Triumph Tiger Cub

All that glitters… is usually a pain in the posterior. And the pocket! David Rooney learned this lesson when he bought a beautiful-looking T20…

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You know those adverts, the ones which say; ‘just needs finishing’? Well, David Rooney knows all about them now, after being seduced by the charms of a shiny-shiny 1961 Tiger Cub. The story starts — as so many do — in a showroom.

‘I’m an average bloke,’ reckons David. ‘If I’m outstanding at anything then it’s at being average. So when I swung my leg over a Cub in a dealer’s showroom it came as a shock when a lump came into my throat (nothing to do with the hard seat!). I had a 40 year flashback and visualised the roads I used to ride on with my first Cub, on the way to work as an apprentice. At that moment I KNEW I would have to buy a Cub — but not the one I was sitting on. It had to be a 1961 bike, black and silver with rear enclosure.’

David located just that bike, which the seller claimed needed ‘just a chain and seat, mate.’ Oh yes. No doubt the three bears will be along in a minute, to help Goldilocks with her porridge! Still, the rebuild gave David every chance to get to know his Cub a little better (it always help to look on the positive side, doesn’t it?).

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‘I wish I’d known before I bought it how many parts were really missing, wrong, or mis-fitted. It was very shiny, but it wasn’t right. The engine and rear sprocket combination would have given a top speed of 45mph,’ (and that’s slow, even for a Cub — joke! TP), ‘and the filled dent in the gleaming petrol tank would have seriously reduced fuel capacity. The alternator and the speedo didn’t work, and the list of small, hard to find items was endless. But with matching engine and frame numbers, and its original registration, it deserved to be sorted.’

So sorted it was. The previous owner had put in considerable work but much more was still needed; ‘I had to put right some of his efforts and find and fit what felt like thousands of smaller bits,’ says the ever-patient Proud Owner. The engine was rebuilt, and then the rear enclosures had to be sprayed. As David couldn’t match the existing silver this meant that the rest of the Cub had to be done too. ‘I did this with aerosols,’ says David; ‘which I found much improved these days.’

David fitted a solid state rectifier, but apart from that; ‘it’s as authentic as I could make it, even down to Taff Isaac’s beautiful clear hooter which I’ve hidden in the headlamp.’

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On its maiden voyage, the Cub managed to travel all of two miles before the newly rebuilt motor spluttered to a halt. After many hours and days spent testing components and connections, David finally (and in considerable desperation) tried the brand new spark plug. He swapped it for another new plug and — hurrah! — the Cub started first kick.

‘It hasn’t missed a beat since.

‘I rejetted the Amal 375 carb that came with the bike and it’s doing 108mpg on 4-star,’ which gives the wee beast a range of over 300 miles to a tankful. ‘I’ve renovated the correct Zenith carb but feel reluctant to change at the moment while the Cub is running so well.’ Good plan — if it ain’t broke, don’t even think about fixing it…

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So after all that effort, has the Cub lived up to David’s dreams? Well, it’s most definitely not for sale. ‘It’s a good looking bike, easy to use and excellent around country lanes. It doesn’t take much to hose down after a few muddy roads.

‘My Cub’s not big, flashy or rare, but it is used at every opportunity, come rain or shine.’

Click to go to the Cub Club pagePeople To Speak To

  • The Tiger Cub Club
  • Mike Estall, for info, 01827 383415.
  • Taff Isaacs, 01792 233763.
  • Ian Roberts of Serco, 01484 715288
  • AO Electrical Services, 01953 884681

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