It wasn’t only the vintage but the actual look of the bike which looks somewhat military and it was the look that had me scouring the net to get a name for the old Trumpy. I needed something British from WWII and it had to be a fighter because of the bikes go fast look and what did I come up with? The Tomahawk! The Tomahawk was originally named the Curtis Hawk 81a, P-40B and P-40C. In action the plane had several aliases depending on the Air Force. The American Air Force, it was known as the Kittyhawk - Warhawk and the British came with the name Tomahawk. An amazing little fighter, the fighter was used by the Allied forces American, British, New Zealand and Aussie squadrons and also the Russians and Chinese. I chose the Tomahawk name not only for its name and fighter plan credibility but for its remarkable resemblance to our feature bike, its lines, colours and stance is a relative close match or as close of a match a bike could be which may have something to do with the pairs vintage.
The bike’s owner Nick Bailey introduction to motorcycles was on a Raptor racing quad he used to run around the family’s 3000 acre farm and it was only when young Nick came back to the big smoke to pursue a career in the marine industry that he decided to build a bike of his own. Nick always had a thing for V Twins but for reasons best known to him he decided to build a Triumph. The look he had in mind for his dream bike was from the 1950’s, a little ‘’rattish’’ and with hot rod style accessories. Scouring the classifieds Nick found himself a donor project and though the bike was complete it wasn’t running and the state of its mechanicals unknown. Nick would spend countless hours in his garage with the bike taping it up and imagining colour schemes.
Nicks career involves a large amount of travel which he uses to source many of the parts. Nick would research clubs and shows on his stop overs in America and the United Kingdom to have a look at what sort of bikes were around and to access parts, he always had a vision for the bike, the balance, stance and lines even down to the smallest details; stainless spokes, levers or using cloth and he wanted to get rid of as much chrome as possible.
With the nuts and bolts Nick decided to get some expert advice and took the bike to Trojan Classic Motorcycles. Trojan owner and head mechanic Peter went over the bike and it wasn’t what Nick wanted to hear. The bike was a rough build and the frame had been butchered but the good news was that the 1955, 650cc Pre-Unit Iron Head engine and 1960 Slick Shift gearbox which would have originally been out of a Duplex frame could still be used as with the front forks and original wheels. The first step was to get the motor started and engage the gears. Once the motor was assessed running Peter recommended changing the frame and starting again with a brand new custom frame. Being a Triumph Pre Unit (engine and gearbox are separate) it wouldn’t be as easy as a later model all in one unit construction and the crew from Trojan had to work out how to align it in the frame and how it functioned.
Peter points out that a mistake most people make is that they put the bike together not thinking of how the chains were lining up and the balance of the bike. The bike’s primary cover was bent and they decided they didn’t want to put oil in it so Trojan sourced a belt drive unit similar to that used on the shops race bike which is also suitable for the street off one of their suppliers in England. The belts are oil and heat resistant and capable of taking more of a ‘’hiding’’ as Nick puts it. ‘’I hate to think how many hours we have put into it mocking it up, because we are running a battery less system to get it working right with the alternator the primary cover came on and off 17 times. Neil (Trojan Tech) had a pen and piece of cardboard marking it off, one, two, three and you could just see the frustration while he was writing it down’’
The custom frames come bare and all brackets including those for the guards and the steering stops were hand fabricated with many of the brackets positioned to be hidden from sight. The front end was a complete Triumph Standard Pre-Unit assembly but as with most bikes of its age in need of a complete rebuild. Trojan stripped the forks down and reconditioned them. The original fork sliders had lost their chrome and they had the old weathered patina that Nick was aiming for so the sliders were re-fitted. The shrouds were beyond repair and needed replacing. By chance Nick was in the shop (Trojan) one Saturday when a customer happened to mentioned how he had a set of brand new original covers still wrapped in the original paper. So Nick bought them for the right price and they were fitted.
The original wheels were stripped down, the hubs and spokes repaired and then sprayed in a matt black finish.
Nick wanted the bike to look hand built with lustreless workman like finish of a vintage vehicle whilst not taking any short cuts and achieving the look by using the right parts and materials and this was one of the reasons he called on Trojan and their expertise to do the build.
The tank and the seat are usually the best place to start when trying to achieve a look and Nick and the Trojan boys decided the tank was a good place to start also. The tank they chose was a 1969-70 SLIM line Reproduction Orian Pacific Industries tank and the seat after bringing in a couple that didn’t quite cut it from the USA ran with a Trojan off the shelf BOS seat specially designed to fit the Triumph Hard Tail frame.
Nick decided to go with a GMH-HSV black satin for the frame and matt for the tank. When choosing the paint Nick decided to use a readily available line of paint for its obtainability. The front and rear aluminium guards are hand made from the USA and took six months and several attempts to make and were made of raw thick grade aluminium which Nick chose to balance out with the engine cases and primary cover, being a similar gauge. Peter feels the frustration the American fabricators were going through when fabricating the guards. The boys were going for a tyre hugging look and when finally done the guards still needed some tweaking to make them fit. The tweaking didn’t stop there, the headers are custom drag bike headers built for a 650cc Unit Triumph and had to be modified to fit the Pre Unit motor and the rear brake lever was off a standard unit and had to be modified to fit the frame, as was the Metal Works brake rod kit. Chosen for its alloy look, it too had to be modified to fit. The oil tank was custom built in the US to Trojans specs. When sourcing parts and in this case the oil tank Trojan have certain standards and demand a certain grade of metal and welding rod in which they would like the fabricator to use.
With the completion in sight the bike was run for the first time in some time and the top end had a leak so Peter and the boys stripped down the top end and sealed it up only to have the magneto fail on its next attempt but it was third time lucky and Nick and the Trojan boys were ecstatic with their creation. Nick described the bike as ‘’a real fun bike to ride and an old bike with new bike reliability’’ and Trojan Pete is happy with the bikes handling ‘’everything aligned great, you can take your hands off the bars or do a u-turn whilst idling without putting your feet down, it’s just a well-balanced bike and both owner and builder are both very happy!’’