Ride a Red Triumph

There was a great post on the Sproutnet Forum recently, on the model of Paddy’s motorbike from the Steve McQueen cover.

As the forum is mostly quiet now, I thought it worth bringing the post over here for a deluxe illustrated version. After all, we’ve already discussed where it might have been photographed, it’s reasonable to ask what it was. And it turns out it’s not quite as simple as you might suppose.

To recap what the bike looks like on the cover, here is a nice big picture of it


And here are a couple of colour photographs
bike 2
paddy on bike



Let’s let Mo (JackNNoah from Sproutnet) take up the explanation…

Okay….. I was asked by a few people to identify this motorcycle yesterday, so I thought I would copy my musings and post.

This was one of the images that got me wanting a vintage Triumph motorcycle, together with the likes of Jean Jacques Burnel of the Stranglers on a 70’s 750 Bonneville.

The Triumph ridden by Steve McQueen and jumped by Bud Ekins was a 1961 650 TR6 Triumph Trophy. All ‘TT’ Triumphs are of unit construction, so this Great Escape motorcycle was neither a TT Bonneville, nor TT Trophy.

The Triumph motorcycle from Steve McQueen is neither a Bonnie, nor even a 650. The engine is of unit construction (meaning that the gearbox and engine are combined, not separate). You can tell a unit 650 from the drive side, as the chaincase has a beautiful ledge to the casting, which looks like a wing. Very handsome. We can safely say it is a 500cc. As this chain case lacks the circular inspection plate for stroboscopic timing, we can definitely eliminate a post 1967 Triumph.

This stunning motorcycle could well be a ‘bitsa’ made up of several bikes, as there are several non-standard fittments. Such as a reconditioned saddle, after-market horn below the petrol tank and questionable high-level exhausts. I think these were offered by an American company semi – affiliated to Triumph motorcycles, Tri-Cor.

It is not the Triumph Trophy TR5AC.


In my 27 years of riding and restoring Triumphs, I have only seen two examples of the sexy Trophy TR5AC and both instances, had to tell the unaware owners what a rare beast they had!

This Triumph TR5AC was what I classed as a ‘Desert Sled’ range, with protective crankcase shields and a very beautiful smaller competition tank, which had a very flat aspect to the petrol tank underside. Very nice to behold. This petrol tank is clearly a road model.

The competition headlamp (often QD, quickly detachable with a connector that did indeed quickly detach when you threw it up a hill) is small, far smaller that Paddy’s horse, so we can eliminate it being any Triumph Trophy TR5ACort of completion Triumph Trophy based on that!

If only I could see the tool box or lack of behind Paddy’s leg, see if the footrests were capable of folding up (when you threw it down a hill) and ultimately if it had an external distributor.

The points of confusion are indeed the smaller headlamp, idiosyncratic of the competition © Trophy range, again possibly from another motorcycle? From time to time, Triumph did dabble with a 500cc Trophy, the Americans have a fondness for a sweetly tuned 500cc engine. An early example is the motorcycle Fonzy rode in Happy Days.

The final part of the jigsaw and one I cannot see is a distributor that was fitted to early unit Triumphs. This would have been behind the barrels on the crankcase on the offside of the motorcycle and protrudes pretty drastically, before they sorted a more compact engine timing solution.

If it DID have this, it would make the motorcycle a 1958 500cc Triumph Speed Twin, superb engineering for the time.


BUT I am pretty damn sure it is a beautifully modified 500cc 1966 Triumph Tiger 100SS (SS denotes Super Sports).




Christ, need a ride on one of my vintage Triumphs, now.

It’s a Lifetime of Surprises after all……


As so often happens, more information turns up as a response to the post. And in this case it took the form of a photo showing the number plate ECU574E


The MOT database shows it was indeed a Tiger 90, first registered on March 21st 1967, 350CC, last MOTed in 2006 and low mileage, about 4,500.


Also below is the 1992 promotional shot with a similar bike. Looks to my untrained eye like a Tiger 90, could possibly be the same one but with the aftermarket components replaced with original parts, but more likely a different one according to contemporary interviews.


3 thoughts

  1. He He,the Triumph T100SS outside my house is mine,i’ve had her for 30 years and like you say has been modified for my by me.the unit 500cc is a great motorcycle,i’ve had 650’s but always gone back for the unit 500,mine is no where near original,i based it on my first 3TA 350cc but wanted the later frame and 68 onwards engine with roller and ball race bearings,in my 30 years of owning it it has never let me down.
    I think i still have that Prefab Sprout disc somewhere,but alas no record player.
    Thanks for featuring my old Triumph.
    Andy smith

  2. I have what I believe to be a 61 tr5ac. Would like to learn more about it. It seems to be kind of a mixmatch but runs great. Any info you could give to answer an array of questions would be great Thanks Larry.

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