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"1964 TRIUMPH BONNEVILLE T120 WESTCOAST" For Sale £20,000 Caveat Emptor!

Just been alerted to an advert for a "1964 TRIUMPH BONNEVILLE T120 WESTCOAST" for sale from a outfit in Merseyside, for a cool £20k (on eBay as well as their own site). Allegedly from the "Zimmerman Brothers collection" (something to do with Bob Dylan, perhaps? Or maybe AKA The Glimmer Twins? Or even the Bewlay Brothers - is that why it's so pricey?) More than the usual amount of misinformation and glaring inaccuracies surrounding this one...

"Fully Restored Rare West Coast competition model". Sure. But the photographs clearly show what looks like a 1964 Competition Sports scrambler, with lights, high pipes and silencers - which, as discussed elsewhere on this site was an East Coast-only model. I've just taken a quick look at my copy of the factory despatch records for 1964 and can confirm that 61 1964 model T120C Competition Sports scramblers left the factory, and every single one went to TriCor, the East Coast distributor. The Competition Sports scrambler was built in far more limited numbers than the TT Special and is a genuinely rare Bonneville.

A genuine 1964 West Coast specification T120C - how it should look (yes, TT Specials in contrast to true TT steeplechase race bikes of the period were still being fitted with high-level scrambler pipes in 1964) ! (NOT THE BIKE FOR SALE!)

So what is the £20k bike? Is it a West Coast TT Special masquerading as an East Coast Competition Sports? A genuine East Coast Competition Sports scrambler? Or an East Coast TT Special restored as a Competition Sports scrambler? Without the engine/frame number, impossible to tell. My money is on it being an East Coast TT Special in Competition Sports guise. In the past, a common fallacy popular among restorers (particularly in Britain) was that East Coast T120Cs were street scramblers with high pipes and lighting and West Coast T120Cs were TT Special racers. The TT Special variant of the T120C was built in far greater numbers than the Competition Sports scrambler, 411 in 1964 compared to just 61. Consequently there are quite a few East Coast T120Cs which left the factory as TT racers like the one above but which have been restored to the rarer Competition Sports scrambler spec, to look like the Glimmer Twins' one in Liverpool. This myth still prevails in some quarters - despite the publication of the first and only book (excepting other works by the same author and fellow American, Lindsay Brooke) to provide information on the US Competition models with any degree of accuracy, David Gaylin's Restoration Guide, in which he explains the difference between the two variants of the T120C.

[UPDATE 9 JAN 2018 I've now been advised of the serial number of this bike and confirm that the factory records show it left the factory bound for TriCor on 14th April 1964. It was fitted with ET ignition and a 17T gearbox sprocket, and recorded in the assembly book as "T120C ET". These are all indicators that the bike - like Graham Bowen's award-winning 1965 "Competition Sports" (see associated blog post) - left the factory as a TT Special, a factory racer without lights and silencers. The Merseyside T120C has been restored as a Competition Sports scrambler - which is not how it left the factory. It is in fact a replica, as I suspected - and £20k is an awful lot of cash to throw away on a replica! It is NOT a "T120 WESTCOAST" as advertised - it is an East Coast T120C TT restored incorrectly to East Coast Competition Sports scrambler specification.

Between 18th - 19th March 1964, 10 T120Cs with low output alternators and 18T gearbox sprockets were despatched, as "T120C"s, to TriCor - these were the rare Competition Sports scramblers, of which only 60 (compared to 412 TT Specials) were built in 1964. Now were the Merseyside T120C one of these, and had it been restored by an accredited professional, then £20k would be a fair price. But it isn't...]

What is clear is that the vendors know next to nothing about US Competition Bonnevilles, and their advert is inaccurate...

"The Competition model (designated by a C) of the Bonneville line was produced in very limited numbers from 1963 to 1968". Not true. T120Cs were introduced in pre-unit form in 1961 (though unit T120Cs were produced in 1963). The unit T120C Competition Sports scrambler was built only between 1963 - 65. T120C TT Specials stamped "T120C" were built in 1966 model spec up until December 1965, but were always referred to as "T120/TT". From December 1965, the only Competition Bonneville produced was the TT Special which, following the demise of the T120C scramblers, was stamped "T120TT". Production ceased in 1967.

"Some say fewer than 200 were offered." Well, I said fewer than 200 unit Competition Sports scramblers were built, between 1963 - 65, true. But I've never heard anyone claim that fewer than 200 T120C TT Specials and Competition Sports models were produced (the correct figure for unit models is around 2,100. Recent research and correspondence with owners of 1965 T120Cs in Australia and England has led me to conclude that entries in the despatch record for 1965 were erroneous, and some bikes recorded in this record as "T120R" were in fact "T120C", and the total figure for the unit Competition Sports model is around 225 (I have now updated my website). Still, a very rare T120 variant.

"The West Coast model was distributed by Johnson Motors, the Bonneville T120C honed from the TR7/B and T120/C scramblers." Partially correct. The "West Coast T120C", later known as the "TT Special", was developed (I think "honed" is taking it a little too far!) from the T120C Bonneville scrambler, yes, and in 1960 only, the Bonneville scrambler was identified by the prefix "TR7/B" prior to becoming the "T120/C" in 1961. But the motorcycle as advertised in the photos is NOT West Coast spec - Johnson Motors never received a unit T120C Competition Sports Bonneville scrambler. Not one! So if this bike genuinely is a West Coast model - which can only be proven by reference to the factory records - then it has been incorrectly restored.

This kind of inaccurate advertising is common when it comes to the US Competition Triumphs. My 1965 T120C TT Special (professionally restored by two of Britain's top Triumph experts, with a combined experience of over 100 years building and tuning the marque) was advertised when I bought it as a "West Coast Factory Desert Racer - One of 141 manufactured"!. Reference to the factory records prior to purchase soon established that it was an East Coast TT, and there were many more than 141 built (775 in 1965 alone).

No idea who restored this bike for the Bewlay Brothers - initially the ad stated that it was someone called Bill Hoadly who I understand is an American restorer - but this claim has now been removed (presumably because he wasn't the one who carried out the work). Most likely it was rebuilt in Britain by an amateur - incorrectly. Other than for the fact that it's been restored as an East Coast-only model which was never supplied to the West Coast, the work at first glance doesn't look as bad as some of the others currently advertised. It has the correct unipiece air filter for starters, and the paintwork on the tank is of the correct design, with the white side lines running beneath the tank. That's a great start! (Two advertised currently on Car & Classic, a 1964 and a very rough-looking 1965 TT, are both missing the air filter and have their tanks incorrectly painted, hallmarks of the bodger). It also has original scrambler pipes - the pattern ones distributed by LF Harris (who are usually very good) are not the correct shape and differ from the originals, which should obstruct the points cover on the timing side.

The vendor describes it as "Bronze/Cream". Triumph never used this colour combination in 1964, the correct colour being Gold/White - thankfully, this seems to be how it has been painted. The only obvious error is the seat cover - the "Triumph" logo was not used on the rear of 1964 seats, and I don't believe they had white piping either. And the plug caps which would not have been used in 1964. Not major discrepancies but if you're rebuilding a bike to be "concours", as it seems whoever restored this one was, then minor details like this should be correct.

On the whole, it looks like an accurate restoration of an East Coast model Competition Sports scrambler - but if it is a West Coast model, it's been incorrectly restored and worth nowhere near the asking price. The unit T120C Bonneville Scrambler was never despatched to the West Coast, only the TT Special. To put the Dylan Bros bike into West Coast TT spec would be costly - particularly if it has the wrong head (which you would be very hard-pressed to find) and carbs - though you could always offset the cost by flogging the pipes, silencers, lighting, speedo, horn etc. on eBay.

It looks very much a "collector" bike, intended to hoarded away as an "investment" and never actually ridden (evidenced by the fact it has under 5 miles on the odometer). It may not even run (many, particularly US restorations, are assembled for collectors as objets d'art and status symbols, and are never intended to be started, let alone - heaven forbid! - actually ridden). Given the lack of evidence concerning the expertise of whoever restored it, I believe £20k is a very high asking price, even were it a genuine Competition Sports scrambler. As always, it's important to get the frame and engine numbers verified as genuine stamps, it goes without saying. I'm seeing increasing numbers of these bikes doing the rounds with obviously non-original stamps. Caveat Emptor!

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