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Buy it for a Nickel(Plated)

1950 El Dorado Triumph

Story by Paul Garson/Photos by Eddie Nicholas

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Would you pay a nickel for this bike?
Would you pay a nickel for this bike?

   Yep, it’s a trick question in a couple of ways. But yes, nickel plays a major part in the build and the opportunity to own it. Bottom line, for 200 nickels aka ten bucks you have a chance to take this tasty 100% nickel-plated 1950 Triumph home. That’s thanks to a raffle offered courtesy of the Venice Vintage Motorcycle Club as part of the festivities celebrating their 10th Annual Rally and Bike Show, the event taking place on Saturday, September 16 in Venice, CA, of course.

   With club officers Jeff Verges, Dayne Ashbaugh, Eddie Nicholas and Mel Clemens guiding the way, the rally has continued to grow in popularity, attendence and the quality and diversity of its showcased motorcycles… vintage, classic, custom, café racer, radical, you name it. And for the past several rallies, a one-off custom bike has give away to some lucky guy or gal.
   Case in point this legally California titled 1950 Triumph given the name “El Dorado” after the fabled city of gold the Conquistadors searched for back before California was on the map.
   Now back to the nickel thing. In addition to its golden bodywork color, much of the bike’s glimmering surfaces is not chrome, in fact there’s not a drop of that stuff to be found. Instead it’s the widespread treatment in warm, lustrous nickel plating, something bike builders a hundred years ago were fond of using.
   The team that built El Dorado consists of VVMC members Farin Hoover and his friend Matt Rowe, both also playing in a band together. We spoke with Farin to get the build details and learned that he’s actually from Akron, Ohio, now developing his career in SoCal as a audio enginer working on commercials. He’s a young professional working in the creative arena as are many of the members of the VVMC. Also it turns out his first street bike and which he restored is a 1971 Honda 500-4 previously owned by his grandfather, the bike shipped to L.A. from Ohio. It also turns out that his grandfather who worked for Goodyear was literally the guy that cast the race tires for the legendary Bobby Unser when he won the 1975 Indy 500.

   While Farin has previously wrenched on a number of bikes, he’s quick to credit Doug Stedman, who previously built raffle bikes for the VVMC events, for all his guidance in getting them up to speed to tackle the new build. He also gives a shout out to “El Capitan” Shannon Sweeney, one of the VVMC’s OGs and national recognized bike builder. More salutes go to Julian at Deus ex Machina, the Venice establishment a longtime VVMC sponsore, Julian himself a major Triumph fan.

    Says Farin, “The reason we wanted to try a Triumph is because the company had just come out with their new take on a hardtail bobber, so we thought, hey, let’s build a real bobber, in fact a pre-unit one. We found a guy in Long Beach who had a Triumph with ’50 parts bolted on a ’59 frame. A bit leaky and crusty, but we felt it had a basically solid frame and motor, so we bought it and started tearing it down last February. The project kinda took on its own life at this point…going far beyond our initial plans, and dealing with challenges we couldn’t predict when youre dealing with an old pre-unit. But we went the full nine yards, and I guess you could say, for a mix of pain and pleasure.” He laughs and adds, “Matt and I decided when we first started that if we messed up big time, we’d just go to the rally and raffle off a box of shiny, cool parts.”

   Things started heating up after Farin and Mike cut the frame which had came with a four inch stretch and a two-inch drop plus a 16-inch wheel in the rear. They decided to graft on a new rear section made with a two-inch stretch and two-inch drop and an 18-inch wheel to bring everything tucked up together for a more aggressive stance. Then the VVMC rally sponsores kicked in to help, like Lucky Wheels Garage in L.A. who handcrafted the custom oil tank that prompted a ton of scratch built mounting brackets for it, the motor and everything else that went into the build which transpired at Matt Rowe’s house in Venice.

   The 650cc 6T twin motor, itself bored .80 as part of the full makeover by pre-unit guru Wes White at Four Aces Cycle , also spins a stouter ‘60s Triumph crank, all fed by a single stock Amal 900, the fuel housed within a new repro Triumph ‘68-70s gas tank.
   Saving the weight of a battery, the kick-start only bike runs off a Triumph mag-dyno, rebuilt with help by Bob Gregor from Moto Classic Garage (Inglewood, CA). The electrical system was upgraded from the stock 6V to 12 via a solid state regulator hidden under the tankin order to run brighter lights especially the trick LED taillight Farin and Matt wanted to integraed into the rear taillight that snorkels up off the rear fender behind their hand fabbed mini-sissy bar. That’s also nickel plated along with the T140 model handlebars sourced out of North Carolina Factory Metal Works, another VVMC rally sponsor who also contributed the levers and grips as well as the aforementioned frame’s hardtail section. The list of components brought into the build also included new clutch packet, new sprockets, shortened and resprung fork springs, and stainless spokes set in nickeled MK I rims wrapped with a 21-inch Allstate Safety Stripe up front, an 18 inch Allstate Dirtman on the rear.
   As stated there’s not a drop of chrome on the bike, the nickel plating handled by Supeme Plating in Inglewood, that part of the build sponsored by Triumph of L.A. There’s also some shiny polished pieces including the primary cover, rockers and cam cover plus a couple polished brass accents like the vintage auto auxilliary lamp repurporsed into the bike’s headlight. The nickel plating extands to the bars, the forks, even the exhaust’s stock header pipes and the seat springs beneath the vintage Bates style saddle upholstered by the Virginia based Rivers Seat Company, another VVMC sponsor. “Yeah, we went all over the place for this bike,” laughs Farin. “Half of the bikes at the last Born Free had their seats.”
   As far as paint, like chrome, don’t look for it. The bike benefits from top class powder coating courtesy of Safe Way Sandblaster and Powdercoating in Culver City, another of the bike build’s sponsor. Says Farin, “That two-tone golden color they helped us choose is called Illusion Dorado which turned into the inspiration for the personality of the bike, Matt and I having always wanted to build like an old desert racer.” Icing on the golden cake so to speak was the pinstriping and brass goldleaf artwork created by L.A. artist Sonny Boy whose work has been commissioned by Roland Sands, Powerplant Choppers and Heroes Motorcycles among others.
   Summing it up Farin says, “This was supposed to be finished in August, but we’ve been working on it up until the last minute time for the rally…that’s why the photos show the bike minus the drive chain, that ‘s now in place. El Dorado is up and running, looking forward to meeting its winner since someone will be taking home the gold.”

    Keep in mind the raffle sales procceds go toward the rally expenses and also to this year’s charity, the Ride for Children’s Pediatic Cancer fund. Here’s a link to both the VVMC event and a way to grab your own raffle tickets and maybe the bike as well. Venice Vintage Motorcycle Club at www.venicevintage.com and www.venicevintage.com/store/vvmr10-raffle-ticket


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