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The Tale of a Tiger Personal memories of a special bike. The Tiger 100C was Triumph’s challenger to the BSA Gold Stars and Norton Internationals in the Clubman’s TT races of the early nineteen-fifties (see the full story on the bike in the June blog). Bruce Cox of BRG Multimedia remembers that model well, thanks to a very special example that he once owned…


At a local VMCC club night recently (writes Bruce) I met John White, newly returned from living in Spain and who I had not seen for literally some fifty years! This soon led to our recollections about a very special Triumph Tiger 100 that I had bought from him in 1959 and which, with the benefit of half a century’s hindsight, both John and I wish we had never parted with!


The Triumph factory was not officially involved in racing in the early ‘fifties but is said to have specially prepared some machines in the factory development shop for hand-picked riders deemed to be potential winners of the Clubmans TT race held on the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course. These included half a dozen of the 1954 Tiger 100 models with the swinging arm frame which was new for that year.


Riding one of these allegedly ‘works prepared’ bikes in 1954 was Gloucestershire rider, Tony Ovens who finished fourth at an average speed of 84.87mph for the four laps of the nearly 38-mile Mountain Circuit.


This was only fractionally slower than the three BSA Gold Stars that finished ahead of him. And it was the Tony Ovens Triumph that John White and I had both owned.


Unfortunately for Triumph, 1954 was the year that the legendary single cylinder BSA Gold Star began its eventual total domination of the Clubman’s class and the best that a Triumph twin could do was the fourth place achieved by Tony.


Gold Star specialist, Eddie Dow was one of the BSA riders that year but was still getting over extremely serious injuries incurred in a very bad crash at Laurel Bank while he had been leading the 1953 Clubman’s on a Gold Star. Many years later, Eddie still remembered the Ovens Triumph well. He rode a ‘Goldie’ to tenth place in that 1954 race and told John White that Ovens on the Triumph had gone by him as though he was standing still…!

Tony Ovens finished fourth in the 1954 Clubmans TT behind three BSA Gold Stars


The Clubman’s TT had passed into the history books in 1956 and It was a year after that when John White’s brother Tim purchased ‘our’ Triumph from Eddie Dow’s Banbury dealership. Unfortunately, Tim (who, incidentally, was no relation to another friend of the same name who is pictured later in this feature) later had a really serious accident on the bike when he hit a badly repaired trench across the road which collapsed the alloy front wheel and threw him into the rear of a stationary coal lorry. The collision resulted in Tim being rushed off to Warwick hospital, the bike being badly smashed up, and the coal lorry being towed away because the impact had bent the solid back axle!


Whilst in hospital Tim offered his brother John the remains of the bike at a ‘brotherly’ price and John then took the whole sorry basket case to the local Triumph dealer in Banbury, Bert Shorey.


Bert’s son, Danny, was one of the best road racers in the UK in the late nineteen-fifties and throughout the ‘sixties and had partnered Mike Hailwood to win the 1956 Thruxton 500 Miles race on a 650cc Tiger 110. So, Bert knew all the right people at the Meriden factory and sent the bike there to get it repaired and brought back to its Clubman’s TT specification by the factory competition/development department.


It came back to John in pristine condition - all straightened out and with some new bits such as a ‘siamesed’ two-into-one exhaust system and a new big-bore Amal Monobloc single carburetor replacing the two (by then old-fashioned) small bore Amals and remote float chamber as used in in the original T100C race kit.


“Alas, in a moment’s weakness” says John “and really just to appease my new girlfriend (now my wife) who did not like bikes, I sold it to Bruce and purchased a car. I have regretted that decision for the rest of my life, especially when I later saw another of the 1954 Clubman’s TT bikes in a motorcycle museum in Germany with the information placard stating that it was one of only six built at the factory. I still wonder how many of the rest of those six 1954 Tiger 100C models are now left intact…if any”.


The bike first caught my eye (continues Bruce Cox) when I saw John sitting on it where all we young local motorcyclists used to hang out in town near Banbury Cross. I had been lusting after a Gold Star but there was something about that Triumph which really got me interested in learning more about it. Probably because it had downturned handlebars poking out of the familiar Triumph headlamp nacelle and rear-set footrests…neither of which I had seen on any other Triumph. And then there were the alloy mudguards with number plate mounts welded to the stays of the rear one…evidence that at some point it had been a ‘racer’. There was also a hefty tubular front fork brace mounted ahead of the fork tubes and masquerading as the front mudguard bracket.


Anyway, learning that John wanted to sell it, I was first in line with the ‘readies’. I couldn’t afford a new Gold Star in any case, so the Tiger 100 seemed like a good alternative. And after finding that I could easily blast past my Gold Star and Road Rocket-mounted mates on our Sunday morning rides, I was more than happy with the choice I had made.


At that time, I was 18 years old and the racing bug had already bitten by then. So away went an entry for the National Clubman’s Handicap race that was a curtain raiser to the big International ‘Silverstone Saturday’ race in April 1960. Somewhat surprisingly my entry was accepted and so my first race ever was to be on the high-speed Grand Prix circuit.


The race was a handicap event which saw the two-fifties flagged away first, then the three-fifties a minute or so later and then, another minute or so after that, off we went on the five hundreds. After the start it was all a bit of a blur, chasing down as many of the smaller bikes as possible. So at the end of the race I was truly amazed to be told that I had finished third in the 500cc class at an 83.60mph average and sixth overall on handicap. There only two of the many 500cc Gold Stars entered ahead of the Triumph, so it was still obviously competitive with BSA’s best.


My next race on the Triumph was at Rhydymwyn in North Wales – and what a shock that was! I knew nothing about gearing bikes for different sized tracks and turned up with the same high ‘TT gearing’ that the bike had always had…only to find that the track was 16 feet wide and just over half a mile long through an old army coal dump! I never got out of first gear and still burned out the clutch...it was a rude awakening about the technicalities of going racing!


Just a boy! Eighteen year old Bruce Cox after his first race in May 1960 at Silverstone


Apart from road riding, that was about it for the Triumph in its original Clubman’s TT form. I was aiming to get more serious about racing in later seasons (something I sadly never really did) so we took the Triumph off the road for 1961 and into the workshop behind Rod Gould’s house, where he built it into a very purposeful-looking racer.


With a special pannier tank and racing seat from one of Eddie Dow’s Gold Star specials, plus new small-bore exhaust pipes and reverse cone megaphones, it was an eye-catching bike. But in the real world of racing neither it nor I were going to be anywhere near the front runners in national class competition.

Nowadays, I have only a handful of hazy memories of what I now realize to have been quite a special motorcycle. Obviously, I wish I had never sold it and that it now sat in my garage restored to its 1954 Clubman’s TT specification. But, as is so often said, hindsight is a wonderful thing…


Postscript

The 1961 season wasn’t quite the end of the ‘tale of the Tiger’. In 1963 I was a journalist working for Motorcycle Mechanics magazine and together with fellow staffer, Dave Weightman, decided to build a magazine project bike using his Norton Dominator stripped down and fitted with my Triumph engine, which I would then ride in that year’s Manx Grand Prix on the Isle of Man TT course.

Silverstone 1961. (Left to right) Rod Gould (BSA Gold Star) Tim White (Triumph) and Bruce Cox with the ex-Clubmans TT Triumph rebuilt by Rod. One of the three young hopefuls made it all the way – Rod was World 250cc Champion in 1970 and a Yamaha team rider for three years.


It certainly looked ‘fit for purpose’ but in reality it was still a road bike chassis and could really have done with some upgrades, such as the twin leading shoe front brake as fitted to the Manx Norton racers. The racing linings we fitted to the Dominator brakes got the drums so hot that they expanded and lost much of their braking efficiency. A lesson in the fact that you can’t go fast without the right equipment.


Luckily, there weren’t many spots on the TT course back then which demanded sustained hard braking and I did manage an 86mph lap before retiring with gear selection problems. That was a respectable enough speed for a newcomer with Triumph power in those days when the MGP winners on their Manx Nortons only lapped in the mid-nineties but what I really took on board was just what a demon rider Tony Ovens must have been to average over 84mph on the standard Triumph nine years earlier!


Bruce Cox at Signpost Corner in the 1963 Manx Grand Prix

Bruce Cox at Ballaugh Bridge in the 1963 Manx Grand Prix


LONDON CONCOURS SET FOR AUGUST DATES


The London Concours, presented by Montres Breguet, has been given formal approval to run on 19-20 August by its venue, meaning it’ll be the UK’s first major automotive event to take place since February. With audience welfare in mind, the organisers have created a new operational plan that has been put in place including revised hospitality, audience capacity and increased venue space as well as separate morning and afternoon tickets.


Rowan Kitching, Director of Events at The HAC, said: ‘We are delighted to support the return of London Concours to The HAC. As such a key event in our calendar it was welcome news that outdoor spaces could reopen their doors in order for us to showcase this fabulous event on the beautiful Artillery Garden at The HAC. I’ve been hugely impressed by all the hard work behind the scenes that our teams have shown to make our venues and events a safe and secure place to visit.”


Over the past months, London Concours organisers have continued to secure partners and content for the event. Visitors will be treated to curated feature displays of ‘The Lost Marques’ – a collection of car manufacturers lost to time – ‘The Speed of Sand’, which brings together the Hot Rods that annually gather on Pendine Sands, ‘The Era of the Hypercar’, which collects the latest and most innovative performance cars, and more.

(Photo credit: londonconcours.co.uk)


With an offering of nearly 100 automotive icons from the modern day to the early 20th Century, the Honourable Artillery Company HQ’s glorious 20,000 sq/m lawn – near to Bank and Moorgate – will be transformed into a motoring utopia for two days only, complete with displays from specialist automotive dealers and manufacturers. But London Concours is not just about the cars on display; it’s an automotive garden party complete with boutiques from watchmakers, Montres Breguet, arthouses, fashion brands and fine food and drink.


The London Concours has now increased its venue space at The HAC by more than a third, taking the total space to 20,000 sq/m. Combined with a limit on the number of people allowed in the venue at any one time, the event will offer visitors more space to enjoy the content than ever before. A special rate has been negotiated for parking close to the venue, for those who may now choose to drive to the event.


Andrew Evans, London Concours Director, said: “We’re enormously excited by this breakthrough. The event has received so much support from partnering brands and we look forward to welcoming many more in addition to our visiting guests. We can, and we will, create an extraordinary event comparable to previous years thanks to our robust event plan.”

The London Concours 2020 takes place from 19-20 August. Ticket allocation is restricted compared with previous years, but spaces are still available at www.londonconcours.co.uk/tickets.


In the unlikely event of cancellation, ticket buyers will be given a full refund or their ticket can be deferred to 2021.


BRITISH MOTOR MUSEUM EVENTS DATE CHANGES


The British Motor Museum is well known for its extensive and diverse range of motoring shows, gatherings and rallies that normally take place over the summer months. Unfortunately with the continuing COVID-19 restrictions, the Museum has had to make further changes to this year’s show programme.

(Photo Credit: www.britishmotormuseum.co.uk)


The intention of the Museum is, where possible, to postpone rather than cancel shows whilst consistently adhering to Government advice. The Museum is currently putting in place all the necessary measures and risk assessments to ensure that when it re-opens it has the safety of visitors and staff at the centre of everything it does. This information will all be available on its website prior to the Museum re-opening and any show taking place.


So subject to COVID restrictions, the Museum is currently still planning for the Old Ford Rally to take place on 19 July and the Yakushi Car Club Meet on the new date of 26 July. A final decision about both events will be made by 17 June and published on their website and social media channels. The Gaydon Land Rover Show which was scheduled to take place on 9 - 10 May, has been moved to 1 - 2 August. The Classic & Vintage Commercial Show has been postponed from 13 & 14 June to 8 & 9 August.


The National Metro & Mini Show and BMC & Leyland Show, which were planned for June and July will now take place on 6 September. Whilst the Retro Truck show is still scheduled for 12 & 13 September, Mogfest on 26 September, the Large Model Aircraft Show on 25 October and the Great British Model Railway Show on 7 & 8 November.


Unfortunately a few of the shows have been cancelled but will return in 2021. These include the UK Slot Car Festival which would have taken place on 16 & 17 May, Ford Nationals on 28 June, TR Drivers on 12 July, the MGF 25th Anniversary on 25 July, the Banbury Run on 16 August and the Buses Festival which was due to take place on 23 August. All the 2021 dates for these shows will be published on the Museum’s website as soon as they are confirmed.


Tom Caren, Show Manager at the British Motor Museum stated “It is disappointing to have to make further changes to our show programme, but we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their continued support. We hope that many of our visitors will still be able to join us when we can safely deliver our first-class shows”.


Tickets for cancelled events will be refunded and processed over the next few weeks. For postponed events, all sold tickets will be valid for the new dates with refunds available on request. For updated ticketing information you are advised to9 visit the website at www.britishmotormuseum.co.uk/news/coronavirus-update-for-visitors.


To find out more about the British Motor Museum in general please visit the website at https://www.britishmotormuseum.co.uk/ or email enquiries@britishmotormuseum.co.uk


BLENHEIM PALACE SALON PRIVE DATE CHANGE


Due to the ongoing uncertainty surrounding us here in the UK and indeed around the world, the Directors of Salon Privé have taken a pragmatic decision to move the 2020 edition back 3 weeks, with the event now taking place from Wednesday 23rd to Saturday 26th September.


The event’s success depends upon a number of parameters, with public safety and confidence remaining a prerequisite; therefore, they believe this is a sensible response to the data they have before us at the time of writing.

(Photo credit: www.salonpriveconcours.com )


Thinking back to the inaugural year in 2006 at The Hurlingham Club in Fulham, South West London, Salon Privé showcased just 41 cars to hundreds of guests over 4 days in mid-June. By contrast, in 2019, Salon Privé showcased over 2100 classic, super and hyper cars to over 25,000 guests over 4 days in early-September.


Now in its 15th year, the event continues to attract an international gathering of guests, Concours’ entrants and of course automotive manufacturers in both the luxury and supercar sectors, so it is essential we host the event at a time when, hopefully, confidence will be greatly restored. With more than 95% of the exhibitor space sold, the event is already all but complete and raring to go.


“Many manufacturers now consider Salon Privé 2020 as their first opportunity to debut new models to the UK and in some cases, the global market. As a result, we anticipate even more launches than the record number of 11 debuts in 2019.” said David Bagley, Salon Privé Sales Director.


“I would like to thank our Event Patron and good friend, His Grace, the 12th Duke of Marlborough, and the Blenheim Palace team for accommodating this move. It takes considerable effort and investment to prepare for Salon Privé and to have such support from all our long-standing sponsors, automotive partners, luxury brands and UK Car Clubs, is very humbling and gratifying indeed.


There is a huge desire to host this very special annual event and these extra three weeks should ensure we can open the Palace doors to what will be our most spectacular automotive celebration yet.” commented Andrew Bagley, Salon Privé Concours Chairman.


For more information go to the event website at www.salonpriveconcours.com


The Tiger 100C was Triumph’s challenger to the BSA Gold Stars and Norton Internationals in the Clubman’s TT races of the early nineteen-fifties. And it acquitted itself well in that role, with ‘top six’ leader board places in nine of the ten races that were held between 1947 and 1956, including ten ‘top three’ podium finishes and a win in 1952.


The Triumph factory was not officially involved in racing in the early ‘fifties but is said to have specially prepared some machines in the factory development shop for hand-picked riders deemed to be potential winners of the Clubman’s race. These included half a dozen of the 1954 Tiger 100 models with the swinging arm frame which was new for that year.




Riding one of these allegedly ‘works prepared’ bikes in 1954 was Gloucestershire rider, Tony Ovens who finished fourth at an average speed of 84.87mph for the four laps of the nearly 38-mile Mountain Circuit. This was only fractionally slower than the three BSA Gold Stars that finished ahead of him.


Tiger 100 ‘race kitted’ models like that one had made Triumph twins a real force to be reckoned with in the clubman’s racing classes of the early nineteen-fifties and they were the culmination of the development of Triumph designer Edward Turner’s seminal 1937 Speed Twin.


With the runaway sales success of the Speed Twin, Turner's mind soon turned to further developing the potential of his new parallel twin motor. The lighter and more powerful Tiger 100 that followed in 1939 was developed as a sporting machine and, as with previous single cylinder models like the 90mph Tiger 90, the '100' referred to the claimed maximum speed of the new twin.

High compression, forged alloy pistons were used in the Tiger 100 engine, which was one of the first to use that new technology, and the cast-iron cylinder barrel was held in place by eight studs rather than the five of the Speed Twin. There was also the pre-World War II option of a bronze cylinder head, the use of this metal being popular for the heads of several sporting bikes in the ‘thirties as it dissipated heat more quickly than cast iron.


In March 1939, Triumph came up with an unorthodox 'launch' of the new Tiger 100. Using a Tiger 100 and a Speed Twin selected at random straight from dealer showrooms, the parallel twin’s endurance was tested with a run of over 1,800 miles. The bikes were ridden from John o' Groats at the northern tip of Scotland to Land's End in Cornwall – the whole length of the British Isles. Then they were ridden across the south of England to the Brooklands circuit in Surrey for six hours of continuous high-speed laps in tandem around the bankings of the Outer Circuit oval.


Riders Ivan Wicksteed and David Whitworth averaged 78.mph for the six hours, with a final lap of 88.5 mph for the Tiger 100. The combination of the 1000-mile trouble-free road trip and the subsequent Brooklands laps won Triumph the prestigious Maudes Trophy awarded for the most meritorious performance of the year by a motorcycle.


The Tiger 100's sporting claims were later proven still further through Freddie Clarke’s 1939 lap record in the over-500cc class at Brooklands of 118.02mph on a Tiger 100 only slightly bored out to 504cc.


Then came the war and the Triumph works in the centre of Coventry was destroyed by German bombers on the night of 14 November 1940 - along with much of the rest of the inner city. When production began again after the war in a new factory at Meriden on the outskirts of the city, Triumphs re-appeared with a new telescopic fork replacing the pre-war girder type.


The company also began the post-war period with success in the 1946 Manx Grand Prix for Irishman, Ernie Lyons, who rode a Tiger 100 fitted with the square light-alloy cylinder barrel and heads originally used on wartime fan-cooled stationary generator units because of their lighter weight and better heat dissipation.


Triumph boss, Edward Turner, had little interest in spending the company’s money on a racing team but he could see the publicity value of private riders doing the winning on the factory’s behalf. As a result, Triumph put a copy of Lyons machine into limited production and called it the Triumph Grand Prix. This bike was intended purely for racing and between 150 and 200 of them were built between 1947 and 1950. The GP model couldn’t match the speed of the Manx Nortons but was popular with privateer riders because of its lower price and easier maintenance.


In 1951 it was replaced by a new version of the Tiger 100 that was offered with a factory ‘race kit’ for the ‘clubman’ rider who wanted to go road racing. Up until 1951, Triumph riders had been unable to use the GP model in the Clubman’s TT on the Isle of Man as it was a pure racer without any road-going equipment. Clubman’s TT entrants up until that year were restricted to using the iron-barreled Tiger 100 because the square-finned alloy barrels of the GP racer were not used on the road-going bikes and not even listed as catalogued ‘upgrades’.


Even so, the Tiger 100 riders from 1947 to 1950 fared pretty well in the Clubman’s against the opposition of the day. Allan Jefferies finished second to the Norton of Eric Briggs in the first of those races in 1947 and was second again in 1949 to another Norton International. He, of course, was the patriarch of the famous Yorkshire family of TT stars, his sons Tony and Nick and his grandson, the late and much-missed David.


The Norton that finished ahead of Allan in 1949 was ridden by a certain Geoff Duke, then a Norton trials rider making his road racing debut with an Isle of Man win! Geoff, of course, went on to win the Manx Grand Prix later that year and then five more TT races and six World Championships. No disgrace for Allan and Triumph, then, in giving best to that superstar in the making in 1949!


In 1950 it looked as though the Tiger 100 would score its first win in the Clubman’s as Ivan Wicksteed (one of the riders in the pre-war Brooklands record session that won Triumph the Maudes Trophy) had a lead of over three minutes as he started his fourth and final lap. But only a mile or so later he was out…retiring at Quarter Bridge with a split fuel tank. That left his fellow Triumph rider, Allen Hill, battling with Norton-mounted Phil Carter for the win over the final lap. In the end the Norton man took the honours by 26 seconds.


So Triumph Tiger 100s had always been in contention for the Senior (500cc) Clubman’s TT win since the very first race – and there were few who would have bet against a Triumph victory in 1951. That year the production Tiger 100 road bike had gained a new close-finned, die-cast alloy cylinder barrel and head, far superior in both construction and design to the old generator-based components used on the Grand Prix model. In addition, the T100 race kit had many components that had been developed for the GP Triumph, including the E3134 camshafts that were later also used on the 650cc Bonneville. The rest of the kit included twin carburetors with a single remote float chamber, improved valves and springs, high compression pistons and open megaphone exhausts.


A road test of a race-kitted Tiger 100 by Motor Cycling magazine in 1951 showed that just how good that kit was in boosting engine power. First off, the standard bike was clocked at 96mph on the Motor Industries Research Association (MIRA) test track near Nuneaton in Warwickshire. The fitting of the kit then raised that top speed by a most impressive 13mph and further proof of its effectiveness came from the results of both the 1951 and 1952 IOM Clubman’s races.


In 1951, Triumph riders, Ivan Wicksteed and John Draper were a close second and third but Wicksteed admitted throwing the race away by easing off too much on the last lap, believing he had an unassailable lead. Signals he got at Ramsey with a third of the lap to go appeared to confirm this so, mindful of his 1950 disappointment, he eased his pace over the Mountain to save overstressing the engine.


Unfortunately for Wicksteed, Ivor Arber on a Norton was right then putting in his fastest lap of the race, lapping in 27m 59.6s despite a spill at Governor’s Bridge hairpin, the final turn before the finish.


Wicksteed’s initial standing start lap had actually been three seconds quicker than Arber’s final charge but that was his fastest lap of the race. Relying at signaling both at the pits and out at Ramsey he had decided to run a controlled race to ensure a finish and a victory but a final lap at 29m 22.6s was almost a minute and a half slower than Arber’s. Wicksteed had somehow managed to turn a minute’s advantage into a 20 second deficit at the flag.

Having thrown away what seemed like certain victory, Ivan was sporting in defeat.

“I hope you all see the moral in this” he said at the prize giving, “don’t try to be too ruddy cunning!” And what hurt almost as much, he said, was the fact that by dint of having finished in the top three he was prevented by the Clubman’s regulations from coming back in 1952 for another crack at a race that he could have won in 1950 and should have won in 1951.


And as a final aside on the 1951 race, the third man home, also on a Triumph, was Johnny Draper – better known as one of Britain’s best scrambles (motocross), observed trials and International Six Days Trial enduro riders in the ‘fifties. He was typical of many ‘all-rounders’ who embraced the true ‘clubman’ spirit of the Clubman’s TT over the years – riders like (to name but two of many) grass track and sprint star, Alf Hagon and 1955 winner, Eddie Dow, who also won Gold Medals in the ISDT and First Class Awards in the Scottish Six Days.


Back to the TT timeline, however, and it was Bernard Hargreaves who secured the hitherto elusive win for Triumph in 1952. All four of his laps were in the 27 minute bracket and he won comfortably at a speed of 82.45mph, more than half a minute ahead of the second man.

Incidentally, that 1952 race saw the racing debut of one Frank Perris, who finished 18th on a Tiger 100. Frank, of course, went on to star as a works rider for the Suzuki Grand Prix team and to become manager of the John Player Norton team after his retirement from racing.


The success of Bernard Hargreaves in 1952 led to the introduction of the Tiger 100C model for 1953 which was a complete and fully race-kitted motorcycle, ready to wheel out to the start line at the Clubman’s TT. Only 560 of those models were made and it was discontinued as a catalogue listing after that single year, although all race-kitted Tiger 100s are generally referred to these days as a Tiger 100C.


Possibly the reason for the removal of the complete T100C Clubman racer from the Triumph model line-up, though we shall never know, was because Norton had easily bested the previously successful Triumphs to win the 1953 Clubman’s TT. Their old plunger suspension frames, affectionately known as the ‘Garden Gate’ type because of their agricultural-looking construction, had been replaced by a road-going version of the famous Manx frame. The nickname for that one, of course, was the ’Featherbed’ – which more than underlined its superiority – and into that masterpiece was installed the same single-overhead camshaft, single cylinder engine which, although a mid-thirties design, had already proved that it had the necessary speed. That bike was the final incarnation of the Norton International.


The best Triumph T100C in 1953 placed fourth, with another one in seventh. The rest of the top ten were all on the new Nortons, so Triumph apparently read the writing on the wall and quietly dropped its complete ‘clubman racer’ from the 1954 catalogue.


The performance parts of the T100C race kit were still available from Triumph dealers, however, and over the following years the factory continued to develop the Tiger 100, including the introduction of a new cylinder head with separate induction manifolds for twin carburetors and angled inlet ports. That new ‘splayed ports’ cylinder head design came later in the ‘fifties, however, and for 1954, it was Triumph’s rear suspension that got the most attention from the development team at Meriden.


The superb handling of their new frames had been more of a key to Norton’s 1953 success than the power of their single-cylinder engine. This was essentially a 20 year old design and no more powerful than the Triumph Tiger 100 twin. The handling capabilities of the new Norton frame, however, had definitely pointed up the deficiencies of Triumph’s ‘sprung hub’ rear suspension. This self-contained unit looked neat and had the advantage of fitting straight into the standard rigid frame of the day.


A complete sprung hub rear wheel was offered as an optional extra on new machines or could be bought separately from Triumph dealers to ‘upgrade’ rigid frames. But ‘upgrade’ was perhaps something of a misnomer because, judging by contemporary photographs, many racers preferred to stay with the rigid frame. The sprung hub relied on coil springs within the hub to provide about two inches of suspension movement and appeared to have had little or nothing in the way of rebound damping.


After the 1953 defeat by the ‘Featherbed’ Nortons it had become obvious to Triumph that a swinging arm system was badly needed and that’s the way they went with their 1954 Tiger 100 road bikes as well as for the bikes allegedly prepared at the factory for that year’s Clubman’s TT. Otherwise, the engine and close ratio gearbox were as per the previous year’s T100C.


Unfortunately for Triumph, 1954 was the year that the legendary single cylinder BSA Gold Star began its eventual total domination of the Clubman’s class. The best that a Triumph twin could do was the fourth place achieved by Tony Ovens, who averaged 84+mph – a speed that would have been good enough to win the race before the latest versions of the Gold Star arrived.


Gold Star specialist, Eddie Dow was one of the BSA riders that year but was still getting over extremely serious injuries incurred in a very bad crash at Laurel Bank while he had been leading the 1953 Clubman’s on a Gold Star. Many years later, Eddie still remembered the Ovens Triumph well. He rode a ‘Goldie’ to tenth place in that 1954 race and told John White that Ovens on the Triumph had gone by him as though he was standing still…! Eddie came back to the Island again on a Gold Star in 1955 – when the Clubman’s TT was switched from the Mountain Circuit to the shorter, seven mile Clypse circuit. This time he won the race, with Ian Atkinson and Raymond Kelly filling the other podium places for Triumph.


Power was never really the issue for the Tiger 100C. Handling rather than horsepower was where the Gold Stars really had the advantage over the T100C. By 1956, however, it was plain to see that the great-looking BSA singles had a stranglehold on both the 350 and 500cc classes of the Clubman’s TT. Seventh place for John Hurlstone was the best a Triumph could do that year, although Mike Brookes had got as high as fifth before his twin succumbed to clutch trouble.


With only a solitary Velocette Viper amongst 68 BSA Gold Stars in the 350cc race and half a dozen Triumphs and a single Norton against 35 Goldies in the 500cc class, the 1956 Clubman’s TT proved that the original concept of the race as a way of comparing the sports bikes available to the clubmen riders of the ‘fifties had obviously run its course. The organizers did not see the point of creating a BSA benefit and the event was dropped from the Isle of Man calendar.