Triumph Hurricane X-75

741cc, 67mm x 70mm, air-cooled, ohv, 5-speed triple  


1973 Triumph Hurricane X-75 primary side

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.


 Triumph Hurricane X-75


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.


Triumph Hurricane X-75 instruments


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.


Triumph Hurricane X-75 silencers


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.


Triumph Hurricane sculpted fibre glass bodywork


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.


Triumph Hurricane X-75 showing its BSA Rocket 3 engine


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 750-4 K2


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.


Craig Vetter. Mr Triumph Hurricane


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.



Triumph X-75 Hurricane specifications

Engine: Air cooled, pushrod, four stroke, transverse triple
Capacity: 741cc
Bore: 67mm
Stroke: 70mm
Compression ratio: 9.0:1
Carburettors: 3 x 27mm Amal
Ignition: Points
Starting: Kick
Max power: 58hp @ 7,250rpm (claimed)
Transmission: 5-speed
Final drive: Chain
Front suspension: Telescopic forks, 2-way damped
Rear suspension: Dual shocks/dampers with preload adjustable
Front brakes: 8-inch twin-leading show conical hub
Rear brake: 7-inch single-leading shoe conical hub
Front tyre: 3.25 x 19-inch
Rear tyre: 4.25 x 18-inch
Dry weight: 420lbs dry (191kg)
Fuel capacity: 2.2 gallons imperial (2.6 gallons US/10 Litres. *Also quoted as 1.66 gallons imperial)

Price new: Approximately £880

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.



BSA-Triumph logo




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

The story goes that the late Don Brown, then Vice President of BSA's US operation, ogled the Ogle offering, shook his head sourly and resolved to help develop something more visually suited to American tastes.

Brown, it's said, financed the Hurricane development in secret (i.e. without BSA-Triumph's knowledge) by using office petty cash.

Having canvassed opinion on a suitable magician capable of pulling this particular rabbit from the hat, it was decided that the bloke to speak to was Craig Vetter, a motorcycle fairing designer with original ideas about aerodynamics and style, plus an all-important penchant for custom bikes.

Vetter responded to the call, left his Illinois factory and, on Brown's dollar, flew to Nutley, New Jersey where BSA's Stateside operation was based. After a long and friendly meeting, Vetter collected the keys to a BSA Rocket Three which he rode back home.



Vetter (image immediately above) was one of the rare designers who fully understood that "manufacturability" was as important as style. In other words, if a product is impractical or non cost-effective to produce, it's nothing but a sketch on a restaurant serviette or a drawing on a blueprint.

And so he set to work, and soon enough he clarified his vision of a wild custom bike sporting sexy, but minimal, bodywork, and in-yer-face livery, high handlebars, yards of chrome and a trio of outrageously ostentatious silencers to trumpet its arrival wherever it went.

If that all looks a little old hat today, it was certainly cutting edge headwear back then, and Brown and Co were duly impressed, and perhaps a little alarmed. Whatever else this bike was, it was different and it was going to give the Brits a wake-up call. And the Yanks were also going to have to make some adjustments.

Brown, incidentally, had supplied many of the parts that Vetter would employ including Borrani wheel rims, stainless steel mudguards, the Hurricane headlight and the silencers. But Vetter put the bodywork cream on this cake and in doing so made one of the boldest statements in the history of motorcycling. It wasn't, as is often claimed, the first factory custom. Motorcycle firms have been producing "customs" since day one, usually referred to as "specials". But the X75 was a modern factory custom, and one that arrived at more or less the right moment.


Hurricane tank and seat unit


The steel petrol tank itself actually resides beneath the sculpted GRP body. The capacity, give or take a pint, is around 2.2 gallons*. Given the Trident/Rocket Three's thirst for fuel (around 40mpg), the Hurricane offered a range of only 80 - 90 miles or so if you maintained a little restraint, which wasn't easy to do.

A twin seat was considered too ordinary. But a single seat was viewed as impractical. So a medium sized saddle was the design compromise. This perch offered enough room for one, but with a little extra space for your most intimate significant other. And most of all, it looked right.



Handling and brakes


Rocket Three frames were always distinguished by their double down tubes, whereas Trident down tubes were always single. That gives the BSA boys another reason to view this bike as one of their own.

The Hurricane chassis is solid and durable, and it was far better than the rubber tubes offered by Honda.

The rear suspension is pretty basic, by modern standards, but  for most riders it does the job acceptably. Ditto the front end which is never more than adequate.

The braking system is a twin leading shoe conical hub at the front, and a single leading shoe at the rear. These conical stoppers draw a lot of criticism. But we quite like the feel of them once they're adjusted and fettled correctly. That said, no one would have complained if the Hurricanes/Tridents/Rockets had more powerful anchors. And for the day, they weren't bad.



Production numbers


As ever, the number of X-75 Hurricanes built is the subject of much argument. The figure 1,172 is typically bandied around. But we've also heard 1,152 and 1,183, and many other estimates, some of which actually refers to the number of engines put aside by BSA-Triumph rather than completed bikes.

Almost all the X-75s went to the USA, an unknown number of which having since been repatriated.


Hurricane launch price


The Hurricane was an expensive bike to manufacture, largely because the triple cylinder Trident/Rocket engines were built around more castings than the twins. Engine assembly was  therefore correspondingly more time consuming. Consequently Triumph looked for an appropriate return in the showroom, which is why this motorcycle cost around $300 - $400 dollars more than the $1,400 Honda 750. In the UK, that price translated as roughly £880; a few hundred pounds more than the standard T150 Trident. But very few Hurricanes were sold in the UK, most of which were failed export orders.

And how the price of BSA-Triumph triples jumped. When first launched in 1968, the T150 Trident cost a little over £600. Within a couple of years, that became £900. And by 1977, now in its Trident T160 guise with (finally) forward sloping cylinders and an electric starter, the bike cost around £1,400.

It was much the same pricing position in the USA which saw the price of the triples rising inexorably while the Honda kept its prices pegged way below, and in some instance even saw prices fall.

So are these bikes now worth £30,000? We'll see...


UPDATE: See Sump Classic Bike News September 2010 for more on Hurricane prices



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