1948 Triumph, rat bike

My 1948 Triumph 500 Speed Twin

August 31, 2020

     Yes the love that got away.... we all have one. This was mine. 1948 Triumph 500 Speed Twin with spring hub. I rode this bike all one summer as it was here. Started first or second kick every time. Wasn't for sale the old timer told me....... two weeks later I halled'er home. Could ride this bike one handed on a washboard gravel road through a tight corner no problem. It was a work of art.

     Of course as most of us know brains and youth rarely go together thus I sold it in pursuit of the greener grass.

How I Tracked This Gem Down....

     Years ago I heard rumor from another "curbin cowboy" not unlike myself that old timer down the road towards Golden had an old Harley but would never sell it. "Curbin Cowboy's" were people too lazy to get a real job thus bought and sold cars for cash. I was not that great at it as far as profits but did sell great cars. Anyway being a bit of a mind reader along with the fact the guy liked to talk too much I managed to figure out where it was..... "he had so much junk you could barely see it" sorta clue. Well I knew that neck of the woods like the back of my hand so did not take much thinking to know who he was talking about. Thus I headed out to track it down. Any good curbin cowboy never revealed the location of their leads just in case you had a future need for such a lead. Oh sure you shared leads but only the ones you would not touch with a ten foot pole. That made you seem generous.

     Well before long I found the spot and drove in to talk to the old guy. Sure enough I had the right place I drove into the guys yard and got out of my truck. I had tons of experience coming onto peoples property looking for junk. This was forty years before American pickers. I talked with the guy for a short bit before bringing up the bike. Right off he told me it was not a Harley but an old Triumph. That was strange because I had just bought a 59 Triumph Chopper. I asked if it was for sale. Of course he said nope.... But he did say I could take a look.

He pointed it out and sure enough it was right there in front of me leaning next to his leaky gas tanks and almost completely covered in tall grass and weeds! I couldn't believe I never saw it.

When I asked him where the hell he got it he gave me the story. Apparently it was his brothers, one day while his brother was riding it drunk it fell over and caught fire. His brother being too drunk to put out the fire just let it go up in flames. Now John being a little on the ball offered to buy it off his brother for cheap and the deal was made.

The trouble was the fire had burnt everything off the bike. All the wiring, the speedo, tires, leather on the seat etc etc. In fact what was left of the chrome on the rims was blue from the heat. John got some new tires for the beast, welded on some plate steel for running boards, bought some new plug wires and cap for the magnito, took some black plastic hose and drove it on the throttle side for a hand grip and that was it. After that it basically sat beside the gas pump in the weeds for thirty years. Every so often grand kids would get a ride around the yard but that was about it as far as riding it. 

He then went on to tell me about his big annual spring parties he would have. It was a ritual at those parties to bet everyone the old Triumph would start by the second kick. Everyone one would laugh and take up the sure fire bet. Each year it would start and he would gather up the take!!! Well as it turned out this spring was the first year she never fired. No matter how much he kicked it over. So he had to accept defeat.

Anyway we then talked for about a hour yapping about almost everything I figured I better get going. because the cold and mosquitoes were getting the best of me. We shook hands and off I went. Half way to my truck I turned and yelled back. "hey everything is for sale for the right price... what's your right price?" He yelled back "two hundred and fifty bucks and I will help you load it". I told him great and that I did not have the cash on me but when I did I might just stop back. Hopped in my truck and drove away.

Then about a day or two later I figured out that it might be a dam good thing to buy just for parts. After all I had the 59 Triumph so it was similar so raced back down there. John was surprised but seemed impressed that I saw the beauty in the old beast. As agreed he helped me load it up and off I went. The best deal I have ever bought.... not to mention the best bike I have ever owned.

After getting it home and into the garage I started to think about how he said it ran. Thus off I went trying to figure out what the issue was. He gave me this old service manual... I forget the name but if you have one of those old Triumphs you will know. Partly because they were the only bit of written information you could find on them at the time. Between that and a little contemplation. I wondered if the mag just needed a little cleaning up. Well sure enough I did that and with one kick it sparked up. I couldn't believe it and man did it sound good. So out the garage I flew and up the street. I couldn't believe it. The bike rode like a dream!!!! The spring hub was an incredible invention.

Well the headlight and bracket on one side was gone so to geter street legal was going to be a bit of work. But I dived in. I took a headlight bucket off an old honda I had, took out the bulb, beat it with a hammer to give it some "patina" and then sprayed it with brown primer to make it look more like rust. After that I ran a wire back to the battery compartment. I also took a tail light off another honda parts bike I had there and fixed it somehow to the back of the fender. Then ran another wire back up to the battery. Now since there was no generator on the bike I often rode home in the dark. Then I would charge the battery back up for the next day.