Bad Timing: Custom Triumph T110

A Triumph with a T110 engine is rebuilt for the Born Free show over a 10-month period.

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by Jonny Bourgault

Triumph T110

Engine: 649cc air-cooled OHV parallel twin, 71mm x 82mm bore and stroke, 8.5:1 compression ratio, 42hp @ 6,500rpm (in stock trim, w/o dual carbs)
Carburetion: Dual Amal 376 Monobloc 1-1/16in
Transmission: 4-speed, chain drive primary and final
Electrics: 12v Alton generator and BTH magneto
Frame/wheelbase: Steel full-cradle type, 56in (1422.5mm)
Suspension: BSA girder front, rigid rear
Brakes: Dual 7in (178mm) drum front, 7in (178mm) drum rear
Tires: 3.5 x 19in front, 4 x 19in rear, both NOS Avon Trials Supreme
Weight: Unknown
Seat height: 28in (711mm)
Fuel capacity: 2.5gal (9.5ltr)

An opportunity can come at an inopportune moment. Just ask Jason Friend. When he was invited in late August 2018 to build a custom motorcycle to appear in late June 2019 at the Born Free 11 show in Los Angeles, California, he says the request came completely out of the blue. While Jason was excited about the opportunity, he’d just moved his young family from the San Francisco Bay Area to Phoenix, Arizona, and didn’t really have the funds or the time to dedicate to such a project.

“But I talked to my wife, Lori, about this and asked if she thought we could pull it off,” Jason says. “I’d set a bit of money aside from the sale of the house in California to build a shop here in Phoenix, so I did have some money, it just wasn’t meant to be for a bike.

“I figured I likely wouldn’t be asked again, though, and this was my one shot at building a show-quality Triumph.”

From mini-bikes to Brit bikes

Jason grew up in the early 1980s in Ney, a small town in northwest Ohio where he was a self-professed mini-bike mad pre-teenager cruising around the family’s couple of back acres. While living in that town, the only motorcycles he thought existed were Hondas and Harley-Davidsons. Obviously, there wasn’t much exposure to other brands but by the time he was in his early 20s, Jason was riding on the street aboard early to mid-1970s Japanese motorcycles.

As he began exploring the internet and joining forums such as The Jockey Journal, he became aware of British motorcycles, and became fascinated by pre-unit Triumphs. Jason got his first pre-unit when he swapped his 1963 Ford Galaxie with one forum member for a 1962 Triumph Bonneville chopper.

In 2005, he moved to California with the Triumph and a 1980 Honda CB750. When he got there, he sold the larger Honda and began buying, customizing and selling more 1970s Japanese machines.

“I started getting really good at horse trading,” Jason explains. “And I could find Triumphs listed on Craigslist. Eventually the Japanese stuff was left behind, and one Triumph became two, and then three — they just started multiplying.”

The Green Dragon

One of those Triumphs was a vintage chopper nicknamed the Green Dragon. Found tucked away in a shed by a friend in Oregon, the bike’s rigid frame was originally produced by the Triumph factory in 1951 and was from a 6T, or Thunderbird, model. A clapped-out 1954 T110 engine was in the frame and this was all topped off with a king/queen saddle wrapped in brown vinyl, ape hanger handlebars, an extended front end and, of course, green paint. As discovered, the bike was a dusty, oily mess but Jason bought it from his friend and squirreled it away.

At the same time Jason began accumulating complete Triumphs, he also began acquiring many cast-off Triumph parts that no one else seemed to want, such as bent and cracked frames or other nearly worn-out pieces. Much of this collection was placed on shelves, waiting for the day the pieces could be salvaged and repurposed on another Triumph.

When the Born Free invite came, the Green Dragon earned a new nickname: Bad Timing.

“I’d had an idea percolating for a long time about what I wanted to do with that old Triumph,” Jason says. “I didn’t really expect to be moving on it so soon, but about four months earlier on eBay, I’d found a 1938 BSA De Luxe girder fork with a really cheap Buy It Now price and I’d snapped that up, intending to run it on the Green Dragon project.”

Of the direction he wanted to go for the Born Free build, he says, “for Born Free, it seems a lot of the bikes tend to go for a ’60s show bike look, which I really like. There are different shades of that, but I was inspired by a different era and the bikes of the late 1940s and early ’50s, those with girder forks and ram’s horn headers.”


Working in his Phoenix garage, Jason got started by dismantling the Triumph and media blasting the frame and fork. His next step was figuring out a way to get the larger diameter BSA girder fork steering stem to fit the Triumph bearing cups. Eventually, he decided to open up the cups by 1/16 inch so the stem would fit through. He found help doing that from a former NASA engineer in Colorado. Also, the BSA stem was too short by an inch, so Jason cut it in the middle and welded in a stepped spacer to make up the difference.

“I was really concerned about the angle that the bike would sit at with the girder fork,” he says, and adds, “I was really happy to see the stance when I initially mocked it up with a 19-inch wheel up front and a 19-inch wheel out back.”

Mock-up continued using a Triumph TRW gas tank. With the machine on the ground, however, Jason says the tank — originally meant to fit the flathead 500cc military Triumph — was just too big. He went on the hunt for a mid-1960s Triumph T100SC tank and found one from a fellow enthusiast in a Facebook Triumph group. “It looks much like a TRW tank, but scaled down,” Jason says.

To make the T100SC tank fit, the top front section of the tunnel was heated with a torch and curved up. This allowed it to sit lower over the top frame tube, making everything more aesthetically pleasing to Jason’s eye.

Wheels are both 19 inches in diameter and Jason used chrome rims from Central Wheel Components. At the rear, an original Triumph rigid hub was put into service. This uses a 9/16-inch-diameter axle and tapered roller bearings instead of the larger diameter 25/32-inch axle and ball bearings of the swingarm Triumph hub. On the rigid brake backing plate, there is a nose on the pivot pin that engages a slot in the left frame dropout to act as an anchor.

Up front, Jason modified two front hubs by splitting each in half and marrying them together so he could run dual 7-inch brake drums. This is a modification he’s seen on a few race bikes of the 1940s in archival photographs. Initially, he was planning to cast aluminum brake backing plates but the clock wasn’t working in his favor. Instead, he used two 7-inch rear brake backing plates with the dust covers removed. The brake stay stud on one was relocated, and new actuating levers and trim rings — to cover the brake drum lips — were cut on a water jet. The rings were welded into position and ground smooth.

To make this dual-drum setup work, Jason enlisted the help of Kelly Haifley of Haifley Brothers Hot Rods & Motorbikes in Phoenix. Jason made a custom wishbone to operate the dual brake rods, and this was mounted behind the main blade of the girder fork. It’s a single cable to a dual-rod-operated affair, and all of the fittings were brazed to the BSA fork tubes. While on the subject of the fork, it also has custom dual dampers with one-off adjusting knobs. The made-in-Chicago Do-Ray headlight was mounted on a flange that began life as a Harley-Davidson floorboard mount, and Jason modified a Triumph steering damper and made a custom lower yoke insert to make it all work. All other unnecessary tabs were shaved off.

More custom touches

From Ace Classics Jason ordered their complete rear fender to fit 1937 to 1948 Triumph motorcycles. It’s a two-piece fender with V-shaped mounting brackets. Jason was going to modify this fender by bobbing it and working in a ducktail tip.

“The more I looked at it, the more it looked like a lot of work and I’m only capable of so much fabrication, especially with sheet metal,” Jason allows. “That’s when I spoke to Joe Cooper.”

Joe Cooper operates Cooper Smithing Co. in Washington state, and he manufactures handmade motorcycle fenders. The pieces he produces are quality, hand-hammered items, and he says he likes the challenge of producing a unique fender design submitted by a customer.

“I have a 1957 Triumph Tiger Cub fender and it has a real sharp ducktail on it,” Jason says. “Plus, I came up with a tri-rib design, where the two outer ribs terminate a few inches from the end of the fender. I drew a few sketches and took some pictures of the Cub fender and sent them to Joe. He made this fender, and I can’t say enough positive things about Joe’s work.”

From the Ace Classics rear fender, Jason harvested the mounting brackets and narrowed them by 1-1/4 inches and mounted them to welded-in-place threaded bosses he added to the underside of Joe’s fender. He also cut out the stock metal plate on the 6T frame where the original fender would have bolted in place at the top and welded in a nicely arched tube.

For a seat, Jason made a metal pan that was inspired by a Bates TT-style saddle. A leather cover was stitched by Sallie Hartdegen of Haifley Brothers. On the Triumph frame, a front mount was welded to the top tube and the original solo seat spring mounts were removed from the upper rear frame stays.

Engine work

Usually, Jason likes to build his own engines. On Bad Timing, however, he enlisted the help of Ryan Mullion of The Tiger Shack in Orange, California. It was a crank-up restoration, and Jason had to find a new unit-Triumph crankshaft, new unit TR6 cams, a five-fin T110 iron head and eight-stud pre-unit barrels, plus a timing side tach drive cover and Smiths tachometer.

“Ryan said it was the worst motor he’d ever had to start with,” Jason says, and adds, “it had a laundry list of issues.”

But Ryan forged ahead, and the aluminum cases were vapor blasted clean and rebuilt with a restored oil pump and all new bearings and gaskets. A BTH magneto provides the sparks while an Alton generator makes power to charge the battery. The overhead rocker oil feed is a steel MCM item and the splayed dual carburetor manifolds are Webco originals fitted with new Amal 376 Monoblocs.

The exhaust was made up of stock 1960 to 1962 Triumph TR6 high-level pipes, tweaked to sit level, and capped off with 16-inch Superior trumpet tips welded to the ends. Inside the 16-inch trumpets, Jason welded in 8-inch Superior tips and added spherical honeycomb mesh in the ends.

“At this point, I was officially running out of money,” Jason laughs. “I had set a lot of stuff aside to be chrome plated, and my quote was astronomical. Luckily, I ran into a local hot rod guy who takes his stuff down to Mexico — and that’s where most of my stuff got done. Even the fasteners, which are all correct British threads, were chrome plated.”

For the frame, oil tank and gas tank, Jason packaged it all up and shipped it to Jay Medeiros and George Quirk of DGB Paintworks in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He wanted it finished in blue and mentioned to Jay a House of Kolors Oriental Blue and a Honda Trail 70 blue that was popular in the 1970s. Jason also requested a minimalist flame on the tank. Jay custom-mixed his own blue, and George Quirk laid down the flames.

As the parts and pieces came back from the finishers, Jason assembled Bad Timing in record time without too many last-minute issues. And, just 30 minutes before dark the evening he and Lori loaded up and headed for Born Free, Jason added fluids and fired up the Triumph. It started right up, he says, and that remains to be the case. Follow Jason on Instagram — his username is the tongue-in-cheek
@edwardturnerlives — a nod to the designer of Triumph’s parallel-twin engine motorcycles.

Born Free

At Born Free, Bad Timing received plenty of attention, and Jason enjoyed meeting many of the other Triumph faithful, including Hello Engine’s Hayden Roberts, Thompson’s Cycles’ Bryan Thompson, and also Tom Heavey, David Morales and Nick Heer.

Of the 10-month adventure, Jason says he was humbled to have been asked by Born Free show organizers Mike Davis and Grant Peterson to assemble a motorcycle. He also had help from a number of people who lent an ear and provided advice, but it was his family who understood his commitment and Jason says they were the best cheerleaders one could ask to have.

“I’m usually pretty nit-picky about my bikes when I’m finished building them,” he concludes, but adds, “Even though the opportunity really was bad timing, I felt pretty positive about this Triumph.” He should. Bad Timing won Best British at the 2019 Born Free event. MC

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