A Disneyland engineer and rockstar bassist builds a desert Tiger…
While the 650cc Bonneville may have been the big seller for Triumph in the 1960s, the 500cc Tiger 100 range remained extremely important to the company’s racing division. That’s because the AMA had limited overhead valve motors to 500cc.
“The pre-unit T-100C made its name in flat track competition, racing against 750cc flat head Harleys, since the formula back then was 500cc overhead valve vs. the 750cc flat head.” —Rick Sieman
The Triumph T100C, weighing 337 pounds and with 38 horsepower on tap, also proved itself in the tight woods, hare scrambles, and enduro events like the legendary Jack Pine Endurance Run — a three-day, 500-mile race through Michigan’s formidable backcountry.
“Triumphs 650cc twins were the choice of many desert racers, but the enduro guys preferred the smaller and lighter 500s like this machine.” —Bike-urious
Enter our new friend Tamara Raye, a Disneyland engineer and WARGIRL bassist who finds solace in riding and tinkering with vintage motorcycles. A couple months ago, we featured the BSA Victor 441 Enduro of Tamara’s boyfriend, Jorma, and now we’re thrilled to feature “Little Man,” Tamara’s 1966 Triumph T100C.
Tamara originally bought the bike with a single mission in mind — vintage motocross:
“I bought this bike six years ago, with the intent to point it straight at a VMX track as-is. After a few races it became very apparent that the motor was tired, and the whole kit and caboodle needed a lot more work that I was prepared to do at the time.”
The T100 sat for several years gathering dust in the garage until the 2020 pandemic gave Tamara the opportunity to get the old Triumph twin back in action.
“I initially resurrected this bike from the back of the garage with a ‘make run’ mindset. Once it ran, it was like, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…”
We know how that goes! The work and modifications were extensive, which Tamara details in our interview below. She didn’t want a replica or a cookie-cutter desert sled outfitted with a bunch of reproduction parts, but something all its own:
“The goal with this bike was to pay homage to the past, while creating a fully functional machine that was nice enough to look at, but not too pretty to bash around in the dirt. Ultimately, I wanted the bike to look as fun as it feels to ride.”
Highlights include a Betor front end, T100SC Jack Pine fuel tank, 502 pipes from Ace Desert Parts, custom skid plate and handmade number board, custom seat pan and cover, lots of bracketry and metalwork courtesy of boyfriend Jorma, and an engine fully rebuilt with the help of Hayden Roberts of Hello Engine MC.
As for the nickname, “Little Man,” it’s a tribute to Tamara’s blind little curmudgeon of a Persian rescue cat, Churchill, who shares some character affinities with the growling old Triumph Tiger:
“He is constantly disheveled, and somehow shows up with a singed whisker every now and again. He bumps into things, grumbles, course corrects, and goes on his way. He is a creature that is far from perfect, but never gives up and couldn’t care less what other people think of him. We call him the ‘Little Man.'”
Kyle Rozunko hand-lettered and illustrated the fuel and oil tanks — so cool! Tamara says she’s proud the bike looks quite different from most of the other 1960s desert sleds out there:
“It’s one part desert racer, one part rat rod, and all parts fun!”
“Little Man” Triumph T100C: Owner Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your work space.
I am probably not the person you would imagine holds the pink slip to this machine. You might consider me a bit of a Clark Kent by day, pushing a pair of thick-rimmed glasses up my nose and toiling away on safety-related amusement ride matters at Disneyland. My career as a Mechanical PE (Professional Engineer) is a far cry from the dirt-caked, sweat-soaked trail environment where you’ll find me during my off days. As you can imagine, working at the “Happiest Place on Earth” brings with it a monumentally stressful workload. I find solace from that burden of responsibility by tinkering on my vintage bikes, and by playing bass in my band WARGIRL. The right-brained nature of riding motorcycles and playing music are two of the only activities where I find balance and mental serenity.
My history with motorcycles began over ten years ago, when an eye-catching custom 1975 Yamaha XS650 put me in such a stupor that I immediately withdrew every last cent I had in savings to make her mine. Years of watching old scrambles and racing footage ignited my imagination with the idea of riding and racing these antiquated dinosaurs off-road, and it wasn’t long before there was an entire menagerie of ponies in the stable. I am certainly a quintessential “On Any Sunday” rider, seeking to find a new pin on the map, a new racing discipline to try out, or even just a good spot to go for an ice cream. It is more about the journey than the destination for me — but I do like it when there are snacks at the destination.
I work out of my home garage with my boyfriend Jorma Vik. We have to keep things under wraps to avoid our grumpy old landlord, who seems to hate fun. Things can get interesting working in secret from that tiny space!
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
1966 Triumph T100C.
• Why was this bike built/restored?
I bought this bike six years ago, with the intent to point it straight at a VMX track as-is. After a few races it became very apparent that the motor was tired, and the whole kit and caboodle needed a lot more work that I was prepared to do at the time. So, it sat sadly for a few years in the back of the garage. All of a sudden, 2020 pandemic projects were all the rage and boy did I have myself a whopper of a project ahead of me.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
Naturally, the off-road giants of the past are a direct influence for this bike. Like many others, I was drawn to images of Bud Ekins flying through the desert sand on his big twin, or Jeff Smith flailing his limbs around when things got a little dicey on his BSA. This felt a lot like my own riding style — effective, but not graceful. Nevertheless, I didn’t want my T100C to look like a cookie-cutter “Desert Sled” equipped with all the latest re-pop parts, nor did I want to create a replica model. The goal with this bike was to pay homage to the past, while creating a fully functional machine that was nice enough to look at, but not too pretty to bash around in the dirt. Ultimately, I wanted the bike to look as fun as it feels to ride.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
I initially resurrected this bike from the back of the garage with a “make run” mindset. Once it ran, it was like “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…”
Here is a list of custom and work, which is probably not completely exhaustive:
1. Fitted with a Betor front end. (I think it is from an Ossa).
2. “Tom Lee”-style front fork brace from Presidio Motors.
3. Handmade front number board.
4. Swapped out bars for a different Triumph bend, TT grips, Tomaselli levers.
5. Custom bracketry and mounting for the T100SC Jack Pine fuel tank.
6. 502 pipes from Ace Desert Parts, fitted with custom bracketry and heat shield.
7. Custom skid plate.
8. 56 tooth Sprocket Specialists overlay sprocket.
9. Frame — cleaned up welds, removed extraneous mounting tabs..
10. Custom seat pan, bracketry, foam and cover.
a. Note: Bracketry and custom metalwork was courtesy of Jorma!
11. Webco-style air filter with custom paint bulls eye motif.
12. A few other Webco bits and bobs (Rocker Box Caps, etc.).
13. Oil tank with relocated fill spout and modified breathers.
14. Fuel and oil tanks hand lettered and painted by Kyle Rozunko.
15. Custom electrical, including Podtronics regulator/rectifier and Wassell Vape Ignition.
16. Fresh motor, down to the sludge trap, including crank balance, top end bore (hell, it’s a whole new barrel!), Hepolite pistons and rings, valves/guides/seats, and rocker boxes. Gear box, oil pump, clutch, primary and a whole other host of components were freshened up as well. The heavy lifting on the engine work is thanks to Hayden over at @helloengine.
• Have you given your T100C a nickname?
Accidentally, yes. I call it the “Little Man.”
I have a small curmudgeon of a blind rescue Persian cat named Churchill. He is constantly disheveled, and somehow shows up with a singed whisker every now and again. He bumps into things, grumbles, course corrects, and goes on his way. He is a creature that is far from perfect, but never gives up and couldn’t care less what other people think of him. We call him the “Little Man.”
My T100C is a lot like that. So I had his likeness hand-painted on the oil tank, and the name stuck.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride?
When this bike roars to life, the sound brings with it a rush of nostalgia. The open pipes bellow the soundtrack of the pits at ASCOT or the start line of a Hare Scramble. Your heart begins to race as the first twist of the throttle becomes imminent. This machine is geared to bring ear to ear smiles while riding off-road, is guaranteed to climb steep terrain like a billy goat, and chug along like a La-Z-Boy on a pogo stick on the wide open stretches. While it may not be the fastest machine ever built, it sure does win the congeniality award.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I am particularly proud that this bike doesn’t look like any other 60’s-era Triumph Desert Sleds out there, at least not that I have seen. It’s one part desert racer, one part rat rod, and all parts fun!