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1966 T120TT Special - Terry Macdonald restoration For Sale

Built in October 1965 (the 1966 model year began in August 1965) , this is the last (and best!) of my US Competition Triumph 650s, professionally restored with no expense spared by internationally recognised Triumph restoration expert, Terry Macdonald. Terry (, a qualified engineer, has been riding, repairing and restoring Triumphs since the '60s, and his skill and experience is second to none. Details of the bike can be found both on Terry's website and on my own one (

There are a lot of TT Specials about, advertised on this site and others at anything from £13,000 or so to a whopping £35,000. The majority of these are 1967 models - not sure why, because in fact there were more 1966 models produced initially (1,307 - compared to 1,100 1967 ones) - possibly because by 1967 the TT Special was no longer competitive (other than the high comp pistons, engine spec was the same as the T120R) so few were actually raced and more survived? Note, the figure of 798 for the number of 1966 TTs built originating from David Gaylin's "Restoration Guide" (supplied by an ex-Meriden employee) and often quoted by vendors is incorrect - the correct figure is 1,307 (acknowledged by David - please see my website blog). The 798 figures is the approximate number of 1966 model TT Specials with the "T120TT" engine/frame stamp - it does not include the 500 odd TTs stamped with the old "T120C" prefix (exactly the same model).

Privately, you can pick up a TT Special for around the £15k mark. It may well have fake stampings - there are an awful lot of people who have contacted me via my website to check out stampings which are clearly non-original and I’m aware of several which have recently been doing the rounds online. It will in all probability have been rebuilt by an unknown amateur in a shed, quite often on a budget in order to sell on at a profit. It'll be more or less bog stock, and there will probably be claims that it is "Factory original" or "completely mint" (except it won't be: it'll have the wrong colour tank, a plastic coated frame, it’ll be missing its air filters, tank badges won't be painted, the rev counter will be in the wrong place, and many other inaccuracies). If you plan on riding it, you will be placing (or misplacing) your trust in whoever rebuilt it (and the vendor may not even know who it was). So, you will effectively be putting your life in the hands of some chancer armed with a big adjustable spanner and a pair of mole grips and a masters degree in bodging bought off one of those dodgy internet “universities”. Many of these end up with Terry for him to sort out and I've seen first hand the appalling abuse inflicted on these machines which comes to light when the engine and gearbox have been stripped (yes, I've bought one of these wrecks myself!) It's not uncommon for owners to spend north of £10k in having these bikes made roadworthy - and most of that is in parts (Terry carries out this work as a hobby and charges very reasonable labour rates).

My 1966 TT is one of the last with the T120C engine and frame stamps, built in October 1965 (The T120TT stamp which most '66 models bore was introduced in the December 1965 batch). It was shipped to Johnson Motors (JoMo) in California where it was used for long distance forays into the Mojave desert (its colourful history is described in my blog). The TT Special was an off road bike (this one was never road registered in the US) and while it was never intended as a desert racer as such (that was the West Coast TR6C Trophy Special), some people adapted them for this purpose (including actor Steve McQueen - see my website). It was sold to its previous owner who lived in San Bernadino, Ca. in the early 2000s and he stripped it down, intending to restore it - but never got round to it. I shipped it back to the UK in 2015 disassembled and it went straight off to Terry's for a ground up restoration.

Almost all the T120TTs I've seen advertised are restored (and I use that word loosely) more or less to as they were when they left the factory - no lighting (not even a brake light), no speedo, no horn, etc. I already had one of these (a '65) and I'd ridden it around the back roads of the Peak District where I live on a daytime MOT on sunny days. I'd even commuted on it. I told myself it was fun. But the novelty soon wore off. After a few such spins, I realised there was little pleasure in constantly looking over my shoulder as some half-wit in an Audi driving up my back side came dangerously close to rear ending me as they didn't realise I was braking; having to be careful about getting home before it was dark, and guessing how fast I was going through speed cameras (incorrectly on one occasion, to my cost). What's more the single leading shoe front brake was next to useless if you need to stop quickly (I had an unpleasantly close encounter with a sheep on my way to work one misty summer morning). The TT Special was designed for off road use only - specifically for US TT steeplechase riding. There's nothing fun about riding a standard one on the roads in modern traffic!

In the US during the '60s, the TT Special gained iconic status among young men. It (and the Harley Sportster, if you must) was THE bike to be seen on down at the soda hop. Despite dire warnings from the distributors that it was “for off road use only” (cunning marketing strategy on Triumph’s behalf, maybe? Thinking about it, maybe not...) as many were converted for road use as were actually raced - possibly more. Often a Bates headlight was fitted with stoplight and silencers. Many sported alloy wheels. I decided to build a TT along these lines, but which could be readily converted back to factory original status if I decided to stick it in my living room as an investment. It took a couple of iterations to get there (see my website) but here it is, in its finished glory.

Pazon electronic ignition with Boyer Power Box (no battery) replaces the original ET ignition coils (supplied) for practicality and reliability (ET coils are not...) The engine and gearbox were stripped and rebuilt with all new bearings, new con rods (polished by SMC and fitted with their heavy duty bolts - they also reground the crank); original carbs were resleeved by Kevin Traill and fitted with Amal finned extended float bowls (popular among racers/fast street riders in the '60s) ; cylinder head was sent off to the Cylinder Head Shop for gas flowing, unleaded seats, Neutron stainless valves and guides; rebore and new LF Harris 9:1 pistons (replacing the original 11:1 ones all TTs were fitted with from 1964, making it more useable with modern fuel); converted to the improved crankcase engine breathing introduced on the Thruxton racers in 1965; frame was stove enamelled (as it would have been when it was built); all paintwork was redone; valanced alloy wheels - popular in the '60s among the US racers and fast street guys who rode the TTs (as well as the café racers over here) - were laced to the original hubs; a 1969 TLS brake was fitted so the bike now actually stops - and much, much more. Small headlamp off the 1966 TR6C Competition Sports scrambler and matching '66-only taillight were fitted for practicality with reconditioned Smiths speedo. Everything that could be stripped down was, and if there was any question about its serviceability, it was replaced or repaired. Original Dunlop wheel rims, fork shrouds without headlight ears, Girling shocks, ET coils and everything else needed to return it to factory spec will be supplied.

The bike will be provided with a machine details certificate from the Vintage Motor Cycle Club. The VMCC hold the full set of the Triumph factory records and they provide details of bikes for a small fee and provision of photos of the engine and frame numbers. The certificates they provide are not evidence of the authenticity of the machine. The only way to verify a classic Triumph is to have someone with experience of authenticating engine and frame stamps compare them with photos of the stampings of other machines built in the same batch. The VMCC do not do this (nor do they claim to). However, their certificates are evidence of what is contained in all 3 factory records (engine assembly, assembly and despatch) for a given serial number.

The Triumph Owners Motorcycle Club (TOMCC) hold microfiche copies of some (but not all) of the factory records. They provide free of charge to members a certificate with the details they hold. TOMCC do not even ask for photos of the engine and frame stampings, so their certificates cannot in any way be seen as verification that the bike is what it's being sold as. Furthermore, their microfiche copies of the records are poor quality and when I requested details of a TT I was buying they gave me the incorrect build date! So a TOMCC certificate means absolutely nothing and really is not worth the paper it's written on. Vendors often advertise TTs as coming with a TOMCC certificate implying that this authenticates the bike. It doesn't and its disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

I hold full copies of the Triumph factory records for the TT Specials and I also have a large collection of photos of engine and frame stamps, including several of bikes from the same batch as mine (including one built the same day) and I'm happy to supply these for comparison with my stampings. I am 100% satisfied that the stampings on my bike are original.

Please see my website for details and photos of the restoration work and contact me if you would like any further information. The price is fixed and I won't be taking offers - I've spent a lot more than this on the bike (which has covered less than 130 miles since the rebuild was completed in 2016). You can buy an amateur rebuild and spend a lot more overall to get it sorted - or you can just buy what I believe is the best TT available in the UK, built to exacting standards by someone who really knows what he's doing.

See video:
Price £19950 As stated
Ad Type For Sale
Category Motorcycles
Make Triumph
Model T120
  T120C TT
Year 1966
Country UK
Region Derbyshire
Town Buxton
Telephone 07884 028895
Status Private
Date 21-Feb-2019
Ref C1049990
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