Triumph Hurricane X-75
741cc, 67mm x 70mm, air-cooled, ohv, 5-speed triple
▲ Craig Vetter's radical reworking of a BSA triple looks a lot less radical today than it did back in 1973. But the Triumph Hurricane X-75 is still an eye-catching (nominally) 750cc motorcycle. Although frequently referred to as a factory chopper, designer Craig Vetter denies that this was ever his intention. He's quoted as saying that the slightly kicked-out front fork actually came from someone else at BSA looking to cash-in on the Easy Rider movie.
▲ In September 1970, the American magazine Cycle World appeared on the newsstands with a cover photo asking if this was the next BSA Three? Well it might have, been. And it was intended as such. But by the time the bike was launched in 1973, BSA was finished, and it became a Triumph. The brakes are conical hubs, front (twin leading shoe) and rear (single leading shoe). They work, but only if you work on keeping them working to the max.
▲ It ain't always about top-end speed. In fact, the mid-range is where it really happens for most riders, and this is where the BSA-Triumph triples excel. A sorted Trident/Rocket will hit 115mph un-tuned. A race tuned triple will comfortably hit 130mph. Or more. But the Hurricane will have given its best by around 105mph and will feel uncomfortable beyond that. That said, you won't want to stay at those velocities. This is a town and country bike, and a poseur's dream.
▲ Is silence really golden? Some would say not. But then when you listen to a Triumph Hurricane roaring past, you hear it as much with your eyes as your ears. The engines, being olde-worlde pushrod mills, can be a little clattery (and a little slappy). Build quality varies a lot, and some are significantly better/worse than others. We've ridden a few of these over the years, and they never fail to please.
▲ The forward-sloping BSA Rocket Three engine always looked racier than the vertical (cylinder) Tridents. Yet it's essentially the same power unit. But it was an "ageing" pushrod design arriving in an age when Honda's modern SOHC CB750-4 was showing the way ahead. Nevertheless, the Rockets/Tridents have a very special grunt and vibe (literally) that makes them a hoot to ride. Note the slightly exaggerated cylinder head fins. It ain't necessarily necessary, but it helps hit the right style notes.
▲ The Triumph Hurricane was always a 4-speeder whereas the rival Honda 750-4 had five speeds. But for the X-75, with that low-end torque and 120-degree crank throws, four speeds are all you need. That's the alternator behind the gear shift lever. All X-75s are right foot change. Keep that in mind if you're an entrenched left-footer.
▲ 1972 Honda CB750-4. This K2 model (referring to the 2nd generation) consolidated Honda's grip on this sector. 100,000 bikes had already been sold, with the USA a huge market. In January 2011, Bonhams (which supplied the image) sold this machine in Las Vegas for $3,510 (£2,677) . These bikes are ageing well and starting to fetch big money for prime examples. We still prefer Tridents, Rockets and Hurricanes. But we're not sneering at the Hondas the way we used to. www.bonhams.com
▲ Craig Vetter at Cadwell Park, UK in 2003. If Vetter had done nothing else with his life but design the Hurricane, that would still be some legacy. But the man also developed a world class motorcycle fairing company that gave us the Windjammer, and has been a pioneer of ultra-efficient and human-powered motorcycles. www.craigvetter.com
Triumph X-75 Hurricane specifications
◄ Triumph Hurricane X-75. This 1973 bike was spotted on eBay, 22nd August 2016, and is asking £29,999 (quoted elsewhere on the eBay page as £35,000). Hurricane prices have risen strongly over the past 10 or 15 years. We've seen a few change hands at £18,000 plus. The last of those was perhaps a year or two ago. But is thirty grand the new benchmark for this badged-engineered BSA factory custom? See Sump Classic Bike News August 2016 for the main eBay story. More on the Hurricane's development below.
UPDATE: The seller reports that the Hurricane recently sold for £29,999. However, the buyer reports that he actually paid £25,000 because he lives in Switzerland. Therefore, UK VAT at 20 percent wasn't payable. The buyer also said he's very pleased with the bike and the price paid. It is, after all, an original and unmolested X-75 Hurricane, and that's very rare.
X-75 Hurricane intro
If Honda Motorcycles hadn't built the CB750-4, there might never have been the X-75 Triumph Hurricane. The Honda was the incoming disease, and the Hurricane was the cure. Or part of it. That was the idea, anyway. But the X-75 had itself been afflicted with a terminal illness, and it was all just a question of when rather than if. Put another way, BSA was in the last chance saloon, and Triumph was headed much the same way, albeit with a short-lived reprieve.
The story begins on any date you like between, say, the early 1950s and the mid-1960s. In those post-war, ration book austerity years, with British industrial (and political) complacency still deeply entrenched, the writing was on the wall for the homeland motorcycle industry.
In the 1950s, the car had arrived for the common man. Motorcycles and sidecar outfits were becoming increasingly irrelevant for everyday use, and sales were in sharp decline—which, for the surviving dominoes (AMC, BSA-Triumph, Greeves, Scott, Velocette, etc) meant that new product development was hopelessly underfunded.
Nevertheless, there were still great ideas germinating in exceptional engineering minds; minds such as Bert Hopwood (who gave us the Norton Dominator), and Triumph development engineer Doug Hele who gave us the Domiracers and later made the Triumph and BSA triples kick some serious racetrack ass.
The 741cc Hurricane blossomed from the wilting flower of the Triumph Trident T150/BSA Rocket Three concept which had been designed and developed by Hopwood and Hele in the early 1960s, and finally launched in 1968.
These men understood better than most that the unbalanced twin cylinder engine was dead, or as good as. Multis were the future. Three cylinders at least. But four or more if possible. Honda was thinking along the same lines, and the race was on to be first-to-market.
The early Tridents/Rockets were styled by Ogle, a newly formed London design studio hungry for blood, but one that knew nothing whatsoever about motorcycles as viewed from the perspective of the average rider.
Nevertheless, the firm accepted the challenge and duly served up a couple of totally uninspiring and square designs, both metaphorically and literally. What was cool and fashionable to Ogle was kitsch and staid to pretty much everyone else.
So okay, the Ogle Tridents and Rockets are now becoming increasingly desirable. But then, the lens of history and nostalgia often brings products into kinder and more generous focus. However, at the time, in the late 1960s, the Tridents and Rockets were simply ugly and confused, and the biking world mostly walked, or rode, away.
Hurricane origins & Craig Vetter
Copyright Sump Publishing 2016