Mystery train

This oil-in-frame 650cc T120 Bonneville emerged from the confusion of the Meriden blockade. Today it pulls like a train – but is a bit of a mystery…

When I visited Moto Corsa, Italian bike specialists supreme, there was a cuckoo in the nest – an oil-in-frame Triumph T120 Bonneville, a 650 twin.

Spiffed up for sale, it was sparkling and handsome in a classic Triumph colour combination, blue and silver, and topped with the shapely US export-style ‘teardrop’ petrol tank. But the more you looked at it, the more contradictions abounded. So to start with, there was only one thing to do: take it for a ride.

An attractive hybrid with a whiff of mystery. This o.i.f. 650cc Bonneville has been modified with some 1960’ touches.
An attractive hybrid with a whiff of mystery. This o.i.f. 650cc Bonneville has been modified with some 1960’s touches.

Though it had been run the previous day, typical Triumph clutch plate stiction was very present, and needed several kicks with the clutch lever pulled in to clear. The ignition key was awkwardly placed, 1971/72-style, in one of the non-standard side panels, but the left one, not the right as on the original louvred panels. There was no choke, so some awkwardness starting from cold, but after the second Concentric had been lightly flooded, the engine burst into life, ticked over steadily after that, and started first kick every time.

Words and photograph: STEVE WILSON

Read more in September’s issue of TCM

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