From the book 'Bonnie' by John Nelson the gas tank colors for early 1970s Bonnies are as: 1971 Tiger Gold/Black US and UK 1972 Tiger Gold/Cold White US and UK 1973 Vermillion/Gold US and UK T120 and T140 1974 Purple/Cold White T120 US and UK Cherokee Red/Cold White T140 US and UK All sounds very straight forward BUT---- I am restoring a 1974 T120RV which was used for 2 years then stored in a wet cellar for 30+years. Virtually everything if as ex factory. It is fitted with a US size gas tank which is black all over. No sign of any other color even underneath on the tunnel of the tank. I have a contact in UK who has had a 1974 T120V since the early 1980s and his (UK size) tank is also all black with no sign of other colors. Also on various sites there are photos of early 1970s Bonnies with all black gas tanks. No personal knowledge of the history of these of course. I remember walking around the Meriden factory during the blockade and seeing the rows and rows of impounded bikes and all these seemed to have bright colored tanks from memory. However I fully accept that my memory box is now 30+ years older and may be faulty. So my question is:-- What if anything was going on in the early 1970s. Was plain black the "in" color and did dealers repaint the gas tanks that color in order to shift metal? Or---something else? Personally I am going to repaint mine in the purple/white colors as I think they look good but just interested in the black color issue (nothing to do with US Presidential election!). All experiences/comments/views gratefully received.
I can't say for certain what was being done in the home market (or even) in the export market for those specific years, as I was living in East Africa at the time. But pre-1971 many dealers were doing re-paints of tanks with different colors and designs, or original colors and different designs. I believe that U.S. dealer custom paint jobs resulted in the factory adopting the lovely scalloped paint scheme that graced the late 60's and 1970 year Bonnies.
I have two NOS, pristine, 1971-72 tanks in my stash that came out of old dealer stock that I received still in the factory wrapping and cartons (no idea what I will ever do with them). Unlike the 1960's, they were shipped as spares, unfinished in primer. My understanding is that many potential buyers found the gold color used on the 1971-72 models a bit "grotty" and dealers wanted to move those bikes. (Don't flame me anyone if you love the color... beauty in the eye of the beholder and all that). Could be that the factory did up some in black or that dealers might have. Others here would know better. I don't recall running into any with that coloring on the street when I returned to Calif. in 1973.
I agree with you on the purple. Always loved the various purples used over the years, from the regal purple on my '63 TR6SS to the jacarand purple that was used on the 1970 500. Eye-candy for sure.
I wouldn't claim to know the full story but this much I've picked up over the years. While Small Heath was well-known for turning bikes out in any standard BSA colour, aiui this was almost unknown at Meriden. However, also aiui, the US Triumph importers had a long-standing support arrangement with dealers that, if it took a new colour scheme to sell a bike, the dealer shipped the relevant bits to Bob Leppan.
Since I got it, I've been trying to get to the bottom of how my '70 US-market T150 came to be painted Olympic Flame & Silver rather than the more usual Spring Gold & Black. Less than 300 T150's were made in the '70 season and, as yet, I don't know how many of those were built as US-market models (known as the 'North American Variant' by Meriden). OF&S is correct for 'UK & General Export' T150's, so was mine painted with a batch of UK&GE tanks and 'guards; or did it start out SG&B but the US importer or a dealer, or a customer, want to differentiate it from the then-common '69 T150's with 'beauty kits', which were also SG&B?
Remember this- throughout the blockade, the Meriden plant was unheated and unmaintained at least to prior standards with the leaking factory roof a number one problem.
The blockaded stock suffered from the damp and I was shown an original blockaded UK T120 held by (now-closed) long-time Meriden dealer Steamline Motorcycles in East Dulwich whose purple/white paint work, faded in patches had suffered greatly so that rust spots had been crudely touched up by either NVT or Meriden. (They also has a new & gorgeous export TR65-sold :cry- and a new T160 Trident)
Meriden understandably were not keen to let NVT have the bikes to sell as they saw it as a card in the negotiations with them & the government.
However, who'd want to buy last year's model which has been standing around outside on a flatbed lorry covered in nothing but cardboard waiting to to be taken to a dealers as & when negotiations allow it ? An American resident in SE London who stopped at traffic lights upon his bicycle to admire my TR65 told me he bought a heavily discounted, ex-blockade T120 which he still had so there's your answer ....
It's not unlikely that dealers simply replaced the supplied rusting, rotting tanks with a replacement part simply sprayed in a popular colour like black.
Thanks for input Meriden4ever. I saw the blockaded bikes in the Meriden factory during the sit in. They all had (in my memory) colored tanks. The storage conditions were not ideal but certainly a lot better than being outside for 18 months (as they might be after being sold to a private owner). So--- I guess the conclusion is that dealers painted them black either because of poor finish or because it was the "in" color of the day in order to shift bikes off the showroom floor.
Thanks a lot for posting these pictures, Meriden4ever, they bring back memories of walking through exactly where the photograph of the bikes shows. BTW--coming back to the point of my original posting---all of the bikes in the photo as far as I can see have the "standard" colored gas tanks. I cannot see any black ones at all. So I guess the black ones were painted by the dealers either because of poor paint finish/damage or as a "cool" color in order to sell the bikes.
I'd never heard of a later Triumph in Black as standard before you bought it up. I think M4e's reasoning is plausible or even the 'cool' thing is possible.
Mine was all black when I bought it as the 3rd owner, I just thought it was an 'improvement' but it is about the right age (M4e?) having a CX number, maybe mine was a black tanker. The side panels are black too, is that right?
Any assumptions about how the bikes left the factory must be considered in view of the fact that dealers in the US would supply the motorcycle in any color if it meant making the sale. I am sure that the "colour" of the tank would not have gotten in the way of a sale in other countries. I delivered several bikes with a black tank. We even delivered bikes in other colors and designs including black primer.
Also the bikes would have tanks damaged in transit. Often the replacement tank would not be from the same year or model.
The "signature" scallop was copied by Triumph from paint jobs developed by Triumph of Detroit to help them sell more units. Some dealers, like John Monaco, would replace fork tubes, seats, paint schemes, exhaust pipes, mufflers and have them for sale on the sales floor. Many of his customers still believe these bikes were stock and made by the factory. They are quick to argue the point!
I have paper work between Brian Jones and Brenda Price tracking the early development of the TSX directly to what John was doing at his shop in Pennsylvania. It includes letters from John to Brenda listing the changes he was making.
While it makes a intriguing discussion and in light of the amount of personal customization of the form and era, tracking back some anomaly back to the factory is just mental masturbation.
In twenty five years an enthusiast not yet born will be trying to track Blapper's modifications back to some "skunk works" project in the Triumph racing department. john
Thanks, John, for your comments. What I dont understand is how you knew that when the Meriden factory closed the racing department was transferred (or should I say Blapped?) to the south of France. I thought that this was a Brit secret. Ah well!---just like all other Brit secrets I guess. Enjoy your weekend.
However, who'd want to buy last year's model which has been standing around outside on a flatbed lorry covered in nothing but cardboard waiting to to be taken to a dealers as & when negotiations allow it ?
Not even cardboard by the looks of things as these blockaded Triumphs leave Meriden under the watchful eyes of the occupying workers - not exactly waterproof ! Apparently, NVT contracted with the occupying workers to load the bikes for £3 each...
More blockaded Triumphs at Meriden, open to the element- note the row of rare disc-braked Daytona T100Ds in the left foreground
From Patriots Of Meriden by Robert Taylor (New Society magazine 8.8.75)
'But the occupation at Meriden has meant the industry lost customers in this year's American sales season, which peaked in April and May. The Triumph works is full of rusty corroding bikes. While the men have kept out the vandals and even done some painting round the site, they have not looked after many of the bikes which are stockpiled.' (emphasis added)