Dave’s Building a 10-Footer: A 1970 Triumph TR6R – Part 1

1970 Triumph TR6R rebuild

Have you thought about getting an old barn bike to fix up but feel like you don’t know where to start? Are you thinking that you have a smaller budget to get it back on the road? No worries, mate. Sometimes it’s great to restore these Brit bikes to their original glory but sometimes you just want a cool bike to enjoy the roads on. Dave has picked up his FOURTH 1970 TR6R and is making it a 10-Footer. That is, it looks great from 10 feet away!

One of Dave’s 70 TR6Rs


Dave at Old World Bikes in Golden, CO in 2017.

Dave Porter, Customer and Technical Support at The Bonneville Shop


“This project is intended to mechanically refurbish the 1970 Triumph 650 “barn bike” I purchased a couple of years ago. My goal has been all along to rebuild this motorcycle on a budget within a target range of $3000 or less. This motorcycle was purchased for $1300, with a title and mostly complete, missing only the manifold, carburetor, and air cleaner.”

As shown in the picture below of the bike before the renovation began, there were a few “customizations” to the motorcycle, including a home-made sissy bar, ape hanger handlebar, Suzuki turn signals, gutted cocktail shaker mufflers, and extended fork tubes…all popular modifications during the chopper craze in the 1970s. The battery that was removed had 6/79 scribed into the top of the casing, so there’s a good chance this motorcycle has been out of service for over 40 years.

Once the bike was up on the lift, the disassembly process was underway. I removed all of the sheet metal and other cycle parts to get the chassis as bare as possible. I then started tearing down the engine while in the frame, making it as light as possible to lift out of the frame. Working solo at 60 years of age, I have found that this is the preferred method of engine removal, rather than trying to muscle out the entire unit by myself. Once the top end, transmission, and primary drive were removed, I was able to get the lower end of the engine out of the frame and onto the bench for complete disassembly and evaluation.

I was delighted to find the cylinders were on standard bore, with the original Hepolite pistons fitted. The crankshaft journals were in good condition, with standard shell bearings fitted to the connecting rods. I thoroughly cleaned all of the components in the wash tank and closer inspection of the engine parts was next. A parts list was compiled detailing necessary parts to be purchased. Once the engine was evaluated, the next step was to get the wheels and fork assembly off the frame and apart for renovation. The fork tubes and springs were heavily rusted, so replacement was necessary. Surprisingly, the internal parts were in generally good shape, although one of the lower bushings was replaced, along with the oil seals, o-rings, damper sleeves, and gaiters. The fork lowers were prepped and painted, and the assembly commenced. Throughout the renovation, various cycle parts were hand sanded, primed, and painted black using an appliance epoxy enamel. This prepping and painting is an ongoing task, as the paint requires about a week to cure between coats. I use a rolling wardrobe rack, sourced at a thrift store for $10, to hang parts on wire hooks. Once the frame was painted, I strapped it to my portable jack on the lift and fitted the swinging arm assembly and rear shocks. By assembling the rear frame section and swinging fork first, the balance of the frame on the jack is improved and makes assembling the front fork assembly easier. The fork assembly was fitted without incident, and my attention turned towards the wheels.

The front wheel was in a good state of nick and only required a new tire, tube and rimband. The chrome was polished up and the wheel bearings greased. The brake plate had rusty hardware, so disassembly allowed the parts to be soaked in a product called Evaporust, which is an effective surface rust remover. As with almost all of the nuts, bolts, screws, and washers, the wheel parts were de-greased in the wash tank, soaked in Evaporust, then polished with a wire wheel, chucked up in the drill press. Remember, this is a low-budget renovation project, so less attention is being paid towards brightwork, with some cosmetic compromise involved. The rear wheel required more work, as the rust on the rim required polishing with a Dremel polishing wheel, Scotchbrite pad, and Simichrome was applied to try to bring back some of the brightness in the chrome plating. Once the tire, tube and rimband were installed, the bearings were greased, hub parts fitted, and the freshly painted brake plate assembly with the original brakes was fitted. Both front and rear brake shoe sets were cleaned, inspected, and the friction material roughed up to remove glazing, and deemed fit for service. The wheels were installed, and the result was a “roller”, once the new front brake cable was installed. I like to get the motorcycle to roller status as quickly as possible, so if another job comes in where the lift is needed, I can move the motorcycle off the lift, if necessary. Having a working front brake makes backing the bike down the lift’s ramp easier and safer.

The engine cases were cleaned and inspected, then the transmission bearings and high gear seal were installed in the timing-side case half. The rods were previously inspected and polished, then fitted to the crank using new bearings. The new timing-side crank bearing was installed, and the original drive-side roller bearing was re-fitted to the crank. This roller bearing is very robust, and if it is not loose or rusted and was removed from the crank journal carefully, it can be put back into service. The crank and cams were fitted into the drive-side case and a thin application of Threebond sealant was applied to both case halves. The timing-side case half was offered to the opposite case and the cases were bolted together to join them. The lower end of the engine was then fitted to the frame and will be built up from there. I like to use sections of bicycle inner tubes to protect the connecting rods from hitting the cylinder base and studs. It’s important that the rods aren’t nicked up before reusing them, since that can cause stress cracks and subsequent rod failure, so any light scratches present were sanded out and finished off with a light polish. The camshaft pinions were fitted next, and my next step will be to install the gearbox and primary drive before moving on to the pistons and cylinder barrel. In the meantime, more parts are being prepped, painted, and polished. The timing and outer gearbox covers are ready for installation… not the work you’d expect from a professional metal polisher, but in the spirit of a “10-footer”, much better than they looked prior to the sanding and polishing.

Stay tuned for more progress.


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