In the 1950s and 1960s, Triumph’s 650 twins were barred from AMA Class C racing, which limited overhead valve engines to 500cc. The regulations kept the big twins off the dirt ovals. There was another form of dirt competition known as TT racing – the name was derived from the British Tourist Trophy races. American TTs were held on dirt courses, but they had to have a motocross-like jump. Some courses were simple ovals with a jump, while others had left and right turns like a road course. In this form of racing, the 650 Triumphs were allowed. And they dominated.
The machine originally conceived for the purpose was the 1963 Bonneville, stripped down and tuned by west coast distributor Bill Johnson of Johnson Motors, the TT was a high performance, factory race bike, designed to fill the niche market of off-road racing.
Beginning with and improving upon their street legal Bonneville, the Triumph factory racer came with higher compression pistons, hotter camshafts and a high output ignition system, to produce 54hp at 6,500 rpm. Closer ratio gears were installed in the 4-speed gearbox, chain drive sprocket ratios were altered, and larger diameter exhaust pipes were tucked under the frame, without mufflers. Aluminum, or more durable stainless steel fenders replaced the street items, together with the 2 ½ gallon slim gas tank. Lights, fork lock and speedometer were deleted and only a tachometer was fitted. The forks received special springs and internal valving. These stripped-down bikes weighed 350 pounds, some 30 pounds lighter than the stock configuration.
The 1965 Triumph 650cc Bonneville TT Special on offer here was purchased a couple of years ago in semi-restored condition. All the mechanicals had been finished, and most finishes restored. The bike needed re-commissioning and some correction. Front and rear fenders were replaced, and the tank repainted by repaint guru Geoff Giomarco to exact Triumph color specifications and then clear coated (4 coats!) to protect the precisely applied striping. The seat was replaced with an original item. The incorrect black handlebar grips were left on, but the bike is accompanied by a brand-new set of correct white grips.
Engine no. T120 TT DU39531
Frame no. T120 TT DU39531