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Lot 809
1959 Triumph 650cc T120R Bonneville
Frame no. T120 026351 Engine no. T120 026351
10 November 2007, 14:30 PST
California, San Francisco

Sold for US$28,080 inc. premium

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1959 Triumph 650cc T120R Bonneville
Frame no. T120 026351
Engine no. T120 026351

First-of-the-line examples of iconic models are always highly prized by collectors, and none more so than the 1959 Triumph T120R Bonneville. Hurriedly prepared for its debut at the 1958 Earls Court Show (it was too late for inclusion in the 1959 catalog) the ‘Bonnie’ arrived at a time when young motorcycle enthusiasts wanted style as well as substance and had the money to pay for it. Finished in striking two-tone Tangerine/Pearl Grey with matching mudguards and black cycle parts, the bike was a real looker, and the name ‘Bonneville’, chosen in honor of Johnny Allen’s record-breaking achievements with his Triumph-powered streamliner at the eponymous Utah salt flats, was an inspired piece of marketing.

Although, ostensibly, the Bonneville was little more than a T110 fitted with the splayed-port cylinder head and twin carburetors, there was, of course, more to it than that. As well as the performance-enhancing top end, the Bonneville, together with the rest of Triumph’s twins, incorporated a new, stronger crankshaft assembly that development had shown was necessary to cope with the increased power. The latter now stood at 46bhp, an improvement of some 15% over that of the contemporary single-carb T110. Works tester Percy Tait had achieved 128mph at MIRA on a development bike, and even though this figure proved beyond the reach of the production version, the Bonnie was at least as fast as the opposition and much better looking, which was all that mattered.

That first 1959 Bonneville was the only one of the many versions to feature the headlamp nacelle. Only the first series produced had the distinctive ‘Tangerine Dream’ livery, while other features unique to these early 1959 models were the stepped dualseat and touring handlebars. As usual, there were minor differences between the UK and East/West Coast USA models.

This ‘Tangerine Dream’ first-year Bonnie was purchased from Cycle Hub (Cliff Majors) in 1988 complete with all original parts. The machine benefits from a recently completed total ‘ground upwards’ restoration by Craig Griffith, which included a concours-standard engine and transmission rebuild by John Otto. We are advised that everything is to original specification, the machine incorporating all new OEM sheet metal and correct original carburetors and float bowl. Zero miles have been covered since completion, leaving the fortunate next owner to fill the machine with all necessary fluids and undertake running in and fine-tuning. Offered with Certificate of Title.

Saleroom notices

Please note, the title to lot 809, a 1959 Triumph 650cc T120R Bonneville, shows the engine number as '026351.'

Additional information