Back in the old days, decals were fragile things that were soaked in warm water and carefully removed from their paper backing.
If you were really, really lucky and if all the stars were aligned, the decal would slide off the paper and on to the surface of the model car or motorcycle.
Modern decals are designed using computer software, and the colors are bright and protected from ultraviolet light damage.
The backing materials are usually made from modern vinyl or film and they’re virtually foolproof.
I haven’t seen a water-based adhesive on a motorcycle decal or sticker in ages, although some of the replica decals still use that system.
The computer has also made it easy to recreate all of the cool-looking decals from the past that were formerly designed by hand.
This sheet of Triumph retro decals is a good example. It’s available through any Triumph dealer by ordering part number M9110102. Triumph also has a decal set with the big “Triumph” script logo and another set with some Triumph logos and British flags.
It’s interesting to note that a note on the package reads “Not suitable for bodywork”.
I’m not sure why that is; my guess is that either Triumph doesn’t want people using the decals on reproduction motorcycles or perhaps what they really mean is that the decals are not suitable for use on new paint or under clearcoat.
I’ll go with the latter conclusion, because these decals are probably too thick and the adhesive is not correct for using over a base coat of paint.
I found this set of 8 decals hanging on the wall of my local Triumph dealer for an expensive $9.99.
I’ve since found them for $7.50 or so. I recently purchased a “new” (for me) 1998 Triumph Tiger “Steamer”, and my wife thought the Tiger decal would look good on the bike. I placed it right above the “Tiger” script on the fairing (see photo), but I’m not sure about the looks…
When searching for various reproduction decal and sticker sets, I found and ordered a pair of right/left facing original (reproduction) Triumph Tiger decals, and I’ll try them on either side of the bike on the battery cover and take some photos.
I wonder if they are the modern type made from vinyl with adhesive, or perhaps they’ll need to be soaked in water, just like the old days?
In the meantime, I may try the Triumph script logo decals on the rear window of my pickup truck. The classic Triumph triangle shaped nameplate also looks good on the blank left-hand side of the Steamer’s dash (see photo).
I’ve listed some sources for these and other cool-looking retro decals below.
British Motorcycles: DealerDecals.co.uk has many different and colorful dealer decals form the early 1900s on | Many restoration quality decals at the Garage Company for many different of makes and models | Also many decals for motorcycle restoration at Domi Racer | Decals for Norton, Triumph and BSA and British Flag decals at Sterling Motor Works | Vintage and classic decals and reproduction logos and new designs made at The Image Works (UK)
From “C.” (March 2013): “I had a few scratches on the fairing from the previous owner, fell over or something? I asked my paint guy, and it was too much $$ to cover a small area, metallics don’t match, etc. So, I went to these folks, got 3-D clear vinyl thicker decals, of flames and not only covered the scratches but provides a maybe 1/8 in. raised area to help prevent that type of problem. A lot of choices, design wise, that will also protect sensitive wear spots or scratch prone places we all get on the road.”
From “G.W.” (May 2012): “The 3M Reflective tape is still one of the best additions to my bike for visibility at night. After putting the tape on my saddle bags, I noticed that one of your readers also attached some to his helmet. This year after purchasing new lids, I dug up the left over 3M Scotchlite that I had purchased for the saddlebags and had my wife cut out some decals from a template I printed out from a Google image search for HRC and the Honda logo.
Whenever I am considering mods to my ride or riding gear, it always seems that your site appears in the Google search results. Great work on the site, it is a valuable resource that I often refer to others.”