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triumph t160 holden kingswood

Antiques Roadshow

(Travels with Guido series #275, by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen, December 2020)


Trapped in a time warp

It all seemed perfectly normal from where muggins was sitting. There we were, listening to the burble of the v-eight in the snout of the Kingswood as it happily worked away at its task, while in the rear view mirror you could see the gentle sway of a single headlight, reassurance that the trailer hadn’t suddenly dropped its bundle.

But our little rolling ensemble was getting some very strange looks. Even stares. Now if I’d been towing an alien spacecraft behind a tank, then this unwanted attention would be a whole lot easier to explain. As I’ve never owned a tank (yet…are you allowed to re-arm them?) and we’re fresh out of alien spacecraft, there had to be another explanation. I mean really, have you never seen a bike towed behind a Holden before?

And then, finally, the proverbial penny dropped with a giant clang. It all comes down to perspective. Like some sort of low-tech Doctor Who gone wrong, I was in fact travelling in a little time bubble – circa 1975. Of course, the Kingswood and the Triumph T160 - all we needed was Captain and Tennille blaring from the eight-track stereo to complete the picture.

One of the more entertaining aspects of making an unintended spectacle of yourself is most people avoid eye-contact or any opportunity for conversation, as they (perhaps rightly) assume you’re off your little trolley and best avoided. Except for the genuinely crazy ones, who believe they’ve spotted a fellow traveller and will risk their lives to cross the road for a long and detailed chat. Sometimes it’s about your choice of transport; sometimes it’s about soup tins and their ability to block mind-altering transmissions from the government.

As for me, I was quietly pondering what the then freshly-purchased T160, with just 2100 miles on it from new, was going to be like to ride. I have this theory that, when it comes to reliability, cars were generally a whole lot better developed than bikes during this era and, while the Kingswood is surprisingly reliable and satisfying transport even today, it was questionable whether the Triumph could live up to those standards.

By coincidence, both machines happen to be the last of their respective breeds. The Kingswood is in fact a 1979 HZ, the very last car of a shape that started with the HQ in 1971 and was turned into a cultural cliche by local TV series Kingswood Country.

Solid rather than inspired, it’s been in the family for nearly 40 years and has somehow become more of a family pet than serious transport. It does however handle all the towing duties, for which its sheer size and simplicity is ideally suited.

As for the T160, built in 1975 it was the last of the 750-class triples out of the Meriden (and Small Heath) stable – a final throw of the dice against the onslaught of the Japanese performance bike tsunami. As it turned out, it was too little too late. I’ve owned its predecessor, a T150, but this is a substantially different ride.

Oddly enough this was the first bike in a few years that I had actually seen before handing over the cash. More usually it has all been done by email and phone, relying on the questionable photographic abilities of the vendor. That’s what the internet has done for us: opened up a much wider choice of machines, at the same time making it a rare treat to actually touch something before you pay for it. Is that progress?

In the end, with fresh rubber and fork seals it turned out to be delightful to ride. Funny thing is, with the proliferation of speed traps on our roads (not to forget a lot more traffic), I probably have to ride it more conservatively than its original owner did. So here’s a thought, what about the idea of riding it like it was 1975?
Look forward to reading about my arrest…

See more Travels with Guido columns here


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