Collectable: Triumph X75 Hurricane-News & Reviews-Motorcycle Trader

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BSA Prototype

20 Aug 2013 | The Triumph X75 Hurricane is now one of the world’s most sought-after triples says Ian Falloon

Words: Ian Falloon

It started as an American skunkworks project and became the world’s first factory custom and, as flawed as it might be, the X75 Hurricane is now one of the world’s most sought-after triples.

Secret Service

The ‘factory custom’ is taken for granted as an integral part of today’s mainstream motorcycling. Harley-Davidson has almost made it an art form and nearly all other manufacturers have followed suit.

But it was BSA that pioneered this now-successful formula, with Craig Vetter’s strikingly styled X75 Hurricane of 1973. Not only was the X75 the world’s first factory custom, it also influenced later mainstream motorcycle design.

The Hurricane grew out of the lukewarm response to the original BSA Rocket Three in the US. This was considered ugly and overweight so, in 1969, BSA in the US approached a young designer and fibreglass manufacturer, Craig Vetter, to produce a prototype custom Rocket Three.

There was already a growing interest in customised machines among young American motorcyclists and the directors of BSA in the US wanted something that evoked the lean US-specification Triumph Bonnevilles of the mid-1960s.

Vetter’s own philosophy was to contrast the age-old traditions of the British motorcycle industry with the American underground youth culture.

Vetter set to work on a stock 750cc BSA Rocket Three, creating a single curvaceous moulded fuel tank, seat and side panels. Although the 67 x 70mm three-cylinder engine was standard, Vetter modified the cylinder head by enlarging the fin area. This was done purely for aesthetic reasons, as were the black-painted cylinder barrels.

With three 27mm Amal concentric carburetors, the power was 43kW (58hp) at 7250rpm.

The distinctive triple silencers exiting on the right were derived from those of the Team BSA flat tracker. These may have worked well on left-turn ovals but they severely limited right-hand-side ground clearance.

Going for a lean look, Vetter installed separate instruments and a traditional chromed headlamp. The gaitered forks also made way for cleaner Ceriani-style units, although these were later lengthened 50mm by Pete Coleman at BSA in the UK. Painting the prototype in ‘Camaro Hugger Red’, Vetter had this up and running by September, 1969.

BSA executives approved a limited-production run of the Vetter Rocket during 1971 to test the market which, at the time, was surprising considering the precarious financial state of the company. Vetter hadn’t even visited England at that stage and the transition from prototype to production machine required the one-piece tank and seat to be modified to incorporate a steel fuel cell within the fibreglass. What didn’t change was the tank shape and the tiny 9.0-litre fuel capacity.

As the BSA engine was hardly noted for fuel frugality, the Hurricane was definitely not designed for long-distance touring.

However, poor management saw the entire Triumph and BSA line-up miss the 1971 US season and it wasn’t until late 1971 that the pre-production Vetter Rocket appeared. This was amazingly close in specification to the prototype but for a conical hub, twin leading-shoe front brake from the A75 that year.

The Vetter Rocket also received Borrani light alloy 19- and 18-inch wheels and an ‘Aztec Red’ colour scheme.

Unfortunately, the finalisation of the production version coincided with the closure of BSA’s Small Heath factory so the Vetter was transferred to the Triumph plant at Meriden for further development. Thus, when it finally went into production in September 1972, the official model name was the Triumph X75 Hurricane, although it was still essentially a BSA Rocket Three, as evidenced by the forward-slanted cylinders. The name also carried on a BSA tradition of meteorological themes: Cyclone, Lightning and Thunderbolt being others.

The general specifications were that of the four-speed BSA A75 but some Hurricanes were also based on the five-speed A75V.

The dry weight was considerably less than the standard Rocket Three at 202kg and, although the longer forks increased the wheelbase to 1524mm, the handling of the Hurricane came in for some criticism.

There was also a problem with the noise from the three-pipe exhaust not passing the new 1973 US regulations.

Despite a claimed top speed of almost 200km/h, doubts over the handling and the high price meant that many of the limited-edition Hurricanes languished in dealerships for some time.

Today, though, the Hurricane is one of the most coveted BSA/Triumph triples. Vetter’s styling was visionary and few designs have withstood the ravages of time as well as the X75 Hurricane.

THE VALUE PROPOSITION

Original price: $3000

Current valuation for one in average condition: $20,000

Current valuation for one in mint condition: More than $30,000

FAST FACTS

• Craig Vetter graduated in 1965 and began building aftermarket motorcycle fairings. By 1969, his company had 10 employees.

• BSA in the UK initially knew nothing of the Hurricane project. It was conceived by Don Brown, director of the BSA Group’s eastern facility, BSA INC. in Nutley, New Jersey. The project was financed from office petty cash and kept secret from BSA Group management in England until it was completed.

Brown resigned from BSA in 1970.

• In April 1969, Brown called Vetter and offered to fly him to New Jersey to talk about the project. The meeting, on June 3, 1969, went well, and Vetter rode home to Illinois on a Rocket 3.

• The Hurricane prototype was sent to England where it remained from October 31, 1969, to June 1970, when it was shipped directly to Cycle World magazine in the US.

• The Hurricane was primarily a US-market model and production ended in January 1973, with just 1172 units built.

Want to know more?

Have a look at Craig Vetter’s website here: www.craigvetter.com

A good resource for older Triumphs: www.baxtercycle.com

A Triumph Hurricane forum: www.triumphrat.net

A site dedicated to Triumph and BSA Triples: www.triplesonline.com

Join the Trident and Rocket 3 Owners’ Club: tr3oc.co.uk


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