Barn Bike: 1970 Triumph Bonneville T120

A must-have for any seasoned motorcycle collector, this 1970 Triumph Bonneville T120 is a project bike that looks nice in the photos but is a little rough around the edges and will need work to get it back on the road again. It’s listed here on eBay in Lutz, Florida and the current bid price is just over $4,000 and there is no reserve.

I have never owned a Honda car and I have never owned a British anything, other than gin. And a nice tie from Harrod’s. That’s just crazy, I need to get on that Brit bike thing. The Triumph Bonneville T120 was reportedly designed so quickly that the 1959 catalog was produced before it could be included in it and if ever there was a grand slam for speedy design, this was it. It was based on the Triumph Tiger T110, an incredibly beautiful bike. I’m a Tiger guy myself, I just like the way it looks better than maybe any other Triumph motorcycle.

That isn’t to say that the Bonneville T120, or T120R as we sometimes know them here in the United States, isn’t gorgeous because it is. They were made until 1974 with a trickle of them coming out of the strike-ridden factory in 1975 and then they were done. Triumph was concentrating on their new 750-twin and the Bonneville T120 is a 650-twin.

Fun Fact: Evil Knievel used a Triumph Bonneville T120TT to jump the water fountains at Ceasar’s Palace Casino in 1967 and subsequently crashed and broke more bones at one time than what is really a good idea to do, 35. Fun Fact II: He also holds the record for having broken the most bones over his lifetime, 433. Kids, do not try this at home.

You can see that parts of this Bonneville are perfect which is often the case even with vehicles that have been stored for decades. Some parts are not perfect and I’m hoping that the next owner can do a sympathetic restoration, keeping as much original as possible. The seller says that there “are nicks, blemishes, bubbles, rust, pits, scratches, etc., and parts may need cleaned, fixed, rebuilt, or replaced.”

The engine appears to be almost like-new, doesn’t it? It’s a 46-horsepower 649 cc twin and it looks beautiful, but it hasn’t been started in a long time. The seller doesn’t tell us how long this bike has been hidden away but it turns over. As a general reference, Hagerty is at $6,100 for a #4 fair condition T120 so this example could be a good buy if it doesn’t have any major mechanical issues. Have any of you owned a Triumph Bonneville?

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Comments

  1. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Beautiful project bike. Yes, Scotty I had a bonny 1964 Bonney rescued from an overlooked and dilapidated shed in a very nice neighborhood left by the original owner in the ‘70’s. A lot of time, money and skinned knuckles involved, and a lot of firsthand knowledge and friends came from it (“Whitworth? REALLY?” Related to Peter Egan’s writings even more readily.). Too, relearning to ride was a bonus (right foot shift, much less power) but the fun of riding twisty Sierra Nevada roads were the ultimate Zen moments of reward.
    I’ve read that you’ve had a sundry of cars and bikes, Scotty, but having a British bike is in a league of its own if for no other reason than to learn the traits that make them unique.
    Go for it!

    Like 10
  2. Howard A Member

    As if I have to say, this is what’s so neat about this site. Cup of Joe, check the depressing Google news, just in case, then off to BF’s,,scrolling, scrolling, nothing, meh, another Mustang,,nothing, WHAMMO, coolest bike known to man,,,,at least in my opinion. The 650 Bonne, in the 60’s and very early 70’s, NOTHING compared to the Triumph 650 Bonneville. Asian bikes were these spindly glorified mini bikes,( before 1969, that is) H-D, enough has been said about that period, British bikes, were the epitome of handling and speed. They were the only other bikes allowed on H-D gatherings. Oh sure, we HEARD about these Italian rockets, but rarely, if ever, saw them.
    The bidding has ended, someone got an absolute smokin’ deal here, BUT( here it comes), this tells me something. I’d say, maybe 6 years ago, I had a hankerin’ for a street bike. Naturally, a “Limey” Trident ( or BSA Rocket 3),was my 1st choice. Prices were in the stratosphere, no British bike could be had for under $10g’s, even twins, so I “settled on the beater GW for $1,400 bucks. Now this, I think sold for $5,650, that $50 bucks is disturbing, you mean to tell me someone lost this cool bike for a paltry $50 BUCKS?? That also tells me, interest is fading for a kick started, finicky carbed( don’t forget to “tickle the floats”), oil dispensing, can’t see out the mirrors, right foot shifted, left foot braked motorcycle with 1940’s technology,,,is fading. Probably can’t ride it( no power jacks?) I love it!! Geomechs??

    Like 4
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      This is a gem! Left brake, Right shift, how many times have I caught myself attempting to shift the brake and stepping on the shifter to stop. You can blame HD for the LH shifter (funny how it didn’t carry over into the Sportster). I’d have no trouble riding this one; just a trip around the block and all would be well. Just a little vibration (like holding onto a pair of beer cans) but it was better than having the urge to get off and scratch yourself from head to foot at 70 mph (line stolen from Cycle magazine but I know the feeling). Burt Hopwood finally convinced Edward Turner that Unit-Construction was the way to go back in ‘63. He actually tried to sway ET in that direction 10 years before that but the Revolutionary Speed Twin was the ULTIMATE in motorcycle design—for 1937. I say it again: NEVER promote a good designer to management. Anyway, the bike before us. Just park it over at my place. I’ll get rid of the air horns and put the air cleaners back on. Concentric carbs were actually very good. So were the Monobloc units but they seeped. My brother had a ‘62 Bonneville which was an exercise in stupidity on his part. Good enough bike but he paid too much for it. Got all the bugs out of it then sold it for a fraction of what it was worth. And the wheels of time keep turning…

      Like 5
      • Dave

        According to the internet, all motorcycles sold in the US after 1975 were required to have the gearshift on the left and the brake on the right.
        IIRC, Harley-Davidson had nothing to do with the government mandate; it was the overtaking of the marketplace by the Japanese manufacturers whose machines were all shift left, brake right.
        After the mandate took hold the only Sportster that had the shift right, brake left was the XR750, a dirt-track racing bike never sold for street use.

        Like 1
      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        To my limited knowledge you’re absolutely correct, Dave-the Sportster was H-D’s reaction to the Brit bikes taking away some (much?) of their business so the made it an American version of their competitors.
        It’s a shame they didn’t continue to push against them-that could’ve been a saving grace in competing with the UJMC’s (the ones I grew up on and came to love) for HD and GB’s dying bike/car corporations..but Mr. Peabody and Sherman never explored that possibility so we’ll have to just speculate.
        And if you ever rode an XR750 you know what they could’ve done!

      • geomechs geomechs Member

        HD put the shifter on the LH when it came out with the “Mouse Trap” on the big twins. I do remember the mandate that put ALL shifters and brakes where they are now. That also made the Italians change. I never rode an XR 750 but I did ride an XR1000. That was a good ride…

    • David Brassfield

      I had a 650 Bonne! It was my first street bike after riding dirt bikes for years. After flat track racing a Bultaco 250 Pursang, That 650 Bonne was like a Cadillac! My buddy ended up building an old school chopper out of it with springer front end, high rise fishtail pipes that came up to the sissy bar.Pretty cool back in the day! Hell, I wish I still had it today!

      Like 2
  3. Dave

    Yamaha fixed the legendary flaws with the XS650, but they never copied that iconic look. The new Triumphs, and Royal Enfields, have the look right and modern reliability down pat!
    They say that if you rebuild vintage Triumphs and use Yamabond all of the oil leaks go away. This one looks clean enough that someone already did this.

    Like 2
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      In 1970 I was introduced to a remarkable invention called silicone seal. It was intended as bathtub caulking and wasn’t as effective as was the present-day RTV sealer but it held up quite well with some chronic leakers that I rode. I use Permatex or GMS RTV sealer today and oil leaks are almost past tense. Of course, if you have a rope-type rear engine seal it will ALWAYS mark its spot…

      Like 1
    • Andy G.

      I used to ride a ’79 Bonneville and had a riding buddy who had the xs650 Special. As much as I like the xs650 custom builds I see today back then the xs650 was way too slow next to my Bonny. You are so right about the Yamabond! I had forgotten what it was called but that gray sealant was what finally solved a leak for me.

  4. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    My 1983 Triumph TSX, 1 of 371, had 11 original miles when I acquired it in the late ’90s. I never rode it and eventually sold it to a guy with a Brit bike museum in the Carolinas.

    Like 3
  5. Joe Haska

    I had a 64 Triumph Bonneville, much to my parents regret. I sold it before I went to Viet-Nam. I loved that bike, all though I confess I didn’t get to ride it allot. I dream of having another someday, maybe even a Tiger Cub. The thing is at my age ,I don’t even care if I ride it. If it was sitting in my garage, I would be happy just looking at it!

    Like 5
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      A Tiger Cub! Now that’s really digging them up. Some 50+ years ago a retired motorcycle dealer gave me a box of parts catalogs and repair manuals for (mostly British) bikes from the 30s to the 50s. I have a like-new manual for a 150 Terrier/200 Cub. I guy was looking through my stuff and wanted to buy it. We couldn’t agree on a price so I’ve still got it. It’s interesting to open it up from time to time and read the various procedures…

      Like 1
      • Howard A Member

        When I was a kid, the guy across the alley had a BSA 650 Thunderbolt single carb, the twin carb, that would be the BSA equivalent to the Bonneville, was called Lightning. Get it? 1st comes the Lightning, then a bit later, the Thunderbolt. So clever, them Brits,,,

        Like 1
  6. JAMES COOK

    Back in the day when I had hair, I tried out a Triumph Bonneville (model year 58-61???) and as a novice rider, took it slow in 1st gear. I hit 2nd and got on it, scared the crap out of me and I rode slowly back to the dealer, said thanks and went home.

    My interest then switched to MGs and Healys.

    Like 2
  7. Neil

    I was brought on Brit bikes, owning BSA, Trumpet and Norton. I still have my ’74 850 Commando that I bought new from the dealership. I have owned, and still own H-D. But, as much as I ride, my overwhelming go to shifting pattern is still: 1 back, 3 forward. To me, it makes the most sense. Why would you pull back on shifter to go forward? In racing it makes more sense to lean on tank and ” push ” through the gears. Also, the majority of the population is right handed, so the right foot shift makes sense to me. I still catch myself downshifting my H-D’s when in fact I mean to upshift. And yeah, I’m old !

    Like 2
  8. Harold

    Brit bikes rule, had a 1956 BSA Lightning royal blue & chrome, broke the crank drag racing in 1964, only time I ever lost to a V Twin in 5 years of legal racing.

    Like 1
  9. Hugh Anger

    I always liked the Triumph group of motorcycles. They had a certain class and line that was pleasing to the eye.
    From choice I am drawn to the BSA DBD34 GoldStar bikes but they rarely appear on the market. I think that the genuine bike is a rare beast although lesser models have been modified to the Goldie spec.
    I think that many went to the USA and were much in demand.
    My only experience of a Goldie was a pillion ride on a genuine 350 Goldie at a rate high rate of knots. In those days ther were very few helmets sp my ride was with no helmet or goggles. It brought tears to my eyes,
    and that twitter on the overrrun. Ah, happy days
    Huge

    Like 1
  10. Dean

    Yes I had a Bonneville back in the day. Still had the “World Land Speed Record Holder” (or some such) on the left fork when I bought it in the mid 70’s. I’ll echo the comments of the other former owners above, and add one more – you just had to THINK about dropping into a curve and the foot peg was touching. Lost ground to many bikes on the straights, but very very few in a tight sweeper. Unfortunately not a bike you wanted to ride all day across the flat wide open prairies.

    Like 1
  11. TBAU Member

    Keep the bikes coming….

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