Posts from ‘WTF’
It turns out that the little black igniter box (i.e. the electronic brain) of my Triumph is dead.
So, after a couple weeks of fruitless searching for a aftermarket “upgrade” to replace the dead brain (all of which were rejected by the dealership for one reason or another), I gave them the green light to put in a new stock part — at a cost of nearly $1000! I figured this way I would at least have a warranty on the most expensive parts of the ignition system . . .
So after another couple weeks of waiting, they received and installed a new black box sourced directly from Triumph in England.
Unfortunately, the new one was part of a “bad batch” that had somehow missed being recalled and had issues immediately upon being installed. After receiving a call telling me that my bike was ready to be picked up, I got another more panicked one telling me not to come in.
So, now they are waiting for another little black brain box to come on a slow boat from England. Unfortunately, they are on “back order” and the dealership has not been given an expected arrival date, or even a ship date. the dealership offered me a series of unsatisfactory options. My current thinking is to give them a couple weeks and if the bike is not finished by then to take it back in non-running condition, refuse to pay them anything, and sell it for parts.
This is a sad state of affairs. I expected more from the Bloor’s “new” Triumph.
The Triumph Thunderbird Legend has experienced a number of unfortunate issues, and is racking up enough of an expense tally that I’m seriously considering selling it and buying something a bit more reliable. . . a Honda perhaps. Or perhaps an old BWM Airhead. It is a sad sad day when one is considering buying a 30-40 year old German bike as a more reliable replacement for a 10 year old British one.
In the past 1500 miles, much has gone wrong. In addition to the 6k service, which is a wholly expected and reasonable expense, I had to replace a bunch of leaky seals in and around the shift mechanism. This is perhaps understandable, as the seals are 10 years old and rubber just doesn’t last forever in a pressurized system. I have also had to replace all three ignition coils. . . which is perhaps a bit less understandable on a bike with well under 10k miles. Then last weekend, I was out riding and I lost a cylinder — suddenly the bike went from running like a champ to running like shit and smelling like gas. I made it home on two cylinders. . . barely.
Either one of those new coils has failed or the entire ignition box (i.e. the black-box electrical brain) has failed. The coils are under warranty, but replacing the ignition box at the dealership will approach $1000. . .
And, the 885 triple was supposed to be a super-reliable modern Triumph — engineered to combat the poor reputation the Triumph had made for itself in the 60s and 70s. Hell, if I had wanted headaches like this I would have bought a Harley or a Ducati. I’m starting to get to know the dealership folks much better than I want to. . . and their sad apologetic this-shouldn’t-be-happening-like-this shtick is getting old — especially as the bills mount up. Hell, I have spent a significant percentage of the bike’s value in the last few months just keeping her on the road.
I’m going to have to think long and hard about whether to get her all fixed up and sell her in the spring before anything else goes wrong. . . then again, if I replace the brain box, I will be running a completely new ignition system all under warranty. . . The frustrating thing is that (when she is running) I absolutely love my Triumph, dammit. decisions, decisions, decisions.
So, I have been attending the Burning Man festival for a decade now. Hell, the festival camping circuit is one of the reasons I am such a devotee of custom “camping capable” vans.
This year, before I left for the thousand mile trip to BRC and back, I took my sweet little Custom ’79 shorty van into a professional shop to have a safety inspection and make sure my amateur mechanical skills hadn’t missed something mission critical. After a 32 point inspection they basically gave her a clean bill of health, although they recommended a “transmission service,” due to aging fluids, which I had them perform.
The little old shorty did really well on the trip out — 6500 feet of elevation gain while heavily loaded down with hundreds of pounds of gear, food and water was no sweat. She took the curvy roads like a champ. And, even got pretty decent gas milage. I arrived at 12:30 AM on Monday morning.
But upon arriving at the entrance line to the festival, during the miles and miles of slow creeping progress from idle, she started to show problems. The transmission started slipping, and eventually refused to engage altogether. Some random nice people helped me push her off to the side of the queue (into the dreaded “D-Lot” a.k.a. BRC Purgatory. . .). Basically, she was dead in the middle of the Nevada high desert, many many miles from anything resembling civilization.
But, I didn’t freak out. I didn’t panic. I didn’t give up. I strapped on my headlamp, grabbed my socket set and Leatherman Tool and crawled under the van.
The entire undercarriage was coated with a sludgy mix of desert dust and many quarts of transmission oil — all the fresh fluids I had paid professionals to instal had been dumped in the desert. Uh oh.
But, again no panic and no freak out. I was in my Zen space — somehow I knew I had this.
A looked for the source of the problem. And, despite the thick coating of sludge and near total darkness, eventually found the leak: a cracked hose leading to the tranny cooler. I cut out the cracked part, spliced the hose together and reclamped it. Then I spent six hours begging passing cars entering the festival for spare transmission fluid, until I had put in enough that the car would engage and allow me to drive the rest of the way into the event and make camp. The next day I was able to source enough tranny oil to fill her up properly (thanks to DPW and the man known as “The Satanic Mechanic”! And, thanks to the helpful D-Lot crew.) Apparently my diagnosis and fix was a success, because she made it all the way home without any problems — and this after a week of camping in the desert.
Now that I’m safely back in civilization, I’m going to have some words with the “professional shop” about the quality of their inspections, and their ability to service a transmission without checking its integrity. But, the satisfaction of taking care of business when it mattered, was, I think, worth it.
So, I went w/ my good buddy Dale to look at a BMW 3-series he found on C-list. It was nice nice weather, and I picked him up in the freshly painted ’69 Stang, and took him for a ride.
The beemer was a bust (late models cars should not have the bodywork held on with zip-ties), but the drive was a blast. Nothing beats showing off 400+HP of vintage American muscle to BMW types. . . And lowback seats really drive home the g-force of zero-sixty in 3-odd seconds — say hello to mr. whiplash!
Everything was going swimmingly until I popped open the floor vent to get some fresh air, and discovered perhaps 8 fluid ounces — a good double handful — of shredded paint and bodyshop dust still lodged in the vent from the Black Beast’s recent sojourn at the Hotrod shop.
In about 10 seconds I looked like I had been tarred-and-feathered with the contents of a bodyshop’s dumpster. It was so bad I nearly crashed the car.
My only consolation was that this had happened with a buddy riding shotgun wearing a tracksuit, and not some pretty young thing in a skimpy outfit. Dale was a good sport about it and didn’t give me nearly as hard a time as he was entitled to, but I’m still embarrassed.
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1969 was one of the first years of the shock absorbing steering column, which replaced the so called “Spear of Death” in the ’64-66 Mustangs. They were called that due to their tendency to impale the driver in a head on collision — apparently the wheel would come apart in the impact and the the hard-mounted steering column would punch right through the driver, like something out of a B-movie. Nice.
With the advent of the collapsable steering column, one was merely crushed to death against the dash, or bisected by their lap-belt. A serious improvement, and less likely to lead to a closed-casket funeral.
In recognition of the sheer speed of the Black Beast, coupled with it’s primitive and mediocre drum brakes, and based on a heartfelt desire not to eat the beautiful wood and steel Grant wheel in a crash, I installed some nice RCI race grade harnesses. They aren’t period correct, but the stock belts were both ineffective and hideously ugly.
After a week and countless hours, I have finally located and remedied a really loud annoying rattle that the Black Beast had on rough roads and at certain engine vibrations.
I could have sworn it was somewhere up front, so I took dash apart 3 times and located and remedied many other smaller rattles. . . as well as removing the entire vestigial HVAC system (the compressor was probably pulled sometime in the 80s, and now the rest of the plumbing lives in a cardboard box. Hotrods don’t have AC. AC is for Grandma cars). I was convinced the rattle was from all the old HVAC crap, but regardless of what I yanked out it was still there.
Then I started remembered how many of the various body panels has been attached by an insufficient number of bolts by the prior owners. So I went panel by panel doing what the dumbass prior owners should have done. I must have put in a couple hundred sheetmetal screws into her (I’m not joking — I literally cleaned out the local Ace hardware in a couple sizes), and a truly disturbing number of large weight bearing bolts as well. All this was time well spent, but the ‘death rattle’ was still there.
I had been calling it “the death rattle” ’cause of how damn ominous it was. It was so bad that I had gotten some pretty scared looks from passengers. . . nothing ruins a hot date faster than the fear your car is going to come apart at the seams and kill the pretty young thing riding shotgun. . .
Finally, I found it. It turns out that there was a bolt loose at the top of the driver’s side shock column. A bolt which had a washer. The washer had 1/8″ to rattle in and the whole shock tower acted like a drum to magnify the sound.
Well, at least now I can take apart the dash on a ’69 Mustang while blindfolded.