MJH Performance Bikes builds a reproduction of Triumph’s first factory custom…
In the late 60s, BSA Group was struggling. Though their BSA Rocket 3 and Triumph Trident triples set several speed and distance records at Daytona Speedway and the Bonneville Salt Flats, the bikes were expense, widely regarded as ugly, and $500 more than the newly introduced CB750.
In 1969, the director of BSA’s US east coast operations decided to take matters into his own hands. Unbeknownst to BSA corporate, he commissioned custom bike builder and fairing developer Craig Vetter to redesign the BSA Rocket 3 into what would ultimately become the world’s first “factory custom,” the Triumph X-75 Hurricane — financing the project with his office’s petty cash.
After flying in to a meeting in New Jersey, the young Vetter — four years out of design school and running his fairing factory with ten employees, rode home to Illinois on a brand-new Rocket 3 and got to work.
“The function of the Hurricane was to make me stand out in a world of foreign motorcycles. The function of my design was to look American. Its function was also to make its rider be noticed by women.” -Craig Vetter
With his $12,000 fee (roughly $66,000 today), Vetter created a machine with a “blended” seat/tank unit that would influence motorcycle design for decades to come, polished stainless steel fenders, Borrani rims, extended cylinder head fins, and a gorgeous 3-into-3 megaphone exhaust.
Originally known as the Vetter BSA Rocket 3, the name would be changed to the Triumph X-75 Hurricane and produced as a limited edition in the hope of garnering publicity and sales:
“To be sure, the Hurricane has been called the first cruiser, and it was undeniably the first factory custom.” –Motorcycle Classics
Only 1172 Hurricanes were produced and sold in the US market, making them a remarkably rare machine — and unfortunately, the original fiberglass hasn’t age well on many of them. We’ve only seen one in person during our trip to the Barber Motorsports Museum last fall.
Enter our new friends Hanns and Miguel from MJH Performance Bikes, a workshop out of Malaga, Spain, specializing in both customization and restoration.
“Classic bikes, modern bikes, road bikes, they all have their place in our workshop, but the heart of MJH Performance Bikes beats for the cafe racer style.“
In this case, a collector asked them to convert a disassembled Triumph T160 Trident into an X-75 Hurricane:
“We were motivated both by the bike’s exclusivity, as it was only sold in the American market, and also by the challenge it offered, as there is very little technical documentation in Europe about what the bike was in its day.”
The work was intensive, as the frame had to be narrowed and modified to fit the bodywork, and the oil reservoir, battery box, and electrics had to be relocated. The forks were modified to fit a front drum brake, just like the original Hurricane, and the entire engine was rebuilt, with various parts chromed or polished.
The result is a like-new X-75 Hurricane that the new owner can ride and enjoy without fear of damaging a piece of history. Below, we get the full story on the build from Hanns himself!
Triumph X-75 Hurricane: In the Builder’s Words
We are MJH Performance Bikes, a workshop specialised in motorbike transformations and restorations, located in the province of Malaga, Spain. We’d like to present our last project, a replica of the Triumph X-75 Hurricane using a T160 Trident 750cc model as a base.
We wanted to do this project at the request of a collector client. We were motivated both by the bike’s exclusivity, as it was only sold in the American market, and also by the challenge it offered, as there is very little technical documentation in Europe about what the bike was in its day.
The Triumph X-75 Hurricane was a “factory special” motorbike designed by Craig Vetter. It featured distinctive fibreglass bodywork with a three-gallon fuel tank, a triple exhaust on the right-hand side, and a 751cc, 58hp BSA-sourced, three-cylinder engine. All in all, it weighed 191kg.
Considered to be the last of the old-school Triumphs and designed for the North American market only, the X-75 Hurricane was introduced in 1972, 1172 units were built, of which very few are in Europe today. The short production run was due to US anti-noise laws — its triple exhaust produced a very loud sound.
When the base bike arrived at the workshop it was completely disassembled, and we first made the impossible list of parts we’d need.
The frame had to be narrowed and modified to fit the new bodywork and relocate the oil reservoir, battery, and electrics. Once modified, it was blasted and painted with electrostatic paint to improve the durability of the factory paint. We polished and chromed parts of the engine, mudguards and wheels, which were fitted with stainless steel spokes.
We changed the front braking system, as the Trident had a disc and the Hurricane had a drum. The two fork legs were machined and a drum brake anchoring was welded — the rear disc was left as to have a better efficiency.
The right triple exhaust also meant that we had to modify the central manifold as the chassis were different, although the models are similar and we wanted it to look exactly like the original.
The whole electrical installation has been modified and the ignition coils relocated. It has a newly manufactured battery box that’s smaller than the original one.
The oil tank was also moved from its original location — all this was because of the new frame dimensions, which are narrower in this model.
The engine was disassembled and overhauled, replacing anything in worn condition.
All parts have been restored to detail, keeping the classic spirit but improving it as much as possible.