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!


  • M R Lovell

    Both my 1964 BSA Rocket and 1968 BSA Lightning had grey-faced fitted. I’m always a bit worried when I read about restorations. Like Trig’s broom, you can go so far that little or nothing of the original motorcycle remains. I replace parts only when strictly necessary, eg safety reasons. I like the bike to look as near-original as possible, warts and all.

  • Terry Larby

    I have a 1971 T100c (british registered from new) it has both speedo and tacho and both are black faced, the reason it has both is that it has been ‘daytonorised’ in the past, I am restoring it to original condition, had low level pipes, can you supply high level pipes, ie: the following part numbers: E10019, E10017 and E9691 bracket. I can get them in England with welded brackets but they should have a ‘nut’ welded to each pipe to take the bracket. Also folding front footrests.
    Best regards
    Sn10 3FB

  • tony

    I have a 1974 uk Trident with 2 black faced gauges. Also a 68 T100T with grey faced speedometer.
    Well I always thought original , still do and seem to work as design concept

  • Scott

    1970 was the change-over year from grey to black. So what was on hand was fitted by the factory and there are no records showing a cut-off date for use of grey face. Generally later 1970 models had black face and by the introduction of OIF models for 1971 they were all black face. My 1970 Tiger (prefix KD – September 1970) has black face but earlier Triumph prefix’s from A – F could have either.

  • Howard

    A motorcycle is only “original” one time.

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