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.

12/12/2019 11:04:52 PM

Bought a new ‘67 TR6C at John Miller Triumph in San Antonio. Traded in a BSA Victor I had learned how to wheelie with. The TR6C loved to wheelie also. It’s only vice was going through headlight bulbs like a kid through cotton candy at a fair. Later that summer I rode it to “The Texas Wheelie Championship” event in Cedar Park, TX., and won 1st place. Don’t think they ever held that event again, so the venerable TR6C still holds the Texas Wheelie King title. Rex Wright, San Antonio, TX

12/12/2019 12:10:52 PM

Gary, great story. Would love to see a picture of your sidecar rig. We seem to be a dying breed, especially since Harley stopped making sidecars and my Friendship 1, Calif. Sidecar was the LAST one out of Calif. and are no longer made! They have been replaced by trikes.Safe travels and God bless.'sidecar' Al Williams,Parma,ID.

12/12/2019 9:10:03 AM

I have a 1957 TR6 original paint,with matching Watsonian sidecar. I was coming into Dublin, Ca. From LA. around 8 am. I had to stop at a red light.I noticed a tall sign kitty corner to me. The sign said Arlen Ness. I had no Idea where Arlen’s shop was.The store was just opening for the day. I pulled in to see if they had any antique motorcycles.The door was open,& the lights not on yet. I noticed a guy sitting at a desk,so I asked him if they had any old bikes.He replied no,we are a chopper shop.I started looking at the display floor bikes.The salesman said,I do have a personal bike upstairs I would sell.We took the freight elevator to the second floor.There were several choppers & 1 old Triumph TR6,desert sled, with a matching sidecar. I knew instantly if the price was right I was going to buy it. Well the bike was priced right,so I bought it. We loaded it into the freight elevator, & out to my enclosed trailer. I paid the man, then headed on to San Leandro. I had lived in San Leandro in 1967. I worked for Caterpillar Tractor,in their fuel injection plant.I wanted to drive by the plant out of nostologa.I also drove by the Perry Boys smorgasbord restaurant that I ate at every day.I went in to eat where I ate every day in 67.I could hardly choke the food down.My tastes had improved immensely since 67. I continued on my journey. To Sacramento, & east to South Dakota.

The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!

Motorcycle Classics JulAug 16Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

Save Even More Money with our RALLY-RATE plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our RALLY-RATE automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5.00 and get 6 issues of Motorcycle Classics for only $29.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $34.95 for a one year subscription!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter