A California-Inspired Triumph with a TR6 650 cc Engine: Some motorcycles speak of so specific a time that it’s like they have their inspiration emblazoned on their sleeve. This West Coast inspired Triumph is one of those motorcycles.
Era Exact Triumph
With his face pressed against the glass in the back of his parents’ car, a young Alan Richards stared slack-jawed as motorcycle outlaws sped past. In his New Zealand home, where most club members rode B.S.A.s and Triumphs on the twisty highways, the image of rebels tearing it up on British-based choppers and bobbers was seared in Richards’ memory. Owning his first Triumph at 18, it’s been a love affair with no end – regardless of where he’s lived.
Richards has hopped around the world, residing in England, the U.S., and as of 2007, Canada. He and his wife landed in Calgary, and here he’s continued to hone his chops as a bike-builder. His fascination with handcrafted motorcycles in 2009 led him to Oak Canyon Ranch in California and the first Born Free Vintage Chopper and Classic Motorcycle Show.
Born Free is a grassroots happening where thousands of garage and professional builders show up and display modified motorcycles. There are, however, a select group of 25 ‘invited builders’ who are meant to set something of a standard. In an off-the-cuff text to Mike Davis, one of the show’s promoters, Richards wondered how exactly one becomes ‘invited’.
“The text back said, ‘What are you building?’” Richards remembers. For several years, the Kiwi native had been collecting parts to build a pre-unit Triumph show bike in homage to Southern California customs of the late 1950s and early 1960s. “Mike then sent me an email that said, ‘Sorry to announce – but you’re in.’”
Richards had been working slowly on the Triumph, which is based on a 1953 rigid frame sourced from Baxter Cycles in Marne, Iowa, but he wasn’t exactly facing a deadline until the invitation to BF5. Now, there was a fire in his belly. Richards had found a 1959 Triumph TR6 650cc engine, and had Wes White of Four Aces Cycle in California rebuild the power plant.
“I’d had the engine for a couple of years, and pulled it apart,” Richards says. “It was a complete disaster, even the crank itself was cracked.” White fixed a whole host of problems, and installed high-lift performance cams with a replacement crank. When Richards found out he was going to BF5, he pulled the Bonneville head with its dual polished 26mm Amal carbs and the barrels so he could chrome plate all of the top end fasteners.
The separate gearbox is from a 1953 Triumph. Because Richards had also completely assembled the transmission before the BF5 invite, he painstakingly went back and polished the case by hand using progressively finer sandpaper, ending at 1000 wet and dry. Final lustre came from polishing compound and elbow grease. All aluminum was polished, including the primary and timing covers.