Build your own Triumph Desert Sled like the King of Cool

Who never dreamed of owning a Triumph Desert Sled Mc Queen replica? Maybe not you but definitely us!

we found on the very interesting blog: full details to make your own Desert Sled Replica, based on the one built by Bud Ekins in 1963.

Below are the basis specs for the T120C Bonneville desert sled built for Steve McQueen by Bud Ekins, typical builds of the Californian desert sleds of that period. It’s not going to be an exact replica of the McQueen bike just something built in the same style of the bikes built by the likes of Bud Ekins in California in the ’60s. It will include some of the key modifications listed below.

Steve McQueen-style desert sled spec, as built by Bud Ekins (#502)

  • Donor bike: 1963 T120C TT Special (for an exact replica of McQueen’s one – but any T120/TR6 or T100 could be used)
  • Remove lighting, fit battery-less ignition (Pazon with Boyer Power Pack recommended)
  • Straight through high level pipes exiting on the left, unchromed preferably. JRC Engineering in the US supply similar ones but the ones I bought did not fit and I believe they are for pre-unit engines. LF Harris supply-slash cut 1966 West Coast TR6SC style ones which are much shorter but perhaps could have extensions welded on.
  • 1956 front hub with smaller brake plate fitted with air-scoop
  • Dunlop Universal 4.00 x 19″ front tyre on standard Dunlop WM2 X 19″ rim [tyre unavailable, Ensign supply an alternative]
  • Dunlop Sports knobbly 4.00 x 18″ rear tyre on standard Dunlop WM3 x 18″ rim [tyre unavailable, Continental Twinduro supply something relatively similar which also works well on the road]
  • Alloy fenders, rear one shortened
  • Harlan Bast or similar heavy duty skid plate
  • Special collector box with external paper air filter (not necessary for single carb)
  • Flanders handle bars
  • Leather hand guards
  • Single, Triumph-type heat shield on one pipe
  • Modified oil tank with increased capacity and filler on the side (instead of top)
  • Badges and parcel rack removed from petrol tank, holes filled
  • Plain black paintwork with white Triumph script logo
  • Thick padded Bates seat [unavailable – would need to have one custom made]
  • Bracket welded to rear frame to support seat
  • Rear frame hoop bent upwards to accomodate rear knobbly
  • Headstock bent to increase rake
  • Braced scrambles-style foot pegs with plate behind – probably have to modify a pair of standard foot pegs
  • Rear brake rod increased in diameter to 5/16″ and re-routed inside frame/shock (standard diameter 1/4″ and routed outside frame/shock in ’63)
  • Pre-unit brake pedal
  • PRV with return line back to oil tank
  • Throttle cables running over tank through alloy brackets to carbs – presumably to facilitate easy changing
  • Standard Amal Monobloc(s)
  • Girling-style 13″ shocks (12.9″ standard) with chrome shrouds, black lowers (reverse of usual Triumph practice). Hagon make representative examples at a reasonable price – just remember to remove the “Hagon” sticker!

Here are some pics of a Triumph Desert Sled owned by Steve Mc Queen that was auctioned and sold for US$ 103,000 in January 2016. (Thanks to Silodrome / Bonhams for the pics)

The Ex-Steve McQueen, Bud Ekins modified and Von Dutch painted
Offered From The Larry Bowman Collection

1963 Triumph Bonneville Desert Sled