The Desert Sled: 1967 Triumph TR6C

Original and unrestored, this Triumph TR6C Trophy is a survivor after 52 years, but it still sees the road.

| January/February 2020


1967 Triumph TR6C Trophy

Engine: 649cc air-cooled OHV parallel twin, 71mm x 82mm, 9:1 compression ratio,45hp @ 6,500rpm
Top speed: 90mph (est.)
Carburetion: Single Amal Monobloc 389/239 carburetor
Transmission: 4-speed, chain final drive
Electrics: 6v, energy transfer system
Frame/wheelbase: 55.5in (1,410mm)
Suspension: Telescopic forks w/dampening rods (only used on TR6Cs and TT Specials) front, Girling dual shocks rear
Brakes: 8in (203.2mm) SLS drum front, 7in (178mm) SLS drum rear
Tires: 3.5 x 19in front, 4 x 18in rear
Weight (dry): 360lb (163.6kg)
Seat height: 30.5in (775mm)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 2.5gal (9.45ltr)/40mpg (est.)
Price then/now: $1,150/$6,000-$15,000

To say that Southern California’s Big Bear Run was a popular race in the 1950s is an understatement.

In 1958, there were 851 entries for the offroad, mostly desert race, despite the fact that it was a really tough trip. Only 145 riders finished, with Bud Ekins taking the win. Ekins, the other top five finishers, and the majority of the other riders on the track were aboard Triumphs. The model chosen by most competitors was a single carburetor 649cc twin with high pipes and an easily detachable headlight — a Triumph TR6. Racers called it The Desert Sled.


No one quite knows how a bike set up for racing in the arid badlands became known as a Desert Sled, but the name stuck. Single carburetor 650cc Triumphs rocked and rolled Southwestern desert racing through the 1950s and 1960s. If you wanted to compete in the Catalina Grand Prix, the Greenhorn Enduro, the Barstow to Vegas run, and the hare and hound racing that was sponsored by several of the local clubs, you went out and bought a TR6, with the high pipes. Prominent racers Ed Kretz, Jr. and Eddie Mulder, and racer turned movie star Steve McQueen ran Triumph TR6s. Even Elvis Presley was photographed riding one through a pond.

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