The 'Tarbuk' Conversion

This is something of a mystery model, but facts are slowly emerging.

In the early months of 1968, a number of T20B machines were delivered to Elite Motors, Tooting, London. Forty-six of these machines were variously described in the BSA despatch books as, 'Tarbuk Conversion', 'Tarbuk Hi Fi', 'T20 Hi Fi', 'SC Hi Fi' or 'Shopsoiled SC Conversion'.


The Small Heath build schedules do not show any of these odd descriptions.

Recent enquiries made at Elite Motors revealed a further twenty machines not shown in the BSA records, making a total of sixty-six. The Elite books describe these machines as, 'T20B', 'T20SC', 'T20 ex-export', 'T20B SC Clearance', 'T20 Hi Fi Clearance' or 'T20 Hi Fi Tabarrok Clearance'. All these names have been mentioned here as they give some clues about the 'model'.

The Tabarrok Brothers of Teheran were the Iranian Triumph main agent and it is believed that these sixty-six machines were a cancelled export order originally intended for this agent, but which had been sitting undelivered in the BSA warehouse.

Elite Motors was a large customer of Triumph and BSA who sometimes bought cancelled orders or old models from the factory and a deal was struck for the whole lot. The variety of names given to this group of machines is interesting and gives some clues about its specification.

The machines are thought to have been T20B Super Cubs fitted with the Bantam Cub petrol tank and badges and possibly Bantam Cub mudguards as well. The use of the word 'Conversion' may have indicated that either they originally had export lighting sets, which had to be converted to UK specification or that they were a converted export order.

The 'Tarbuk' appellation is thought to have been a corruption of the Iran agent's name, 'Tabarrok', by person or persons unknown in the BSA sales office!

Enquiries at Elite Motors in recent years brought forth a vaguely remembered description of the machines being, 'a Tiger Cub engine in a D10 Bantam chassis with the wider Bantam Cub tank and painted in a sort of Dayglo Orange'. A few existing specimens of this machine are now recorded in the Tiger Cub and Terrier Register but unfortunately all have been extensively modified over the years. However, underneath the repainted tinware on a few of them, traces have been found of Dayglo Orange paint on a white basecoat!


Peter Knapper

Another Explanation

It may well have been the case at the time that the T20Bs and Super Cubs were not selling and BSA/Triumph became desperate to sell them wherever they could.

If that meant making some changes to already built machines languishing in the stock room then so be it. It's certainly possible that Tabarrok asked for the changes with a commitment to purchase a large quantity. It is also possible that the machines supplied to Elite Motors wasn’t a cancelled order, as there were a considerable number of machines successfully despatched to Iran.

It's extremely possible that BSA/Triumph made these changes to a lot of machines to try to sell them elsewhere and not just for Iran (what was good for one customer may well have been good for another). There is inconsistent numbering to despatch dates around this time which probably indicates the machines were sitting in a stock room and whichever one was closest to the door was the one that was pulled out and despatched – and that was not in frame number order.