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Tiger/Bonneville rebuild: This is gonna take a while

9847 Views 35 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  RidingDonkeys
So a month or two ago I hit a stark realization that I needed to check some things off of life's to-do list. Mortar rounds a gunfire tend to keep things in perspective, and admittedly, I've kind of fallen into a "routine" over the past two years.

I sat in my shelter in this wretchedly hot desert wondering what I needed to check off my list. Kids. No, not yet. College degree. Yep, need to do that, but that's going to take a while to finish. How about something easier? Well, I've always wanted to do a motorcycle ride across the country. Sounds great! That's it! Oh, just two problems. First, I haven't been on a motorcycle in ten years and, thus don't have a valid license anymore. Second, I don't have a motorcycle.

The first problem is an easy fix. I'll take an MSF course and get my license as soon as I get back home. The second problem could be a bit more difficult. The wife needs a new car. We just bought a house. Hmmmm, where's the money for a motorcycle?

Rewind to 2003, while stationed at Fort Gordon, GA, I laid my eyes on the sexiest motorcycle I've ever seen. It was a 1968 Bonneville, hardtailed, lowered, and slightly stretched with little to no additional rake added. I remember because I had to ask the guy exactly what it was. It looked like he built it in his own garage. Simple, nothing flashy, and gorgeous. I was in love with a British gal.

Suddenly it hit me. I'll build that Triumph I always wanted! It's the perfect opportunity to challenge myself, learn a lot, and get a one of a kind motorcycle in the process. But to keep costs down, I'd have to do it Johnny Cash style: One piece at a time.

I've never worked on a motorcycle before. Jeeps are the pinnacle of my mechanical experience, and anybody can fix a Jeep. But I've got a few things on my side. Will to learn and patience top the list. I've also got in-laws with every tool known to man, huge workshops, and the expertise to use everything they own. I spent my leave before this deployment learning to weld from my Uncle, a master welder. Of course, they are in Oklahoma, and I live in North Carolina. No problem because I've got time too.

I scoured the net looking for a donor bike, from NC to OK and everywhere in between. My options seemed limited in my home state, but seemed promising in Oklahoma. The prices were just too high here on the east coast. Once I had about given up and decided to make a move on something in Oklahoma, I found something! A two Triumph basket case deal, including a 67 Bonneville and a 68 Tiger. No real pictures to speak of, and the guy was almost two hours away, but after months in a war zone, rational decisions are boring. A quick nod from the wife, and I was negotiating.

I ended up getting them for a total of $1600. The Tiger engine is running, the frames are rolling. The Bonneville engine is in pieces. Serial numbers match and titles in hand for both of them. That's about all the info I had, but it sounded like a great deal at that price.

My wife picked them up today, and sent me the first previews in an email.

Oh Crap! This is gonna take a while!

What's up with those headlights?

Looks like the Bonny has pipes!

I detest, are those Sportster wheels!?

And is that really a Tiger fuel tank there?

Looks like the forks have been raked a bit. I guess that kind of determines where I'm going with this rebuild. I was hoping to maybe pull a street tracker out of one of the frames for my wife, but these are already low and hardtailed.

So this is what I have to work with. I look forward to getting home in a month or so. May the fun begin!
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Fantastic fun - hurry home!

First off, let's hear it for your wife! Packing that truck full of British goodies and hauling it home in advance of your return is pretty amazing and wonderful. Yay wife(s) - I wouldn't be here without getting a green light from my sweetie too.

I will leave it to the others here to answer your technical questions, but from a rookie's perspective it looks like you have the fixins for a ton of fun ahead of you, so please hurry home and I look forward to regular updates of your progress (and occasional set backs).

Two other things: You're darn fine writer as well - college patiently awaits you. And Oregon is, in fact across the country from the Carolinas - If you're contemplating a destination, where I live has some mighty fine roads - Hope to show them to you sometime.
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Engines are engines, but those are chopped frames, period.

"Go with what you've got". Will your sweetheart ride a rigid chop?
She's a tough gal, she can handle it. I just need to make sure the saddle has springs. If in the end she hates the hardtail, she'll just have to hand it over to me!
So I'm taking hard looks at the photos so I can start developing a strategy. I began to think something was missing here. Then it hit me, I only see one gas tank. The better half confirms, there is only one.

Even though the frames are chopped, I want to keep the tanks original, as my overall goal is to keep both bikes distinctively Triumph, albeit slightly chopped.

A quick search on the net reveals that original tanks in good shape are hard to find for a slim wallet. Finding a deal may take a while, so I need to know if I should be shopping for one or two tanks.

Any ideas on what the one tank is from?

Did the tanks differ between the 67 Bonneville and the 68 Tiger?
I think the Tiger had the larger size tank, with parcel grid through 68.

I handle new repro Triumph tanks at less than the cost of typical scruffy originals, e-mail me if you're interested.

i just traded off my last original spare (with some other stuff), for a complete Norton engine.
The mystery tank

GPZ, I may well be putting a shopping list together for you. In the meantime, here are some better photos of the tank.

As they say, not everyone who knows how to weld is a welder. There's work to be done here if I keep this one. But what I don't see is the normal indents for knee pads that the old Triumph tanks had. That makes me suspect.

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That's a Paughco aftermarket tank, nothing NEAR a Triumph OEM bit.
I thought it looked very "Harley." I just couldn't tell for sure from the first shot of it.

Ughhh. At least I've got two frames and engines.
I thought it looked very "Harley." I just couldn't tell for sure from the first shot of it.

Ughhh. At least I've got two frames and engines.
If you wanna get rid of the tank. I know someone who will prolly buy it. :D
Motopsycho, PM me convince me not to use that tank :D
And so the tank is off to a better life in a new home. Great doing business with you Motopsycho.
Gas Tanks

Not much happening on the project, but I'm readying to make my return home so things should pick up shortly.

Given the chopped frames, I've decided to roll with a little of the bitsa mentality. I intend to keep these bikes Triumph, and I want them built in such away that they are easily recognizeable as Triumphs. But, they don't have to be "Concours" chops either, not that there ever was such a thing.

As previously discussed, tanks are expensive. For what the original tanks cost, a replica tank is the way to go. However, I just scored a Trident tank in impeccable shape on the cheap! It's clean, lined, completely dent/rust free, and was painted for preservation. So it looks like one of these is getting a Trident tank.

Given the frames, I don't think there should be too much problem mounting this tank up. The petcocks will obviously come out the rear of the tank, versus underneath, and I don't think I'll have too much difficulty with the coils. We'll see.
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The Trident tank is a good score. It has the same lines but is wider and gives you an extra gallon or so of capacity.
Work is killing my fun time!

I made it home just after the new year, and thought I was going to have some time to play with the project. Sadly, I came home to my lovely wife who decided to surprise me by getting a contractor to redo the drywall in our second bathroom. Of course, that meant he hangs it and muds it, and I'm left with the rest of the work. There went the last two weeks. On top of that, I've already left home again for a 6 week jaunt in Georgia. Work is killing my fun time.

Here's what did go down though. I managed to get everything off the trailer and do a detailed inspection. There were a couple of surprises. First, I found out that both bikes have some sort of Lucas electronic ignition. I'll have to see if they work when I get back. That's a big plus because those aren't cheap!

The silver frame looks like a high school kid learned to weld on it. The welding job for the hardtail is aweful. I'm going to have to redo that. I definitely have the welding ability, but not the equipment to properly weld anything that rolls. I have never welded a motorcycle frame, but something tells me it requires a lot of bracing to align properly. I'll figure that one out when the time comes.

There are lots of parts that don't belong, but it looks like everything that does belong is actually there. So some parts will be making an appearance in the classifieds soon. They even threw in an extra wheel. I have two motorcycles and five wheels, one spectacular set, one Harley Sportster set that is soon to be featured on ebay, and a random spoke rear.

Finally, the Trident tank I got was even better than expected! It is immaculate and is going to look good on either frame.

That's about all for now. Hopefully I'll get more done soon!
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Welcome home

Welcome home, and hopefully life will not get in the way of your fun too much longer, you've certainly had plenty of that.

When I once thought my project might take 6 weeks, I am glad to say I'm probably more than half way there, and only after 8 months.

Most every minute of it has been fun, or at least good learning op.

Glad your stuff is as good as you expected - hope you have something to ride soon.
Learning to weld...

Time is flying, and a bathroom renovation seems to be taking up all my money and time. Nevertheless, I found some time to play today. I've been having some issues with the Tiger...titling issues. The good news is that the numbers match as promised. The bad news is that this title has been signed over half a dozen times without ever being retitled. Apparently this became a problem with the North Carolina DMV while I was living in Germany.

Now to the welding issues.

Well, I've got a pretty good idea how to weld, but the guy who did this frame did not. Just take a look.

Fortunately, it has numbers.

And they match the engine.

But the welds hardly look road worthy.

This is the one "good side" of the frame.

This is going to be fun.
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And the mystery springer...

So this frame has work to do. This is unfortunate, since the motor is actually together now. So I have a working engine with a horrible frame in the Tiger. The Bonnie has a working frame with a jigsaw puzzle for an engine. This really is going to take a while...

Now to the front end of the Tiger. Just for curiosity's sake, I'd like to identify this springer front end. It looks pretty generic to me, and I can't find any identifying markings. Maybe you guys have some ideas.

And please pardon the Sportster wheels. They only serve as a means to roll this beast around until I find something better.

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Unfortunately, I don't know anything about that springer front end. Looks super interesting and sturdy though.

And the welding... It's maybe only a little worse than mine. I kinda 'learned' how to weld while building my street tracker bike. Borrowed a 110v wire welder from a friend and added some tabs for the tank, a box for the battery, license/tail-light holder and narrowed the seat rails for the bum-stop seat I wanted. It got a little better as I went along, but not worth 5 cents on the dollar to look at.

The 'hammered finish' paint I used masked some of the poor quality, and I think all areas are strong - just not very professional looking.

eh. It was my first project, just a proof-of-concept that turning into a fantastic, fun motorcycle.

Nice to see you are back in the posting business - glad you're making progress.
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