Sometimes a good idea can change your life. It happened to Gary Hunter in 2010 when he and his best mate, Steve Elford, were looking for parts for their Hinckley Triumphs and thus was born Triumph Performance Parts in Central Victoria.
“I was after looks, not a hot engine, for my Thruxton, while Gaz was after a hot engine and handling for his America and didn’t care about the looks,” says Steve.
Gary takes up the story: “I was looking online and after months of searching, I realised it was impossible to find custom or high-performance parts in Australia for Triumphs.”
So a plan was hatched to import parts and source locally made items to supply an obvious hole in the marketplace for Triumph enthusiasts. This philosophy of buying in Australia as well as from overseas, has powered Triumph Performance Parts ever since.
“The benefit for the customer is that they aren’t dealing with a faceless website,” says Gary. “Our prices aren’t much more than if the customer bought direct from overseas and we are always available to help with advice and any issues that might arise, such as fitment.
“This takes a lot of the frustration away from customers as they don’t have to deal with overseas businesses, perhaps non-responsive emails and making late-night phone calls.”
Strong business relationships with leading aftermarket manufacturers in Italy, the UK and US means there are about 500 product lines in stock. A supply deal with California-based British Customs has provided another 300 items.
Gary handles all technical and functionality areas of TPP, while business colleague Tracey Brown looks after sales, marketing and custom motorcycle design on many and varied projects.
Tracey is the vivacious, eternally happy voice on the end of the line, while Gary usually sounds gruff when dragged to the phone.
“He actually loves dispensing advice to customers when you get past the gruff tone,” she says.
Gary agrees: “I may not sound like it but I’d much rather talk to a customer about problems they may be having with their bike, rather than just reply to emails and not get a feel for the customer and the machine.”
TPP is housed in a peaceful farm setting in Carisbrook, near Maryborough, in Central Victoria, and Gary is looking forward to building a new workshop to develop custom and performance machines.
“Moving here from near Ballarat has actually resulted in more people calling in,” Gary says as he hoists up a customer’s Bonneville for a bit of maintenance and modification.
It’s a pleasant ride from Melbourne and its environs to Carisbrook. Travel via Clunes, a delightfully unspoiled historic village in the centre of some empty and winding back roads.
From motorcycle mechanic to manager of a point-of-sale team for a major corporation to Triumph customising specialist, life’s been a journey for Gary.
“After years in the motorcycle industry as a mechanic I wanted a change and got a degree in electronics,” he says. “I ended up in the corporate world.”
Now Gary is combining all those skills to do what he loves most – making Triumphs twins go faster and handle better. The ultimate expression of this is ‘Gryphon’, named after a mythical hybrid beast. This souped-up salt shaker was taken to Lake Gairdner in 2013 and clocked 130.9mph (210.66km/h) on the official track and an astonishing 141mph (227km/h) on the GPS (unofficial) test track. That’s an unfaired 2006 Bonneville T100 with an air-cooled twin-cylinder engine displacing less than 1000cc and without forced induction.
Gary believes this is just the tip of the iceberg as American Triumph enthusiasts have hit 152mph (244.62km/h) on Bonneville’s famous salt flats with a normally aspirated Thruxton and 171mph (275.19km/h) using a turbocharger. So he’s hard at it concocting another twin with 170mph-plus as his target.
“It started as an advertisement for the business and a way to develop some ideas, but if I can get some sponsors on board we’ll go to Bonneville,” he says.
Meanwhile, production versions of Gryphon, which features a lot of Tracey’s styling ideas, are available. They can be ordered in any spec a customer wants, from mild to wild.
For example, the salt-shaker pumps out 94hp at the wheel running a 994cc piston kit, special cams, over-size valves and 42mm carbs. The latter are actually a couple of ex-Harley-Davidson-spec carbs that Gary has modified and made his own linkages for.
The next incarnation of this engine is intended to kick out 120hp with higher compression, beefed-up internals and cams that won’t come on song until 8000rpm. That’s not an issue in a performance situation because Gary’s going to turn the rev-limiter up to 13,000rpm. Go Gazza!
So what did Gary and Steve do with their original Triumphs?
Both still have them on the road. Steve’s Thruxton looks only mildly modified with a bit of bling, better brakes and suspension topped off with a D&D 2-into-1 exhaust. Gary’s America is now a $24,000 rolling showcase of how TPP can transform a stocker.
From its one-off metalflake paint scheme to its $13,000 big-bore engine, the more you look at it the more detail you see.
“The most common question I get is: ‘how can I get my twin to go faster?’” says Gary.
That is not unexpected because while Triumph has got the retro looks of its Bonneville, Thruxton and Scrambler models pretty much spot-on, the outright performance is a bit underwhelming when you pin the throttle on the open road. The good news is that spending a little over $1000 can liberate an easy 10hp.
“Fit an airbox-removal kit, then either Dominator or Predator mufflers, and take off the air-injection system that stops the bike blueing its header pipes and back-firing on deceleration,” Gary says. “Most people can do the modifications themselves and the good news is that you haven’t changed anything you can’t undo.
You can replace the stock parts again down the track if you want to sell the bike.”
How about handling and brakes?
“We can supply a combination of Ikon rear shocks and progressive front springs,” he says. “Brakes can be hugely improved just by fitting sintered brake pads. Fitting the 10mm longer Thruxton-spec shocks to a Bonnie will sharpen its steering slightly for more nimble cornering.”
Because TPP has a long-term relationship with Ikon, riders can order suspension built to their requirements. Perhaps they want the bike lowered. Maybe they want to carry more weight than the standard shocks can cope with. Advice on this is a call away.
What about problems with the standard Hinckley twins, which include the America and Speedmaster cruisers?
“CDIs and coils are the major issue on pre-fuel-injected models,” says Gary. “However, while CDIs can still be an issue, all post-2008 Triumph coils are as good as the aftermarket ones.”
Options for people looking to totally transform the performance of Hinckley’s modest twins include piston-cylinder kits to increase capacity and race-quality disc-brake systems. Camshafts are another area of importance and Gary is looking at options based on his salt-racing experiences.
As far as bling goes, the website has page after page of options. From street-tracker to brat-style, from cruiser to touring, the choice is yours.
The business doesn’t just cater for the smaller twins either. Parts inventories for the Thunderbird and also the Rocket III are expanding all the time.
The motorcycle parts retail scene has changed since TPP started in 2010. Gary believes he’s played a part in this.
“Back then there was industry opposition to the idea that we could bring in these aftermarket parts and sell them,” says Gary. “You’ll notice that the main [bike] brands now sell aftermarket parts and accessories and the prices have dropped.
“At the end of the day, people really do want to buy these parts from an Australian source. It just took the big boys a few years to get the message.”
Meanwhile the daily issues Gary and Tracey face are juggling the costs of clearing shipments through customs with exchange rate fluctuations and rising freight costs. “Now it’s often more expensive to ship a part across Australia than it is for it to be freighted from the US,” says Gary.
For more details, visit TriumphPerformanceParts.com.au
Article by Hamish Cooper