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.


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.


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.


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.



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!


  • Leroy Turner

    I have a 70 Triumph (T120) with a BD vin with black faces.It appears that somewhere around the A and B (Jan./Feb.) is when the change took or started taking place.

  • John Thorogood

    I have owned Triumphs since 1959. Everyone of my bikers were bought from a dealer and none and I mean none had original parts. Bikes on the east coast were shipped in a crate to Baltimore MD. I bought my bikes in Wilmington Delaware. If parts were missing or omitted then the dealer would supply what ever he had on hand. I also worked on Triumphs and I can attest after 50+years that what ever was in the shop was used on a customer’s bike to get it back out the door.
    I have a 1966 Bonneville bought in 1967 in Wilmington DE. The paint was damaged in shipment and the dealer repainted the bike a solid blue on the tank, oil tank, and side cover. Bike was sold as new from the dealership. Now does that make it original or modified by the dealership. Back in the day no one cared about originally just did it run like hell and beat the Harleys. My 1966 is being restored to what it looked like when I bought it back in 1967 and to hell with those Johnny come lately who profess to be experts on early Triumphs. Hell——most of them weren’t even born when the Triumphs ruled the highways.
    Enough said My bike WILL look just like it did when I bought it and I have the 1967 pictures to prove it.

  • Classic British Spares

    @Jon W. Whitley What engine prefix is you 1970? (Nice to see some Britbike members here!)

  • Classic British Spares

    @Scott True – but we will never know. I have an ED Triumph with black face gauges. I have seen an AD Triumph (January) with grey face. AD being early. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Classic British Spares

    @tony Your black face gauges are correct for your 1974 T150 and your gauges are correct for your T100T for the year of 1968. Thanks for reading

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