Born Again: Vintage Triumph Drag Bike

Vintage Triumph Drag Bike

“Born Again” — a 60’s-style show-and-go drag bike, built from a snow-buried frame…

Back in the 1960s, it wasn’t unheard of for a single drag racer to build, tune, ride, and show the same bike. It was an era when the drag bikes were naked, so you could go down to the strip and actually see what racers were doing in their garages, sheds, shops, and basements to get down the track faster than their rivals, shaving fractions off their E/T’s through blood, sweat, and experimentation. What’s more, many old-timers say it was the stretched and slammed look of these mid-century drag bikes that inspired the raked front ends and “skinny” bikes of the chopper generation.

Vintage Triumph Drag Bike
Eddie Del Valle (@bearded_r0b0t)

Enter our new friend Kevin Busch (@peety_8), whose grandfather, Jack Williams, owned a speed shop in British Columbia known as Syndicate Scuderia — a fixture of the Vancouver hot rod and drag racing scene. About four years ago, Kevin managed to get hold of the frame, wheels, and drilled forks of his grandfather Jack’s old drag bike, “Zeus.” Studying old black-and-white photographs of the bike under a magnifying glass, Kevin assembled the parts to rebuild and restore the machine.

Vintage Triumph Drag Bike
Kevin’s Grandfather’s BSA/JAP drag bike “Zeus” circa 1960, racing at the old WWII airport drag strip in Bayview, Washington.

It was his first bike build, but with 22 years of steel fabrication experience — working at the same shop since he was 17! — he was well-groomed for the task. The result was a strip weapon fit for the god of thunder himself. Zeus was featured in the issue 37 of Iron & Air magazine and also won the Pipeburn Award at the 2019 edition of The One Motorcycle Show in Portland, Oregon.

Vintage Triumph Drag Bike
“Born Again” alongside “Zeus”

At this year’s One Moto Show, Kevin was back with his second vintage drag bike build, a 500cc 1955 Triumph dubbed “Born Again” — one of our favorite builds from the entire show. He originally went to buy just the engine and transmission, but the seller threw in the numbers-matching frame…which they dug out of the snow behind his garage. Kevin’s vision for the preunit Triumph was clear, inspired by the early 60s drag bikes that a guy of that era would build:

“A show-and-go drag bike that would run in the gas class…that he could show one weekend and then take out to a strip the following weekend and go racing.”

Vintage Triumph Drag Bike
Eddie Del Valle (@bearded_r0b0t)

The frame has a bolt-on hard tail with a 6” stretch with 2.5” drop, and Kevin fabricated pretty much everything else on the build, from the twin tube gas tanks (three cups each) to the seat, linkages, pegs, handlebars, and more. The result is a show-and-strip stunner that oozes 60s cool. While Kevin just finished the build before the show and hasn’t had a chance to rip it up the street due to the inclement weather, he did get to make some smoke in the shop:

“I did, however, get to fire it up in my garage and put it up against the wall and rev it up and slam the clutch loose and spin the rear slick, getting it burning the shop floor, LOL.”

Vintage Triumph Drag Bike

What’s more, the build has only heightened his passion for vintage drag bikes. He now runs a Facebook group dedicated to the era, “Vintage Drag Bikes of Days Gone By,” which has 800+ members:

“Because let’s face it, how many vintage drag bikes do you see at bike shows? None, because not many of them survived the times, so my passion for preserving vintage drag bikes is very strong.”

Below, we get more details on the build, as well as some gorgeous photos from Kevin himself and our man at The One Moto Show, Eddie Del Valle (@bearded_r0b0t).

500cc Triumph Vintage Drag Bike: In the Builder’s Words

Vintage Triumph Drag Bike

I started this build approximately three years ago, as I wanted another drag bike to go along with my first drag bike I restored named ZEUS, which was my grandfather’s old bike he built and raced in the late 1950’s. I took ZEUS to the One Moto show last year and won the Pipeburn builder award and also had it featured in issue #37 of Iron & Air magazine this past Oct.

Vintage Triumph Drag Bike

My Triumph is based off a 1955 500cc, and all I started with was the front frame loop, engine, and gearbox. The frame was long forgotten and buried in the snow behind the guy’s garage. So we dug it out, as I originally went to buy the engine and trans and he tossed the frame in for free, which was the numbers-matching frame that had been left outside to rust away.

I have worked in the steel fabrication industry at the same shop since I was 17. Now 39, I have learned a lot and enjoy building bikes with fabricating and welding, etc. I wanted to build this bike as an early 1960’s era type vintage drag bike that a guy of that era would build — a show-and-go drag bike that would run in the gas class and that he could show at a show one weekend and then take out to a strip the following weekend and go racing.

Vintage Triumph Drag Bike

It’s been and very fun build. It has a bolt-on hard tail on it, which is a 6” stretch with 2.5” drop over the stock swing arm it would have come with. I fab’d up pretty much everything else that you see on it from the tube tanks that hold 3 cups of fuel each, the oil bucket, seat, linkages, pegs, primary chain guard, handlebars, and much more.

Can you tell us what the riding experience is like?

Well, I haven’t got a chance to actually ride the bike yet, as I had just finished the build about three weeks before The One Moto Show. I got the bike fired up, running and all tuned, but sadly it rained almost every day prior to the show, so I couldn’t get it out. I did, however, get to fire it up in my garage and put it up against the wall and rev it up and slam the clutch loose and spin the rear slick getting it burning the shop floor, LOL. Definitely excited to get it out on the road for a blast up and down the street!

Vintage Triumph Drag Bike

Was there anything done during this build that you’re particularly proud of, either in terms of fabrication or the wider process itself?

I think by fabricating as much stuff as I could from scratch versus buying parts to just bolt on gives me such more feel of accomplishment/pride, and by taking it to the shows and watching the look on people’s faces as they talk about it with their friends and take pictures and stare at it — because let’s face it, how many vintage drag bikes do you see at bike shows? None, because not many of them survived the times, so my passion for preserving vintage drag bikes is very strong.

Vintage Triumph Drag Bike

I also own and run my own group on Facebook called “Vintage Drag Bikes of Days Gone By” with over 800 members and growing. With a lot of ex-builders and racers from across the world, it’s a place to share old photos and keep the passion of them going strong.

Follow the Builder @peety_8

2 Comments

  1. Jan Sallings

    Beautiful bikes! Very unique and you are right. Not many (if any) drag bikes at shows.

  2. I raced the drag strip in the 80’s and really miss the drag bikes! I would love to see more shown and shared. I personally always loved the Suzuki GS 1100 and 1150’s ! Amazing bikes! Good times for sure!

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