1955 Triumph Tiger T100
One Owner 1955-2006, Outstanding Ground Up Restoration by Triumph Expert,
Matching Numbers, Rare Alloy Motor Pre-Unit Bike
“The Triumph “Tiger 100” is an ultra high performance sports machine with a specially tuned engine capable of completely satisfying the desires of all who wish to travel fast and far. At the same time it retains that flexibility and smoothness which make it a very pleasant motor cycle when high speeds are not desired.”
-Ad copy, Triumph Brochure, 1948
History of the Tiger:
With the runaway sales success of the Triumph Speed Twin, Edward Turner's mind turned to further developing the potential of his new parallel twin motor. The lighter and more powerful Tiger 100 was developed as a sports enthusiasts machine, where as with previous models the '100' referred to its claimed maximum speed.
Let’s take a close look at the Tiger 100, a model powered by a parallel twin engine produced by the Triumph Engineering Co. Ltd. I won’t go into detail about the start of the Triumph company, preferring to tuck into the story in the late 1920s with the introduction of two men instrumental in the evolution of the British motorcycle, Val Page and Edward Turner. Page was chief designer at Ariel when he met Turner in 1928. Ariel boss Jack Sangster had hired Turner to develop a square four engine; the basis for the long-running Ariel Square Four.
While testing his square four engine at Ariel, Turner made up a 360-degree twin crankshaft, and ran this uncoupled in the back half of his four, an arrangement otherwise known as a parallel twin. Turner said in the Ivor Davies’ book It’s a Triumph that Page paid particular attention to the characteristics of his ‘experimental’ twin. Whether Turner’s work was an influence or not, in 1932 when Page, himself a keen engineer and designer of rather striking motorcycles, left Ariel for employment at Triumph he soon had a running 650cc vertical twin motorcycle. Introduced in 1933 at the Olympia Show, the Model 6/1 was part of Triumph’s 1934 sales program.
In 1936 at Triumph, Turner became chief designer and managing director. His first exercise was to take three examples of single-cylinder machines, originally designed by Page, and dress them up with a sportier image. He created the 250cc Tiger 70, 350cc Tiger 80 and 500cc Tiger 90, all with polished alloy primary cases, chrome plated gas tanks with silver-sheen painted side and top panels and purposeful high-level exhaust systems. The frames were rigid, and front suspension was supplied by a set of girder forks. These singles proved quick sellers, but Turner had something else in mind for Triumph, and it was an entirely new twin.
Turner drew a twin-cylinder engine, and dubbed it the Speed Twin. Featuring a vertically split crankcase housing a single, central flywheel, the 498cc engine became one of the most popular motorcycle power plants of all time. Crankpins are “in line”, allowing both pistons to rise and fall simultaneously. The cylinders fire alternately with power impulses spaced evenly at 360 degrees. Early Speed Twin motors are fitted with a six-stud cast iron barrel and cylinder head, with separate alloy boxes housing both the rockers and valve adjusters. Camshafts are situated high in the crankcase, gear driven through an idler gear by the right side of the crankshaft. Separate pushrod tubes run fore and aft of the cylinders.
In 1937 the twin-cylinder engine looked very similar to what would have been a conventional twin-port single-cylinder unit, without being much wider or heavier. The twin made only four more horsepower than Triumph’s 500cc single, 28 h.p. compared to 24 h.p. But the power delivery of the twin rivaled that of the single; it was much more refined, with better torque and pull from low speeds, plus it was easier to start.
Turner dropped his parallel-twin engine into the heavyweight Tiger 90 single-cylinder cycle parts sprayed in Amaranth Red and the Speed Twin was first shown in 1937. It was available to the public in 1938, and sold very well. There was some trouble with the original six-stud barrel to crankcase fixing configuration, and in 1939, eight studs were introduced. Bigger news for 1939, however, was the addition of a sporting stablemate to the Speed Twin in the form of the Tiger 100.
Inside the 1939 Triumph brochure, the maker states: “Triumph have long held the view that for sports use the O.H.V. single of over 350 c.c. is an obsolete type, and the overwhelming endorsement of this view by the serious motor cyclist during 1938 has encouraged us to produce the multi-cylinder “TIGER 100” to replace the “TIGER 90” single. This super-tuned brother of the successful “SPEED TWIN” is a most impressive machine both in performance and appearance and will undoubtedly become a firm favourite.”
Tiger 100 motorcycles made approximately seven more horsepower than the Speed Twin, and were fitted with 8:1 high compression alloy slipper pistons, with all internal moving parts polished. Almost race-ready from the factory, the machine was equipped with mufflers of the open megaphone-type, but with quickly detachable ends that incorporated baffles and tail pipe.
Technical changes over the Speed Twin included forged alloy pistons, a very early use of the technology. Secondly, the cylinders were forged in a single casting and held in place by eight studs, instead of the Speed Twin’s six. Thirdly, the Tiger 100 used a single Amal carburetor, possible thanks to the 360-degree firing interval of the two cylinders. Finished in silver and costing £5 more, new features included a larger fuel tank and detachable silencers.
In March 1939, Triumph came up with an unorthodox 'launch' of the new Tiger 100. Using a Tiger 100 and a Speed Twin straight from dealers showrooms, endurance was tested with a run of over 1,800 miles (2,900 km) from John o'Groats to Land's End in Cornwall then to the Brooklands circuit for six hours of continuous high-speed laps, where riders Ivan Wicksteed and David Whitworth averaged 78.5 miles per hour (126.3 km/h) with a final lap of 88.5 miles per hour (142.4 km/h), winning Triumph the Maudes Trophy. The Tiger100's sporting pretensions were later further proven through Freddie Clarke’s 1939 lap record at Brooklands of 118.02 miles per hour (189.93 km/h) on a bored-out 503 cc Tiger 100.
The Triumph works was destroyed by German bombers on the night of 14 November 1940 - along with much of the city of Coventry bringing production of the Tiger 100 to an end until after the war. When Triumph recovered and began production again at Meriden the Tiger 100 re-appeared with the new telescopic fork. In 1951 it gained a new close finned alloy cylinder barrel and factory race kits for independent racers. In 1953 a fully race-kitted model, the Tiger 100C, was available although only 560 were made.
1954 saw the first swinging-arm rear suspension models and the Tiger 100 was developed year on year alongside the other models in the range. 1959 was the last of the pre-units (separate engine/gearbox) and in 1960 it was completely redesigned in the new 'unit' style as the T100A. A long line of T100SS, T100C, T100R and others appeared during the sixties in the UK & export (mainly US) markets culminating in the Daytona variants which soldiered on until 1973. The historic Tiger name was revived by the new Hinckley Triumph company in 1993.
From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumph_Tiger_100 and http://www.gregwilliams.ca/?p=1693
For a comprehensive history of the Tiger, please see Greg Williams' excellent article in full at http://www.gregwilliams.ca/?p=1693
UPDATE: We recently spoke to the bike's original owner. Please see the updated description below. He told us the details of the ground-up restoration done on the bike, which we didn't know before.
There are not many bikes that are lucky enough to remain in the loving care of their original owner for 51 continuous years. This Shell Blue 1955 Tiger T100 was bought new at JR Kelly Motors in Dayton Ohio and remained in the care of its original owner until 2006. From our conversations with the original owner, it was clear he cared deeply for the bike. He said he always garaged it and it never spent a single night outside, and that it always ran like a top. Before he sold the bike, he had it stripped completely and had a complete ground up, engine out, bare metal restoration done on the bike by Triumph expert George Redisill. The friend who he sold it to in 2006 was a Triumph enthusiast as well, as evidenced by his two Thunderbirds, which we were also able to purchase.
Because the original owner took such good care of the bike over the years, the restoration started from the ideal platform: an extremely unmolested original bike with a known history. From what the original owner told us, the bike was stripped completely down and every nut and bolt was restored. The bike was sent to his friend and local Triumph expert George Redisill. The engine was fully rebuilt, top and bottom end with new bearings, pistons, etc. Mechanically the bike was fully restored. The frame was stripped and painted, the tank was painted, and anything else that was needed was done. They spent a long time getting the Shell Blue color exactly right and were given compliments on the correctness at a show they went to with the bike. Redisill is apparently a real stickler for correctness and we are told they went to great lengths to source even the rear license plate bolts.The speedometer was changed out but the original owner told us there were are less than 10,000 original miles on the bike since new.
The result is an outstanding machine and, from what we are told by a triumph pre-unit expert, a bike that is very correct. The bike is in excellent overall condition with beautiful paint and chrome work. It is a matching numbers bike. It runs and rides very well, with the exception of a slight lack drop in power between 3/4 and full throttle. It may just need to be ridden a bit more, or perhaps fiddled with in terms of mixture, ignition, etc.
Overall, this is an excellent opportunity to acquire a rare and desirable T100 in excellent condition. This is a fantastic restored bike with a known history. It deserves a proud new owner.
With the bike we received a note about the photographs of the previous owner (seen below.)
"Find photos of when George and I rode to the Black Hills in 1957. I'm the young guy kicking over the bike. As you may notice, I had, as young ones sometimes do, changed the color scheme on my gas tank and had chromed the nacelle and fork cover tubes. George's bike is in the picture also. Find a final picture of me on the bike that my wife wanted to take before the bike leaves, with me wearing my old leather jacket (late 50s) and my old high boots (early 60s.) The boots still fit. The jacket comes about 10-12 inches from closing."
We had a pre-unit Triumph expert give his opinion on the three Triumphs before we purchased them and this is some of what he had to say about this Tiger:
500cc Twin Cylinder Model, came with alloy cylinders and close pitch fin alloy head
Color - Shell Blue - Correct
Gas Tank – Optional 3 Gallon – Is correct – Has correct 5 bar parcel rack
Fenders are correct for year and model.
Front and rear wheels appear to be correct with front wheel having an 8” single side front brake drum and air scoop style brake plate. Both should be WM2x19 rims.
Electrics appear to be correct with a Lucas K2F magneto and Lucas Dynamo (Generator). Pilot light under the headlight was changed out in 1955 for the chromed horn grill that can be found on the Black 1956 6T but according to the book, some of these changes took up until mid-year to happen. In the 1955 parts book, the pilot light is also featured, so I would go as correct.
Folding kick starter lever according to my books was a TR5 item only for 1955 models and the T100 would have had a rigid kick starter lever ( not folding ) although the kicker on the T100 appears to be a Pre-Unit kicker of the correct length. Later Unit 650 cranks were much longer, hence the term short crank. But, who’s to say you couldn’t have requested a folding kicker when they were new!
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