Debate: Black Face Or Grey Face?

Debate: Black Face Or Grey Face?

Black Face Grey Face Smiths Gauges Blog

Hello again fellow C.B.S. readers and fans. Today we will be discussing a topic that has been fiercely debated on online forums, books and even motorcycle shows over the past decades. Did 1970 Triumph and BSA motorcycles come with Smiths black face gauges or Smiths grey face gauges? Below I will pitch my 2 cents of why there is no correct or wrong answer on this topic - everyone is right.

Divider

What are black face gauges and grey face gauges?

Black face and grey face gauges are a style of speedometer and tachometer that was produced by the Smiths Instrument company in England. Smiths designed and manufactured most gauges that where fitted on vintage British motorcycles. The grey face gauge has always been know as the "earlier" style while the black face gauge has always been known as the "later" style. These particular gauges  in reference are magnetic - not chronometric.

Divider

Why is this information important to restorers?

Anyone that has restored a motorcycle understands that all work is prone to scrutiny - especially when your Britbike is in a concourse show. Obtaining the wrong information can hurt or penalize your restoration. 100 point restorations are extremely difficult but achievable. It all starts with fitting the correct parts for each model year and having information or proof to backup any doubts up.

Divider

What application are black face and grey face gauges correct for?

1970 Triumph 650 Sale Advertisement

Original advertisement from 1970 showing a 1970 Triumph Bonneville with grey face Smiths gauges. - This shatters the "only black face" theory.

For 1970 Triumph and BSA motorcycles I have seen many models that had grey face gauges and some models that had black face gauges. Most restoration books today state that all 1970 models had black face gauges - that is incorrect. To date there are no data logs that prove this but based off of experience, history and research working with original models my theory is correct. I personally like to go off of engine and frame numbers. For example, early 1970 Triumph and BSA twins that had engine prefixes "AD" (January 1970) would of most likely had grey face gauges. I own an "ED" (May 1970) Triumph Bonneville that came equipped with original black face gauges. If you do some google searching you will find that even later 1970 models had grey face gauges - not to mention this original 1970 Triumph advertisement shown above that features grey face gauges.

Divider

Conclusion

To sum it up, 1970 models where fitted with grey face gauges and later models with black face gauges. Figuring out what gauge you should use is up to you. Restorations books and hear say sometimes do not hold the answers to your questions. We also recommend keeping an open mind when performing a restoration and making decisions. Remember - the factory had to keep the assembly line moving at all costs. Feel free to chime in below by posting a comment. Thanks for reading!


27 comments

  • fred

    I had a ‘68 with grey smiths…thank god I have pictures. High bars ,four inches over on the forks,padded king ,queen seat,..had it painted beautiful;fit me like a glove…got it from Muary Gauger’s barn…and grey Smith’s are just…like the eye’s of your girl….nothing else will do.

  • Bob Thomae

    i Still have my 1969 Bonneville from college days…somehow we both survived. It was parked in my barn in summer of 1974 and never started again. I hope to get it running again soon. This is a great website.

  • Bob Thomae

    i Still have my 1969 Bonneville from college days…somehow we both survived. It was parked in my barn in summer of 1974 and never started again. I hope to get it running again soon. This is a great website.

  • PAul

    I was recently at a British bike event, and the Smith gauge rep had a booth there. He had new Smiths gauge that where electronic, but looked exactly like the orginals. Even had a mock cable with wires running through it instead of a mechanical drive, it had a electric pickup in the rear wheel drive. Pretty cool! Kinda expense though: $299 for the kit.

  • Classic British Spares

    @Leroy Turner – Thanks for reading and commenting. It’s hard to say if that is accurate. I agree and think that would be correct but based off of many people commenting here and bikes I have seen the change over happened later on in 1970. At this point, it’s all theory.

    We all can agree that at least we are aware that 1970 models either had black or grey face gauges

Leave a comment