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1966 T120C TT Desert Racer Restoration - Update 26th September

The Mojave desert, with Joshua trees, former stomping ground of my '66 TT

The last few weeks have been very busy, with a 7 day trip to Arizona and California with my buddy and travelling companion, Justin Harvey-James (owner of the excellent Tiger 90 website). Driving through the desert from Phoenix to Perris then on to LA and San Francisco in a Dodge Charger was a truly memorabe experience.

We visited Dan and Kathy Rouit's Flat Track Museum, interview ex-racers Buddy Stubbs and Skip van Leeuwen and visited classic bike specialists Bill Getty of JRC Engineering and Mikhail from Classic British Spares. This was followed by 10 days in a remote area of the Scottish Highlands with my girlfriend for some sea kayaking, chilling out and getting away from it all. We both love this kind of thing. During my visit to Bill Getty he told me about Death Valley (another of his passions) and I am hooked!

My article on the true story of the TT Special was published as the centrepiece of a superb feature on US off-road racing in the October issue of "Classic Bike" magazine, which was fantastic - but now it's back to work (over 8 hours of recorded interviews and 1000+ photos to sort out, alongside the day job!) The Skip VL interview and Dan Rouit Museum visit are to be published in "Classic Bike" over the winter, and I hope to have a further 2 or 3 articles from the trip published. Next stop, the Barber Vintage Festival next month.

In the meantime, work has been progressing on the TT restoration. All cases are now back from hand polishing by Terry's man, John - using a belt polisher may be quicker/cheaper but you run the risk of opening up the pores of the alloy and ruining it.

Hand polished primary cover (nice job, John!)

Coming together, the TT taking shape in Terry Macdonald's workshop

New guides, seats,porting by The Cylinder Head Shop

The cylinder head has been rebuilt and flowed by The Cylinder Head Shop, with new Nucleus guides, inserts and stainless Nucleus élite valves. These are a league apart from other valves, including the popular Black Diamond ones. The difference is that whereas the Black Diamond valves are just better quality versions of the originals, the Nucleus stainless ones are of a different design using better quality materials to promote higher performance. Len from The Cylinder Head Shop has performed a fantastic job! Now Terry is arranging it to be vapour blasted (this would have been performed before the head work was started ideally but unfortunately it wasn't - never mind, Terry is getting it sorted).

Painted and polished hubs have been sent to Bob Wylde to be laced to flangeless Motad (formerly Akront) alloy rims. My intention is to fit an Ensign Trials Universal 350 x 19 front and Pirelli MT43 Trials Pro 400 x 18 rear, which should be usable on the road as well as off. The tank is off for painting by John - Alaskan White with Pacific Blue racing stripes edged with Gold - same design as the standerd TT tank but a kind of reverse 1966 TR6SC pattern.

Terry has fitted the Sammy Miller scrambles handlebars with new Amal throttle from Burlen (outstanding quality). Engine is in frame with covers loosely fitted. SRM clutch plate with Norman Hyde 7 plate clutch.

Norman Hyde 7 plate clutch fitted with SRM pressure plate

Headlight will be a 5-3/4" TR6C style one with QD brackets. I picked up some straight through high level pipes made to the same specs as the Bud Ekins ones originally fitted to the bike when used as a Mojave desert sled. These are in chrome, from Bill Getty's JRC Engineering - I intended getting plain steel ones and having them satin black coated - but I forgot and ordered the chrome ones! Never mind, I'm sure they will look good.

A potential issue is that these will not fit around the side panel and may foul the Thruxton-style crankcase breather which curves upwards from the primary chaincase filler. If this is the case, I'll look into having Kirby Rowbotham modify the timing cover so it can run from there (kicking myself now for selling a 750 engine last year with such a timing cover fitted). I'm also not convinced the pipes will clear the switch panel - in which case I'll fit a TR6C headlight with integral switched and ditch the switch panel - but then I'll hasve to relocate the ignition switch somewhere. But who knows, maybe everything will fit as is.

Now I'm looking for a desert style sump guard to replace the Triumph one and a higher, alloy front mudguard like those fitted to desert sleds (see photo below). Or maybe I'l just stick with the Triumph originals - in line with the bike being more of a "street" desert bike.

Front mudguard, 1967 Triumph TR6C, winner 1967 Barstow - Vegas desert race, ridden by Dusty Coppage

I'm considering having a raised front mudguard fabricated, along the lines of the one above (though a bit neater - desert racers weren't too fussy about cosmetics!), fitted to Dusty Coppage's 1967 Barstow-Vegas winner (owned by Bill Getty of JRC Engineering). These provided greater clearance between tyre and guard and also allowed wider 4.00 x 19 front tyres to be fitted. Since there isn't a desert here in the Peak District and I will be using the bike on the road and trails, I have opted to stick with the wider than standard 3.50 x 19 front tyre as fitted to the TT Special when it left the factory.

The 4.00 x 19 front tyres preferred by desert racers will not fit with standard Triumph forks and mudguard - the 3.50 one is a tight fit but does. Some racers simply removed the front guard - see photo below of Skip van Leeuwen's 1965 Trophy Special (there's a story behind this bike - which will be told when the interview is published in a forthcoming issue of "Classic Bike"). Not really an option in England though.

4.00 x 19 tyre on Skip van Leeuwen's 1965 TR6SC Trophy Special

Not had much luck getting replies from Maxton for the shocks, which is a pity - looking at Progressive as an option, but I want black springs and not chrome ones - not sure if these are available and have emailed them.

I might change the seat cover to a two tone one - which is what the bike had originally.

Order placed for stainless allen screws and shiny stainless dome nuts for primary and gearbox covers (functional and good quality, easily replaced by zinc plated ones for the purist - or cad, if there's any way of sourcing them).

Next decision regards what kind of headlight to fit. I've decided on a TR6C 5-3/4" one with the QD brackets, as fitted to Wade Schield's 1967 TT photographed on my home page. I'm in two minds whether to fit the one like Wade has with the switches incorporated in the headlight shell, or one with the switch in the side panel. I would like to have it so that it is truly "quickly detachable" so I can run it without lights if I decide to do so (you never know). More research required!

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