"BRIT IRON" takes you behind the scenes at

December 2011 - Issue #15

* WE BREAK THE 1,000-MARK! - Unique Visitors per day, that is.
* MERRY CHRISTMAS, RABERS-STYLE - Raber’s Christmas Party

When I started this site barely 13 months ago, I set an arbitrary goal for myself of 1,000 Unique Visitors per Day by the end of this calendar year (2011). ‘Unique Visitors per Day’ is one of the standard yardsticks in website building, to measure & gauge traffic performance of a website. Starting from zero as I did on my first day, on October 19, 2010, One Thousand of Anything sounded like a huge number, and thus a very ambitious goal, and a nice round number, to boot. So, 1,000 Unique Visitors per Day by December 31, 2011 was the goal and I’ve been making steady progress toward it every month. However, on November 28th, for the first time ever, I not only hit it, but I exceeded the goal with 1,029 Uniques that day, and then again on the 29th, I hit 1,073! Of course, I was bouncing off the ceiling. A full month ahead of schedule!

This is a wonderful milestone. I feel like all the hard work is paying off. I’m really building something here, and it seems to be making a difference to people, certainly the ones that I talk to at the Auctions and Shows I attend, and the Rides I go on, and from the letters I get here at CBM. It’s been a lot of work building literally hundreds of pages of content, but it’s also been its own reward. I mean, I get to have an excuse to get out & do all this stuff, then spend my time writing about it & taking pictures & talking to fellow aficionados of Classic British Motorcycles. What could be cooler than that?

I plan to continue building out this site for the rest of my life, and it could take every bit of that. After all, every year of every model of every make of postwar Classic British Motorcycle deserves its own page, with eye-popping photos, specs, history & all the rest. It is the depth of the site. But I also want to increase its breadth, by covering more events & more types of events, starting a free online classified ad section, a forum, and who knows what else? If you can think of something, let me know.

Rabers Parts Mart, the greatest Classic British Motorcycle Shop in the world (in my humble opinion), and located in San Jose CA, is having their annual Christmas Party this coming Saturday, December 10th, from about noon on. Rabers is located at 1984 Stone Avenue in San Jose, and if you’ve never been there before, this would be an excellent time to come out and meet all the fine folks there. Bob Raber and his entire crew are not only world-class experts on all things to do with Classic British Motorcycles, they are riders themselves, and genuinely good people who will take their time to answer your questions & make sure you get the right stuff for your bike. Take a tour of the shop while you’re at the party. There will be food & beverage & lots of fellow Classic British Bike nuts like yourself to chat with. And CBM will be giving away a totally gorgeous 11X17 color poster of a ’62 Bonneville until we run out. If you’re reading this, then you need to be at Rabers this Saturday for their Christmas Party. I’ll be there, so make sure I hunt me down. And tell those Rabers folks that you heard about them through Classic-British-Motorcycles.com

Dramatic, huh? So, if you’ve been with me long at all, you have already heard plenty about my ’79 T140D Bonneville Special that I bought as a sort-of-running fixer-upper for the bargain price of $3,000. Long story short, by the time I put on two new tires, a new chain, complete brake systems front & rear, and rebuilt the carbs with Euro-spec jetting, I was in it almost $6,000, and it still looked rough & needed a top end, at the very least, with 37,000 miles on the clock. But hey, I got it, I fixed it, I’ve been riding it & it’s not all that bad. So, my plan was now to ride it for the season (just passed & I missed half of it due to my broken foot), then tear it down for an engine overhaul & whatever else I deemed it needed, after some ride time on it. So, that’s where I am now. It’s winter, I’m done riding for awhile, and so it’s time to tear it down & do it over. It’s my winter ritual. So, I tore the whole thing apart over the past week, removed the engine, stripped everything off the frame (except those reflectors in the photo), popped the barrels off (they were loosey-goosey) to Rabers for a bore job, new pistons & rings. Below, you will see the carnage. I plan next to split the cases, change out the cams for something with a little more life in them (by 1979, the cams they used were aimed more at emissions regs than performance), new bearings, the works.

So now that I’ve committed to refurbishing the bike, I am faced with a choice. Do I restore it to its original state as a ’79 Bonneville Special, or should I morph it into something else? Something more...interesting. I have quite a history of doing the latter, as the Yellow Bike clearly shows. And I’m not all that crazy about the T140D Bonneville Special look anyway. It’s not bad, but hey, even Triumph couldn’t sell them when they were new. And it’s not much better today, with good ones trading cheaper than non-Special ’79 Bonnevilles. And their are tons of them around too, so its not like I’m spoiling something that must be spared. So, as I see it, my options are wide open. And I vowed to consider finishing it back original as a viable option, alongside anything else I was considering. But, after much thought, research & soul-searching, I have come to a decision.

This 1981 Triumph T140LE Bonneville ‘Royal Wedding Commemorative’ was an Australian export, and so part of a limited run of only 250 such British-spec bikes. These were uniquely finished with silver frames & ancillaries, black engines & trim, Lester mag wheels, and the Italian-made 4-gallon tank used on all British-spec Triumphs in 1982 & 1983, only this one was chromed, then painted & pinstriped. An additional 250 were built to American-spec with black frames, au unpainted engine & the smaller US-spec tank painted black. This British-spec version is the more handsome of the two, by a long shot, in my opinion.

So, my plan is simple. I’m rebuilding my engine anyway, I planned to repaint the frame & all the stuff anyway. The brakes, tires, chain & carbs are already done. So, how hard would it be to simply paint the frame & all the bits silver, instead of black? And painting the engine & the fork sliders black will save me the trouble/expense of polishing them. Now, I’m just down to the two items I don’t have: that distinctive tank, and the dual exhaust (remember, the T140D has a 2-into-1 setup). While I really hate the sound of the 2-into-1 exhaust (I thought I would like it, but it sounds almost like a single) and I’d love to replace it, my budgetary constraints on this job (I’ll probably spend $1,500 on the engine & other stuff) are going to specify its continued use. However, I may paint it satin black to match the engine...we’ll see. That leaves the tank. Ah, the tank. Non-existent used, and almost as hard to find new, they still make them in India, but they run about $600. And that’s before any chrome work, which will run another $450. Then, comes the paint & pinstriping. Doing this tank right could cost me $1,300 to $1,500. Then, I’d have to change my seat to accommodate it, another few hundred bucks. So, I decided to go another route, one that will meet my budget goals, but still yield a distinctive, totally great-looking bike. I’m going to take the stock T140D peanut tank, strip it down to bear metal, brush it up nicely, then apply a sealer over it. It won’t be chrome, but it will look really cool, bare brushed metal like that. I once had a Harley finished that way & it looked great. This should look pretty good & I will be able to do most of it myself, right down to painting the black wings on the tank. I’ll leave the gold pinstriping to professionals, however.

To call it a “Royal Wedding-clone” or a “-replica”, would be inaccurate, because those names imply that some effort was made to make it look like the real thing, or that it was the intention to do so. That is not the case here. My ’79 T140D could never look like an authentic ’81 T140LE because my bike doesn’t have an electric starter (that gangrenous lump growing on the timing cover), nor does it have the correct mag wheels (my ’79 has Morris mags with 7 “H”-section cast spokes, while the ’81 has Lester mags with 7 “X”-section cast spokes), although they look very similar, at a casual glance. No, my bike won’t fool anyone who knows what they’re looking at. Nor is it intended to. I simply like the looks of the British-spec Royal Wedding specials, so much so that I wanted to copy the look for my next custom bike. So, maybe it’s a Tribute Bike then, in that it is a tribute to the original. But, even that implies a faithfulness to the original, that my bike won’t have. It just steals what it wants & leaves the rest. So, perhaps a more fitting label would be to call it a Facsimile, not really a copy, but sort of a ‘rendering of what a copy might look like’, or words to that effect. Either way, call it what you like, when I’m done, if all goes right, it will be a bike that not only runs & rides well, but turns heads wherever it goes.


Their slogan: If you want it done wight, call wong. That’s just wong!

And while we're on the subject of buying things & spending money, please consider doing some of your holiday shopping on this website. I'm sure you have plenty of people in your life who love motorcycles as much as you do, right? Well, how about giving them a year's subscription to a Motorcycle Magazine, or get them a cool Classic Motorcycle Calendar. And of course we have tons of awesome Motorcycle Books in our bookstore. Or, if you feel like really turning it on for someone, how about a Motorcycle GPS System or a Helmet Cam. Think about it. Check it out. Thanks...

Hope you enjoyed this issue of "BRIT IRON" as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please tell your friends about it, and my website, Classic-British-Motorcycles.com. And please urge them to subscribe to this e-zine. It is my hope that the right people will discover this website & tell the right people, who will then pass it along to more of the right people, and...well, you get the ideal.

Thanks for all your interest & support,
Andy Tallone,

PS: I'd love to hear from you, get your comments, ideas, suggestions, criticisms, whatever. Please contact me.
And above all, enjoy the ride...