Building a Dresda Triton from a rusty Featherbed frame and a few fertilizer sacks full of parts.
2012 Dresda Triton (1959 Frame)
Engine: 498cc air-cooled OHV parallel twin, 63mm x 80mm bore and stroke, 9:1 compression ratio, 32hp @ 6,500rpm
Top speed: 95mph
Carburetion: Two 26mm Amal MK1 Concentrics
Transmission: 4-speed, chain final drive
Electrics: 12v alternator, Lucas magneto ignition
Frame/wheelbase: Dual-downtube Norton Wideline Featherbed frame/55.5in (1,410mm)
Suspension: Telescopic forks front, dual shocks w/adjustable preload rear
Brakes: 8.7in (220mm) Yamaha TD3 SLS drum front, 7in (180mm) SLS Norton drum rear
Tires: 90/90 x 19in front, 100/90 x 19in front
Weight (dry): 360lb (163kg)
Seat height: 31in (787mm)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 3.5gal (13ltr)/60mpg
When Martin Conachey peeked inside the heavy fertilizer sacks, he knew he was going to need help to transform their contents into the café racer of his dreams. That meant calling on his friends in Ireland, and travelling to England to see legendary Dresda Triton builder Dave Degens.
“The first time I saw a Dresda Triton was in 1968,” Martin recalls. “I’ve wanted one ever since. I had just bought a rusty Featherbed frame with a pair of Commando forks, along with a gearbox and big lumps of what was once a 500cc pre-unit Tiger 100 engine. Although there were a few goodies in the fertilizer sacks — including a nice gas tank and new pistons still in their boxes — there was a lot of scrap, as well. This wasn’t going to be easy!” Is there any wonder that Martin made a beeline to Degens’ door?
Dave Degens started racing on a BSA Gold Star in 1959, and four years later bought a share in a scooter shop called Dresda Autos of Putney, London, England. But his heart was in riding bikes fast, not fixing Lambrettas, and he soon made a name for himself at Brands Hatch and Mallory Park, and in production races like the Thruxton 500-miler. Before long he and his partner, Dick Boone, were building Dresda Tritons to special order, with a choice of tuned 500cc or 650cc engines. They sold 50 in 1964. Degens always used a Triumph gearbox and preferred fiberglass tanks, as alloy ones used to crack from the high frequency vibration of a vertical twin. Dresda frames were often finished in a handsome light metallic blue.
What really made people notice Degens was when he won the 1965 Barcelona 24 Hour Endurance Race on a detuned 500cc single carburetor Dresda. Instead of developing the Triton into a point-and-squirt projectile, he had produced a motorcycle with the best combination of performance and endurance. Degens also won the Barcelona 24 Hour Endurance Race in 1970 with a 650cc Triumph engine in a specially made lightweight Dresda frame, beating more powerful Honda 750cc fours and Laverda and BMW twins.
“The first time I walked into Degens’ old workshop it was like walking into Aladdin’s cave. There was so much interesting stuff there. He thrust a mug of tea into my hand by way of a welcome, and then we had a look at my 1959 Wideline Featherbed frame. It was a mess,” says Martin. “It looked like it had been pulled out of a ditch and the front engine mounts had been hacked off. Dave sorted out the engine mounts and welded on his rear subframe before checking that everything lined up in a frame jig. He also added the headstock brackets to carry a fairing — they are there if I ever want to use them.”
Order the July/August 2016 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read more about the 2012 Dresda Triton. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email.