In the 21st century, success seems to be measured in only one metric, size and it’s all about quantity over quality. From how many followers a company or celebrity has on social media, to a songs streaming numbers or sheer volume of sales for any product you care to name. Rich lists are packed with talentless hacks, but it seems just getting on one means you’ve made it. Not here, we value quality and craftsmanship and builders around the world have shown you don’t need a mega factory to make a beautiful bike. Living that ethos to its fullest is Southern California’s Ryan Mullion, a lover of old school Triumphs and the owner of The Tiger Shack. This, his 1953 Triumph 6T is not just pretty in pink, it’s a master class in custom motorcycle building.
Movie buffs will have already smiled at the fact that the same year this Triumph rolled off the production line, was the year Marlon Brando’s The Wild One came to the big screen, with the iconic actor straddling an earlier version of this very model. But despite such press and popularity, in the custom scene of California, the British bikes have always played second fiddle to the local product from Harley Davidson. But for Ryan, the classic lines, the look of the engine and the sound they make when unmuffled has always made his heart beat that little bit faster. So, having crafted a host of incredible Triumph builds, there was a single purpose to this bike.
To win a ticket to Japan and have a chance to show off his creation to the masses at the Mooneyes Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show, the mecca for those who build with an unwavering commitment to mastering their craft. This is not a place you’ll get into by spending a fortune and simply bolting on a whole catalogue of parts, bottom line, you have to have the talent! To get there Ryan would hope to win his way via the Born Free Show, “I really don’t care about the trophies, there are a lot of them. It’s nice to win one, but nothing more. But Japan, that’s everyone’s dream,” explains Ryan.
The idea for the ’53 had obviously been swirling around Ryan’s head for years, it should make the most of the original bike, be slimmed down and narrow, and feel like it could have been a factory custom had the boys at the factory really cut loose. The original frame with its rigid rear end remains largely as it left the factory, but it is clear that Ryan has gone over it with a fine tooth comb and ensured that any imperfections have been corrected. Where you would normally expect to see some pitting in the tube, a mismatched weld or a rough finish, all you find now is perfection as far as the eye can see.
Over the top of the backbone, the tank hits the slimmed down profile right on the head, with the most impressive feature simply being the way the proportions have been so well thought out, so as to show off parts of the chassis, the top of the engine and the front of the seat, with a completely uninterrupted view. The teardrop flow and those gorgeous crease lines, all just add to the elements of detail you’re left to revel in. In this same way, the rear fender serves as a vehicle with which Ryan is able to demonstrate his skills, the raised lines, the integration with the frame and the hidden bolt mounts, it’s all a work of art.
Literally bridging the divide between the two major pieces of metalwork is the simple and yet spectacular custom seat. Just as is true of the rest of the bike, the black leather saddle does its job perfectly and yet gives you an unrestricted sight of the parts around it. On what is a relatively small motorcycle, each major component still manages to be completely uncluttered and there is a lesson for us all in this minimalism. To get the hot pink paint right on the money, it was over to Matt Ross and the custom-mixed House of Kolor provides a premium finish.
The old Triumph Twin is a stunning engine and there is an elegance and beauty to the pre-unit construction that simply comes alive with those incredible side covers. It’s clear that hours of elbow grease were poured into polishing and properly finishing every last inch. Then there is the Amal carb in all its vintage glory and yet looking better than the day it left the factory floor, while the customised and chromed oil tank gives the mechanical area of the bike another stand-out feature. But try as I might, I just can’t look away from those pipes. Weeks in the making, the chrome finished pieces flow effortlessly with liquid-like lines and then boom from the seamlessly infused tailpiece.
Matching this look to the perfect Triumph T are the rebuilt front forks with MCM covers for an ultra clean finish. The brakeless front end with a big 21in rim really helps to accentuate the slimline look, and the smaller rear with a meaty tyre gets the stance spot on. It’s at the back of the bike you can savour more samples of Ryan’s work, from the flawlessly finished hub and its mechanical mechanisms to the integrated chain guard with taillight, nothing has been left unperfected.
The bike made it to Born Free and has been a constant trophy collector, but it didn’t win its way to Japan. In an even more remarkable twist, the Mooneyes organisers were so impressed, they offered The Tiger Shack Triumph a special invitation to the show.
[ The Tiger Shack ]