1971 Triumph Bonneville T120R
Fisher Racing Products custom Triumph motorcycle
Lean and mean: The Fisher Racing Products Bonneville weighs in almost 30 pounds lighter than a stock 1971 Bonneville thanks to an extensive weight loss program.
Photo by Robert Smith
1971 Triumph Bonneville T120R Fisher Racing Products
Claimed power: 57hp @ 7,000rpm
Tope speed: 130mph (est.)
Engine type: 649cc air-cooled OHV parallel twin
Weight (dry): 370lb (118kg) (est.)
MPG: 30-40mpg (est.)
The 1971 Triumph Bonneville T120R was the problem child of a shotgun marriage. It was responsible for Triumph missing that year’s U.S. sales season, and it just about bankrupted the company. So how did South African tuner and racer Nev Fisher turn this Ugly Betty into a custom Triumph motorcycle beauty queen?
The late Sixties Triumph Bonnevilles were, and still are, considered to be the best of the lot. But a major program of standardization was underway across the BSA Group, which also owned Triumph. For the 1971 season, BSA planned to use a new oil-bearing frame for both BSA and Triumph 650 twins.
However, the new Triumph frame had been designed around the BSA 650 engine, and when the first batches of frames were delivered to Triumph’s Meriden factory, assembly line workers found they couldn’t fit the Triumph engine in the frame without removing the rocker boxes from the cylinder head first.
The 1971 Bonnies were already behind schedule because of production delays caused by a shortage of parts — the result of teething troubles with a new computer system. The cumulative result was that very few Bonnevilles were at U.S. dealers for the critical April to June sales season. Other problems with the 1971 bike included a seat height only suitable for people over 6 feet tall, major frame failures caused by the center stand being mounted on the oil-bearing “sump,” and aesthetics only a short-sighted mother could love. The 1971 model is perhaps the least popular of all Bonnies.
Love conquers all
That didn’t stop Dave Carpenter from falling in love with his dad’s 1971 Bonneville. So much so, that a couple of years ago, he persuaded his father to sell it to him. “It dredged up all those feelings I had many years ago about riding those bikes back in the Sixties,” Dave says. But the reality of riding the old Bonnie, especially compared with Dave’s modern Triumph Thruxton, wasn’t how he remembered it. “This old Bonneville was in need of some serious work,” he says.
So he looked around for someone he could trust to carry out the restoration. Through a mutual acquaintance, he learned of Nev Fisher, a racer and bike builder in East London, on the Eastern Cape seaboard of South Africa.
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