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#818533 08/03/20 1:06 pm
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Hello guys. I took a nice pleasant ride in the mountains, about 60 miles worth. I noticed all the smells of the forest, etc., and the usual smell from my engine, which smells to me a bit like....gunpowder!
It can’t be a serious problem, I’ve owned it for 36 years and it has smelled like that (when running and hot) for the whole time.

So does anyone else notice this, and why doesn’t a Honda, Kawasaki, Guzzi, or anything else have that old Triumph smell? What on earth is it?

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I used to shut the gas off just before pulling into garage. Then I'd sit on the bike waiting for the carbs to run dry. Just to smell that smell. I wish someone would bottle it. Combination of exhaust, hot metal, hot leaking oil burning off the engine.


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My first bike, a '66 Honda CL-77 305 scrambler, always had a unique smell when it warmed up, but I never could figure out what caused it.

As for my Triumphs: I always chuckled hearing them make "tink tink tink" sounds as they cooled off.

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Hold the exhaust fumes for me, but yes, that wonderful fragrance of hot metal when leaning over a heat-soaked Triumph engine!

All the more pleasurable because of the associations between olfactory sensations and memories. When I whiff that fragrance it carries me all the way back to my first Triumph when I was a teenager.

And I find it interesting that while my first Triumph was a '53 6T with a cast iron head, as near as I can tell the smell was the same or very close to that of the later alloy-head models I've owned subsequently.

Do all hot air-cooled engines have the same smell? Or is there actually something unique to the Triumph hot iron?


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Castrol R, but in wafts rather than suffocating clouds. Perhaps with a hint of AVGAS.

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Well, I know that everyone’s sense of smell is different: I have to be careful in the woods, because I genetically lack the ability to smell copperhead snakes, which everyone says smell like cucumbers.

But still, no one has answered the question, does your Triumph ever smell like gunpowder when it is hot?

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Originally Posted by OldOneKick
But still, no one has answered the question, does your Triumph ever smell like gunpowder when it is hot?

No, no gunpowder smell for any of my Triumphs.


Jon W.


1957 6T Thunderbird 650
1968 T100R Daytona 500
1971 TR6R Tiger 650
1970 BSA A65F 650
1955 Tiger 100 - Project
1971 BSA A65 650 - Project
1972 Norton Commando 750 "Combat"


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You normally only get that smell on the high pipe bikes,
it's your inner leg burning away!

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Originally Posted by NickL
You normally only get that smell on the high pipe bikes,
it's your inner leg burning away!
Couldn’t be that, my inner leg is only half its former size due to weight loss! Which than led to problems in kickstarting but that’s another post.....

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Ah, the memories.
I haven't noticed a gunpowder smell, but the faint aroma of burning oil. Kinda reminds me of the distinctive smell of an old VW when the heater is on. laugh


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72 T120V cafe project "Mr. Jim"
72 T150V "Wotan"
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Originally Posted by DavidP
...the distinctive smell of an old VW when the heater is on. laugh
Have to call BS. Everybody knows old VW heaters never worked. laugh


1970 T120R - 'Anton'
1970 Commando - 'Bruno'
1967 T120R - 'Caesar'
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Having owned four old VW air-cooleds while living in a state where winter can be five months long, I can attest to those bad heaters.

The design of the heater air ducts also being the rocker panels below the doors didn't work when the rocker panels rusted out
The first year we were married my wife gave me a snowmobile suit so I could be warm while driving that damned Volkswagen.

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I also had several old air cooled vws, and if you could get the heater box flaps to close, they got stuck that way and you had heat all summer. I carried an ice scraper FOR THE INSIDE OF THE WINDSHIELD! Anyway, I recall a greasy heat smell on those occasions when the heater actually worked, but no gunpowder smell.

Whatever it is, it’s been going on for a long time.

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I thought the old VWs had gasoline heaters? I distinctly remember an ancient girlfriend's ancient VW stinkin' to high heaven of it, when we were desperate enough to fire it up. Gads...

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The gasoline powered heaters were an option on the bus. Also the only heater on the Thing, as the exhaust on them had no heat exchangers.
All mine worked pretty darn well, the exhaust pipes heat up at least as quickly as a water jacket. However, they cooked your feet long before the rest of you got warm. Unless some fool put a header on it, then you got no heat at all.
You do have to be certain that all the tin around the engine is sound as well as the flexible tubing or the fan can't push the heat forward.


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My 71 beetle still has perfect heating from the 50 year old heat exchangers. The highveld (in south africa) has no snow/salt and it rarely rains...

Folks used to have a water evaporative cooling unit that fitted into the window.

Love the smell, but quite different to my triumph....


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Bikes: '69 T120 on average (1967 rolling frame and 1971 Bonnie engine) + '56 1/2 T110 on average (58 rolling frame - with 55 iron head engine) + 74 T150 Home model.
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Yeah, OldOneKick. You're correct.

I'd forgotten about having to scrape the INSIDE of my VW windshields.

When I switched to Chevy pick-up trucks I learned what REAL heaters are.

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I got bit by a cucumber once.

Smelled like a snake.

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i know what thats like

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My 2000 Honda VFR800 has it's own unique smell. I can't describe it. It just smells mechanical and like exhaust and hot and a bit of oil thrown in. It's a pleasant smell. It's like the smell of old oil, new rubber, exhaust and cigarette smoke makes me a bit misty for my old bike shop mates.


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..."best" engine or vehicle smell that I remember was from the old (greyhound style) GMC (buffalo or similar) passenger buses when arrived at a town and stopped for a few minutes idling there.

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Bean oil in the two stroke!


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"It's not always about going fast. Sometimes it's nice to slow down" (Wendy E.2016)

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The smell is not the engine, your wallet is smoldering from the cost of owning an old bike....


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Your wallet would be inflicting 3rd-drgree burns on you if your bike was a new Harley.

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