Dan's Tri-Magnum

My Toys!

Or; "How I spent my life savings..."

(and boy am I having fun!)

Updated March 14, 2002

"The only difference between a man and a boy is the cost of his toys..."

1987 Honda VF-700 Magna

That's absolutely true. Here are a few pictures of the present contents of my toybox. My bike; an '87 Honda VF-700 Magna. Liquid cooled, shaft drive. Back in '93 a drunk driver ran a redlight as I was going through the intersection. The bike was almost totaled, but as my own injuries were healing I had the bike rebuilt. New gas tank, radiator, front forks, handlebars, front rim & tire... The list went on and on. Repairs ran upwards of $2500. I wound up paying almost as much for the re-build as I had for the bike itself.

1987 Honda VF-700 Magna

Another photo of my bike. She's a sweet machine. 0 to 60 in less than 100 feet- and in less than 7 seconds. The best crusing speed seems to be 70 MPH at which the gas milage averages 30 MPG.

1970 VW Dune Buggy

Here's a pic of the '70 VW Dune Buggy that I bought on my last vacation to Daytona Beach. You know, most guys would content themselves with a few sea shells and a T-shirt, but me? When I buy a souvenir, I just don't fool around! [grin]

What happened was that my girlfriend and I had spent a week at the beach and had stopped to visit one of her best friends who lives near Daytona.

1970 VW Dune Buggy

This friend's husband builds hot rod pick-up trucks as a hobby and had this dune buggy sitting in the driveway alongside two of his project trucks and the family cars. I made the mistake of shooting off my mouth; I said that he should let me know whenever he got ready to sell the buggy, I'd buy it. His wife grinned from ear to ear and he handed me the keys. It seems that she'd been after him to thin out the vehicles parked in the yard and he haddn't used the buggy in over a year. So I wrote him out a check, rented a truck, and hauled the buggy home.

1970 VW Dune Buggy

I had to replace all the bushings in the front end and add a little weight to it to make the steering safe for the highway. I've also had to have the clutch rebuilt, recently. At the moment, I can't find points to fit the old distributer, so I'm thinking about replacing it with one that I can get points for, a more up-to-date part.

1970 VW Dune Buggy 1970 VW Dune Buggy
1970 VW Dune Buggy 1970 VW Dune Buggy

The Deer Slayer -- 1981 Chevy C-10 Silverado Pick-Up

And here's my truck. Nothing fancy, just a standard Chevy workhorse. Although it shows an alarming tendency to assist various deer to commit suicide, its been a good-driving machine for as long as I've had it. My sister bought it new in '81 and drove it for two months before the first deer leapt in front of the truck. Years then passed- until our brother and his girlfriend both hit deer with it. She then parked it in '87 and until I bought it in '97 it just sat. In '99, I hit a deer with it. The truck is now 4 and 0 for deer, and has been patched up more often than the six million dollar man.

The Deer Slayer -- 1981 Chevy C-10 Silverado Pick-Up

Aside from that deer-damage that cost me about $450 to repair, the truck has cost me only about $200 in up-keep, $250 for a muffler & tail-pipe, and $350 in tires from '97 to '02.

But mostly, this page is dedicated to my newest toy- A 3 wheeled car called a Tri-Magnum. Although I already have the Pick-up, a motorcycle, and VW dune buggy, I've been wanting something both economical and fun to use as a daily commuter for my 20 mile round trip to work and back. My bike is the perfect answer- except when its raining, or cold, or... You get the idea. So a few months ago I suddenly realized that the solution was within my grasp. I started web-searching for someone selling a R.Q. Riley Tri-Magnum that was finished and ready to roll.

Then I got a bit of an education.

The Tri-Magnum is a kit that one builds from plans. It mates up the frame, powerplant, and drivetrain of a large motorcycle with the front end suspension and steering gear framework of an old VW, then wraps that assembly in a hand-made fiberglass body. The result is an 80+ (I've been told 120, but I doubt that) horsepower, 3-wheeled vehicle with an enclosed, weatherproof two-passenger compartment- that out-performs most 230 horsepower sports cars, and gets startling fuel economy as well. Its cheap to drive, cheap to insure, cheap to buy license tags for, and almost as much fun as a motorcyle to drive. So almost no one who has built one wants to part with it. I found exactly 3 for sale online in the US, and 2 of those were unfinished.

Fortunately, I found that one- owned by a pair of really nice people in Kansas, Wayne and Alyssa -that I could get my grubby little hands on. So I waltzed into my bank, showed the loan officer an article about the vehicle by the designer and some photos of the actual car at home in Kansas, signed my name a few hundred times, promised to give the cool bank dude a ride when I got the car, and waltzed back out with a check made out to Wayne. (I later repeated that same scene at the insurance company and the county DMV. It was like magic. No one knew how to deal, so they just did the paperwork, took my money, and asked for a ride when I got the car.)

These photos are some of the ones that I showed the loan manager at the bank. They show the T-Mag at home in Wayne and Alyssa's driveway in Augusta, Kansas.

  1. The view from the front.

    Cool looking ride, isn't it? As you can see, its a 2-seater with an enclosed driver's cockpit. Looks almost like a normal sports car from this angle. I'll have to add a headlight & tail light that comes on with the ignition key switch to conform to Georgia law. And I have to wear a helmet! [grin] The sacrifices I have to make...

  2. The view from the left rear.

    Here's where it looses its resemblance to something familar and starts getting downright futuristic. The body is very aerodynamic and shaped to reduce drag, actually. Its not made that way just in order to look like a grounded UFO. It wedges its way thru the air in a very slim profile. The body shape forces air to flow over the body in such a way as to force the light vehicle to make better contact with the road. It is very, very low to the ground however, so I'll always have a problem with speed-bumps. The shape also forces air into the engine compartment and through the twin radiators to help keep it cool. Even if the fan motors break down, enough air is channeled past the radiators and motor to allow the car to be driven at speed without harming the engine-but only for a short time and only as an emergency measure.

  3. Driver's seat, looking forward.

    Here's where you can see from the driver's point of view. The windshield is raised and lowered by powered air-shocks. Very cool at the gas pump, I assure you. The air shocks have an electricly-driven compressor that works even when the engine isn't running. The steering wheel tilts thru over 90 degrees to aid in getting in or out of the cockpit. You can also see the cabin heat and AC vents, the gearshift and clutch lever, the VW speedometer, the foot controls, and the Air Pressure guage. Because Georgia requires a motorcycle rider to wear a helmet, I had to take almost all the padding out from under the seat in order for my head (with helmet strapped on) to clear the closed windshield. However, having the windshield chocked partly open for ventalation gives me plenty of headroom. The cockpit only needs to be fully closed in the coldest or rainy weather. Otherwise the big windshield will act like a solar oven and fry me in my own juices. Its going to be enough of a problem to find an AC shop that can re-charge the freon in the air conditioner. I have found a mail-order ceramic heater that I might get- I'd wire it into the cockpit as a de-froster. By the time the engine is warm enough to take off, this heater should have the cockpit windows frost free.

  4. Driver's control panel.

    A view looking towards the driver's side control panel. That's where all the gauges, the headlight switch, the ignition, and such are located. The car is also tricked out with lots of running lights, and the switches for these are also on this panel. There is a red light in the engine compartment- to glow through the air vents, purple under-carrage lights, amber running lights, the normal headlights, tail lights, and turn signal lights. I'll have to add a headlight and tail light that turn on with the ignition switch in order to comply with Georgia motorcycle laws.

  5. Passenger side.

    Here you can see a really neat AM/FM/Cassette tucked into the passenger side next to the seat. I've played it, my local radio station comes through loud and clear. There's also a lighter socket that can be used to power a CD or CB or whatever.

  6. Right rear view.

    A bit longer shot where you can see more of the side of the car.

Please join me in thanking Wayne and Alyssa for all the effort that they made in order to make one of my dreams come true. Really nice people.

OK, I'm going to add to this page as I start personalizing the T-Mag to my taste, and to comply to Georgia state laws for motorcycles. I'll post more pictures of my own here as the work progresses.

Like these other new photos:

Here you can see the extra headlight I had to add to comply with Georgia motorcycle laws. You can also see that the inside of the front grill has now been coated with chrome pinstriping tape. There's also another light inside the grill that causes it to glow like a lightbar.

Here you can see the extra red lights I added to the engine compartment.

Here you can see the tail light I had to add beause of the Ga. motorcycle laws. The additional headlight and tail light have to come on when the ignition key is turned and have to remain on the entire time the motor is running.

Repair Log:

I'd planned to ride a bus- or rent a car to drive -to Kansas and drive the T-Mag back, but Wayne wouldn't hear of it. He didn't want me on a bus for 30 hours, then driving 16 hours back in an unfamiliar vehicle. He made a counter-offer to deliver the T-Mag right to my driveway. Yesterday- 11-22-01 -he and Alyssa did just that. The car suffered a frozen battery in the weeks just before they hauled it down to my place in Georgia, and the brand new clutch cable has come out of adjustment- at least one of the end connectors has broken, but those are just minor problems. If it hadn't rained all day today I'd of had them both seen to by now.

[It's 24 hours later and I've been working with the clutch all day. I fixed one end of the cable, but I'm beginning to fear that the connector in the engine end has slipped or broken, too. It was working when I got the car, but something I've done since has screwed it up. I'll have it fixed as soon as I can. I want to drive to work Monday morning!]

[Its now the Thursday (11-29-01) after the aforementioned Monday... I just took the clutch apart today and found a shattered clutch disc. The parts have been ordered and I should have the car on the road by this time next week.]

{Its now Sunday (12-9-01) and the water pump seems to have died as well as the clutch cable having broken today. I'd replaced the clutch discs last week and been adjusting the cable this week on my days off. I'm getting depressed. I want to drive this car! I've added the headlight, tail light, and extra running lights, changed the battery, done the clutch work... And now the water pump acts as if its dead! I can't win for losing!}

[Monday, 12-17-01... The thermostat turned out to be the culprit. I have one on order and by next week I should have it and be installing it. In the meantime, I've re-done some of the wiring in the dash and added some new switches to spread out the drain on the battery when all the extra lights are in use. Now the driving lights come on with the ignition switch, headlights & tail lights use the normal lightswitch, the engine compartment lights have their own switch, and the extra headlight inside the front grillwork has its own switch.]

{Wednesday, 12-26-01... Finally was able to pick up the thermostat on the 24th. It had been sitting up at the cycle shop for several days while I worked dayshift. I finally got a chance to go by during my last-minute holiday shopping. It's been too hectic around here to install the part yet. I've also bought a small DC ceramic heater to mount in the cockpit as a defroster for cold mornings. I still have to figure out where and how to mount it in there, but the wiring should be easy. This heater was made to plug into the lighter scocket, but I'll hard-wire it into the system instead.

[Thursday, 2-28-03... After several weeks, the problem has been diagnosed as a blown head gasket. The repair will cost an estimated $350 if I can take the fiberglass body off and take the frame to a nearby bike shop. They'll charge more if they are the ones taking the body off and putting it back on.]

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