According to Wikipedia, ‘fire in the hole’ is an expression indicating an explosive detonation in a confined space is imminent. It originated from US miners, who needed to warn their fellows an underground explosive charge’d been set, but it’s since become more well-known as a throwaway smart-arse line used by military personnel in films when they lob a grenade into a room full of soon-to-be very ex-bad guys.
This relates exactly how to a rather lovely Triumph bobber, you may be wondering? Pray read on, gentle reader, and all will be revealed…
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Back at the start of lockdown, however many millennia ago that was, a good friend of Clive and Jay from So Low Choppers, Billy Whiz (name changed to protect the innocent…ish), had a few bikes for sale. Knowing that he, somehow, always seemed to get his hands on nice kit, they bobbed down to see him, and Jay bought a pre-unit Triumph off him. As they were walking through his house on the way to seeing the bike that Jay was to purchase, they saw a cute little pre-unit chop, another one, languishing unfinished under his stairs. Clive struck a deal with Billy over it, and they took the pair home with them. Both he and Jay are dyed-in-the-wool older Harley freaks, especially Shovelheads, but they both also have a soft spot for a classic wee Triumph, y’know?
This particular classic wee Triumph was, and still is, a 6T Thunderbird of 1961 vintage, and’d originally been started on by a gentleman by the name of Chris Hindle before he moved it on to Billy, who’d done some more to it, including getting the lovely Hilary at Hurricane Airbrush Art (01359 240980 or Facebook) to give it a paint makeover, but’d never quite got it (a) running or (b) finished.
Back at the So Low Choppers HQ in Stanton, near Bury St Edmunds, Jay and Jonny set about checking the ignition (which looked okay…) and setting the carb up and, once that was done to their satisfaction, gave the ’starter a good kick. And then another. And then another. And then another. Some time after, having failed to get the sixty-year-old-plus motor to make even a parp, and quite a lot of adjusting, swearing, and doubting the old bike’s parentage, they did finally get it to make a noise whereupon it immediately backfired, blew the fuel pipe off the carb, and set itself on fire. Understandably perturbed at the thought of the workshop burning down around them, along with all the very desirable bikes in it (most of which didn’t belong to them), they rushed frantically to put it out, and did so, but not before the flames’d destroyed the wiring loom and the newly-done paintwork. It turns out whoever’d originally built the motor’d used a knackered advance/retard unit, and that was throwing the timing all over the place, causing the backfire that lit the bike up like the Fourth of July.
Once they’d emptied out their underwear like people tip water out of their wellies, they reapproached the smouldering Trumpet, and tried to assess the damage. Luckily, the damage was mostly superficial/cosmetic (the mechanics of the bike’d survived pretty much unscratched), and that was the perfect excuse to give the old twin-lunger a much-needed freshen up. Clive’d never been a fan of the matte paintjob Billy’d favoured, so Jay was tasked with repainting the neat little Wassell tank in a black base/silver-edged blue flames ensemble, and Jonny made a new stainless battery box as that’d been damaged, too. The single carb 650cc ’61 motor had its top end overhauled as it was leaking oil, not quite on the Amoco Cadiz scale but not far off, and they replaced the pushrod tubes for billet alloy ones, and binned the internals of the magneto in favour of a new electronic ignition in a bid to ensure there’s never again a repeat of the fire-in-the-hole scenario.
The rest of the bike was checked over, and made-over if required. The bolt-on hardtail, two-inch stretched, was found to be fine; as were the Bombardier forks; the alloy rimmed wheels; the Wassell rear ’guard with its homemade struts; the neat little sprung seat; the Bates (style) headlight; the neat little side-mount; and just about everything else as well. A new loom was made to replace the burnt one, and a neat little velocity stack (bell-mouth to you and me) was attached to the back of the carb.
The finished bike, now that they’ve cured it of its phoenix tendencies, starts, ticks over, and runs just as a sorted old Triumph should. The crackle from the high-level ’pipes is aurally orgasmic, and it’s just one of those bikes that puts a smile on your face as soon as you see it. It’s also for sale too, so you could have such a smile on your face every time you open the garage door. Ring Clive at So Low on 01359 253600 and promise him £7,500, and it could be yours.
1961 Triumph 6T Thunderbird engine (rebuilt, Amal velocity stacks, electronic ignition, one-off high-level exhausts)/frame (modified), re-built Triumph wheels with alloy rims (19” front, 16” rear), Triumph brakes, Bombardier forks, aftermarket ‘bars/controls/grips, Wassell tank/rear mudguard (modified), one-off mudguard struts, aftermarket seat/spun alloy oil tank, one-off stainless battery box, one-off loom, Bates-style headlight, one-off side-mount with aftermarket rear light
Candy blue over silver/black paint by Jay at So Low Choppers, polishing by So Low Choppers
Chris Hindle/Billy Whiz/So Low Choppers
“The crew at So Low Choppers (01359 253600 or www.solowchoppers.org); & Billy Whiz for selling it to us…”Enjoy more Back Street Heroes reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.