Archive for the ‘design’ Tag

XS650: Tracy Bodies   3 comments

Jay asked me some time ago if I knew anything about Tracy Bodies.  Ya’ein… Produced back in the 70’s. Monocoque. Sleek. Tank and seat. Fiberglass. But not much more. Had never seen one in the flesh … so, off I went. To see what I could find.


… … Jim Phillips sketch


I found myself quite an interesting story. Several really. Multilingual. Spanning the Atlantic. Success. Failure. Survival.


… 50 T’bird 650



… 60 T’bird


One thread starts with a Triumph Thunderbird. Don Browns’ first bike.


first triple … P1 triple prototype…63x80mm-3 times…The Rocket3/Trident, Triumph Motorcycles’ step away from the basic vertical twin. The plan was to give the US market 750 cc power  without vibration


Another with Doug Heele and Bert Hopwood. Early 60’s.  Triumph Triple Development Squad. From that to this…


68 ‘Ogle’ Rocket 3



Slippery Sam … BSA/Triumph. 68-75  Rocket 3 and Trident attempting to head off the rising sun.


BSA/Triumph. 68-75  Rocket 3 and Trident attempting to head off the rising sun.


7 .. Windjammer a la Craig Vetter

Windjammer a la Craig Vetter


About this time  Craig Vetter   graduated from University of Illinois Design School. Turned a passion into a life. A search for handling, comfort and fuel economy became industrial fairing production. By the late 60’s 5 moulds were producing for various models. Desiring for a ‘one fits all’ he ended up mating the generic upper section to a CB750 lower, including a headlight carrier. The ‘Windjammer’ was born 70/71 and he cashed in proper from the Goldwing crowd.


8 .. In 1968,

In 1968, three years out of design school, I was known for my fairing designs. But I wanted to do an entire motorcycle. At the same time Don Brown was pondering how to somehow “Americanize” the BSA Rocket 3, I was designing a special ‘zoomy’ seat – tank for my new Suzuki 500. It held 6 gallons of fuel and 1 gallon of two-stroke oil! I rode it everywhere and in the summer of 1969 regularly raced it at the Indianapolis 1/8 mile drag strip. It was there that I realized that the long, ‘zoomy’ shape, as beautiful as it was,- forced a viewer’s eye right off onto something else – anything else. My next motorcycle design, I decided, would somehow keep a viewer’s attention right there. .. n March of 1969 I brought my Suzuki to Daytona and pestered every motorcycle company executive I could locate. “Look at this,” I said, “You need me to design a bike for you. That’s when Harry Chaplin took my card. .. Don continues: The telephone number was in Rantoul Illinois. On April 21, 1969, I called Craig to discuss a project he might be interested in. That set the stage for lunch on June 3, 1969, which proved to be interesting indeed. Craig remembers: Don’s offer was to fly to Nutley and meet. If he liked me, he would give me the keys to a BSA Rocket 3 and I could drive it home to Illinois. I bought a one-way ticket…Craig Vetter



9 .. BSA Rocket 3 ... Ogle designed Rocket 3 Trident ... had the power but why give someone who knows nothing about motorcycles the job of designing one ... beats me

BSA Rocket 3 … Ogle designed Rocket 3/Trident…had the power but why give someone who knows nothing about motorcycles the job of designing one? … beats me



69 CB750K … the before and after benchmark


BSA/Triumph presented their ‘Ogle’ designed Rocket 3-Trident to their US Dealers and Distributers in 68. Disappointment. Boxy and Bone-Ugly. Kickstart. 4 speed. A Sales and Marketing non-event against the coming CB750/4.


11 .. speed and distance ... no looks

speed and distance … no looks


Don Brown, BSA’s US VP and Director, funded the setting of various Speed and Distance records by Du Hamel, Mann and Hempstead  late 68, Daytona. The gods at Bonneville Flats smiled . Wasn’t Enough.


… Craig Vetter was approached. April 69.

  • ‘Redesign the Rocket 3’
  • ‘Don’t Tell a soul’
  • ’I’ll see you right-
  • – do a deal-from petty cash’
  • ‘Slim.’
  • ’Thunderbird sleek’
  • ‘1 to 1.5 person.’


Over a handshake the keys to a Rocket 3 slipped into his possession (E.N: KC-00197 A75R … reportedly one of the Daytona Rocket 3’s  speed and long-distance record setters).


13 .. summer of 69

summer of 69


His Summer of ’69.  The prototype was shipped to England Oct 69. Cycle World got to write about it in ’70.


Cycle World – Sept 70


In ‘71 it was displayed at Houston. Then BSA turned up its toes.


15 .. BSA




16 .. Vetter Rocket

Vetter Rocket


Vetter’s final prototype Rocket 3 featured

  • an innovative monocoque seat and tank unit tarted up with gold Scotchlite reflective tape
  • a simple chrome headlight
  • Borrani aluminum rims
  • polished stainless steel fenders and
  • a 3-into-3 megaphone exhaust, supplied by Brown who also sent
  •  a set of extended Ceriani road racing forks
  • Vetters’ suggestion to extend the cylinder head fins so the engine appears more powerful, was  carried out on = production bikes



… Triumph X75 Hurricane


So Triumph rebranded her. As the X75 Hurricane. Allocated 1183 engines. Production ran ’72 through ’73  = 1172.


Hurricanes, 2005, Duxford


Classic. Iconic


Hurricane lines … sleek


Tracy Nelson. Board-Glasser, O’Neills. Late 60’s, moonlighting with his tanks.

The Fiberglas Works.


… 72 Superstars Catalogue … 2 piece


Fiberglas Works in Santa Cruz had spotted the action. By 74 their ‘Californian’ Café/Street Racer Bodies were fixed program. Having spent the last 7 years clawing their way to the top of the custom fiberglas world, they wanted some of this. How’s that?  US $169.95 with an extra $70 for custom paint.


… regular magazine ad … 74



… Fiberglas Works 72 Superstars Catalogue …from a fine blog… Damned to be Free


Damned to be Free … Flowing like Glass, Jim Phillips Poster


Tracy body … more hungry mantis than cuddly seal



… cool ebay find


Artwork from Jim Phillips featured in many of their catalogues and ads.


… Jim Phillips


Fiberglas Works and later Tracy’s Fiberglas Works or Tracy’s and Friends must have been a stammkunde from way back. Jim went on to make a name for himself in the Band Poster, Surf and Skateboard worlds.


… Jim Phillips artwork … catalogue



27 .. 71 poster ... Jim Phillips

71 poster … Jim Phillips




… Samoto 400F



… Samoto Honda


Also in the action were Samoto(Rome). Honda Dealer. Playing with the big 4’s. In 73 they produced 15 88bhp CB750/4’s and 2 CB1000/4’s.


… Samoto 1000


Quite a heritage. And we’re only scratching the surface.


… Fiberglas Works  card molded into gas tank



… Tracy and friends logo



… Tracy logo



… Tracy body … the more common variant – parallel seat, upper shock mount cutaway



… underside … 14lb … 2.75/3 gallons



… Tracy body … parallel seat, upper shock mount cutaway



… less commonly found … cobra tapered seat, flared upper shock bulge






… cobra style



… custom



… Don Castros’ Triumph 750



Tracy hardly



… XS Tracy



… coming at ya



… ready to go



Steve from RedMaxSpeedShop bought Jays’ bike. With the Tracy body. Is thinking about doing a replica. If anyone is interested the link is above.



… redmax



These bodies are now up to 40 years old. There are reports of owners facing problems with cracking and leaking. Originals not likely to be ethanol compatible. Less likely to affect Triumph X75 Hurricane owners. These have metal canisters hidden inside the fiberglass molding.

74 Tracy catalogue pp 1-32

74 Tracy catalogue pp 33-65


… tracy body on SR400 … Kobe Bandits


 Kobe Bandits

Interesting thread over at Honda CB750s.

Note: Apparently the original finish is in the epoxy. The outermost layer tinted to replicate candy finishes. Any metal flake would be added before the next layer of epoxy and mat was applied. I always thought my H1 body’s original color was fire engine red but at Tracy’s prompting I stripped it back to the epoxy and found rainbow flake over black gelcoat. Talk about durability. Some people in prepping will mistake this base color for paint and actually sand the top layer of epoxy off. Makes them brittle. {[Geeto67 @]}

XS650: Zero   Leave a comment

Not into his production bikes. Bread n butter. Brought Zero Engineering to the states. Building for the Japanese market…hey guys, next stop … tourist economy. Do like his creativity. And his philosophy. Like my grandfather used to say. Sitting on his Shadow. ‘Aint nuthin like a bike son. More soul than most people. Faster than a woman. More fun too.’ No arguements from me.

I think this is the bike he rode in the Motorcycle Cannonball. Parking lot crank rebuild. What an awesome base line. Add a bit o’ didge. And an oboe……

Posted February 25, 2011 by xscafe in Frame - Design

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XS650: Ténéré   Leave a comment

What do this

1 .. SR500 prototype .. 1973 .. Shiro Nakamura

SR500 prototype .. 1973 .. Shiro Nakamura


And this


2 .. 2011 Super Ténéré 1200

2011 Super Ténéré 1200


Have in common?

Ask Bob Trigg. He can tell you.

“We constructed a bike with the twin engine as an example for Japan, and presented the target concept for such a model. That was the birth of the Super Ténéré. We requested a big capacity 750/900cc twin with big torque feeling, and with a modern engine: the 45 degree engine layout, as the Genesis engine of the FZ750 had.”

“Our target was to launch a Paris-Dakar OW factory racer, then the Super Ténéré, and then a new Street bike with the same engine. That became the TDM 850, an alternative touring bike developed to be the best bike in the Alps.”


3 .. prototype, a Ténéré 600 with an XS650 twin engine mounted in it

prototype, a Ténéré 600 with an XS650 twin engine mounted in it


The humble XT500. Took out the inaugural Paris Dakar 1979. The French went mad. Vive le Bleu

4 .. '79 Paris-Dakar .. 1st 2nd

’79 Paris-Dakar .. 1st 2nd


1979. 1st. 2nd. 8th. 12th.

1980. 1st. 2nd, 3rd. 4th. 8th. 9th. 11th. 12th.

1981. 2nd. 3rd….took out 11 of the first 31.

1982  saw the XT550. 4th. 5th. 10th…..11 from the first 33.

1983 XT600. 4th. 5th. 7th. 8th. 15th. 23rd. 24th.

1984 XT600. 6th. 7th. 9th. 11th. 14-17th….13 from 33.


05 .. 81 XT500 Paris-Dakar

81 XT500 Paris-Dakar


Bob Trigg says:

“Also in offroad we were trying to get away from the 2-stroke image. A lot of efforts went into developing the XT/TT 600 line-up, we were also entering the Dakar rallye and that was very popular. Sonauto, the French importer, asked for a production version of the race bike so we also introduced the Ténéré.”

“Later it became clear that a single cylinder could not win the Paris Dakar anymore, and we considered other engine developments. Even a 4-cylinder was an option, but it was a problem to get enough grip and traction for offroad use. So we made a big-bang engine, firing like a twin. But in the end nobody liked it, a 4-cylinder was supposed to be smooth and to have the typical 4-cylinder sound, that was the in-thing of those times.”

Imagine that.

Posted January 21, 2011 by xscafe in Frame - Design, XS Pics

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XS650: Cafe Walkaround   Leave a comment

Nice eye for line and detail.

Posted January 20, 2011 by xscafe in Frame - Design, Frame - Handling, XS Pics

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XS650: Hillclimb   Leave a comment

Classic form and function at play.

– and just because I can:

… Jeff Thomas … injected nitro-methane burning hillclimber

… Jason Smith … injected nitro-methane

… Jason Smith

… Winning ride at the 2006 Hillclimb World Trophy in Decazeville, France..first run

… and now hillclimb for real men


Posted January 20, 2011 by xscafe in Frame - Design, Frame - Handling, XS Pics

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XS650: Flow   Leave a comment

I like design.

I went to the Senkenburg Museum the other day. On the back wall, in 3 different colours, in overlapping planes with separate layering, were laid out the main whale family developments. The axis are Time and Development over Time. If you stand back the concurrent and consecutive development stands out. You can clearly see the pattern of successful and unsuccessful modification. Convergent and divergent.

Survival of the fittest. In a couple of instances lines have diverged successfully then reconverged tens of millions of years later. Made me wonder what stress factors they were experiencing to do that.

I like flow too.

Fluid dynamics are fascinating. To me anyway. Most of the beautiful things flow. Important in design. It minimises stress. Natures antidote to chaos. Suck that Newton.



flow 1

dynamic fluid dynamics


The whole world flows.

All the great moutain ranges were once sediment particles settling through a water column.

And they will be again.

In time.


flow 2

dolomites..nth motorcycling country


Ralph Lauren got it right “Form follows function”.

Cross that with K.I.S.S. I reckon this is what we’d get


flow 3

Frederic Fleury…XTY700


Frederic Fleury from France put it all together. Design. Flow. Function. Form.

Posted January 20, 2011 by xscafe in Frame - Design, Frame - Handling, XS Pics

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XS650: Projects and Design   Leave a comment

We had a jam last Tuesday night. Industrial park workshop blues. These are good nights. Feeling pretty mellow I kicked into one of my favourite songs

And the Band Played Waltzing Mathilda

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda Chords

When I was a young man I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murrays green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over
Then in nineteen fifteen my country said Son
It’s time to stop rambling ’cause there’s work to be done
So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun
And they sent me away to the war
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we sailed away from the quay
And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers
We sailed off to Gallipoli

I like these nights. They’re generally a mix of good music, bikes, mellowness, great company, lotsa bullshit, and I can walk the 200 or so metres along the river home.

One of the hottest topics is flow in design.

Look around at the completed or running projects in your neighbourhood. Check out the magazines etc. What do you like? What looks good? Do you think it rides well?

You wouldn’t have one of these bikes if you didn’t have at least a little eye for classic lines. The original bikes and their motors both have their own classicness.

Whatever you are doing with your bike, all have this in common.

Now I’ve seen some, what I would call, ‘real pigs’. Of course this is subjective. VERY. But the lines just don’t flow. No harmony. No balance. If bikes had chakras they would all be blocked.

How well I remember that terrible day
How the blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter
Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well
He chased us with bullets, he rained us with shells
And in five minutes flat he’d blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia
But the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we stopped to bury our slain
We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs
Then we started all over again

Now I trained many years in kung-fu. You learn about ch’i. Energy. Flow. Today I’m an ‘alte sac’ and stick to Tai Ch’i. Still all about Ch’i. Yin and yang. Balance. Flow. Harmony. Am I starting to talk like your wife?

Sometimes it’s a good idea to stop and listen. You don’t have to agree. Just making the effort can produce results.

If you’re really adventurous, take your missus, or better still, someone elses, and go learn about Tantra

Now those that were left, well we tried to survive
In a mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
But around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over tit
And when I woke up in my hospital bed
And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead
Never knew there were worse things than dying
For no more I’ll go waltzing Matilda
All around the green bush far and near
For to hump tent and pegs, a man needs two legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me

Why? Because it’s all about being at one with your surroundings. Bikes are no different. I’m not advocating you get deep and dirty with her except in pure mechanical union, at least not when anyone is watching. But if you and your bike commune while commuting your missus isn’t going to get jealous if you build her a bike too, and you will enjoy your riding so much more. You wont need to battle all the way.

Look and decide what you like and why. How does it all fit together? Does it match you and your body shape? Your riding style? Do the eye and brain connect with your balls and say ‘YES’.


1 .. pen and paper ... your second best friend

pen and paper … your second best friend



Your best friend is a pen and paper. Or photoshop. Don’t throw anything away. Keep all your sketches. They will get better. The old ones serve as an idea bank. For both those you like and don’t like.

So they collected the cripples, the wounded, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where my legs used to be
And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
Then turned all their faces away

Some popular approaches include:

  • KISS principle, (Keep it Simple Stupid, etc.), which strives to eliminate unnecessary complications.
  • There is more than one way to do it (TIMTOWTDI), a philosophy to allow multiple methods of doing the same thing.
  • Use-centered design, which focuses on the goals and tasks associated with the use of the artifact, rather than focusing on the end user.
  • User-centered design, which focuses on the needs, wants, and limitations of the end user of the designed artifact.
  • “Form follows function” Ralph Lauren

At the same time you’re collecting the bits and pieces you want. Don’t be afraid of changing your mind. Happens all the time. Shows you’re learning.

After all, these projects never really end.

And now every April I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving old dreams of past glory
And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore
The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, “What are they marching for?”
And I ask myself the same question
And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men answer to the call
But year after year their numbers get fewer
Some day no one will march there at all

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me
And their ghosts may be heard as you pass the Billabong
Who’ll come-a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Now you might ask yourself ‘Why the song?’

Well it’s a classic too. A classic anti-war song. About the Allied campaign at Gallipoli in Turkey. A major design blunder.

Posted January 15, 2011 by xscafe in Frame - Design, Frame - Handling

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