Motor Cycles 1950s 1960s Norton AJS BSA Matchless Ariel

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Motor Cycles 1950s 1960s

Triumph Speed Twin

The Triumph Speed Twin motorbike was probably the best known motor cycle of the immediate post-war period. Strikingly good looking and built to a high standard, it was chosen as the mount for the London Police. A vertical-twin layout, it featured an all-iron block and head. Light and simple, the engine was virtually a single with two pistons travelling in unison to give even firing intervals and impelled by a 360 degree crankshaft. Power output was approximately 25bhp at 5500rpm, which was enough to power the bike at up to 85mph.

Sunbeam Model S7

A majestic looking motorcycle, the Sunbeam S7 was produced between 1949 and 1956. Bristling with advanced features, the S7 acquired a reputation as a gentleman's machine. Its design featured shaft drive to a comparatively small rear wheel, which madefor smooth running but limited the amount of power that could be transmitted. The S8 version appeared in March 1949 with its main difference being the lighter more orthodox mudguards, wheels and brakes, a cast alloy silencer and a higher compression ratio of 7.2 to 1.

Matchless G3LS

The Matchless G3LS was produced between 1949 and 1961 and was one of the models born out of the classic G3/L. The S stood for "spring frame" and this springing was provided by distinctive units known as "candlesticks" which later in 1951 adopted a tubbier dimension and became universally known as "jampots". At the front were Teledraulic telescopic front forks, which were to remain as an integral part of the heavyweight singles excellent handling. The AJS equivalent from the period was the Model 16MS roadster.

Douglas Mk3 Deluxe

The Douglas Mk 3 Deluxe motor bike was a very comfortable touring machine that offered outstanding road-holding and steering. Its advanced features included a horizontally-opposed ohv engine set transversely across the frame, a a four-speed gearbox in unit with the engine and pivoting-fork rear suspension controlled by torsion bars housed in the longitudinal cradle tubes of the frame. Whilst not offering a high maximum speed, it could maintain a steady 60mph almost indefinitely with a degree of quietness and comfort bettered by no other 350cc of the day.

Velocette MAC

After the war Velocette continued with their tradition of black and gold singles of high performance with ohv or ohc engines. The 349cc overhead valve MAC was perhaps the most impressive 350 of the early 1950s, it was fast (for its cubic capacity), smooth and refined. Redesigned in 1951, it lost its 1930s look with a fresh one-piece light-alloy cylinder head, rocker box barrel and enlarged timing chest. In 1953 the solid frame was replaced by one with a full pivoted fork with adjustment for ride stiffness possible by moving the tops of the springs fore and aft in arculate slots arranged in rear-frame extensions.

Excelsior Talisman STT1

Excelsior were the first in the field with a 250cc two-stroke tin, the TT1 in 1950. No other British firm had built a two-stroke vertical twin previously with the exception of Scott and the short lived 350cc AER of the late 1930s. Of 50x62mm bore and stroke, the twin had a crankshaft running on five main bearings and featured three-piece crankcase construction.

Royal Enfield Bullet

Based on the Model G, the Bullet was first seen in 1948 and although considerably noisier mechanically than G, its virtues lie in its improved handling and greater comfort. Available in trail, scramble and roadster specifications, engine dimensions remained the same (70x90mm) but now a larger-finned cylinder head in light alloy was used with a compression ratio of 6.5 to 1. Producing 18bhp at 5750rpm, it gave the Bullet a less than staggering but pleasant performance with a top speed of 73mph.

Panther Model 100

The 598cc Model 100 Panther entered the company's range in 1932 and with minimal seasonal modifications, remained in production as late as 1963. The 1952 version was still a twin-port single but with totally enclosed valve gear and featuring the new P&M designed telescopic front fork. Almost inevitably hitched to a family saloon sidecar, the Panther was a well-loved machine that had used the engine as part of the frame structure for 60 years. Demand for sidecar-hauling motor cycles suffered with the advent of the small car.

Ariel Square Four

The Ariel Square Four motorcycle was a legend in its own lifetime and continues to be so. First marketed as a 500cc in 1930, the 1000cc model was launched in 1936. It remained in production in various roadster forms until the late 1950s, by which time it boasted four individual exhaust pipe ports and an all-aluminium engine. The "squariel" appealed to the middle-aged man, who having a motor cycle in his youth, wanted to return to the fold with something that would distinguish him from the crowd.

BSA A10 Golden Flash

The use of an all over finish of pale golden beige produced what many BSA enthusiasts feel is the most handsome BSA of all, the appropriately named Golden Flash. The 646cc overhead-valve vertical-twin engine was the work of Bert Hopwood, though based on an earlier Bert Perkins design with a single camshaft situated at the rear of the cylinder block. A main stay of their vertical-twin range for several years, the A10, was developed for the USA and became a forerunner of the Rocket series which culminated in the Rocket Gold Star of the early 1960s.

Greeves 20D

After making their name as a producer of invalid carriages Greeves began their move into motor cycles in 1951. Unlike most of the industry, they set out on a development programme which was long enough to sort out problems and gave them time to develop, and get accepted, their unusual suspension system which used rubber bushes in torsion. When the range was finally launched in late 1953 there were four models available, all powered by the 197cc Villiers 8E engine. The 20 D had four speeds, batter lighting and an electric horn.

Triumph Tiger Cub

Derived from the Terrier, the Tiger Cub appeared in 1954. Not merely a sports version of the 150, the 199cc Triumph obtained much of its extra speed from its extra capacity. An inclined overhead valve single with unit construction for a four-speed gearbox driven by a non-adjustable chain, it had an oval timing-side casting and neat appearance. It was equipped at first with plunger rear springing, later with pivot-fork type. An excellent performer with plenty of acceleration, it could outpace most two-strokes of comparable size.

Vincent Black Shadow

As an ultra-high performance mount for the connoisseur, the hand built Vincent Black Shadow was the post-war equivalent of the Brough Superior. Its 998cc vee-twin produced an incredible mixture of high speed and docility made possible by a compression ratio of only 6.45 to 1 and a top gear ratio of 3.5 to 1. At the designed maximum speed of 125mph, the engine shaft was turning at a lazy 5800rpm.

BSA Bantam

BSA's, and indeed the British industry's all-time best selling motorcycle the Bantam, started life as a three-speed 123cc two-stroke in 1949 and instantly caught the public's attention for petrol was still rationed and these early bikes could top 50mph and yet return up to 125mpg. The enlarged D3 Bantam Major arrived in 1950 with plunger rear suspension and 1958 brought the 175cc engined models with swinging-arm frames. Production continued in volume to 1971 when the top of the range model was the four-speed D175.

Triumph Tiger 110

In the immediate post-war market Triumph got going with the Speed Twin and the Tiger 100 twins and although perfectly acceptable to the British, the Americans were soon demanding more performance. Edward Turner obliged with the 649cc Thunderbird and then later evolved from that a high-performance edition named the Tiger 110. Engine changes included beefed-up crankshaft, larger inlet valves, and a compression ratio of 8.5:1. The T110 in Britain found its niche in production-machine racing acquitting itself well at Thruxton in 1955.

Norton Dominator 99

Developed from the Hopwood-designed 497cc twin, the 597cc Model 99 Dominator was introduced in 1956. It had a Featherbed frame and in common with the 497cc Dominator 88 of 1955, a light-alloy cylinder head and full-width hubs. These were the original "wideline" twins, a nickname derived from the broad spacing of the frame top tubes. In later years there would be slimline versions, the top tubes being cranked inward in the region of the dual seat nose to afford a more comfortable riding position. Capable of 100mph with an average fuel consumption of 55mpg.

James Cavalier

The James Cycle Company was renowned throughout the 1950s and 1960s as a maker of good value two-strokes. Their 1950 model range, all using Villiers engines, varied from the single-speed 98cc Superlux Autocycle and 98cc two-speed Comet, through 122cc three-speed Cadet to 197cc three-speed Captain, the latter two available in trails trim at extra cost. 

Norton Manx

Perhaps the most familiar of  all racing machines on the tracks of the 1950s, the Manx Norton put up a galiant rearguard action against the advance of the continental multi-cylinders. Single ohc with shaft-and-bevel drive up to the cambox, the design dated from 1930 and changed little over the years. In 1950 the new Featherbed frame was introduced on the Manx works racers. Hugely successful it was a design that was to accommodate both Norton and many other makes in the years that followed.

Norton ES2

A deluxe version of the Model 18, the ES2 motor cycle was part of Norton's post-war programme for 17 years. In 1949 the 370lb ES2 was good for around 80mph and would return around 75mpg at a steady 45mph. Years later, despite numerous changes that included substituting aluminium for cast iron as cylinder-head material and raising the compression ratio, the top speed had not improved noticeably.

BSA Gold Star

Few clubman racers have enjoyed the success or reputation of the "Goldie". The range was produced in trial, scramble, touring and racing versions. The 500cc engine developed up to 40bhp at just over 7000rpm through a close ratio gearbox. Top speed was around 120mph in full clubman trim. Most coveted of all the "Goldies" was the 499cc model DBD 34.

Matchless G9

Announced in 1948 for export only, the Matchless twin-cylinder 500 or G9 Super Clubman as it was known, had a 66x72.8mm 498cc engine employing a middle camshaft bearing. It featured separate iron cylinders, a light alloy head with cast-in valve seats and light-alloy forged connecting rods with plain big ends and wire-wound pistons. With a true top speed of no more than 84mph, the G9 was no racer. It was note however as an excellent before-the-wind or downhill revver and in the right conditions could easily make 100mph.

AJS Model 16C

Produced from 1959 to 1964, the AJS Model 16C trials was one of the most successful mudpluggers of its day. Similar to its predecessors the 16MC, the 16C employed a redesigned engine with a new long-stroke configuration of 74x81mm rather than the earlier 69x93mm. Valve diameters were increased and power output went up from 19 to 23bhp @ 6200rpm.

Velocette Viper

Velocette's designer, Charles Udall developed the 349cc Viper in 1955/6 with a bi-metal cylinder barrel, light-alloy head and hairpin valve springs. Its 72x86mm top half was mounted on a double of the Venom's bottom end, making for a smooth running and pretty much "unburstable" unit. Top speed was around 90mph. In later years the Viper acquired extra tune through revised carburation, a BTH racing magneto and raised compression ratio. Finally a comprehensive fairing was fitted to the model and it became known by the factory as the Viper Clubman Veeline.

Velocette Thruxton

Taking its name from the famous long distance production machine race in which it was especially successful, the Velocette Thruxton was in essence a tuned version of the 499cc Venom. Standard features included a 1 3/8 inch bore Amal GP carburettor, a 10:1 compression piston, hairpin valve springs, close ratio gears, hump-backed dual seat, narrow clip-on bars and light alloy wheel rims. Usually finished in the customary Velo black and gold or in blue, the Thruxton won many production races, including a TT victory in 1967.

Thank you for reading my guide and I hope you found it interesting!

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