LF Harris Triumph spares
13th January 2016
Les Harris | Triumph spares | T120 | T140
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We're talking about Meriden-era Triumph twins, not the Hinckley bikes. But we're also talking about spares for Rotax-engined Matchlesses.
LF Harris (International) Ltd is by far the biggest "player" in the Triumph twin spares market. That includes parts for 750s, 650s and some 500s.
The company was founded by Leslie Frederick Harris (1939 - 2009). Les Harris was born in Torquay, Devon. A biker and businessman, he founded his firm in 1974 and began amassing, selling and manufacturing parts for Triumphs, Nortons and BSAs. This venture began in Newton Abbott, Devon. For many years, Harris, operating as Racing Spares Ltd, manufactured and supplied parts to Meriden Triumph.
Arguably, Harris's big break came in 1983 when the Meriden Workers Cooperative (which superseded Triumph Engineering Co Ltd), finally collapsed and brought Meriden Triumph Bonneville production to an end.
Millionaire businessman and property developer John Bloor bought the Triumph rights and assets, then sub-let the 750cc T140 Bonneville franchise to Les Harris.
The details of that business tie-up is still the subject of much argument and controversy. But the upshot is that in 1985 Les Harris renewed small-scale production of the 750cc Bonneville and began assembling brand new bikes at his Newton Abbott, Devon workshops.
Around 1300 examples were completed until, in 1988, the production-run came to a halt. Why? Again, there's more controversy and dispute here. Either the manufacturing licence was coming to a natural end. Or expensive re-tooling was required in the face of falling sales and profits. Or John Bloor pulled the plug to clear the field in readiness for his own revitalised Triumph project. Or there were insufficient Harris Bonneville sales to make continued manufacturing viable. Or the small print in Bloor's manufacturing licence had made further (and very necessary) development of the Bonnie impossible. Or a combination of all these issues.
Or even none of the above.
Regardless, Les Harris continued with his core business which was making motorcycle spares for Triumph Twins. Meanwhile, he also found time to launch a new 500cc G80 Matchless powered by a single-cylinder Rotax engine (Harris had earlier bought the Matchless name and rights).
Roughly 860 G80s were built, but the project, like the "Harris Bonneville" campaign, was not a great commercial success (but note that the Harris Bonnevilles were in numerous ways superior to the Meriden product).
Les Harris died in 2009. His widow, Shirley, took over the running of the business, and we're pleased to say that the company is still going strong having relocated from Newton Abbott to Torquay, Devon.
The workforce is small (perhaps 25 - 30 staff at any given time), and that's a dedicated group of workers producing thousands of product lines. And these are perhaps the best quality "standard" Meriden Triumph spares for general retail that you're likely to get.
Practically everything is produced in-house at LF Harris, notwithstanding specialised processes (casting, plating, etc). And our experience is that the quality and fit of LF Harris parts is generally good to very good, although we have been forced at times to do a little post-production fettling. Then again, that pretty much goes with the territory regardless of whose classic spares you're buying.
Keep in mind too that LF Harris Ltd has all the necessary blueprints and all the tooling to produce pretty much anything associated with Meriden Triumph twins. Modern CNC equipment has replaced the ancient (but okay, kinda cool) lathes, mills, shapers and suchlike employed at Meriden. Modern manufacturing standards are higher than they ever were. And a lot of experience has been gained over the years on how to improve quality and safely cut costs.
You can get similar T120 and T140 parts online. Try eBay if you must. Talk to China and India directly. But our experience is that the vast majority of Far Eastern parts are sub-standard and should be avoided.
However, you can't buy directly from LF Harris. The company sells wholesale only, but has been criticised for making it a little too easy for would-be traders to open an account, thereby diluting profits for the more established firms. That said, it's worthwhile noting that when we tested this claim and tried to open an account using a false name and details, LF Harris told us politely that they were over-subscribed.
The conclusion? We think LF Harris makes a decent product at very fair prices. And most classic bike dealers are in agreement. But yes, occasionally there are professional grumbles about delivery and ordering problems (often relating to LF Harris's refusing to reproduce parts until sufficient numbers are ordered; which is an understandable issue). But as a consumer, that's not your concern. Just stay on the public side of the counter and let the dealers worry about the minutiae.
So talk to your local partsman or partwoman and ask exactly where his or her spares are sourced. If the words "Far" and "East" appear adjacent to each other in a sentence, cross your fingers or walk away. But if the parts are sourced from LF Harris, reach for your wallet or purse.
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