An old home-built Triton gets a makeover fit for the racetrack.
The latest build from SDG Moto, as featured in Retro Bike Magazine
Wayne Fazzalari is a life-long petrolhead from Adelaide with an enviable collection of automobiles, including a couple of Porsches and a serious Ferrari. “My father was into speedway so I was always around cars and speedboats and engines, ” he says, “just not so much motorbikes.”
That all changed when he visited a friend in France some years ago. “He had an original Triton, first registered in 1959,” Wayne says. “I’d never had a bike before but said to my friend, if I was ever going to have a bike, that’s what I would get.”
Wayne was true to his word when his mate later emailed to say he was moving the Triton on; a deal was struck and the bike was duly shipped down under. “I’d had it for a couple of years when I saw another one for sale on Scott Gittoes’ (Facebook) feed,” he says. “I told him I’d buy it on one condition, and that was that Scott restore it. The original plan was to rebuild it as a road bike but I already had one of those so we decided to do it as a track bike.”
Scott Gittoes from SDG Moto on the NSW Central Coast takes up the story. “The Triton was owned by a local, Billy Madden, an old school racer from back in the day. It was something he and his mates had cobbled together 20-odd years ago; he’d raced it a couple of times and it was on club rego.” The bike had seen better days and Billy wanted to sell it, but was having no luck finding a buyer, so Scott offered to advertise it on his SDG Moto Facebook page.
“We sold it within 24 hours,” Scott continues, “to a long-time customer in Adelaide, Wayne Fazzalari. He already had a road-going pre-unit Triton that he’d bought in Europe. Wayne flew over, paid Billy the money, then rather than take the bike home, he left it with us to do our thing. He said, ‘I’m not going to tell you how to suck eggs, just do what you do.’ He gave us carte blanche, let us fly free.”
This would be a very personal build for Scott, whose father Allan was a successful motorcycle racer. Along with his mate Phil Page, Allan came out of retirement (from competition) at age 60 to go classic racing on a trio of Tritons. “Dad and Pagey figured they needed a spare.” Scott laughs. “So it was a bit of a nostalgia trip to be working on a Triton again.”
For those who came in late, a Triton is a marriage of a twin-cylinder Triumph engine and a Norton Featherbed chassis, the former the quickest of the early post-war twins and the latter renowned for its fine handling. Fitted with clip-ons, rearsets and a small ‘fly-screen’ fairing, it became the quintessential cafe racer of the 1950s and’60s, as popular on the street as on the track.
The engine here is a 650cc T120 Bonneville from 1971, relatively late for a Triton. “It’s not the ideal thing,” Scott says, referring to the purists’ preference for pre-unit Triumph engines from before 1963. “But to do what Wayne wants to do, a unit-construction engine is easier to maintain, no mucking around with primary chain adjustments every time you ride it.”
Unit construction aside, many Triumph enthusiasts regard the smooth, free-spinning 650 as the pick of the OHV litter. Although weathered on the outside, the engine’s internals were in good shape, making the rebuild an uneventful one. The engine is stock, apart from a Boyer Bransden electronic ignition and the exhaust, which comprises custom 1¾-inch headers (stock is 1½ inches) from Redline Motorcycle Exhausts in South Oz dumping into non-baffled Manx Norton megaphones sourced in the UK. Carburettors are new (stock) 30mm Amals.
Externally, the engine was vapour-blasted before the primary and gearbox covers were painted black in two-pack, mostly to be different but also to blend in with the black cylinder block. Ditto the unpolished timing cover. The original home-built front and rear engine mounts (to match the Triumph bits with the Norton bits) were a bit ordinary, Scott says, replaced here with billet components sourced in the UK. “I’d had my eye on them for years but never had anything to put them on.” Scott then machined his own alloy head stay under the fuel tank to tie it all together.
The main chassis is an early-reproduction Wideline Featherbed frame, made from chrome-moly, although the swingarm is stock Norton fare in mild steel. Both are finished in black two-pack paint. SDG Moto rear shocks were fitted and offer adjustment for spring preload, compression damping and rebound. Norton Roadholder forks do the job up front, pretty much the same front end as fitted to every Norton from 1953 to the last Commando on 1977, but here refurbished with new staunchions, bushes and seals. The stock Norton steering damper is also retained, albeit adjusted by a custom knob embossed with the Triton logo.
The hubs and conical drum brakes are Triumph, laced to alloy rims. The brakes were refurbished with new linings and springs, and custom alloy torque plates fabricated before the drums were painted black, referencing the two-tone black-alloy vibe of the motor. The rims, as originally fitted by Billy Madden, were still in good shape and polished up a treat before being relaced with new stainless-steel spokes. Tyres are the new super-sticky race-compound Avons now being offered in classic sizes and profiles.
Bodywork is a mix of original, reproduction and handmade parts. Most special to Scott is the genuine Norton Manx nose-cone, which once graced s double-knocker (DOHC) Manx that his father raced in the late 1950s. The clip-ons and adjustable clutch and brake levers are also Manx parts, although the quick-action throttle is from Joker Machine. Tacho is a new Smiths-style replica.
“The fuel tank is something you will never see anywhere else,” Scott says. “In those days, Billy and his friends didn’t like spending money and made everything themselves. It’s an alloy tank that they shaped and panel-beat by hand.” The temptation was there for Scott to replace it with a reproduction Norton Manx sprint or TT tank, but it’s come to grow on him. “Tritons are every person’s interpretation of what a race bike should be,” he says. “There are little pieces of everybody in their own builds; this was Billy’s vision of what a race bike should look like.”
The new handmade alloy oil tank was sourced in England and holds 3.7 litres. Paint is by Japsports with pinstriping and graphics by Shacko Pinstriping. The original seat unit was binned, replaced by a fibreglass seat base from Mick Jones of Tumbi Umbi Fibreglass and covered in leather, suede and red piping by Dave at Custom Upholstery. All four businesses are based on the NSW Central Coast. Mick Jones also supplied the Manx-style rear guard and laced the wheels, while Peter Steele was commissioned to plate most of the external bolts and fasteners in a gold-like passivated zinc coating.
As we write this, Wayne hadn’t seen the fruits of Scott and Dave’s hard labour, but there is already talk of them doing their thing on Wayne’s other Triton. Allan Gittoes’ last Triton is also waiting patiently in the back of the shed for its turn on the busy SDG Moto bench. There’ll be some emotion invested in that one too.
WORDS GEOFF SEDDON, Editor, Retro Bike Magazine
PHOTOS JEREMY HUDSON PHOTO
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