Fulfilling a Dream

Story by Calvin Danells// Photos by Robert Calnen
August 22 2018

This was the first motorcycle author Calvin Danells ever rode, and he never forgot about it

1950 Triumph on a BoardwalkIt all started back in 1967, when my next-door neighbour in Lancaster, N.B., Geoff, purchased a used Triumph 350. I marvelled at that bike every time I saw it, and after about two years of asking – or more like begging – for a ride, Geoff allowed me to ride the bike across his back lawn. At the tender age of just 13, that was my very first ride on a motorcycle. The love of riding was ingrained in me right then and there. Geoff sold the Triumph to his brother Peter in 1969, and over the next several years, I rode that Triumph many times, and purchased a few bikes of my own, including a BSA 250 and a Honda 175, but none could replace the Triumph.

Life Changes

Engine of the 1950 TriumphIn 1973, the bike was used as a prop in the Saint John High School play Annie Get Your Gun. Peter continued riding the bike until 1976, when, due to some mechanical issues, it was parked in his basement. That same year, I joined the Navy and moved to Halifax; I lost contact with Peter for several years. At this point I had a family and a career, and motorcycling was just not in the cards for me.

In 1992, I decided to get back into motorcycling and purchased a 1976 Honda CB 750F. I rode that bike for a few years, but never forgot about my first ride on the Triumph. A few years later I purchased a 1984 Gold Wing, and I have been riding Gold Wings ever since – my current ride is a 2015 GL 1800. I consider myself an avid motorcyclist and have travelled to all but four of the United States, and every province in Canada on the Wing, many of them several times. I’ve been known to ride 200 km just for lunch.

Over the past several years, I have stayed in touch with Peter, and I often inquired about the Triumph, always asking if he would consider selling it to me; after all, it hadn’t seen the light of day since 1976. Peter always responded with a firm no. But finally, in January 2016, Peter agreed to sell me the bike. I guess persistence does pay off.

The Resurrection Begins

1950 Triumph RestorationI wanted to bring the Triumph back to its former glory and revive my childhood love affair. So thus began the resurrection; once the bike was in my garage, the long process began. The first item of business was to acquire overhaul manuals and some British Standard and British Standard Whitworth sockets and wrenches. After a few months of searching both online and locally, I finally had the manuals and the needed tools.

The teardown began in July 2016. The first step was to remove and strip down the engine – and I soon found out it was in much worse shape than expected. After remembering all the abuse we as teenagers put that bike through, its condition really shouldn’t have been a big surprise. In fact, it’s a wonder the Triumph survived at all. Not only did the engine require a complete rebuild, but most of the internal components were beyond repair and needed replacing – even the crankshaft and cylinders were toast. After a lot of online searching and many phone calls, I finally located every engine part needed, and believe it or not, all were NOS (new old stock) parts.

Following many hours of sanding and polishing, the original engine covers looked new, and I assembled the engine. The original transmission was inspected and serviced with new bushings. Next on the list was to have the frame media blasted and powdercoated black, and then the engine and transmission could be mounted back into the frame.

The original gas and oil tanks and the fenders were sent out for dent repair – and trust me, there were lots of those. For the paint, I decided to use a base, and then mix gloss and matte clear coats to get the correct level of shine similar to the factory Hard Black paint the bike originally had. The wheels were way beyond repair, so I replaced the chrome rims with reproductions, and reused the original spokes and hubs to lace them together. Some reproduction mufflers and headers completed the list of big parts needed to finish the bike.

Now finally after about 16 months and countless hours, the Triumph was ready for final assembly. After more than 40 years of sitting, the speedo needed to be cleaned and lubed, as did the generator; a few more weeks of work getting the small bits done and the final assembly was completed.

All Fired-Up

On January 28, 2018, the Triumph was ready to start. Peter travelled over from Saint John, and several of my friends were also on hand for the first attempt at start-up. On the very first kick she stumbled and on the third kick she was running. Wow, first time running in almost 42 years – what a day. The old memories came flooding back. I couldn’t wait for riding weather to arrive so I could get her on the road and relive some of my childhood memories.
I ride it weekly and put it in local shows. I’m a firm believer that vintage bikes and cars should be seen and used, not collecting dust in somebody’s garage.
I’d like to say a big thank you to Moto Montreal, Motoparts Edmonton and British Cycle Supply Wolfville for all the help tracking down the many parts needed to restore the Triumph, and also to Cook’s Classic Rebuilds in Dartmouth, N.S., for all the help throughout the project.


Copyright ©2002-2024 Motorcycle Mojo | Privacy Policy | Built by Gooder Marketing