Sportbike owners don’t mess around with engine swaps or similar hybrid modifications these days. Given the highly specialized nature of modern race machines, that’s understandable. It would be impractical to slot a V4 Ducati engine into a Suzuki frame built for an inline four, not to mention prohibitively expensive. You’d have to figure out how to make all the electronics systems work with the new bike, too, or disable them. That sort of mixing-and-matching fun died with the Suzuki 7/11 swaps.
Sixty years ago, when the British manufacturers built the sportiest machines around, it was a different story. Go-fast geeks realized it wasn’t too complicated to take an engine from one manufacturer and put it into another manufacturer’s frame. Most of those Brit bikes were made off very similar designs anyway, and many of the companies had been connected at one time or another in their history. It wasn’t terribly tricky to put a powerful Triumph engine into a slick-handling Norton Featherbed frame to build a Triton (a mash-up of the Triumph and Norton names).
That’s what you see for sale here. But, this isn’t a mash-up from the mid-’60s. It’s a modern build using vintage parts.
The best of both worlds
The Norton Commando was arguably the peak of the parallel twin engines the Brits made. But before Norton started making that engine, riders generally figured Triumph had the best-performing engine in the UK. That’s what’s fitted to this bike: An air-cooled parallel twin from a 1957 Triumph Tiger T110. For more power, the builder installed Morgo 750 cc big-bore cylinders and a nine-bolt cylinder head from a 1969 T120R Bonneville.
That’s the beauty of these old Brit bikes—or maybe, their curse. The manufacturers often built several models off the same basic design, and performance shops have been cranking out hot-rod parts for these engines for decades now. Because of that, it’s possible to do some serious Frankensteinian engineering, making a superior engine by combining the best OEM and aftermarket bits available. Of course, you also run into bikes where the builder gets it wrong, and creates an untrustworthy monster.
This ad has a video of the engine running, so you can at least make some judgment as to whether it’s worth taking the chance on such a highly-modified machine.
Along with the new top end, this engine also got Alloy Tech push rods, a new Morgo high-pressure oil pump, and a new clutch in early 2020. Surprisingly, the builder fitted a Lucas Triumph magneto. Hopefully it’s superior to the Lucas electrical components of the 1960s, which earned that company’s founder the nickname “The Prince of Darkness,” when his products failed and left motorcyclists with no headlights. As this bike is set up with a total-loss battery system, maybe it’s no problem anyway? The seller says the engine runs off the magneto, and the headlights are on a different circuit.
The ad also says there’s a set of Converta alloy mounting plates and stainless steel oil pressure gauge, so it sounds like the builder paid attention to even the smaller details.
The engine has a period-correct four-speed gearbox, with right-hand shift. There’s a new set of Amal Concetric carbs, taken off a Norton 750.
On to the chassis! The frame itself is powder-coated, and taken from a ’66 Norton Atlas. The polished alloy fuel tank came from The Tank Shop, a well-known vendor for the cafe racer set. The alloy oil tank and bum-stop seat come from Unity Equipe. The rear fender is from AJS/Matchless. The mix-and-match action even goes beyond the British manufacturers, with a stainless steel Aermacchi fender.
The fork is a Norton Roadholder, off a ’68 Commando. Strangely, there’s no mention of the rear shock in the advert. The wheels are a real mish-mash, with a Norton Commando hub up front and BSA/Triumph hub in rear, with Buchanan’s stainless steel spokes and Akront aluminum rims. The builder went with Avon Roadrider tires (90/90-19 front, 100/90-18 rear).
The brakes are also period-correct, with drum stoppers front and rear. The front is a ventilated twin leading-shoe arrangement. While a proper disc setup is preferable, this is probably superior to some of the earlier disc designs and certainly better than cruder vintage drum brakes.
The builder hit up the aftermarket for the controls (Tomasselli components, including the clip-ons, throttle and other bits) and gauges (sourced from Smiths Chronometric).
Overall, there’s a lot of work put in here, and surprisingly, a lot of parts from the 1960s, considering it’s a modern build. Well, sort of a modern build. The seller says he and his friends only recently finished the job; it was actually started all the way back in 1980 by an Aussie ex-pat living in the US.
Buy, or walk away?
For owners who know what they’re getting into, a well-sorted Brit bike can be a lovely dream to ride. That, of course, depends on whether or not the bike is actually well-sorted. It does look like a tidy build though, and perhaps contacting the seller would answer more questions. He does say that there’s more modification to the machine than the ad lists. Either way, as this machine is on Bring A Trailer, the price is probably going to go a tad high. But, try building one of these with vintage parts yourself, and factor in the time, and you’ll find a proper Triton isn’t a cheap machine to build, either.
Photos: Bring A Trailer