Monday, July 7, 2014

Flight of the Thunderbird

A while back, I posted about one of my finer moments on Ebay, when I picked up a new '97 Triumph Thunderbird to play with. Long story short, I finally got it delivered and on the road, but it was a clusterfuck many goddamned headaches an adventure to get it there.

I had mentioned that I'd lined up a transporter to get the bike from Phoenix to PA. Well, several weeks later, after several failed attempts at correspondence with the guy, I finally got ahold of him, and was assured he was on it. Then.... nothin', again. I damn near never break an agreement with someone, but I just didn't think he was gonna get it done and I was sick of feelin' like I was gettin' fucked, so I started lookin' for other options. (As an aside, the fella's name is Darrell Tindall, under the name TheTransportGuy2 on I DO NOT recommend doin' business with this guy.) The seller had been pretty decent about holdin' onto the bike for me while I arranged shippin', but after six weeks, he was startin' to get antsy.

About that time, I noticed on Facebook that an acquaintance on mine from high school was deliverin' a boat to Commifornia, so I shot him a message to see if he was up for a stop in Phoenix on his way home. A week later, the bike was in my hands.

That was only one headache. The seller, who also turned out to be a dumbass, was a whole other series of headaches.

First, he decided to mail the title and key to me, which was fine. What wasn't fine was his wise decision to send them in a plain jane envelope, with the key floatin' around loose inside. Needless to say, the key wound up in Post Office Purgatory. More on that later.
Second, he was less than truthful about the bike in his Ebay description. Not to any great extent, as there could have been legal repercussions for that, but there were certainly several exaggerations, and there turned out to be many more gremlins than he let on.

Third, correspondence with him was painful, at best. I had maintained open lines of communication with him throughout the process, and especially once I had the bike in my hands, I had a few questions to ask about his care of the bike, and some of the aforementioned gremlins in particular. He was quite adept about givin' me answers to questions I'd not asked, as well as managin' to avoid answerin' the questions that I had asked about. In at least one instance, he flat-out lied to me about the condition of a part (note to readers: don't post pictures of the malfuntionin' part to your Facebook page, then say it worked just fine while you had it). I'm not sure he actually read anythin' I typed, as he was particularly good at askin' questions about things I'd already told him about. He got his money, so I just don't understand why he felt the need to be so dodgy. Really, really frustratin'.

So, back to the key thing. Since the lost key was the only one to the bike, that left me with only two options. First, get a replacement directly from Triumph, or tear the front end off of my old bike, swipe the ignition, tear the front end off the new bike and swap them out, all before ever gettin' the bike runnin'. In the interest of time, I opted to get a new set made from Triumph, since I was still waitin' on the bike to arrive at this point. When I called to place the order, I was told that A) due to a factory fire in Hinckley a few years back which wiped out some records, I might not be able to get a new key set made. If that was the case, they'd let me know within a week and refund my money. or B) they could indeed make a set for me, and I'd have 'em in two weeks. Three weeks later, havin' not heard anythin', I called the dealership I'd made the order from. They called Triumph and were told that they were waitin' for a few other orders to come in so they could all be done at once, and that I should have them in a week. A week later, with no keys in hand, I called back. This time Triumph told the dealership that the guy that cuts keys was on vacation and had just got back, and again, I should have them in a week. By now, both the dealership parts guy was gettin' pretty upset, as was I. I had gotten the bike at this point, and was still not able to run it. A week later, five weeks after placin' the order, I called again. This time, I was told that the records for my bike were among those that were lost in the fire. Five. Goddamned. Weeks. it took them to figure that out, when I was initially told one week. I'm still pretty pissed about that. I've been a Triumph guy forever, but this whole situation has put a pretty bad taste in my mouth.

So, that left me with only one other thing to do... start rippin', tearin' and wrenchin'...
The old and the new, prior to any wrenchin'.

What's left of my baby, who's now a parts bike. Bittersweet, indeed.

The swiped ignition.

The new bike, stripped down and ready
for the new ignition.
One mod that I was rather proud of durin' the process... The headlight is mounted to sleeves that slide over the forks between the triple tree. From factory, the gap between the sleeves and forks had some sort of rubber gasket between them that just turns into a sticky, goopy mess that rears its ugly head when you have to drop the forks. I'd fought with this on the old one with questionable results. This time, an hour spent with PVC, a heat gun, the old forks as a mold and some sandpaper left me with a much better solution.

Almost back together....
A few days and many hours of wrenchin' later, I finally was able to turn the key. Alas, the headaches weren't done yet. Although I'd attempted to charge the battery, it obviously wasn't enough to get the beast started. I swapped out the cheap piece of shit that was in there for the Interstate that I had in my old one, and just like that, she finally roared to life... just in time for a rainstorm, and for me to discover that I'd managed to get air in my clutch line and was unable to operate the clutch. I got the line bled about about the time the rain subsided, so it was finally time to make her maiden voyage.
Let me tell ya, it was like nothin' else to have that Thunderbird poundin' pavement under my ass again. It did wonders to wash the last eleven weeks' worth of headaches away.

She's been runnin' for a few weeks now. I've been tinkerin' along the way, and still have plenty more tinkerin' that I'd like to do. Either way, I've got my Triumph again, and I'm a happy guy.


  1. What a story but you kept at it and turned it all around, nice.

  2. Awesome. I kinda like the colour scheme on your old bike better, but you have the option to change it any time you feel like it.

  3. Sunnybrook, I wouldn't have rested until that bike was runnin'. It's a disease...

    Lemmiwinks, indeed, I do. The black color on the new bike is actually a sprayed-on plastic coating, and the paint underneath is the same cardinal red and silver. If I get the hankerin', I can peel it off, or like you said, just swap 'em out with the old bits. I'll run with the black for a while though.

  4. Between this and your sprocket adventure maybe you should just get a Vespa... ;-)

  5. C'mon, Tim, even I have standards....