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!


  • Heck Christopher

    I have a CD code 70 T120RT and has original guages and they are black face. It’s the same with the horns. nobody knows and those thay claim to know are full of it.

  • Classic British Spares

    @Russ True – but many models still had grey face gauges all the way until November of 1970 (according to many owners)

  • Classic British Spares

    @Richard Moore Thanks for reading today. What year is your 441?

  • russ

    Triumph always said the model year break was in August.

  • Classic British Spares

    @Dan Thanks for commenting today! What month production is your ’70 T100C?

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