Tribute Triumph T120RV

Union Motorcycle Classics turned this 1972 Triumph T120RV engine and several boxes of parts into a Gary Nixon Tribute Triumph.

  • We think Gary Nixon would approve of an oil-in-frame Triumph T120RV getting a new lease on life modeled on his Triumph 500 racers.
    Photo by Mike Watanabe
  • The Gary Nixon Tribute Triumph.
    Photo by Mike Watanabe
  • Although built around an oil-in-frame T120, the Union Gary Nixon Tribute Triumph captures the look of Nixon’s 500 racers beautifully.
    Photo by Mike Watanabe
  • The Gary Nixon Tribute Triumph.
    Photo by Mike Watanabe
  • The Daytona-style exhaust is made from stainless tubing, bends and mufflers from Cone Engineering.
    Photo by Mike Watanabe
  • The shortened rear frame loop keeps proportions right.
    Photo by Mike Watanabe
  • A Glass From The Past belly pan was modified to fit the bike.
    Photo by Mike Watanabe
  • The Gary Nixon Tribute Triumph looks right out on the road, even if it was styled for the track.
    Photo by Mike Watanabe

Gary Nixon Tribute Triumph
Claimed power:
50hp @ 7,000rpm (est.)
Top Speed: 110mph (est.)
649cc air-cooled OHV parallel twin, 71mm x 82mm bore and stroke
Weight (wet):
390lb (177kg)
Fuel capacity:
5.25gal (20ltr)

When Todd Van Dorn dragged a 1972 Triumph T120RV engine and several boxes of parts—including the stock Triumph oil-bearing spine tube frame and swingarm — to Union Motorcycle Classics in Nampa, Idaho, he thought he wanted a bobber. What he got was something entirely different.

Union Motorcycle Classics are specialized builders of road racing-style machines based on British and Italian platforms, and for the past five years the company has turned out some exquisitely detailed projects. But they all have a certain style, and the bobber isn’t among their repertoire.

Mike Watanabe is one of the partners behind Union Motorcycle Classics, along with Luke Ransom. Together, the pair collaborates on the builds, each working within their area of expertise. Mike handles design, fiberglass bodywork and metal fabrication. Luke takes care of the mechanicals and also does metal fabrication.

Looking back

The roots of Union Motorcycle Classics go back to 1998, when Mike and his friend Bret Edwards formed Glass From The Past, or GFTP. At the time, they were a pair of young kids obsessed with British road race bikes from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, machines often outfitted with fiberglass fairings, seats and gas tanks. “The trouble was,” Mike explains, “that bodywork was unobtanium, and we couldn’t afford it if we found it.”

So instead of trying to find and buy what they wanted, Mike and Bret decided to reproduce their own fairings and gas tanks. With a background in fine arts and graphic design, Mike had a talent for shaping plugs, which are the forms to make the molds that will eventually yield fiberglass components. Bret, meanwhile, proved adept at working with fiberglass, and GFTP was created.

1/1/2015 4:31:17 PM

thnx for the write up greg. the 4 or 5 names of who did what (? and why) adds a lot less interest than just a basic one page brief but i read 'em all anyway. the test ride > sufficient enough detailing to ride it somewhere else? looks a bit lonely out there in idahoe unless of course the fellas are setting there mulling over 1954 mz 175 automatic transmission patent drawings...probably wouldnt matter how vast the open space, how chill the air temperature is or how deep the snow gets when its 'hydraulic fluid' ignites 'cuz im thinking the locals would surely catch wind of it and then what...

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