British American: 1979 Triumph T140D Bonneville Special

Desperate for U.S. sales, Triumph introduced the custom-inspired T140D Bonneville Special, but it wasn’t special enough to save Triumph.


| May/June 2018


1979 Triumph T140D Bonneville Special
Engine: 744cc air-cooled OHV vertical twin, 76mm x 82mm bore and stroke, 8.6:1 compression ratio, 47.4hp @ 6,500rpm (claimed)
Top speed: 100mph (period test)
Carburetion: Two 30mm Amal MkII
Transmission: 5-speed, chain final drive
Electrics: 12v, coil and breaker points ignition
Frame/wheelbase: Oil-in-frame dual downtube steel/55in (1,397mm)
Suspension: Telescopic fork front, dual Girling shocks w/adjustable preload rear
Brakes: 10in (254mm) disc front, 10in (254mm) disc rear
Tires: 4.1 x 19in front, 4.25 x 18in rear
Weight (dry): 400lb (182kg)
Seat height: 32in (813mm)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 4.5gal (17ltr)/30-35mpg
Price then/now: $2,700/$4,000-$10,000

In 1979, Triumph, desperate for U.S. sales, introduced the custom inspired T140D Bonneville Special. Unfortunately, it wasn't as custom or as special as Triumph's ads might have tried to suggest. Something of a failure when new, it's a rare bird today, and even old Triumph hands find themselves drawn to its unique lines.

Richard Hardmeyer was flat tracking in the glory days after World War II, when the 500cc overhead valve Brit bikes were going heads up against the flathead 750cc Harleys and Indians. He has a lot of racing stories, but this Sacramento Mile event is one of his favorite memories. "I was at the Sacramento Mile, riding a 500 Triumph twin out of Joe Sarkee's shop. I used my practice tires for the heats, but for the main event they put on a new tire. There was a film of grease or something, and when I went into the first corner I went into a slide, and slid up to the fence. Well, I held on to the bars, picked the bike up and got back into the race. In 23 laps I passed 15 national number plates and ended up in sixth place."

Now 81 years old and still contesting trials and other offroad events, Hardmeyer also rides on the street. After more years than most riding all sorts of machinery, Hardmeyer still likes his Triumphs, and one of his favorite bikes in his collection is this 1979 T140D Bonneville Special.



Triumph bug

Hardmeyer got into motorcycles in high school, acquiring an Ambassador 2-stroke at the age of 15 and a half. The British Ambassador is not well known on this side of the pond, but in the late 1940s and early 1950s, they made well-regarded small bikes, their advertising calling them "The finest value on two wheels!" A friend knew Joe Sarkees, the Sacramento, California, Triumph dealer, and introduced Hardmeyer to Sarkees, who needed someone to help in the shop. Hardmeyer worked after school until he graduated, and then started working there full time. He remembers Sarkees as "the nicest guy — outside of the shop. Inside the shop, he was all business."

Flat track racing was at the peak of its popularity, and Hardmeyer started racing as soon as he was legally able to get on a track. "At the time, you couldn't get a professional license until you were 18. Then you had to spend a year as a novice. The next year you went to amateur, and after three years, if you qualified, you got your expert license."

hotrodwilly49
5/8/2018 4:30:10 AM

I was born and raised in sacramento, and sarkee's was a regular stop for me as a kid, living near 26 th and broadway where the very old school shop was, I eventually bought 3 bikes from sarkee's over the years. It was a great memory to hear the sarkee name again and mention of the sacramento mile, which I was at many times, knowing some local racers..... yada yada yada..... but thanks for the good article..... wayne magel








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