Showing posts with label 1960s Motorcycles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1960s Motorcycles. Show all posts

Dresda Triton

Dresda Triton 1960s British classic motorcycle

It has doubtless been discussed - in refreshment rooms around the world - which is the greatest café racer ever made. Dave Degens could be forgiven for making the case for the Dresda Triton. His company - Dresda Autos - was based in west London. As well as a race engineer, Degens was a rider of high repute. It followed, then, that he would be on the lookout for high-performance tips and techniques. A logical way to go, in that regard, would be to take a well-sorted motor - and install it in an equally well-sorted chassis. Which is exactly what Degens did. Indeed, since the mid-'50s, two-wheeled tech-heads had been bolting Triumph engines into Norton frames. The hybrid fruits of their labour were dubbed Tritons. Triumph's powerplants were the most potent around, at the time. And Norton's Featherbed frame rewrote the rulebook when it came to firm, but flexible geometry.

In the mid-'60s, Triumph's parallel-twin engine layout was cutting edge. The 650 unit was kicking out 50bhp - at 6,500rpm. Top speed was 120mph. Do the café racer math - and that exceeded 'ton-up boy' requirements by 20%! And all from an air-cooled four-valve twin. But - as Dave Degens knew only too well - horsepower is only half the equation. Handling, too, needs to be factored in. Cometh the hour, cometh the Featherbed! Norton's steel twin-cradle frame had excelled on both road and track. Norton's TT rivals could vouch for that! Put it all together - and Triumph engine, plus Norton frame - equalled fast and fluid motorcyling.

By the end of the Sixties, the Triton 'brand' had gone beyond its geeky beginnings. The dream ticket - courtesy of Triumph and Norton - now ate a substantial slice of the Brit bike pie. But, 'mass-production' for the Triton held a sting in its tail. Downmarket, if not dodgy deals increased - both in parts and build quality. Of course, Dresda Autos - with Dave Degens at the helm - never lowered its standards. Even now - decades later - they provide bespoke bikes to discerning buyers. A legend in the specialist motorcycle world, then, the Dresda Triton took on - and beat - all comers!

Kawasaki H1

Kawasaki H1 1960s Japanese classic motorcycle

Kawasaki built its first bike - a 125cc two-stroke - in 1960. From the outset, Kawasaki was synonymous with high-performance sports bikes. Bikes like the H1, for instance. Technically, it was released at the tail-end of the Sixties. But, it is one of those machines which make lovers of Seventies superbikes come over all misty-eyed. That was the decade in which the H1 was most often seen - being ridden hell for leather - along the highways and byways of Britain. And, indeed, other locales - usually in the same high-spirited fashion. It was what two-strokes were made for, basically. And, if the H1's handling was a bit imprecise - at least as compared with bikes of today - hey, it only added to the fun!

The H1's 500cc three-cylinder engine output 60bhp. The 'stroker' motor screamed all the way to a top speed of 120mph. It did so in a way that induced mile-wide eyes - and smiles - in those brought up on a strict 'Brit bike' diet. Heck, the sound alone was worth the asking price! The H1's slimmed-down weight of 383lb only added to its searing acceleration. Revs peaked at 7,500rpm - with a noticeable surge as they hit the power band.

Kawasaki's first forays into motorcycle manufacture had been influenced by BSA. By the time of the H1, though, the Japanese giant had forged its own style. Middleweight though it was, the H1 passed muster among the big Seventies 'muscle bikes'. Naked aggression more than made up for its diminutive dimensions. The Kawasaki H1 hurled bodies and souls into two-stroke hyperdrive. Some '70s bikers never fully recovered!

Honda CB77

Honda CB77 1960s Japanese classic motorcycle

The CB77 was a landmark bike for Honda. The firm started up in Hamamatsu, Japan. In a wooden shed! Just as Harley-Davidson had done, in Milwaukee, USA ... except theirs was made out of tin! Okay - so sheds is where similarities end between the two marques! Of course - like Harley-Davidson - what Soichiro Honda's company went on to achieve is the stuff of motorcycling legend. Not surprising, really. That small shed was home to the Honda Technical Research Institute. In its early days, that is!

Three years in and Honda produced its first bike. The 98cc machine was dubbed the Dream. Sales were sound. That set the scene for the two bikes which put Honda on motorcycling's map - the CB72 and CB77. The larger of the two - the 305cc CB77 - was launched in '63. It was up against the 'Brit bikes' of the early Sixties. They ruled the two-wheeled roost, at the time. Not for much longer! Next to the likes of Triumph and Norton, the 'Jap bike' came supremely well-equipped. In engineering terms, it blew them away, basically. While it did not quite clock up the mythical 'ton' - the 100mph so beloved of British riders - its acceleration was scorching. By comparison with Brit bikes, anyway. And - with a top speed of 95mph - it came close. The CB77's parallel twin motor revved out to 9,000rpm. The bike weighed in at just 350lb dry. Do the math, as they say!

Several factors gave the CB77 the edge over similarly-sized British bikes. Top of the list was engine design. A 180° crankshaft allowed the two pistons to move up and down alternately - balancing each other out. That took the smoothness of the ride to another level - at least, relative to the Brit bikes. The engine was held securely in situ by a tubular steel frame. Telescopic front forks - and twin rear shocks - raised the suspension game, too. Two sets of solid, sure-stopping drum brakes were fitted. The net result was that the CB77 accelerated smoothly, handled well and pulled up in short order. On top of all that, it was oil-tight and reliable. Not something that could be said of every British-made bike! In the States, it was sold as the Super Hawk. The CB77, then, was Honda's first attempt at a full-on sports bike. Suffice to say - there were others in the pipeline!

Royal Enfield Interceptor 750

Royal Enfield Interceptor 750 1960s British classic motorcycle

Royal Enfield may not be quite so celebrated as some of its 'Brit bike' brethren. Its logo, though, adorned a long line of sturdy, but stylish motorcycles. A perfect example was the Interceptor 750.

Power output for the Interceptor was 53bhp. Revs rose smoothly to 6,000rpm. Those stats no doubt impressed American - as well as British - buyers. Which was good, because the bike - and its 750cc capacity - were largely targeted at the US market. Indeed, the excellence of the Interceptor's engine made up for 'deficiencies' in other departments. The front brake, for example, was not the most reassuring ever made. And the forks could have been firmer.

Eventually, Royal Enfield suffered a financial meltdown. Sadly, it was one from which it never recovered. The Interceptor range had been in production throughout the Sixties. It might not have been at the cutting edge of Harold Wilson's 'white heat of technology', but the 750 certainly showcased some of the best of British innovation. After the collapse, the rights to Royal Enfield were licensed to India. In time, the marque became part of the 'retro revival' marketing boom. For sure, the Interceptor 750 helped inspire it. Royal Enfield now has the kudos of being the oldest motorcycle manufacturer still shipping product. Long may that continue!

Suzuki T20 Super Six

Suzuki T20 Super Six 1960s Japanese classic motorcycle

For Suzuki, bikes like the T20 Super Six had been a long time in the making. Originally, silk was the route to success for the Japanese company. Specifically, silk looms. In 1909, Michio Suzuki founded a firm to produce said items. It was not until '54 that Suzuki became ... well, Suzuki! For, it was in that year that it built its first bike - the 90cc Colleda. It was taken - hot off the production line - to the Mount Fuji hill-climb, where it saw off all-comers. The motorcycle world would never be the same again.

Fast forward to '66. It was a great year for two reasons. England won the World Cup - and Suzuki served up the Super Six. Suzuki went global with the the T20. It was named Super Six after its 6-speed gearbox. But, innovative engineering did not stop there. Its 2-stroke engine featured the Posi-Force lubrication system. And - holding the engine securely in situ - was Suzuki's first twin-cradle frame. That - combined with a dry weight of just 304lb - meant the T20 handled with aplomb. The parallel-twin motor made 29bhp. Top speed was 95mph. Suffice to say, the Super Six sold by the shedload!

The T20 was a good-looking bike. Lustrous paintwork - plus gleaming chrome - made for a notably fetching finish. Festooned around it were neat design touches. The front-end, especially, was drafted with panache. What with an intricately-spoked wheel, finely-crafted forks and elegantly raised 'bars, the T20 did not stint on detail. So, a landmark machine, from one of the all-time greats. Suzuki's T20 Super Six mixed speed and style - to more than impressive effect!

Honda CB750

Honda CB 750 1960s Japanese classic motorcycle

There is a case to be made for considering the Honda CB750 to be the point at which motorcycling's modern era began. Technically, it was released in '69 - but its presence so suffused the Seventies that it cannot but be grouped with bikes of that decade. Kawasaki's Z1 is often thought of as the first Japanese 'superbike'. Timeline-wise, though, it was the CB750 that was first out of the traps - and by a full four years, at that.

The CB750's four across-the-frame cylinders were a clear signal there was a new kid on biking's block. The shiny quartet of chrome exhausts reinforced the message. The CB750 was a muscular-looking motorcycle. But, it was stylish muscularity. The rounded tank was sleek and shapely. The multi-spoked wheels were a latticed delight. Paintwork and chrome vied for attention. At the time, the CB's front disc brake was technologically advanced. Highish handlebars - and a well-padded seat - were tailor-made for long journeys. So, it made sense for the 750 to be pitched as the perfect all-rounder.

Unsurprisingly, the CB was a big success in the showrooms. That was only to be expected from a bike which topped out at 125mph - and also handled well. Honda's rivals duly fell over themselves to try to match it. Over time, then, the CB750 furthered motorcycling's cause. By setting a benchmark, it forced manufacturers worldwide to follow suit. In the form of the Honda CB750, the day of the modern Jap classic had dawned!

Norton Commando Fastback 750

Norton Commando Fastback 750 1960s British classic motorcycle

Unlike some of its 'Brit bike' brethren, the Norton Commando Fastback 750 was a smooth and comfortable ride. Well, by 1960s standards, anyway. That was due, in no small part, to Norton's proprietary engine-mounting set-up. Made up mostly of rubber, it was dubbed 'isolastic'. The Commando's motor was a parallel twin - not a layout synonymous with seamless power delivery. The isolastic system, though, duly dialled out the worst excesses of the inherent engine vibrations.

Norton had long prided itself on its bikes' handling prowess. The Commando turned out to be no exception. In '73, the bike was taken to the toughest road test of all - the Isle of Man TT race. Norton's road-holding claims were upheld. Peter Williams - the Commando's rider - took the Formula 750 trophy.

The road-going Fastback's performance was almost as impressive. Its 745cc motor put out 58bhp. And with the Commando weighing in at just 418lb, that meant a top speed of 117mph. With so much all-rounder status in its pocket, the Commando was bound to sell well. Sadly, though, not well enough to save Norton from its date with financial destiny. For its uncommon blend of style and substance, however, the Commando Fastback 750 will be forever revered by classic bike enthusiasts!

Velocette Venom Thruxton

Velocette Venom Thruxton 1960s British classic motorcycle

Velocette was a stylish name for a motorcycle manufacturer. But, it did build sleek, sophisticated products. The Venom Thruxton was one of them. Venom aptly described the ferocity of the bike's tuned engine. Thruxton was, and still is, a racetrack - near Andover, England. That, too, was appropriate - since the circuit's free-flowing layout is tailor-made to give race bikes their head.

The Thruxton was first and foremost a roadster. That said, it was easily converted to Clubmans spec. As a production - or 'proddy' - racer, it provided the best of both worlds. Along with its potent motor, it boasted rock-solid suspension, light-alloy wheel-rims, and a twin-leading-shoe front brake. On the open road, the Thruxton cruised at 90mph. That was good going in '65 - especially from a single-pistoned machine.

The Thruxton was purposefully styled. Finessed features were a fishtail silencer and ventilated front drum brake. The Venom's jet-black paintwork was moodier than Marlon Brando - on a bad day! The cursive script of the Velocette logo set off a sweetly-shaped tank, to a tee. A combination, then, of rugged good looks and raw power, the Venom Thruxton spat two-wheeled poison. Best not get too close to it ... and the alluring aroma of its Castrol R oil!

Triumph Trident T150

Triumph Trident T150 1960s British classic motorcycle

Not even its most ardent fan would claim the Triumph Trident T150 to be the best-looking of bikes. Especially in the curve-conscious USA - where the Trident's straight-line styling was not to every taste. True - the Trident's 'ray-gun' silencer was Batman-flash. But that alone was not sufficient to rescue a somewhat staid design. Ergonomically, too, things were decidedly conventional. Particularly the 'sit up and beg' riding position. This was a British-built bike, after all … not a cool American cruiser. Styling-wise, it was more stiff upper lip!

On the performance chart, though, the Trident's spikes were higher. It made steady progress up to a top speed of 125mph. And there was high-quality handling, to match. Unfortunately for the Trident, the timing of its '69 launch was not great. The Honda CB750's release was just around the corner. And the Japanese machine's four-cylinder engine would usher in a new dawn for motorcycling.

Not that that mattered at the racetrack. The Triumph Trident would be etched into the annals of sporting history - by the legend that was 'Slippery Sam'. Percy Tait took the Trident-based racer to production TT triumph - from '71 through to '75. At Stateside circuits, too, Triumph triples blazed a trail. In large part, that was thanks to their Rob North frames. In '71, Gene Romero finished second at Daytona. His Triumph looked suitably resplendent in its blue-and-white fairing. A mixed review, then, for the Trident. While it was cheered to the echo at the citadels of racing, design-conscious road-riders were not always as rapturous. But if the Triumph Trident T150 was ever thought of as a tad dull - that was before its throttle was twisted!

Triumph T120 Bonneville

Triumph T120 Bonneville 1960s British classic motorcycle

The Triumph T120 Bonneville must be among the most iconic motorbikes ever made. Indeed, its name alone is liable to induce weak knees in its devotees. The Bonnie - as it was dubbed - invokes visions of a time when the material world was made out of metal. Plastic, back then, was but a brittle blip on the horizon. Now, it goes without saying that the future of the planet comes before that of classic motorcycles ... well, it does, according to non-bikers, anyway! That said, the petroleum and oils of yesteryear had a 'spirit' - which today's sanitised synthetics singularly lack. Such 'aromatic' products were an essential part of the design icon that is the Triumph Bonneville.

It is ironic that a bike that so epitomises Sixties Britain should reference the US. Utah's Bonneville salt flats have long been the snow-white setting for many a piece of high-speed history. In '56, for example, Johnny Allen climbed aboard a Triumph Streamliner - and proceeded to gun it up to 214mph. The Triumph Bonneville roadster was good for just over half that. Still, 110mph was more than enough for most 'ton-up boys', at the time. Indeed, it allowed them 10mph leeway ... in case of headwinds, perhaps - or less than clean carbs! Bonnie aficionados spent so much time in the saddle that it became a virtual part of their anatomies. And that was pre-computer games!

In Triumph's glory days, the Bonneville was the beacon for the brand. Some quarter of a million Bonnies passed through the firm's Meriden factory gates. On the Isle of Man, a Bonneville won the Production TT - in '67. Two seasons later, and a Bonneville set the first 'proddy racer' 100mph lap of 'the island'. Those ton-up boys must have been in seventh heaven! And even on less celebrated roads, the Triumph T120 Bonneville was a legend in its own landscape. So, when the rockers decamped to the seaside, that infamous day in the Sixties - to do battle with the mods - it is a safe bet there was many a Bonnie blasting down to Brighton beach!