Monday, March 26, 2012

What's it all for?

In my last post, whilst pondering the decision to revive some nuts and bolts rather than to just bang on some new ones. I started to think more carefully about what my objectives are in reviving Ruby (as I've decided she should be called).

I was inspired to acquire an example of the first Hinckley Triumph for several reasons and these are all important for me to understand what I want to achieve in refurbishing my Trophy 1200. I wrote about these in my second post but they sketch out the motivation. There are three things I think I'm doing, all rolling around one another. In part, it is a kind of historical exploration. The factory adopted a continuous improvement strategy as a way to address press reaction and problems as they arose. This is explained in the video produced for the factory in 1992. I find it fascinating to see how Triumph chose to evolve their initial designs. This relates to my second motivation: to pay tribute to the achievement of those engineers who brought a clean-slate design to fruition as a viable set of alternative motifs based on a common theme. For all that they were alternatives, they were firmly grounded in values that I share. Longevity, maintainability and a ride quality optimised for A-road riding. The components are incredibly durable, as long as oil changes and cleaning is not neglected. I rang the factory on the off-chance I might get some advice after I had a problem with my Daytona. I couldn't believe it when I was put through to one of the engineers who had designed it. Sadly, I was so gob smacked I can't remember his name. Anyway, he asked how I'd found it and I explained I liked to do my own maintenance (not that there are many of us left now). He said the design team had people like me in mind when they put it together. Hence the greasing points on the suspension (I wish I'd mentioned the accessibility of the centre plug on the triples ...). They were created in the first instance as real-world motorcycles. The third element, for me, it thus to return it to the road. 

Historical motivation
After the first 100 were shipped to Germany, bearing special 'First Edition' decals on the rear panels, the Trophies went on sale in the UK in around March 1991. 

1990 Display board at Triumph Live 20 Years On 
1991 Display board at Triumph Live 20 Years On 
So the first part of my motivation was to understand in detail what went into this concept and how it was realised at the start of production. A kind of motorcycle archeology. I am fulfilling this both by dismantling and refurbishing my Trophy 1200 part-by-part as I go and look forward to riding it later in an as-new state. I can understand this in part by comparing the way the machine was put together with the construction of my later Daytona 900. For example, the 1994 Daytona 900 has significantly redesigned crankcases and head, created using a pressure sandcasting technique by Cosworth. 

Triumph were making about 5 per day in the early phases of production, pretty much all of the assembly by hand. As far as I can tell, it was put together some time in June 1991 because it is the 544th machine produced and so would probably have been put on the rolling road at Jacknell Lane in around the 11th week of full production. It thus represents the state of Hinckley thinking (Hincking)? pretty much undiluted (or unimproved, depending on your attitude) about the design concept from the off. 

I wanted to embody my amazement and enthusiasm for the achievements of Triumph Motorcycle Company in bringing it into being in the first place. I wanted to understand how it all went together and then to make it live again as a rolling monument to that achievement. Part of the achievement is often repeated but perhaps not as often thought through: modularity. Modularity made it possible to produce a set of variations on a theme, that's for sure. It also makes it possible to carry out a pretty wide range of modifications to any one of the T300 machines using factory parts. So I'm also thinking of realising variations on the first year of production that were not actually marketed. A 125BHP 1200 Daytona (adjustable suspension, sports brakes, twin headlight fairing) in Lancaster Red. A good friend of mine has all but done this (only the forks are Trophy spec but with 20% uprated springs). A 1200 Trident (or Quadrant) in British Racing Green. I could create these pseudoproduction models by virtue of the designed interchangeability of parts. This is not just a case of hacking off a fairing and slinging on a 'streetfighter' bikini fairing. It is actually possible to effect these changes with production quality components and fit. Because the range of bikes were actually designed to make it possible for the factory to do this.

I would not be the first person to consider changing genuine Triumph components around to do this. It's pretty common to see Daytona 900s converted to Speed Triples. I've also seen a couple of 'Speed Four' 1200s that have switched Daytona bodywork, fairing and clocks for Speed Triple items to create a fire-breathing alternative to the factory naked three-cylinder sports bike. These were sold new for a while c.1995 by Daytona Motorcycles in London with a dealer sticker on the side panels to mark them out as such.

Real-world motorcycle
I am an inveterate tinkerer. I like twiddling spanners. Matching the exact original showroom state of a bike doesn't really appeal to me. I like seeing how I might improve on the basic integrity of the way machines were designed and constructed but where cost might have restricted what the designers of the time could have achieved. And I HATE rust. Stainless steel pleases me beyond measure and will feature in areas most exposed to the weather, such as oil cooler and lower fairing fasteners. Ultimately, what makes for a real-world motorcycle is a motorcycle that can be used on the road and is sufficiently well prepared that it can shrug off the rain. 

So there it is. Musings on why I'm doing this.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The nuts and bolts of it

The 1991 models' fasteners are nearly all zinc plated, though there is a smattering of cadmium plated fixings under the bodywork, and chrome plated mushroom-headed screws for the fairing.

The factory built its own in-house plating facility after a couple of years' production, I think for the 1993 model year. I saw it in action on a factory tour in 1995 - it really was impressive. Almost unbelievably, Triumph also decided to make a lot of its own bolts and screws too after disappointment with the quality of the fasteners on the first models. I saw huge flat bed tooling in action, for turning bar stock into fasteners, on the same visit. It was that commitment to the quality of the engineering in Triumph motorcycles that left me with my obsession with the T300s of the 1990s. It cost Triumph more than the bean counters could stomach though so later models just didn't receive the same level of attention.

Unsurprisingly then, as one of the first, the fasteners on my 1991 Trophy had not fared well. The quality of plating wasn't too good on my bike, though the steel they are made of seems pretty good. It had lifted from a few, peeling off in some cases, and corroded away on the shafts of others. The bolts that retain the left-hand aluminium casting for the pillion footrest were particularly bad. They are cadmium plated and this was not adequate to stop electrolytic corrosion through contact with the aluminium.

I could have replaced the tatty bolts with new. I'm trying to retain as much of the original machine as I can. And anyway, I'm into pain and that would have been too easy. So I decided to remove the zinc plating where it had failed and the rust where it had corroded away with a wire brush on a drill.
Bolts, machine screws and nuts after stripping off
rust and failed areas of plating with a wire wheel
Then I used anti-rust primer and then Smoothrite to fend off further problems. I mixed my own as 50:50 gold and silver (in the jam jar, to the left of the image below), as a loose approximation to a colour somewhere between cadmium plate or gold passivated zinc.

The result is certainly rust free and should be durable. I'm unsure about the colour though. If it looks wrong to me on dry assembly, I'll go over them with silver.

In the end, I'm pleased I'll be able to retain these fasteners. I shall certainly replace some of the fasteners on the bike with stainless steel, as I did with its exhaust studs. Some of the original fasteners are beyond rescue, especially the mushroom-headed fairing screws.

It does beg questions about the overall thrust of the work I'm doing on it though. Why am I doing this? It's not a concours restoration, that's for sure. It's not a customization or race preparation either. It is some kind of an attempt to breath new life into what is, in my opinion, a very special motorcycle. And to give it a future that includes a return to the roads where it was designed to be enjoyed. But there are many ways I could take this project.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Drag link - removing bearings and cleaning up

 After finding a broken lug on my original drop link (right-hand side in image below), I bought a a couple of second-hand replacements. Why two? Well I bought one thinking it would d
o the job and then came across another that was going cheap and couldn't pass it up.

Repaired lug on second hand drag link
Broken lug on my original drag link

I hadn't yet stripped the first. I was amazed to discover that it had clearly failed in the same way as my original but had been repaired with weld (left-hand picture).

There was corrosion evident in the needle roller bearings in all three drag links - my original was the worst of them despite looking the best externally. In all of them, it was noticeably worse on the left-hand side. I'm guessing this is because it is the same side as the side stand and so water would have accumulated around it over time because of the lean angle when parked up. 

I was unsure how hard it would be to remove them so decided to use my broken original to practice on. I found that a 19mm socket was the right size to just press on the outer race of the needle roller and a 32mm socket just big enough for a needle roller to fit inside. So I used a long piece of threaded rod to squeeze one of the needle roller bearings into the body of the drag link. 

It was a very tight fit, not helped by the corrosion on the lip of the bearings. I decided I would move both bearings inwards a couple of mm first, to get them moving, before trying to draw both through to one side in one go. I used a hot air gun to heat up the aluminium body of the drag link to help relax its grip on the bearings.

The first needle roller bearing starts to appear to the right
after heating up the casting with a hot air gun and
compressing the 19mm socket right inside the casting
against the left-hand bearing.
 After the first bearing started to come out I had to switch to a larger socket because my 32mm socket was not deep enough to receive the needle roller bearings. I had to make do with a socket that was quite a bit too large really but it worked with care.
Very rust bearings after removal
Pitting in the casting
Technique sorted, out they come
The old bearings really were horrible - not that it mattered much given that I was just practicing on a duff part. I found that greasing the 19mm socket made a difference to the effort in winding the bearings out, probably because of the angle the threaded rod was forced into by the over-large deep socket. So having refined my technique, I moved on to the two second-hand replacement drag links. I wouldn't say it was an easy thing to do but it was very rewarding.

The castings all showed evidence of corrosion so, after the bearings were out, I carefully polished out the worst of it with a drill and mop. 

Comparing drag links before (below) and after (above)
cleaning up with a drill and mop

Drag links after removing corrosion (2)
Drag links after removing corrosion (1)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Swingarm repair and shiny new parts

The swinging arm has returned. It has been repaired with aluminium welds filling two nasty grooves near the rear right-hand wheel adjuster.  I shall tidy them up a little, give it a light polish and then call it job done.

Lings, aka World of Triumph, has an online parts catalogue for the early Trophy models. This is a great resource because it includes exploded diagrams - very helpful for seeing how all the components are supposed to fit together. Replacement parts for the rear suspension are pictured below, including drag link needle roller bearings and seals, and collars for the top drop link bolts.

I also ordered up the last of the parts I think I'll need to complete the rebuild, in the hope of saving some postage money. Prior experience suggests this is wishful thinking - there's nearly always something that crops up when it comes to reassembly - but there you are.

From top left in the image above, they include:
  • a couple of mirror spacer pads (these set the mirror arm at a better angle than if they are just bolted straight to the fairing, as well as protecting the paintwork on the fairing)
  • two bushes for the gear and rear brake pedals to eliminate slack in the movement
  • two needle roller bearings for the rear suspension drag link
  • five grease nipple covers
  • two fork seal retaining rings - mine are corroded though I've yet to strip the forks I've got these in anticipation
  • two rear axel bolt retaining rings - missing on my bike
  • two seals for the drag link bearings
  • a couple of plugs for the handlebars because one of mine had snapped at some point and was poxily glued back
  • a rear brake pad spring - mine is split in two, brakes being the other main job on the list of things yet to fix 
  • (in the centre of the image) four collars for the bolts that hold the top of the rear suspension drop links to the swinging arm