The Lost Von Dutch, Pt. 3

A Plan for Restoration.

The Lost Von Dutch, Pt. 3

The Lost Von Dutch, Pt. 3

Restoring a stock motorcycle is basically a "cookbook" operation. The ingredients are well known; all that remains is for the chef—the restorer—to skillfully fold them all together. Bringing back to life a one-off customized bike like my Von Dutch Triumph is more involved—part archeological dig, part art interpretation, part scavenger hunt.

This particular bike is double-rare in that Von Dutch not only painted and pinstriped it, he also built it. Twice, in fact; first as a bob-job, then as a chopper. My initial plan had been to restore the engine, frame and running gear back to their Dutched glory (okay, maybe taking 6 inches out of the fork tubes for rideability) but to leave the faded, weather-beaten paint as-is. The signed gas tank and matching battery box and oil tank, after all, are what give this bike most of its interest and collectability.

Problem is the paint. Exposed to the elements for a quarter-century, it's just too far gone, too fragile for anything other than static display. Someone suggested clearcoating the tinware to stop further deterioration, but what if the 40-year-old lacquer paint reacted badly? Besides, the gas tank is heavily rusted on the inside and the battery box is lacey with corrosion.

My solution? Acquire a second set of bodywork and have the Von Dutch paint faithfully replicated. That way, I'll be able to ride the finished bike without fear of its history flaking off. The original bodywork can be displayed alongside the bike at shows, or reinstalled at a later date if some future owner wants to pickle the Triumph and hang it on the wall.

The final bit of restoration strategy was provided by Johnny Suggs, who owned the T110 from 1961, now a retired federal law enforcement officer. Originally built as a bob-job for noted L.A. sportscaster Gil Stratton, the bike remained in that configuration, including its purplish-black paint, until 1968. That's when Von Dutch laid on the wild orange number in celebration of Johnny's safe return from Viet Nam. But, Suggs revealed to me in an hour-long interview, the bike wasn't chopped until 1971–72, so for a period of three to four years it had the later paint but remained a bobber.

Bingo! We're building a bobber.

Continued ... Part 4

1957 Von Dutch Triumph

1957 Von Dutch Triumph

1957 Von Dutch Triumph

1957 Von Dutch Triumph

1957 Von Dutch Triumph

1957 Von Dutch Triumph

1957 Von Dutch Triumph

1957 Von Dutch Triumph

1957 Von Dutch Triumph

1957 Von Dutch Triumph

John Suggs reunited with his old Von Dutch Triumph. He owned it from 1961 to 2008, from bobber to chopper.

1957 Von Dutch Triumph

1957 Von Dutch Triumph

1957 Von Dutch Triumph

1957 Von Dutch Triumph

1957 Von Dutch Triumph