Vintage Steele gives an old Bonnie another chance on life.
WORDS Michael Hilton IMAGES Josh Steele
It’s safe to assume a 50-year-old motorcycle has seen a lot — a lot of riders, a lot of miles, and a lot of destinations. You imagine the people and places a bike like this beautiful, custom 1964 Triumph Bonneville 650 has seen, but that’s assuming a bike like this has lived only one life, which isn’t the case.
This Bonnie actually lived as a chopper through the ’80s and ’90s before someone took it apart, intending to rebuild it. Those good intentions fell short, and the Triumph spent several years in boxes. Those boxes eventually landed at the feet of Ken Schatra, owner of the Fat Crow restaurant (the bikes namesake), who brought the piecemeal motorcycle to Josh Steele and Chris John of Vintage Steele in Brattleboro, Vermont.
Above: One of the early iterations of the Bonneville's form over the years.
Schatra wanted a simple ’60s-style bobber with tidy lines and absolutely no superfluous parts, like turn signals or a battery. It would be Vintage Steele’s first bobber, and Chris and Josh were excited to build something other than café racers and scramblers. “Ken wanted certain parts to be chrome, so we had to step outside our norm and learn about aluminum polishing and chroming,” says Josh. “It’s tough these days to even find someone who still does chroming on a small scale.” But they eventually did, sourcing missing parts from their impressive stockpile of old British metal.
They rebuilt the motor in-house outfitting it with a 750 kit for good measure. Shining up a half-century-old motor proved predictably tedious, and Josh laughs when he thinks back on the hours spent polishing and buffing. “Yeah, that part was very monotonous.” But otherwise, the Bonnieville bobber proved to be a straightforward build that required minimal fabrication.
The build wrapped with over 80 hours of painting and pin striping for about 20 parts and panels, each coated in glossy blue and white, a color scheme inspired by an Austin-Healey. Tight on time and budget, Vintage Steele pulled off their first bobber build and are understandably proud of the result. They’ve added a new chapter to this bike’s life—a clean, classic version that looks ready for the next fifty years.
Owner: Ken Schatra Year/Make/Model: 1964 Triumph Bonneville Carburetor: Original Amal Exhaust: TT Exhaust Headers Transmission: OEM 4-speed Frame: OEM frame with Factory Metal Works bolt-on hardtail Fuel Tank: 1970 Triumph Handlebars: Euro Style Grips: Biltwell Recoil Grips Seat Pan: Redtail Leather Upholstery: Redtail Leather Forks: 1970 Triumph Front/Rear Tires: Front Avon Speedmaster, Firestone Deluxe Champion Front/Rear Brakes: OEM Drums Electrical: Wassell stator and rotor w/ Podtronics regulator Headlight: ‘60s Bridgestone Tailight: Ebay find Paint: Pat DeSalvo Pin stripes: Mike Stats Chrome: BAR Chrome Plating Inc.
Look for an upcoming feature in Issue 031 of Iron & Air Magazine.
See this bike in person at the New Tradition Co Motorcycle Show.
January 20, 2018 | 7 Jackson Street | Worcester, MA