I am currently trying to resurrect a mid 50s Triton racing bike built in Banbury UK and much later brought over to VA USA by the builders son. It is a 1956 Manx Norton frame into which has been built a 1939 Triumph T100 engine. The gearbox is pre unit Triumph. It has nor run for about 50 years. I am assuming that as a road racing bike the engine was run on castor oil. The question is---was the gearbox run on castor oil or mineral oil? Both engine and gearbox had been fully drained for transport to US many years ago so although there are oil residues they are completely dried up. Does anybody know of a home based way of determining whether the oil residues in the gearbox are castor oil or mineral oil? Thanks in advance for any help.
Hi TM, How do you know it is a Manx frame? 1956 is quite late as the original Manx success was 1950.
By about 1953 they were using featherbeds for ES2 and Dominator, but they weren't the Reynolds tube/SIF bronze welded frames of McCandless, though I can imagine that there may have been special issue for a few years.
Does it have numbers stamped on the left gusset plate near the swingarm pivot? What type of swingarm bushing arrangement does it have? Bronze or Silentbloc? What is the wheel end of the swing arm like? Is it a squashed tube or a cast lug?
The choice of the original builder to use such an old engine (17 years older than the frame) is unusual. Most engines that go into a featherbed tend to be contemporary or later than the frame. I have doubts that a pre-war Triumph Speedtwin would have made much of an impression on the racetrack in the late 50's. If it had a history on the track, it would make a difference.
On the other hand, that engine is quite rare. It may be worth considering parting it out for people trying to build such bikes, and putting a more usable engine in your frame.
Tridentman, I love the smell of castor oil, the smell of racing. I still put a shot of Blendzall with castor in my lawn mower fuel and in my motorcycles. I think it should be bottled in an after shave but doubt it will happen.
I would guess that if you played your propane torch across that dry residue you would be able to smell whether it was castor based or not, maybe scrape a little out into a small pile or what not but it should be noticeable when burned.
Koan---- it is definitely a 1956 Manx 350cc frame. The number on the left frame gusset plate near the swing arm pivot is 10M 69384. It is a historic road racing bike--even without any racing success in its pedigree. I am going to get it running as it is---I am certainly not going to strip it for parts. The reason I raised the point about which oil in the gearbox is that I read the bulletin in the Britbike thread which you reference. My recollection of road racing in UK in the early 1960s (in which I was involved) is that Castrol R was used almost exclusively in the engine but that 50 grade mineral oil was used in the gearboxes. The bulletin in that thread started questions in my mind---hence me starting this thread questioning how I could tell what was used originally.
MarksterTT---- like you I love the smell of castor oil. Using it in my bikes is wasted---I don't get to smell it but the lucky guys I go past---on bikes, in cars and pedestrians--get the benefit. But I do use it in my lawn mower---that way I get the smell as I go backwards and forwards mowing the lawn! Thanks for the idea of burning a small amount of the residue---I think that I will try that.
Koan--just a couple of further points; -- Manx Nortons were built until the early 1960s by the factory. -- And road racing in the 1960s in UK was very different from road racing nowadays. Very few of us had very much money and you built a bike from what was around you or could be had cheaply or what you could scrounge from friends etc. I started with a 1938 BSA Empire Star 500cc engine in a home built plunger frame. We then built that same engine into a road going Norton Featherbed frame to get more competitive in the handling stakes. Certainly a 1939 engine in a 1956 frame would not have been unusual "in the day".
Thanks TM for the further details. Twas merely devil's advocacy, many folk use the term manx when really it is just featherbed. I know you know.
Crikey, you were racing when I was still modifying my pogo-stick to make it bouncier! I feel young as I approach retirement!
I suppose almost any engine has been put in any frame over the years, though I'm doubtful of the benefit of some combinations. I've specialized in Tritons since 1976, though I had a Bsaton (the bits left over from a Norbsa) when a poverty stricken student. That was a truly awful bike, though it served well for a couple of years.
What type of swingarm do you have? It may or may not have the cast iugs at the ends.
What type of swingarm bushings do you have? When I got mine in 79 they were solid bronze but without provision for frame spacing, so when I clamped the spindle it tightened the gussets against the ends of the bushes. Clearly not good. The spindle couldn't be properly tightened as the swingarm wouldn't be free to move. So the spindle could wear the gusset holes.
Maybe it was the previous owner's solution, I don't know. With the help of a friendly local engineer, a 5/8" spindle with sleeves for internal and external diameters was made, to fit needle roller bearings with sleeves, thrust collars/washers and graphite impreganated washers. Having replaced the bearings a couple of times over the years, just because they're cheap, when it is open, the rest of it has stood the test of time and miles (I never have more than 1 or 2 bikes, and rarely a car).
GrandPaul has done a blog on his own version when he was building his Triton, rather smarter than my route.
Tony--thanks for the link--makes very interesting reading. Koan, the ends of the swinging arm are "squashed up tube" rather than cast lugs. Haven't examined the pivot material of the swinging arm yet. MarksterTT---I have scraped a small amount of residue onto a piece of aluminum foil and set it alight. As a control I also did the same with a drop of mineral oil and a drop of castor oil. Now--I am no parfumier but the castor oil smelt quite sweet whereas the mineral oil and the residue just smelt oily. So my conclusion is that the original oil in the gearbox was mineral oil. Thanks for all your help!
Having raced speedway for four or five seasons, I've a bit of an addiction to the smell of Castor oil, which I haven't smelled in a long time, by the way, However, Castor plants, an invasive and destructive introduced species here is basically everywhere. Now, I'm getting ideas....
I read the above article and found it to be very illuminating. I have to add that I had my speedway engines apart at times and they usually look pristine inside with only a light coating of black residue in the combustion chamber. Our motors were total loss oiling systems with pilgrim pumps. Even the Weslake motor I had for the last two seasons had the pilgrim pump. Guys like Ken Maley were experimenting with more modern configurations for speedway motors looking very much like Honda singles of the period. But, they weren't successful, unfortunately. Later motors have more common configurations, but still run methanol. Not sure if they are running Castrol bean oil. Anyone know?
Last edited by HawaiianTiger; 01/20/209:19 pm.
Bikes 1974 Commando 1985 Honda Nighthawk 650 1957 Thunderbird/T110 "Black Tiger" Antique Fans: Loads of Emersons (Two six wingers) plus gyros and orbiters.
Thanks for the pic, very interesting! Just a few observations (which I'm sure you've made yourself) and a question or two.
Is it an alloy head? Duplex primary drive? 3-spring clutch with alloy pressure plate? Converted to distributor ignition, unusual for a racer with no dynamo or alternator, so it must carry a battery (presumably behind the gearbox). I think I can see what is probably the battery ground lead bolted to the gusset plate. I imagine it would have been limited to about an hour or so of running at best ignition performance.
Cable-operated rear brake - I like that, have the same on my Triton, makes a big difference to braking on bumpy roads. I'm not clear where the torque arm connects at its front, it looks as if it might attach to the footpeg/brake lever bolt. The brakeplate is usually rigidly clamped by the axle, so I'm wondering how this arrangement would cope with the changing geometry during suspension movement. The anchor would usually be somewhere on the swingarm itself.
Is the rear wheel sprocket 1/4" or 3/8"? And the chain? 3/8" Norton sprocket/drums only came along in the late 60's, while AFAIK Triumph always used 3/8" rear drive. I remember running my Triton for a year or two with 3/8" gearbox sprocket and chain with a 1/4" wheel sprocket (ugly I know!) until I got hold of an Atlas/early Commando 3/8" one.
Certainly a very interesting bike, brings out my forensic instincts!
Koan---a few detailed photos with answers to your questions. a) Cylinder Head Material. Cast Iron painted silver---paint coming off in places (see photo). b) Single primary chain (see photo) c) Clutch/Pressure Plate. 3 spring clutch and alloy pressure plate (see photo) d) Battery position. Behind gearbox (see photo) e) Front mounting of rear brake torque arm.. Bolted to plate welded to frame loop. Plate also acts as anchor for rear brake cable (see photo) More to come in next post!
Continued---- a) Rear chain is 5/8" X 1/4". (see photo) b) Rear sprocket is 1/4" c) Gearbox sprocket must be 1/4" but I have not got that far yet. I suspect that it is a standard Triumph 3/8" sprocket ground down to 1/4" From all the items drilled on this bike I think the builder was a disciple of Colin Chapman whose ethos was "add lightness".
Very interesting detailed design points on this bike. An example is the primary chain oiler. Note: a) Twin outlets to drip oil onto the chain (one each side of the chain to get the oil between the chain pivots) -- (see photo) b) The primary chain oiler is fed via the plastic tube from the top frame rail (see photo). c) The primary chain oiler has a tap for the oil supply fixed into the top frame tube via a welded on boss (see photo) I don't yet know how the primary chain oil gets into the top frame tube. I haven't taken the gas tank off yet but will be doing so shortly to get to the carbs. These are 2 off AMAL 10TT9s. The throttle is solid so it is either the cable is seized or the slides seized in the carb bodies. Careful disassembly required!
Actually, Tony, I bought this bike about 4 years ago at a time when I had a way around the NJ DMV titling system---so I have a title for this bike! Don't give me ideas about riding it over the George Washington Bridge into New York City with an open exhaust like that! I used to be crazy enough to do that sort of thing---and traces of it still remain!
HD 4 spds. use 60wt. motorcycle engine oil. 90wt gear oil is too thick and kind of plugs the breather tube. Might also check out XL "Sporty lube" (trans&primary fill) and Redline light gear oil. Before HD SYN-3 showed up(the same time the V-Rod showed up with Syn-3 factory fill) that what was used. V-Rod use 1 oil for all engine & drive train components
When the bike was exported from UK to US many years ago all the oils were drained out. In fact the gearbox oil was drained by taking out the camplate plunger and leaving it in England! I am sure that the engine oil was castor oil (Castrol R) but I was not sure about the gearbox oil. My knowledge of road racing bikes from that time was that Castrol R was used in the engine and mineral oil SAE 50 in the gearbox. However a recent thread on this forum included a Triumph Service Sheet from that period recommending castor oil for the gearbox. So I was unsure about which oil was used in the gearbox. And the problem is that you shouldn't mix the two types of oil as they form an emulsion with very poor lubricating properties. The method recommended by MarksterTT earlier in this thread and my subsequent testing of the oil residue from the gearbox makes me think that mineral oil was used in the gearbox. In fact what I have decided to do is to use flushing oil in both engine and gearbox and then use castor oil in the engine and mineral oil in the gearbox.
My objective is to get the bike to the stage where I can fire it up after about 50 years at the Triumph National Rally at Oley PA in June.
Thanks for the info, Bodine. In fact I use Redline oils in my Trident gearboxes with success. Thinking about it the gearbox internals for a 1975 T160 are very similar to those of a 1939 T100! So will probably use Redline.