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A bike called Hurricane

(by Ian Falloon, Feb 2022)

Triumph Hurricane

Vetter's Triumph X75 Hurricane started out as a BSA and has a troubled history

Nowadays the factory custom is taken for granted as an integral part of mainstream motorcycling. Harley-Davidson has almost made it an art form, and nearly all other manufacturers have followed suit. Yet it was BSA that pioneered this now successful concept, 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 America. This was considered ugly and overweight, and 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 67x70mm 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 58 horsepower at 7250 rpm. 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 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.


Considering the precarious financial state of the BSA company at that time it was surprising that BSA executives approved a limited production run of the Vetter Rocket during 1971 to test the market.


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



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