Name: Steve Walker
Home: Mountain Center, CA
Occupation: Triumph restorer
“In 1965, a friend of mine bought a Triumph 650 Bonneville. It was blue and silver with a six-pack rack on the tank, and I wanted one. But I’d have to wait; I was about to set sail for Vietnam. When I got off the boat in Los Angeles in the summer of ’66, I took my $500 vacation check, went straight to the dealership and bought myself a new Bonneville.
“I logged 27,000 miles that first year, but by that time the bike had lost some power and was smoking quite a bit. I took it in to a shop but didn’t have enough money for the service, so I bought the $7.50 factory shop manual instead. I made plenty of mistakes on that first top-end overhaul, but I cut my teeth as a mechanic and managed to keep my bike on the road.
“In ’69 I decided to head to Alaska to get a job working on the Pipeline, but ran out of gas money in Seattle. I asked about a job at the local Triumph dealership, and to my surprise they hired me. That December the main Triumph importer in Los Angeles was asking for mechanics to attend a three-day school to learn about the new Trident. The other techs had families and didn’t want to take the trip so close to Christmas, so they sent me. I still have that Triumph Service Certificate, dated December 24, 1969.
“I spent the next couple decades moving up and down the West Coast working at various dealerships, but when Triumph went under in ’83 the dealership jobs dried up. When that happened, I switched from working on modern bikes to wrenching on the ‘60s machines I’d grown up on. I bought old basket cases, fixed them up and sold them. Then word got back to me that some of the bikes I’d sold had won awards at classic bike shows. In my mind I was just putting the bikes together with the attention they deserved, but when one of my bikes received a perfect score and first place at El Camino—the big leagues!—I realized maybe I should pursue this restoration thing.
“Over the past couple of years, I’ve brought numerous classic Triumphs back to life—like the TR6R Tiger wreck I bought for $500—and won plenty more first-place trophies. Some of my bikes have sold for $15,000, and I’m working on a bike now for a customer in Australia. That might sound like a lot, but with paint, powdercoating, plating, new parts and everything else, I usually invest $8000-$10,000 in each build. It’s not about the money; however. I loved working on Triumphs when I was 23, and enjoy working on the same bikes even more now.”