolt, spring and washer piece by piece. A really stupid way of doing it but it really worked out for me as I know every piece by memory of a pre unit engine and could assemble one blind folded now.

I managed to find an original set of girder forks on Greek Ebay and then modified them to accept the Triumph 1970s twin leading shoe wheel on a 21” rim. I re conditioned an original rear hub set up and then got the rims laced by a local wheel builder. I then had the ting as a roller so I bought a few different tanks but ended up using a Cole Foster tank that I slimmed down a little.
I made the bars by filling 7/8” tube with dry sand and heat bending them into shape then getting them chromed.
I bought the oil tank then spent ages making the brackets that hold it onto the bike, cause I work pretty much 6 days a week plumbing I really only had one day a week to work on the bike and sometimes I’d spend a whole day on the late or mill making a part only to not have it work out or whatever and have to start over the next week.

During this whole time I had the crank machined and had found out the head was completely fucked the valve seat inserts had been ruined before I bought it, I went back to the guys who sold it to me who said “we knew it was stuffed but you’d just have to come up with something”! Anyway they grudgingly gave me a new head after I paid more because they had put new valve guides in it. I had an old guy from a local club help me build the engine and we put it in the bike and fired it up beautiful.

I tore the bike down and had it painted by Fonzys Customs and the incredible pin striping is by Shakos Pin Striping both local guys on the coast. Got all the chrome back and re assembled the bike but I was having trouble with the timing so managed to find a guy in Newcastle Jimmy Potts from Dockyard Dragsters who’s a third generation motorcycle mechanic and who’s Grandfather was actually one of Donald Campbells mechanics on the Bluebird. I took it up there and Jimmy went over the whole thing and got it running no worries until Bang and the engine seized. I took it home and tore the motor down it ended up being somebody had tapped a thread in the end of the crank and a piece of thread had come off and jammed in the big end causing the motor to seize.
With Jimmys help I got the motor back together and Jimmy retimed and went over the engine, finally got it buttoned up and was about to take it for a ride when it started backfiring and wouldn’t start FUCK! Took the rocker boxes off and one of the valves had seized in the guide, turns out the head I bought with new guides wasn’t right the valve guides were not in straight and were not sized correctly for the valves.
I ended up buying another head which Jimmy set up and got the engine rebuilt again, ran it up and tested it no problems from the engine again! This is about the time Jimmy and I nicknamed it “The Black Cat” its had some real bad luck but its also long sleek and black, recently had a weird problem with the magneto and resisted spark plugs on the bike Jimmy now just calls it another C word.

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