The term ‘café racer’ has become so abused, it’s lost virtually all meaning. (Okay, we’re occasionally guilty too.) So let’s go back to square one, and check out a bike that fits the description to a T.
This drop-dead gorgeous Triton belongs to Englishman Adam Grice, who saw the light after getting tired of modern Japanese sport bikes. “I was watching Cafe Racer on Discovery Channel, and found myself hooked on the cafe scene,” he tells us. “After months of looking for the right bike, I finally stumbled across Brenda.”
‘Brenda’ is hardly the most glamorous name. But maybe that’s the English sense of irony at work. Adam’s Triton has the perfect aristocratic pedigree: a 744 cc Triumph T140V engine from the mid Seventies snuggled into a ‘wideline’ Norton featherbed frame.
Straight away, Adam knew that he’d have to get the spanners out. “The bike was all there, but running rough. And it just didn’t look right. It had straight bars, a little fly screen, and fiberglass fuel and oil tanks. Plus a strange battery box sitting halfway along the rear fender.”
On the up side, the Triton already had the desirable short Norton Roadholder forks with external springs, 18-inch alloy rims, and a few Dresda bits—including the swingarm and engine mounts.
Adam also lucked out with an SRM Classics clutch, a Boyer Brandsen ignition, and a Hayward primary belt drive kit. The oil filter was from a Norton Commando and there’s a Norvil front disc conversion. “Not period, but works a treat,” he notes.
He’s rebuilt the engine with a multitude of new parts and Amal Mark 1 concentric 930 carbs, complete with bell mouths. “It had high compression pistons, but the previous owner had reduced the height of the ten head bolts. God knows why—it cost me two blown head gaskets. So I replaced the cylinder barrels and head, and reverted back to standard pistons for reliability.”
With the help of a mate called Shorty, Adam has also installed an alloy five-gallon Manx tank, which conceals the ignition and coils underneath. The oil tank is also in the Manx style, with the front squared-off to increase the space between the tank and carbs.
Other goodies include a Manx seat, a Norvin top yoke, and stainless mounts to hold the classy Smith instruments. Magnificent English names have provided other parts: John Tickle for the headlight brackets, and Barleycorn Engineering for the rearsets, seat loop and rear fender. The only concession to modernity is the lithium-ion battery hiding under the seat hump.
Much as we love the current trend for scramblers and trackers, a traditional café racer like this exerts an irresistible pull. Maybe it’s time for the loop to go full circle?