Tri­umph 350s with the en­closed rear end aren’t to every­one’s taste, but Ben Lud­well cut his restora­tion teeth on a 21 and a 3TA – and dished up a mag­nif­i­cent feast of clas­sic com­muter bike orig­i­nal­ity


Owner-re­stored Twenty One and 3TA


My mates took the mick when I bought a clas­sic. They’re all sports bike guys, but once they saw the fin­ished prod­uct they changed their tune,” says Ben Lud­well, whose pair of beau­ti­ful bath­tub Tri­umph 350s are tes­ta­ment to his labours. At 35, Ben’s a rel­a­tive young­ster in the clas­sic world, and a new­comer to old Bri­tish bikes, too – his mo­tor­cy­cling in­ter­ests hav­ing swung from work­ing on bikes in a road rac­ing pad­dock to rac­ing motocross and now to restora­tions.

This car garage owner might have an ap­ti­tude for work­ing on all things me­chan­i­cal, but he’s had to learn a to­tally new set of skills by trial and er­ror to build these two lit­tle Brit twins – though it helps hav­ing fam­ily and friends steeped in the world of shed dwelling! “I was brought up in the rac­ing pad­dock with my dad, Robin, and a guy called Ian Wil­li­ets,” he says. “The pair of them used to work for a racer called Mike Skid­more. My brother Ja­son and I would get out of school, jump in the race trans­porter and off we’d go. I loved it and al­ways wanted to have a go at rac­ing. It’s what got me into bikes. But when Mike had a se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent in a side­car race, dad and Ian drifted away from the sport.” When Ben’s mate Vic­tor Cox took up rac­ing, Ben was drawn back to the pad­dock and built a su­per­stock R1 for Vic­tor. Ben says: “I ended up span­ner­ing for him for three years un­til he got es­tab­lished and earned a ride with a top Kawasaki team. Then I did motocross for a while. I started quite late – I was in my late 20s by then, but en­joyed it. I needed some en­gine work do­ing and got back in con­tact with Ian, who I’d not seen since he and dad quit road rac­ing. We got talk­ing about ‘the good old days’ and that rekin­dled the friend­ship be­tween Ian and my dad.”

Ian had just bought a Tri­umph to re­store, which also rekin­dled Robin’s in­ter­est so he bought a Day­tona to fet­tle. “That kicked off what we call ‘Tues­day bike night’ with Ian, my dad and my un­cle Andy Bur­bidge who was also into restor­ing old clas­sics (all three have pre­vi­ously had re­stored bikes fea­tured in CB).

“I was in­spired by what Ian did with his Tri­umph, so I de­cided to knock motocross on the head be­fore I got hurt and started look­ing for an old Bri­tish bike to re­store. I didn’t par­tic­u­larly want

some­thing to ride at that stage – just some­thing that looked like it had the po­ten­tial to be re­turned back to its for­mer glory.”

Ben found his first Tri­umph, a 1958 Twenty One, on ebay. “I just liked the look of it,” he ex­plains. “I wanted some­thing that looked old – and it fit­ted the bill per­fectly.” Tri­umph’s Model Twenty One was launched in 1957 as a bike for the com­muter (hence the ‘bath­tub’ rear end and deep, valanced front mud­guard). It was re­branded 3TA in 1959 and con­tin­ued un­til 1966.

The orig­i­nal, sin­gle-carb, four-speed Twenty One fea­tured a bore and stroke of 58.25mm x 65.5mm to give a ca­pac­ity of 349cc. Com­pres­sion ra­tio was a mild 7.5:1 and the mo­tor pro­duced a claimed 18.5bhp at 6500rpm. It of­fered brisk ac­cel­er­a­tion and a top speed of 82mph. The carb was an Amal Type 375 and electrics were orig­i­nal 6-volt – be­ing up­graded to 12-volt for 1966.

Han­dling was a lit­tle sus­pect as the orig­i­nal Twenty One’s frame was based on that of a 200cc Tiger Cub with a sin­gle down­tube and bolted-on sub­frame. Brakes were ca­ble-op­er­ated, 7in sin­gle-lead­ing-shoe, front and rear. Tyres were 3.25 x 17in front and rear at first but, in 1963, the rear in­creased to a 3.50in sec­tion and, in 1966, the wheel di­am­e­ter was in­creased to 18in front and rear.

“When I went to buy my Twenty One, I re­alised it wasn’t quite as nice in the flesh as it looked in the pics I’d seen,” Ben ad­mits. “It had a bikini bath-tub, which was wrong for the model year and was re­ally just a col­lec­tion of old parts. But I bought it any­way and started out on my first restora­tion project. I had no idea what I was do­ing and cer­tainly no plan. But then Andy, my un­cle, got in­volved, fir­ing loads of in­for­ma­tion at me.”

Andy is well known for his Tri­umph restora­tions – and for his in­cred­i­ble at­ten­tion to de­tail, and Ocd-like ten­den­cies to­wards pol­ish­ing – he’s not known as ‘Mr Bling’ in west coun­try clas­sic cir­cles for noth­ing. Ben says: “I got a bit car­ried away when I got the first bike home and into the work­shop. I had the en­tire thing in bits in two hours. Then Andy turns up and says: ‘Did you make notes of where ev­ery­thing goes?’ Andy has a proper me­thod­i­cal plan for every build – parts books, lists of parts he needs, etc...

“He was fir­ing ques­tion af­ter ques­tion at me: ‘Did you know it should be this colour? Did you know it should have that bath­tub? Do you re­alise they made this model from...’ Sud­denly, what started as a bike to fet­tle be­came a full-on restora­tion project.

“Andy, Ian and even my dad were re­ally good at let­ting me strug­gle along try­ing to work out how to do stuff, where to source parts and, through that strug­gling, I was learn­ing. Stuff like work­ing out how to get the damn na­celle to fit. It was only later we re­alised it wasn’t an orig­i­nal part – which is why it didn’t fit!”

The project took a full year, sand­wiched be­tween run­ning his car garage. He scoured au­to­jum­bles and ebay for tin­ware be­cause he wanted orig­i­nal com­po­nents. And when he found them, he set to work on re­pair­ing them – with ac­cess to a good mate who owns a bodyshop to han­dle the prepa­ra­tion.

Ben con­tin­ues: “I wanted the bikes as orig­i­nal as I could get them. I’ve even kept the cas­ing screws and had old nuts and bolts re­plated.” He re­built the mo­tor un­der Ian’s watch­ful eye. The over­all con­di­tion wasn’t as bad as he first feared, but any­thing that was worn, was re­placed. “I was re­ally happy with how the fin­ished bike came out,” says Ben. “Time to work on it was lim­ited, so I had to plan things out – and that was when it be­came frus­trat­ing. I’d set to work and some­thing would not come apart, or not fit, or not go back to­gether. There were sev­eral times when I came close to giv­ing up. You can spend four hours pol­ish­ing rock­ers and I only had a cou­ple of evenings spare each week.

“Dad of­fered to buy the project off me, and one night I so nearly gave in. But I’m glad I didn’t. The fin­ished bike was well worth the has­sle. It was a feel­ing of real plea­sure when I fi­nally had it all done. I love it. Hav­ing Andy and Ian work­ing on their bikes along­side me helped. Andy was do­ing his T120 at the time and the way he goes about restor­ing a bike is an in­spi­ra­tion.”

Ben didn’t plan in­tend to re­store an­other 350cc Tri­umph, but when a mate of­fered him a 1961 3TA, it was im­pos­si­ble to say no.

“He’d seen my other Tri­umph and gave me a call. I could see a lot of orig­i­nal stuff that I never had with the other bike, so I bought it. I had a plan in my head to do it even bet­ter than the first one – to con­cours con­di­tion. I’d learned a lot with the other bike and wanted this to be 100% pe­riod cor­rect. We got there.”

It wasn’t easy. The bath­tub, though orig­i­nal, was full of filler. Af­ter get­ting rid of the rust, there wasn’t a lot left, so it needed ex­ten­sive fab­ri­ca­tion to re­store all the tin­ware. Ben had learned enough from the 3TA to re­build the 21 en­gine him­self.

The project took a year to com­plete, but the work was worth­while. Ben scooped the run­ner-up prize in the Post War sec­tion of the Bris­tol Clas­sic Show at Shep­ton Mal­let. “I know the bath­tub look is not for every­one, but I love it. The down­side is that they cost the same to re­store as a 500 or 650.”

Ben learned so much from his first two restora­tions. “I quickly re­alised how im­por­tant it is to plan. I didn’t with the first bike and got into a right cad­dle. I planned the sec­ond resto and it came to­gether much quicker. And you have to be pre­pared to spend time scour­ing jum­bles for parts. I wanted to use orig­i­nal parts where pos­si­ble and it took me a year to get ev­ery­thing to­gether. I sourced most new parts from Supreme Mo­tor­cy­cles. Bur­ton Bike Bits and Ace Clas­sics are al­ways help­ful, too.”

Ben says it’s vi­tal to make sure all the parts fit be­fore you paint them. “We had a na­celle on the first build that didn’t fit. The sec­ond one was inch per­fect. I’d ad­vise any­one to do a dry build first. You only have to be 1mm out on one part and some­thing else will not fit. Fet­tle first. It’s all about prepa­ra­tion,” he says.

“If you start with orig­i­nal parts, ev­ery­thing should go back to­gether as it should be. A lot of guys buy repro ‘bath­tub’ pan­els, but you can’t get metal ones – only glass­fi­bre. You can get the ‘cen­tu­rion’ type mud­guards, but you can’t get na­celles. I’d love an orig­i­nal tool kit, but I’ve seen them change hands for £400.”

Ben is now look­ing at an­other project, one he can treat as a daily rider. “I’ve rid­den both my Tri­umphs around the yard, but that’s it. I set out to treat them as restora­tions. But now I want to build a bike that I can ride. I’ve bought a Tro­phy Trail project and plan to get it fin­ished this year.”


Ben’s ob­ses­sion with orig­i­nal­ity meant old fix­ings were re­plated

The 3TA was in pieces within two hours. Putting it all back to­gether again took rather longer

Au­to­jum­bles were scoured for rare parts like the Bluemels pump

The 350s orig­i­nally came with a sin­gle carb and six-volt electrics

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