Triumph Cub: 1960 Production Test

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"Triumph: Production Testers' Tales" by Hughie Hancox details the author's time, 1960 to 1962, as part of the production testing team at Triumph.
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1960 T20S factory picture. Equipped with energy transfer ignition system. No battery meant direct lighting.
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The Police T20. Sometimes these little machines were fitted with screen and leg shields, depending on the particular police authority requirements.

Triumph:
Production Testers’ Tales (Veloce
Publishing, 2012) is the story of one worker’s time on the Triumph Production
Testing team from 1960 to 1962, packed with amusing anecdotes about the
obstacles associated with a tester’s daily life. With guides to fixing problems
still found on the 1960s models, and previously unseen photographs of machines
restored by the author, this is an intimate and useful account of one of
Britain’s most famous factories. The following excerpt comes from the section, “The
Cubs.”

Buy this book in the Motorcycle Classics store: Triumph: Production Testers’ Tales.

There was no denying the
fact: the Triumph Cub, generally, was a little motorcycle, but with the feel of one of
its bigger brothers. With its punchy, four-stroke engine, it did not seem like
a tiddler when you were riding it. Okay, so it only developed a heady ten or
twelve brake horse power, but the lovely muted bark from its Burgess silencer
made it somehow seem more.

We were halfway through the
year already, and it would only be a few more months before the 1960 models
came to an end and the 1961 new models would begin coming off the lines.

With Joe leading to give me
some idea of the speeds involved in testing the little Cubs, we proceeded up
past Millison’s Wood on the way to the top of Meriden Hill. Both Cubs the T20
and the T20S — had the same engine and carburettor, but the sports model had
bigger forks, upswept exhaust, and a higher riding position, and came with
Energy-Transfer ignition which enabled it to be ridden in competition without a
battery. I don’t suppose the sports version was very much faster than the
standard model, but it seemed to be, especially with the sports cam and
stronger valve springs. The engine was also a little noisier, due to having a 9
to 1 compression piston rather than the 7 to 1 standard item.

As I followed Joe up to the
top of the hill heading toward the village, I suddenly became aware of the
beautiful exhaust note that Joe’s machine made, coupled with that of my bike.
It wasn’t noticeable on the twins, so I suppose it was because they were single
cylinder machines that this peculiar strobing effect came about. I remember
back in the early 1950s, as a regular visitor to Oulton Park
and Silverstone, hearing the big Manx Nortons pulling hard in a bunch, and
giving off this very same effect. It was almost like the ‘wa-wa-wa’ sound of
the out-of-sync engines of the Heinkel III German medium bombers when they
‘visited’ Coventry
in 1940.

There was no doubt that,
with its nacelle, pull-back handlebars, and Triumph patented twin-seat, the
little bike sold like hot cakes. It was the bread-and-butter bike for Triumph,
and the going-to-work-on bike for the masses. Wages in 1960 were round about
fifteen pounds a week in the big car factories, so it was no surprise that, at
one hundred and forty four pounds and fifteen shillings, including purchase
tax, the little Cub was a bargain.

Cresting the brow of the
hill, Joe opened up a bit on the downward run toward the village. Passing Church Lane on the
left, the place where Peter Cooper was killed, we approached the village in
tight ‘line astern’ at about fifty miles an hour. Easing off, we slowed and
trundled past Arthur the policeman’s house at roughly thirty miles an hour,
giving a quick glance over to the right to see if he was in. You could usually
see his police spec Triumph Cub — equipped with a screen, and a radio-transceiver on
the specially adapted twin-seat  — parked
on the drive at the side of the police house if he was in residence, but if it
wasn’t there, you had to be very wary as he could appear behind you at any time
on the test route.

The radio equipment on
Arthur’s bike was made by PYE of Cambridge, and wasn’t transistorised, so was
about the size of a breeze block, and twice as heavy. With an aerial on the
back and a special fitting on the top of the petrol tank to take the two-way
handset, we reckoned that, with its rider’s weight added, the police Cub would
do all of thirty miles per hour downhill with the wind behind it.

Going through the village on
a very light throttle ensured a pleasing ‘wuffle’ from the Burgess silencers,
nothing that anyone could take offence at, really. The T20S sports model was
noisier, probably because it had a slimmer style silencer, with a
thinner-than-standard main body. You really could elicit a staccato ‘bark’ that
did, on occasion, annoy some of the elderly residents of the village if two or
three Cubs were ridden together.

Approaching the island in
the village centre, with its cyclists’ memorial on the green, Joe changed down
into third and indicated with his left hand that we were going to dive down to
our left, on the start to the ‘Mile.’ Following suit, I heard Joe start to
accelerate in third, and then change up into top.

Running easily at about
fifty miles an hour, we proceeded slightly downhill along the ‘Mile’ in close
formation, the exhaust notes mingling and ‘strobing’ delightfully. Depending on
how you felt the motor was running, you could increase speed momentarily to sixty
miles per hour to ensure all was well, but your left hand hovered over the
clutch lever all the same should it require ‘snatching’ in the event of a
tightening motor. Thinking back, I never, ever had a seizure on any model I
rode, but my friend, Big Bill Letts, had untold difficulties in 1953-54 when
the first Terriers came out. Bill said they were “little buggers” that would
nip up anywhere; on the centre stand when you were getting ready to go out,
when you pulled out of the factory, when you shut off on the over-run, they
seized just about anywhere. He reckoned, given half a chance, they would even
seize when the engines were being built on the Terrier/Cub track!

It was definitely something
to do with combustion chamber temperature when the engine was running under its
own power, because they didn’t nip up on the rollers when Fred ran them. It
turned out to be piston material expanding too quickly under combustion working
temperatures. Bill said it was all sorted out satisfactorily, but there weren’t
half a lot of Terrier re-bored barrels sent up to the Service Repair Department
for service exchange items!

At the bottom of the ‘Mile’
was the Cornets End Lane
junction, and at this point we shut off and braked. Looking over our shoulders
to ensure none of the Big Boys were bearing down on us at speed, we U-turned
and headed back up to the lay-by, and Somers
Lane rest area.

Only a couple of weeks ago,
I went for a ride down the ‘Mile,’ and now at the bottom is a large island, but
the old lay-by is still there, just as it was all those years ago. I was
disappointed to see Somers lane was no longer a lane, but a fully fledged road,
and an entrance to a plush golf club which has expanded to both sides of the
‘Mile.’ Billy and Bonneville’s field is still there, but now it’s occupied by
horses, not the couple of splendid rams that trotted up to greet us every time
they heard our engines.

Pulling the two Cubs onto
their centre stands, we immediately removed our gloves and helmets, placing
them on the grass bank where we sometimes lay in the sun. Then, our trusty
reversible screwdrivers in hand, we set about adjusting both tick-over speed
and pilot mixtures. By having the motors at working temperature, it was easy to
slow the tick-over, then gradually wind in the pilot mixture screw until the
exhaust became lumpy, then out again from this point until a steady, firm
exhaust note was achieved. All that was necessary then was to reset the
tick-over to the desired speed, which, on the standard Cub, was approximately
six hundred revs per minute. The bikes could then be switched off and rested
for a little while, whilst a roll-up was savoured and enjoyed.

This excerpt has been
reprinted with permission from
Triumph: Production
Testers’ Tales — from the Meriden Factory
by Hughie Hancox and published by Veloce Publishing, 2012. Buy this book in our
store:
Triumph: Production Testers’ Tales.

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