Overview

 

This website serves to provide accurate information on the unit-construction Triumph US-only 650cc competition motorcycles, the TT Special (1963 - 67), T120C Competition Sports (1963 - 65) and the Trophy Special desert racer (1963 - 66). As well as providing information and photographs of the bikes themselves, there will also be sections covering US racing, such as TT and desert enduros, which during the 1960s were dominated by British twins: BSAs, Nortons and, most notably, the "fire-breathin' Triumph". I'd like to expand it over time to cover the 1967 - 70 TR6C Trophies - which were a kind of amalgamation of the original West Coast Trophy Special desert racer and the East Coast scrambler Trophies - and then the "C" Range Triumph Competition models and maybe even the little Sports and Mountain Cubs.

The aim is to provide a source of information for owners and anyone with an interest in these models, as well as to generate communication and discussion. In doing so, this will counter the mass of misinformation, particularly about the TT Special, which abounds in print and on the internet. I'd like to broaden it to encompass similar competition models built by other British motorcycle manufacturers for the US market, including BSA (Spitfire Hornet, Firebird, Catalina Scrambler, etc.), Norton/Matchless/AMC (Ranger, etc.), Velocette (Viper Scrambler/Enduro) etc. There were a large number of them and much research is required.

 

Please note that this website is NOT a commercial website - these English-made US competition bikes are my hobby, and my aim is to share the results of my research with others similarly interested. I do charge a nominal fee for providing information on engine/frame numbers provided (£10 for one, £5 each for additional searches) for the Competition 650s - please see "Factory Records" under the "More" tab. This does not go anywhere near meeting my costs in gathering this information, let alone making a profit. I will provide as much as I can glean on batch numbers and any trends/anomalies associated with the machine from data extracted from all 3 factory records and the Triumph Engineering Company accounting records, if possible, and share other knowledge I have regarding the build of the specific machine, colour scheme, etc. If I can't give you the info, I won't charge.

 

I won't be printing out "Certificates of Authentication" (as supplied by one former Meriden worker, at a cost, who held some of the factory records for a time after the Meriden factory closed) - I don't believe it's possible to "authenticate" a machine just from its serial numbers, nor do I presume the authority to do so. All I can do is advise of build details and that a machine with that serial number was recorded as leaving the factory on a given date for a specific destination. Such information should never be used to "authenticate" an old motorcycle: there are plenty of these Competition bikes about for sale at extravagant prices, often with non-original frames and/or engines which have been re-stamped. It's important to pay close attention to the stamps and the machine specifications to ensure it's what it purports to be.


This project followed the purchase of a 1965 TT Special in 2014 and extensive research using the Triumph factory records and other archive material at the Vintage Motor Cycle Club library in Burton-upon-Trent, England. And then the purchase of a 1965 T120C Competition Sports and a 1966 T120C TT Special which had been used as a desert racer (some were, though the TR6s were far more popular as desert sleds). There is also a 1965 JoMo TR6SC Trophy Special restoration which has just begun and on which I shall be giving updates over time.

 

Bike Details

 

The TT Special in the photo is owned by Wade Schields, a photographer from New York. It is a 1967 model year Triumph T120TT, one from a batch of 500 built in December 1966 (the first of the 1967 model T120TTs being built on 10th September 1966). Most - but not all - of this batch were shipped to Johnson Motors, Triumph's West Coast distributors in the USA. During the US Sales Conference held in November 1966, the minutes record that 300 1967 model TTs were requested by JoMo to be fitted with the 1965 frame with the steeper angled headstock and steering geometry preferred by racers. Lindsay Brooke, author of "Triumph Motorcycles in America", kindly supplied me with a copy of the minutes and I included this information in an article on the TT Special published in "Classic Bike" in October 2015. This is the first time any evidence has emerged regarding these hybrids.

 

All of the December 1966 batch of JoMo T120TTs that I have encountered have the earlier 1965 frame. However, it is curious why there is no mention of this frame in parts books or service bulletins, nor is there any record of the order being fulfilled. In the same conference, TriCor ordered 500 T100Cs fitted with Wide Ratio gearboxes - which the East Coast models had as standard in the past. These are recorded in the factory records (the engine assembly record specifies when different gearboxes from standard are fitted) as being produced in February 1967 around the production weeks requested. There is evidence therefore that the TriCor special order was fulfilled, but still no hard evidence that the JoMo one was too (the records do not state which frame is used).

 

Wade's TT Special is a rare example of one which has not been restored and is very original, down to its Aubergine and White paintwork. At some stage in its life it has been fitted with a small TR6C headlight on a period QD bracket and an aftermarket rear light. It also appears to have had it's Energy Transfer coils replaced with standard ones (common among examples that are actually used). A large number of these bikes left the showroom with lighting added for use as fast street bikes, and in particular for street drag racing, a popular sport among American youth in the '60s and '70s - chronicled, memorably by Bruce Springsteen in his song "Racing in the Streets" (Bruce was singing about cars, unfortunately and not the beautifully sculpted timing cover of a Triumph twin (see below - though it would be an even better song if it were), but something murky and unpleasant buried deep within the engine of a car - great song, just the same!) As an aside, so was Neil Young in "Long May You Run" - the "chrome heart shining in the sun" is most definitely not the beautifully sculpted timing cover of the Triumph twin, but some chrome tat inside an automobile (no, I'm not overly fond of the motor car!)

 

This TT is one that sees regular use and has real character. Unfortunately, the Competition 650s have by and large, become the preserve of collectors with most of them being restored to showroom standard - a state in which none of them ever remained long in the hands of the racers, dragsters and general ne'er-do-wells who bought and tailored them to their diverse needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1965 East Coast T120C TT Special, engine rebuilt and tuned by John Woodward, Triumph Meriden Experimental Department 1967 - 73. First run - this is how a tuned Triumph 650 on open pipes should sound!