Triumph Riddles: 1963-1967 Triumph T120 TT Specials

How the memory of one 1966 T120 TT Special turned into collecting a full set of 1963-1967 Triumph T120 TT Specials.

  • Bill Sherman’s collection of Triumph TT Specials showcases every year of TT Special production, starting with the first in 1963 (far right) through the last in 1967 (far left), and every variant in between.
    Photo by Doug Mitchel
  • First-year 1963 TT Special had exhaust mounted high and running down both sides of the bike.
    Photo by Doug Mitchel
  • 1963 Triumph T120 TT Special
    Photo by Doug Mitchel
  • Last-year 1967 TT Special exhaust routes down and under the engine, exiting in front of the rear wheel.
    Photo by Doug Mitchel
  • 1963 Triumph T120 TT Special
    Photo by Doug Mitchel
  • 1963 Triumph T120 TT Special
    Photo by Doug Mitchel
  • TT Special engines were stamped with a “C” from 1964-1966 only.
    Photo by Doug Mitchel
  • The “TT” stamp came mid-1966 and was used to the end of production in 1967.
    Photo by Doug Mitchel
  • First-year 1963 TT Special.
    Photo by Doug Mitchel
  • Second-year 1964 TT Special, still with high pipes.
    Photo by Doug Mitchel
  • Third-year 1965 TT Special, first year for larger exhaust pipes routed under the engine and exiting in front of the rear wheel.
    Photo by Doug Mitchel
  • Fourth-year TT Special featured new crankshaft and 62-degree fork rake versus earlier 65-degree.
    Photo by Doug Mitchel
  • Fifth and final-year TT Special.
    Photo by Doug Mitchel
  • Bill on his 1966 TT Special on the day he uncrated it in 1966!
    Photo courtesy Bill Sherman

1963-1967 Triumph T120 TT Specials
650cc OHV parallel twin, 71mm x 82mm bore and stroke. Compression ratio 12:1 (1963)/11:2 (1964/some say 11:1)/11:1 (1965-1967), 52hp @ 6,500rpm
Top speed:
120mph (period test)
Twin 389/95 1-3/16in Amal Monobloc (1963-early 1967)/Twin Amal Concentric (late 1967)
4-speed, chain final drive
Lucas ET Energy Transfer
Single downtube steel cradle/55in (1,397mm)
Telescopic forks front at 65-degree angle (later 62-degree); dual Girling shocks w/adjustable preload
8in (203mm) SLS full width drum front, 7in (178mm) SLS drum rear
3.5 x 19in front, 4 x 18in rear
Weight (dry/approx.):
350lb (159kg)
Seat height:
32.5in (826mm)
Fuel capacity (approx.):
3gal (1963-1965)/ 2-1/2gal (1966-1967)

“It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Although Sir Winston Churchill wasn’t talking about the specifications of the Triumph T120 TT Special when he made that famous comment, he could have been.

Soon to become the prime minister of England, Churchill was referring to the role Russia might play in the Second World War when he made that statement in 1939. But his quote rings true, especially in regards to the Triumph T120 TT Specials; some of the finer points are complex and rather puzzling. Although many have written about the Triumph T120 TT Special, there are still some mysteries surrounding the line’s exact specifications — and we’ll get into that in short order.

Introduced in 1963 and running until 1967, the Triumph TT Special was built solely for the American market, where just about every manufacturer was selling seriously competitive sports motorcycles. The TT Special had definite appeal to riders interested in going fast in offroad events such as TT racing. In that style of competition, the rules of AMA flat track racing dictated at least one right hand turn and a jump, with a dirt course that could be any length.

Bill’s first TT Special

Before we go any further, we need to catch up with Bill Sherman, a farmer living near Peru, Illinois. Regular readers might recall our story in the November/December 2015 issue of Motorcycle Classics about Bill’s reunion with his old Harley-Davidson XLRTT racer.

An avid speed enthusiast, in 1963 Bill started drag, dirt track and scramble racing aboard a 1963 Triumph TR6 — the first year of the unit construction 650cc engine. TR6s came with a single carburetor, but Bill tweaked his TR6 with a twin carb Bonneville head and a few other modifications. He was fast, but he wanted to go faster.

3/25/2019 6:16:51 PM

My early '67 TT is ready for tank paint. The early units had Monoblock carbs and gold and purple tanks. The later versions had centerfloats with "aubergine" and whitel paint. I just found a ;67 brochure and it calls the early colors "Burgundy Red" and gold. Is this burgundy red the same tint as the aubergine? I checked with Hutch the painter and he is not sure. Anybody out there know?

11/9/2017 7:48:39 PM

I had owned several Triumphs before joining the Navy and missed riding during my 4 year enlistment. As soon as I got out I bought a brand new 1967 Triumph TT special. At the time, that bike was fast and a whole lotta fun on the road or in the dirt. I don't know what happened to it but it was T120TT engine # DU45795 purchased 11/18/1967. Beautiful bike Burgandy and Gold. That was my last Triumph and later on I moved to rice burners but I still have fond memories of my Triumph days.

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