It takes a measure of blood, sweat and tears to build a good custom motorcycle. And then there are the tricky projects that call for an even higher level of perseverance. Like this vintage Triumph bobber—which took four years to complete and included a massive scavenger hunt for parts.
“I’d always wanted to build a custom bobber using a pre-unit Triumph motor,” owner Marnitz Venter tells us. “But finding old and close-to-vintage parts is almost impossible.”

Marnitz lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he runs the parts and apparel site Old Skool Trading. He trades in old bikes on the side, builds the occasional custom, and hosts the local leg of the Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride. And in the middle of this build he got married, moved house, and then renovated the place.
So it’s little wonder that his vintage bobber project took so long to come to fruition.

Marnitz had help too; a small army of friends that pitched in on everything from machining and welding, to advice and straight-up heckling. But finding time wasn’t the only struggle—getting all the ingredients together proved to be a huge mission.
Marnitz first found an old set of engine casings, and then eventually a BSA M20 transmission, a Japanese front drum brake hub, and bits and pieces of a BSA rear wheel. But the most important parts eluded him: a vintage Triumph hardtail frame and a girder front end.

“I learned that collectors do not like to part with vintage parts,” he quips. He eventually found an incomplete 1935 BSA Blue Star—and promptly traded it for a 1940s Triumph frame, along with various pieces of a 1930s girder fork.
That was enough to make a start. The girder front end was built up by machining the assortment of parts to fit together, and fabricating a few new pieces to tie everything in. Out back, the frame was stretched out by four inches.

Marnitz laced the front hub up to a wider rim, with stainless steel spokes, and modified the rear hub to work with the Triumph frame. He also added some drillium to both drum brakes, and wrapped both wheels in sawtooth treads from Allstate.
The motor is effectively an early 1950s Triumph iron-head unit, matched up to the 1940s BSA box. “The motor and gearbox was a complete rebuild,” Marnitz tells us. “I did not have all the parts to start out with. The rest of the stuff I scratched around for among friends and at the Classic Motorcycle Club of South Africa, and fabricated.”

The finished engine is a thing of beauty—from its open primary, to the drilled-out mounting plates. The setup includes a perfectly restored Amal carb, and a set of brutally short pipes, made for the project by V-Customs.

Up top, you’ll find the modified gas tank off an unnamed, late 60s Yamaha. It’s been finished in a classy piano black by Rudi Stark, and adorned with a pair of custom made Triumph badges. Just behind it is a leather saddle, upholstered Dion Korkie, and a custom-built rear fender.

Most of the remaining parts are all one-offs. That includes the oil tank, handlebars, foot controls and a number of rear brake components. There’s a small vintage headlight up front, a side-mounted taillight, and a host of nifty brass and leather touches to finish it off.
Marnitz made a point of crediting Louwrens Miller, Justin Waddington, Reginald Walddeck, Kyle Harvey and Dirk Coetzee for their help on various tasks. And then told us that he’d probably forgotten a bunch of other people, too.

But Marnitz has dedicated his Triumph to other friends who never saw the finished product. Matthew Morgan, Peter Moody, Piet Maas and Marnitz’s closest friend, Matthew Pape, all had a part to play—but all passed away at different times during the course of the project.
Marnitz’s bobber is a masterpiece, and a bittersweet reminder of camaraderie, loss and perseverance. And that’s not something you see every day.
Old Skool Trading | Marnitz Venter Instagram | Images by Kevin Sutherland