A Triumph of Design: The Redstar Bobber

Photography: Luke Ray.

If I wasn’t spending all my time writing about Café Racers I’d probably be spending it writing about Triumph Bobbers instead. I don’t know what it is about a classic Triumph motor sitting in a hardtailed frame but it certainly looks good to me. As it turns out I’m not the only one with this cross culture obsession in custom motorcycles but unlike me, Marty Towers has turned his obsession into a business that all started with this bike, the Red Star Bobber.

“I grew up in Northern England, where the only bikes I ever saw were Triumphs, Nortons, BSAs and Velocets. My Grandad and Dad were always riding and tinkering with bikes so I sort of had it thrust upon me from a young age. My Grandad even ran his chimney sweep business from his bike and sidecar. We migrated to Australia when I was just a teenager and my love of everything on two wheels continued, but by this time the Japanese bikes had taken over the world.

At 17 I got my licence and bought an old beat up Suzuki RG 250 2 stroke which I completely stripped down, rebuilt and repainted from the ground up. I went on to repeat this with several bikes while getting married and bringing up the kids whilst running my own Graphic Design business.”

After completing a Café Racer conversion using a late model Thruxton, Marty caught the Bobber bug whilst visiting Los Angeles. “I have never been a huge fan of American bikes but the guys in So Cal seemed to apply the exact same principles to their Bobber builds as the British Cafe Racer builders, apart from the rigid frame. Absolutely stripped down, nothing but the bare minimum. They looked like cool push bikes with a Triumph motor bolted in. I was smitten and knew that my next project would be a Triumph Bobber.“

After returning to Australia Marty started his search for a donor bike but it wasn’t coming easily. Not wanting to lose steam he began the design process using his skills as a graphic designer. Working with 3D modeling software the entire bike right down to the paint scheme was designed before a single tool was lifted.

“I knew exactly what I wanted, the look and feel the straight backbone and the low flat look.” says Marty, “We built the complete bike in 3D software, exactly to scale. The idea was instead of standing around a bike frame scratching our heads wondering what should we do here, we used the time while we didn't have a bike to work with to stand around the computer and go ‘how about this’, ‘what would it look like with these bars and this paint scheme’ etc. This meant that when we found the donor bike we could get started right away. We had a complete parts list worked out. Wheels, frame, everything, before we had even found the donor.”

Not long after the digital design was complete a ’73 Triumph T140 750 was finally located and although the rest of the bike was a complete mess its motor was in good running order. The ground up build took Marty, his father Bill and brother Jonny 7 months to complete. Everything aside from the David Bird 6 inch stretch frame, stainless pipes and rear fender was fabricated by the Tower family trio. They shaved 2 inches off the forks to create a level ride height, added a 21 inch twin leading edge conical hub to the front end and a 16 inch on the rear. A new battery box, tank mounts, foot pegs, oil tank, seat pan and various stainless mounting brackets were all made from scratch based on the original designs Marty created in his 3D model.

Although the almost 40 year old Triumph engine was running it was stripped and reconditioned from top to bottom to avoid any nasty surprises. A new wiring harness was also designed and routed using custom bent piping that adds eye catching copper accents amongst the meticulously polished engine components. Being a family of skilled mechanics means the Towers have accumulated all the tools needed to complete a build of this kind right down to the sand blasting and spray painting, a classic gloss/satin black mix with gloss red pinstriping was applied and the Red Star Bobber was complete.

Marty and his small team were working through the job at a leisurely pace when he realised that they might be able to get it finished and ready to take to Greazefest, Brisbane's biggest hot rod and ‘kustom kulture’ show. He suggested they go for it, so Marty, his brother ‘Jonny the boy’ and their father Bill went for it. “We committed to riding the bike to the show or not go at all” says Marty.

Marty did ride the Red Star to Greazefest, where it Triumphantly took out the trophy for King Ride. It was also at this show that Marty gained the kudos and customer orders needed to start up his custom workshop, Red Star Garage. Marty currently has two more builds in progress, a Pre Unit TR5 Bobber and a CB750 Café Racer, the perfect balance for Marty’s taste. As he concludes: “The philosophy of Red Star Garage is to hand build cool motorcycles in the old school way, for lovers of motorcycles. It's never going to be about the money, you will never make a fortune building bikes, it's about keeping the old skills and the Punk Rock DIY attitude alive.”

This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 11.

Follow Marty: @redstargarage.