T120 DU1683. The matching engine and frame number for a bike touched by some of the most memorable people in motorcycling history. Steve Mcqueen, Bud Ekins, and Von Dutch.
The image of McQueen roaring across the desert is something ingrained in many of us, and there are countless bikes that have been customized in the image of this 1963 Bonnie.
Coming from humble backgrounds, a history of delinquency, and a love for motorbikes, Steve and Bud were kindred spirits. Bud coached Steve to ride, and then in turn, Steve got Bud stunt work in the movies. They went on to ride together many times in both competition and just for fun. Steve ended with a collection of over 100 motorcycles until his death in 1980. This modified T120 is just one of them.
The Bonneville T120 was released in 1959 as “The Best Motorcycle in the World” with the now classic 649cc parallel-twin engine. Due to the frame and engine combination being prone to high speed wobble, the 1963 model received a stiffer frame with additional bracing and a unit construction engine.
This one, built by Bud for desert racing, has been stripped of the unnecessary and chopped back. Bud replaced the high compression pistons with standard 8.5:1 for better reliability, and added Johnson Motors TT cams to give a little more top-end power.
The steering rake was increased by altering the frame at the steering crown, and the front wheel was replaced with a 1956 Triumph hub and 19” wheel to reduce unsprung weight. The forks were then fitted with heavy duty sidecar springs.
The rear frame hoop was bent upwards to accommodate an 18″ knobby tyre, and brackets were welded to the rear frame hoop for the Bates cross-country seat.
Flanders handlebars were used with leather hand guards, a Harlan Bast bashplate was fitted and the foot pegs braced. The rear brake rod was modified to 5/16″ diameter and rerouted inside the frame and shock.
High pipes to each side snake their way around the engine and oil tank, and a sheet of metal has been wrapped around the top of the forks as a crude number plate.
Von Dutch painted the tanks in a nondescript and utilitarian dark green. The patina developed over thousands of of miles of desert use has only added visual richness of this piece of motorcycling history.