Many Triumph enthusiasts feel 1969 is the greatest year for the unit 650’s—a balance of form and function, a design refined over the better part of a decade. Compared to the dual carburetor Bonneville, the Tiger is a smooth runner that goes the distance, with its single carb and larger capacity gas tank. We’d been looking for a ’69 model to restore, and when a rolling basket case surfaced for the right price in the snowy woods of Western Massachusetts, we got right in the truck, ready to make an offer.
This project wasn’t about creativity, it was about getting the bike as close to factory original condition as possible. It took as many months to research and source the parts as it did to build the motorcycle. Countless factory original and NOS parts were used, far too many to list. At first glance, you’ll notice the more obvious components, such as the exceedingly rare NOS seat with the correct 1969-only grab rail, the NOS headlight and ammeter, and the original chainguard. But look closer and you’ll notice the finer details, such as the correct British hardware throughout, freshly cad plated. The motor and transmission were rebuilt to factory specification with the best parts available. Because the body work had to be absolutely perfect, we sent it off to the great Don Hutchinson for a stunning paint job in the correct colors of Trophy Red and Silver Sheen with gold coach lines done by hand. The result is a stunning, perfect restoration of one of the greatest Triumph motorcycles ever produced.
This 69 Tiger won first place trophies for Best Triumph and Best British Classic at the British Iron Association’s 2014 Brit Jam, one of the most well attended vintage bike shows on the East Coast. After 45 years in New England, it now resides in California.
Photography by Alicia Millane