The Wild One: Darren Cranwell's Custom 1952 Triumph Thunderbird

Words: Mark Stevenson Photography: Luke Ray.

If you love something, set it free. In the case of Darren Cranwell, he didn’t have to wait long for what he loved to come back to him.

Like many car folks who enter the bike world, Darren caught the two-wheeled bug after seeing one bike in particular. A friend of his had bought a popular '80s show bike which had caught Darren’s eye. When it came time for his friend to sell, Darren was first in line to take the keys.

Fittingly named ‘The Wild One’ after the classic Marlon Brando film, the bike started life as a 1952 Triumph Thunderbird, similar to the one Brando’s character Johnny Strabler rides in the movie. After its theatrical release, Triumph’s American importers objected to the use of their bike being featured in a movie glamorizing outlaw motorcycle gangs.

But, this bike didn’t fall into the wrong hands. Instead, it travelled the show circuit with many who cared for her, eventually being united and reunited with Darren.

While he did have grand plans for the bike, Darren was soon confronted with a decision: keep the motorcycle or import a car? He eventually went with the latter, posting the bike for sale in a local cruiser magazine, where it was spotted by a bloke from Victoria. Darren sold the bike to him, delivering it to a swap meet, where he exchanged the keys with Glen, the bike’s new owner.

“It’s one of those things...as soon as you get the money slapped in your hand you think, ‘I’ve done the wrong thing here,’” Darren laments. The bike was now in the hands of someone else, and Darren didn’t think he would ever see the Triumph again.

For some time after letting her go, Darren would go on at length to his family about how much he missed the bike and wanted it back. For Father’s Day, the girls had a large print of the bike done on canvas so Darren could at least still admire what was once his. Little did he know that fate would have another plan for ‘The Wild One’.

Darren explains excitedly, “We’d gone to Chopped a couple of years ago, when it was at the old footie ground, and the old bike comes rolling in. So, I went over and started talking to Glen, the guy who’d bought it from me was still the owner, and said “Look, I wish I hadn’t sold it. I am glad you kept it exactly how it was. But if you change your mind, if you’d like to sell it back, give me the first option. I will buy it!”

He didn’t get an answer right away. But a few weeks later, Darren phoned up Glen and again asked him if he would be willing to part with ‘The Wild One’. “I have thought about it. I haven’t ridden it much. It’s just a bit of display art in the garage,” Darren remembers Glen saying over the phone. The deal was done. Darren was now the proud owner of a bike that was formerly his.

The men met again at the same swap meet where the first exchange was done between them. Only, this time, the keys were going in the other direction and Darren was receiving a more complete bike and a few new parts. “Glen had bought an original Triumph front end for it and I found a front hub to suit it,” Darren points out, which made the rigid framed bike handle much better. Darren then followed with changing the handlebars and tank in the vision of ‘The Delinquent’, another bike he’d seen in a number of mags. He even left some things until the last moment before the Chopped event this past October, with pinstriping and lettering done days before the show. “It still doesn’t have front brakes completely finished,” he laughs.

This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 09.