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New Project - 1965 Triumph TR6SC

October 25, 2019

1966 East Coast Triumph TR6SC - restored by Terry Macdonald

 

UPDATE 2ND NOVEMBER 2019

 

Dry build work has progressed rapidly at Terry Macdonald's workshop, myriad parts have been ordered (and none returned as yet for being defective, which makes a change!) and the basic bike assembled. All fits together well and frame is perfect - compared with a very original 1970 one it lines up perfectly (despite the misgivings of several Facebook "experts" who were of the opinion that the rear frame had been bent up "for desert racing" - it definitely had not been and is exactly the same as the 1970 subframe and another it has been checked against). New fork stanchions (from LF Harris) and used top and bottom yokes and fork sliders (from Ace Classics) have been sourced - all good and true.

 

Front end loosely assembled Fork internals are later ('68) shuttle valve type. They're a big improvement performance wise and unless you strip them down nobody can tell the difference.

 

Chainguard from Ace Classics - very nice. Shocks are Hagons I bought for another project and never used. They're good quality and work well but  the painted upper shroud is too short and the chrome lower shroud too long compared to the originals. Hagons are supposedly built to the same spec as the original Girlings - but for some reason they can't get the shroud sizes right. If this was supposed to be a concours garage queen I'd replace them with pattern ones of the correct dimensions (but which don't work as well) which are available for considerably less money elsewhere.

 

Rear brake plate from eBay - very good quality, powder coated unfortunately but it looks acceptable and doesn't jump out as being smeared in plastic so will leave as is (sometimes powder coat can be alright - but generally not on 1960s motorcycles). TLS front brake plate fitted with stainless linkages from TriCor. These are very good quality but are supplied with a high shine which looks all wrong (see photo below) so have been vapour blasted to give them a much nicer dull sheen.

Shiny stainless linkages on a '69 TLS (fitted to an appallingly bad "restored to sell" '67 TT currently advertised for silly money in the UK - see previous blog post). They just don't look right. Missing grille attests to the incompetence of whoever carried out this work - imagine the potential for damage if you rode it like this.

 

RK Leighton's  of Birmingham (who have been making Triumph seats since the '60s) and make the best available ones didn't have any complete seats in stock so a seat base was obtained from P&P and I'll order a cover and foam from Leighton's on Monday when they're back from holidays. I'm fitting a plain black cover (both black and two-tone as on Terry's restoration above were fitted - I prefer plain black personally, for practical reasons as well as aesthetics, it being very easy to mark the light grey seat top). I'm going to have the Triumph logo on the back because I like it - but it's disputable whether any TR6SC from any year ever had this logo when it left the factory. From the evidence I've seen, the Triumph logo was added to the rear of the seat on 650s in the batch built in December 1965. The 'S' was dropped from TR6 serial numbers at the same time, the last one with the TR6SC stamp being DU29164, built on 27th October 1965, according to the factory records. So the logo would appear never to have been used for any TR6SC (or TR6SR, for that matter) - only for TR6C and TR6R stamped bikes. But I'm quite happy to vary from factory original as long as the finished bike is period correct and adheres fairly closely to the 1966 model TR6SC. I insisted on a logo-less seat cover for my 1966  T120C TT built in October 1965 in order to conform to original specs but I did regret it a little as the logo does look nice (as long as it's not too shiny).

 

The seat catch angle issue

 Original Triumph seat right (recovered), pattern seat left. Thanks to Terry Macdonald for photos.

 

The lack of bend towards the base of the catch means it will always catch the frame, damaging paintwork. Only proper solution is to remove the catch, make a replacement like the original and weld it back on (bodgers just bend it to fit and live with it fouling the paintwork). Why can't manufacturers make these correctly to start with? I have no idea...

 

Electrics have been assembled and tested and parts will be stripped down now and taken off to Terry's painter/welder/metal finisher in the week. The P&P seat bases for some reason always have the seat catch incorrectly fitted so this will be removed and welded back in the right place (see photo) - it could just be bent which would allow the seat to close but will always foul the frame. A few years ago when I received frame and engine from the States, knowing that I intended building it as a '66 model, I had fairing brackets welded to the headstock. Now I've decided that wasn't such a good idea, particularly if I wanted to revert back to 1965 spec at any time in the future, so I'm having them removed. The seat will be re-worked as necessary and then foam added (minus 1/4" or so cut off the bottom as the foam is always supplied too thick) and recovered once the seat cover has been received. Unfortunately - despite the advances in technology since the Sixties - we seem incapable of making pattern parts that fit like the originals and this kind of refinishing is necessary if you want to do a decent job.

 New 1-1/8" Amal Monobloc 389 fitted to rebuilt engine. Finned rocker caps were fitted to the engine (from a West Coast 1965 TR6SC desert racer) when I bought it - they look like original '60s aftermarket ones - nicer than the ones available now - and I'm leaving them.

 

More refinishing work is required on the headlamp ears/shrouds which have been supplied by Ace Classics - these are really very good quality but sadly spoilt by being covered in powder coat. As they're in a conspicuous place these will have the plastic muck burnt off and then be painted properly with cellulose. Petrol and oil tanks, and switch panel, together with fork sliders, will be painted.

 

Once this work has been completed I'll pick up the frame and take it with the yokes to my stove enameller. There are very few people who can do this forgotten art anymore and the guy I use (an engineer who is a former Manx GP winner and Velocette expert) does an amazing job. This is how Triumph finished their frames and it's just the best combination of finish and durability you can get - though two-pack is a good second best (while powder-coat is horrible crap and should never be used on any motorcycle frame built before the late '70s or whenever it was introduced!)

 

Wheels are being rebuilt this week with Devon chrome rims and stainless spokes - they look as good as the original Dunlops and a new rim is going to be stronger than a fifty year old one so for practical purposes they're a better bet - though I will get the set of originals I have re-chromed at some stage.

 

Once the frame and miscellaneous parts have been taken off for refinishing Terry will then be off on his Christmas break with work resuming in early January. By this time - all going to plan - paintwork and stove enamelling will be complete, the seat will be finished and wheels will have been built so it'll mainly just be a case of reassembly. There are a few parts still required - appropriate reconditioned rev counter and speedo for starters (on order) - but the bulk of it has been obtained.

 

So far the total expenditure for this bike (notwithstanding the extensive cost in rectifying the engine which had been "rebuilt" by a couple of American amateurs) is on track to come in at under the price of an appalling 1967 TT currently advertised in the UK which I viewed, or a couple of amateur bodge job TTs which sold recently. The TR6Cs don't sell for as much as the TTs though they're much nicer bikes to ride - unless you have a TT steeplechase track in your back yard!

 

The engine

 

Originally from a West Coast 1965 TR6SC - the real "factory desert sled" - the engine had been used for California desert racing. Like all desert racers, it had been subjected to sustained abuse before being carefully rebuilt by a couple of enthusiasts in the States, George Zilm and Garry Little - or so I was told... Suffice to say it was in an appalling state (though it looked nice and shiny from the outside) and would have no doubt seized or self-destructed if it was ever run. Here are Terry's notes from 2015 when I gave it to him to check out, expecting a thumbs up and praise for the builders' skills....

 

 

"05.11.15

 

Strip of rocker boxes + head (head has been machined on the both top and lower faces)   from engine, strip down clutch and engine sprocket lock washer not in place and the nut was loose , clutch side play over 1/4” - crank oil seal incorrect way around - Push rods were catching rocker boxes - not sitting in the rocker arms.

 

 

06.11.15

 

Strip out the gearbox, gearbox lower end corner of the cases welded at some point, surface is irregular, not a flat surface .008” - .0014” gap - Gear selector tight to remove, caused by remnants of vapour blast material - Remove barrel, .+ 060” pistons (11:1 ?) fitted - Pistons removed from rods (different types of circlips used!) - Remove timing gears, keys fell out of camshafts!, camshaft bushes and faces have been machined for some reason, allowing more side movement!! Both 1/4 screws at the crankcase throat damaged ,very hard to remove - Split cases, masses of sealant have been applied, lower 5/16 stud jammed , chisel marks or similar was the cause - strip rods (small marks on each rod) from crank (std shells) rod bolts had different size heads - Removed the sealant from the crankcase faces, when rejoined there is a large gap at the lower part of the cases, the drive side case is warped and cannot be used - Checked crank dimensions, all OK, shells on standard - Timing cover points oil seal incorrect way around - Pressure release valve stuck, fibre washers incorrect size  - outer gearbox cover 5/16 hole has been increased to 3/8” at some point - Pistons ring gap on one bore measures .060”- Gearbox lower stud hole has been broken at some point and weld applied to the machined surface, the surface was not cleaned up correctly and gaps (.008”- .014”) are present when the inner cover is fitted. A build up of weld and machining is required."

 

And that was just the start! It took a lot of machining, new parts and labour to put this old engine right, but I'm hopeful it will end up being worth it. It amazes me how willing people are to spend a lot of money on half century old machinery which more likely than not will have been subjected to similar "restoration" at some point in its lifetime, and when it has a bit of a misfire, or it's smoking a little, convince themselves that it just needs a bit of tweaking and it's fine to ride! This engine was particularly bad, but no doubt there are many out there which are little better.

 

 

Parts ordered (various suppliers):

 

Motobatt battery, front brake cams, abutment pads, rear brake arm return spring, pivot pin rear brake lever, self locking nuts/bolts for rear brake drum, rear brake lever, fork gators, fork springs, fork bushes, fork oil seals, chrome oil seal holders, bottom lug restrictor bolt, pinch bolt, cork washers, cup and cone set, inlet manifold studs, rear wheel sprocket, rear brake rod, shuttle valves, restrictor rod bolts, fork stanchions, carb manifold gaskets, manifold studs, steering stem nut, bolts, ignition coil twin lead, bulb holder, restrictor front fork, rear brake light switch, rear brake light switch kit, sump bash plate, bridge, d washer for stop light, bash plate J bolts, headlamp clips, power box, Boyer ignition, single pull twist grip, 389 monoblotc carb, offset type air filter, used Lucas 8H horn, spring abutments, fork bearing nuts, fork anchor plate, damper adjustment sleeve, friction disc, spring plate, locating pin, fork damper sleeves

 

 

UPDATE 27TH OCTOBER 2019

 

I've been looking into the specifications for the East Coast TR6SC and noticed in Gaylin's "Restoration Guide" his suggestion that the 1966 East Coast TR6SC had AC magneto battery-less ignition, like the TT and West Coast TR6SC. Both of these bikes had no lighting and while ET ignition can work with lighting it was not recommended as being very effective, so it seemed odd that the East Coast machines were thus equipped. I checked out my copy of the 1966 records though and sure enough, the 1966 TR6C/TR6SCs are recorded in the engine record as having ET, with many of them also having wide ratio gearboxes. I've decided therefore to use a twin-coil set up with this one hidden behind the headstock (as Terry Macdonald did with my 1965 T120C TT) to avoid having large coils visible under the tank. Once I've sourced a decent pair of ET coils I'll fit them under the tank, purely for looks.

 

 

1966 East Coast TR6SC-style restoration project

 

Following my unsuccessful attempt to buy a first batch 1967 Johnson Motors T120TT for restoration recently (described in my previous blog post) I've decided to at long last get around to building something from the 1965 West Coast TR6SC motor, frame and assorted other components I've been collecting over the last few years. I shipped frame and motor across from the US a while ago with some other bits and pieces. The engine, which had been used in a California desert racer, like most of these, had clearly had a tough paper round - it was, to put it bluntly, completely shagged - despite having been "rebuilt" by a couple of enthusiastic amateurs.

 

Machining and alloy welding were required and pretty much all moving parts were replaced in the engine and gearbox. The head was sent off to The Cylinder Head shop for stainless valves, new guides, hardened seats for use with unleaded and gasflowing (leaving me considerably lighter of pocket!) A pair of unused Carillo rods I had knocking about were fitted and the crank sent to SRM for machining and dynamic balancing. It's now a very strong unit just waiting to be ridden.

 

Initially I was thinking of having Terry Macdonald restore it to standard 1965 West Coast TR6SC spec - open pipes, no speedo or rev counter, no battery, no lighting. They look fantastic, and if I was a collector type who just wanted to stick it away in my garage as an "investment" and to post pictures of it all over Facebook, then that would have been fine. If I was going down that route I thought maybe I'd build it as a 1966 West Coast TR6SC - which I think really look great, with their slash cut open pipes on the left (I fitted a pair to my '66 TT for a brief period - they sounded terrible though!) I rode my 1965 T120C TT a fair bit (including commuting on it), with no lighting or speedo and open pipes and try as I might to feel like I was Steve McQueen riding across the Mojave, it just wasn't happening. Frankly, it wasn't a whole lot of fun and I have no desire to repeat the experience. These US off-road bikes - lovely as they are - I'm sure were fantastic fun when used as intended, but now they're just too high-value for anything other than an occasional gentle potter, which isn't really what they're about. Maybe they are best just stashed away in a collection after all. I only know of one person who uses his for anything like its intended purpose (beach racing - it's about as close as we'll get in the UK to desert racing), and he's a brave man!

 

My next thought was to restore it as a more road-friendly East Coast 1965 TR6SC with lighting, speedo and "silencers". I have the tank and an NOS pair of high level pipes and Britura made silencers, so that seemed a good idea. But the more I though about it the more I realised I didn't really care for the Burnished Gold/Alaskan White paintwork or the overall look of the 1965 TR6SC - I far preferred the 1966 version, with Pacific Blue teardrop tank. So that's what it'll be. Sure it's not a "real" 1966 TR6SC in that it has 1965 TR6SC numbers stamped on it, but those numbers add up to nothing and I'm really not bothered. It will be straightforward enough to convert to original spec if I ever decide to do so, and I'll enjoy looking at it as well as riding it (which is always good).

 

Essentially, it will conform fairly closely to 1966 Eastern TR6SC spec - or TR6C spec, I use the terms interchangeably. There is no difference (despite some complete nonsense I've read in books and magazine articles) - the "S" was added for unknown reasons by Triumph in 1964 and dropped, firstly from the "TR6R" prefix, on 18th December 1965 with DU31820 (shortly after the "T120TT" stamp replaced the "T120C" stamp on 9th December 1965). The first batch of competition TR6s to revert back to the former "TR6C" stamp started with DU32521 built a couple of days later and shipped to TriCor on 6th January 1966. It will be largely the same as per the photo above of a beautiful and very correct earlier Terry Macdonald restoration - without being too obsessive about it. Changes from Terry's one will be as follows:

  • Mudguards will be stainless. Painted was probably standard though David Gaylin suggests they were stainless - I'd imagine stainless may have been an option but I'm not too fussed, I prefer them aesthetically and practically.

  • Headlamp shell will be all chrome, same TR6C small style. My understanding is that both chrome and black painted shells were fitted and I prefer chrome.

  • Side panel will be 1965 style with light switch and ignition switch (the 1966 TR6C had the on/off and dip switch on the top of the headlamp - not Triumph's finest design!)

  • Ignition will be Pazon, Power Box, battery and coils. Power Box with no battery like I had on my '65 and '66 TTs is fine but isn't great with lighting - and of course, if you breakdown at night you'll have no lighting and could find yourself in a bit of a precarious position (I never used to worry about that kind of thing, guess it must be age!) With battery fitted the Power Box does mean you can always start it even if the battery's flat, which is handy.

  • Seat will be all black with Triumph logo on the back - I suppose I'd need to change it to no logo if reverting to '65 spec but there are plenty of '65 and earlier Triumphs about with the seat logo and many who maintain it was introduced in 1965 or even earlier (despite the available evidence which strongly supports it being introduced mid-way through the 1966 production year). So I won't bother.

  • Handlebar grips will be black '66 ones.

  • A rev counter will be fitted - I really missed one on my 750 Tiger Trail. They were always an option (as was the big VDO speedo, which I won't be fitting, I don't care for the look).

  • 1969 twin-leading shoe brake - because they work (and I have one).

  • Shuttle-valve fork internals

 New Monobloc 1-1/8" carb Burlen do such a good job with these new carbs - much better practically than re-sleeved originals, in my experience.

 

I don't have the original carb so have purchased the appropriate new Amal 395 (in my experience, they work a lot better than the resleeved/worn originals anyway). I have some original Dunlop rims I could get rechromed but for the same price or less I could have a pair of new wheels made up with excellent Devon chrome rims and stainless spokes (and I'll always support Devon-based businesses when I can!), so that's what I'm doing.

 

So it's not going to be a concours garage queen but just a nice bike to ride, and built to the very highest standards. I really like the look of the 1966 TR6SC, and it's a great deal less common that the TT Special (I've never seen a '66 TR6SC on the road or in a museum, and Terry's only ever restored one). I also prefer the Trophy to the Bonneville as a bike to ride, without the hassle of keeping twin carbs in sync and with little power difference, in reality (though when I was in my teens and twenties I never would have contemplated getting a Trophy!)

 

Dry build commencing (those shocks are going to have to go, top painted shroud is way too short! Why can't manufaturers just make them right?) Note '68 swinging arm - it's what I have and they're an improvement on the '65 with the dust covers so it's staying! Rear wheel smaller size, fitted to check stainless 'guard profile - it's fine!

 

A week ago I took all the parts I have over to Terry Macdonald to start the build. This time around I know exactly what I want from the outset and I'm not going to go round in circles changing things as I go along like I did with my 1966 TT Special! Terry's got straight onto it, a large number of parts have been ordered and the dry build has started in earnest. A set of crankcases has been fitted to check frame/engine alignment (all good), wiring routing has been checked and next week the tanks will be taken off for painting and frame for finishing by prior to going to my stove enameller. Now it's just a case of waiting for ordered parts to arrive and sourcing more difficult parts (a front end would be nice - I have a Ceriani one I intended fitting once but I've decided on a more standard build).

 

Things will slow down now as we enter the worst part of the year, with short days, the clocks going back and the imminent onslaught of that consumerist nightmare we call "Christmas". Nevertheless, progress will plod inexorably on amidst this self-inflicted horror and with luck and a following wind we should emerge through the other side of the gate of the year whole and, perhaps, stronger for the experience. And dancing on the heels of Spring will follow this TR6SC, risen from the ashes, out of the mystic and bathed in light - something to look forward too, indeed!

 

In the words of an old shaman:

 

"The darkness drops again; but now I know   

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

 

Don't forget the clocks go back this weekend!

 

 Parts order (Ace Classics):

 

97 1287 Top yoke
97 1577 Lower yoke
97 1842 Left slider
97 1843 Right slider
97 1844 Slider cap (2)
97 1887/8 Headlamp brackets
82 6915 Rear guard bridge
82 7067 Rear chain guard
37 1332 Hub cover plate

 

eBay US:

 

Triumph 650 TT TR6C FOLDING Footrest Footpeg SET 82-6653 82-6654 

 

eBay UK:

 

7" Rear brake anchor plate

 

TriCor, Andy Gregory:

 

70 4778 Torque stays (4)
82 5908 Engine plate
82 6066 Engine plate
82 6847 Rear light
82 6849 Rear light adaptor
82 6850 Number plate bracket
82 6891 Battery box
82 6892 Front battery strap
82 6894 Rear battery strap
82 6901 Tool tray
82 6147 Oil tank bracket
RS001   Seat plunger
RS066   Engine to frame nut/bolt.stud set CEI

RS049 Front brake linkages

 

Wassell and LF Harris:

 

Speedo drive, speedo drive drive dog, 6v small coils, Coil brackets, battery strap clip, rear mudguard U bracket, rear mudguard lower bracket, front mudguard lower stay, SS front mudguard, for slider brackets, front hub circle + dust cover, rear hub lock rings, rear wheel spindle, rear wheel distance piece, rear wheel nuts, fork top chrome caps, speedo bracket & bushes, rev counter drive box, chain guard stepped bolt, speedo spacer, speedo bracket bolts, rear brake shoes, rear wheel adjusters, brake drum, swing arm spindle & nut, swing arm shims, swing arm bobbins & lock washer, oil tank mounting pegs & rubbers, oil tank lower mount & bolt, engine plate studs, rear suspension bolts, frame to subframe lower bolts, brake/clutch lever sliding adj ball end rear mudguard support rail, petrol tank badge ds, petrol tank badge ts, switch panel, seat hinge coat hook, rubber chaser batt strap mounting, rocket oiler adapt joint washer, rocker spindle home nut, oil tank filter assembly, tank mounting grommet, front wheel spindle, front wheel spindle nut, brake shoe, front hub backing ring, brake shoe return spring, Rear wheel bolt up sprocket, rear chain wheel bolt, rear brake cam, torque stay bolt, horn & dip switch with cable, handlebar, gearbox clamp nut, distance piece eng plate to crankcase, silencer bolt, footrest stud, rear frame fixing bolt, footrest to frame bolt, steering stop, swivel pin for prop stand, lock tab washer, exhaust finned clip, rear wheel washer, socket head cap crew for lockring, seal housing for swing arm, swinging arm bobbin O ring, Lucas ignition switch body, regina 136SR, f/tank cap c/w vent, f/tank cap flat top, r/lamp ignition lock and keys, wiring harness, light switch, bulb holder, h/;lamp beam unit, h/lamp shell & rim

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