Motorcycles 1950s Norton 500T BSA A7 Star Twin Vincent

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Motorcycles 1950s BSA Norton Douglas Triumph Velocette

Norton 500T

Norton's post-war trials machine, the 500T was introduced in 1949. At first, little more than a model 18 with extra ground clearance, the 500 T was soon developed into a competent trials machine aided by an all-aluminium engine, small tank and improved steering geometry. The weight was reduced to around 300lbs. During its six year production life, the 500T was ridden with distinction in numerous trials, both as a sidecar mover and solo.

BSA A7 Star Twin

Resembling the Val Page 650cc Triumph twin of the early 1930s in employing a single camshaft at the rear and with the gearbox bolted to the crankcase in semi-unit-construction style, the original 495 cc Model A7 BSA was intended for 1940. Very quiet and distinctively BSA, it appeared among the second wave of BSA offerings in late 1946 and quickly established a good reputation.

Triumph Thunderbird

Born out of demand from mainly their American customers, Triumph enlarged the Speed Twin in 1946 by 150cc and called it the Thunderbird. Both bore and stroke increased from 63 x 80mm to a nearer "square" dimension of 71 x 82mm giving 649cc and a power output of 34bhp @ 6300rpm. The 8hp advantage over the 500 produced a noticeable surge of mid-range torque and a road performance superior to the Tiger 100s.

Scott Flying Squirrel

Scott returned post-war in 1946 with the Flying Squirrel, little altered from the late pre-war days. There was the same 598cc twin two-stroke engine with its water cooling, single Amal and 2-into-1 exhaust pipe. A duplex rigid frame was employed along with the traditional Scott radiator and fuel tank. By 1950 it had become far too expensive, sales suffered and Scott went into voluntary liquidation. Manufacturing rights were taken over by Aerco Jig and Toll Company and production continued in small numbers.

Triumph Trophy

Triumphs on-or-off road bike, the Trophy, was first listed in 1949. A combination of the Tiger 100 and Grand Prix detuned to one carburettor, and running on a compression ratio of 6:1, the engine was carried in a specially shortened high-clearance frame with a siamised exhaust system tucked above the primary case and ending in a lightweight silencer. Light and manoeuvrable, the Trophy was equipped with a detachable all-rounder for everyday use and weekend sport.

Vincent Comet

Named after the model originally introduced at Olympia in 1934, the single-cylinder Comet was destined forever to be the poor relation of the Vincent big-twins. Virtually half of the vee-twin, with engine inclined, the Comet was assembled to Black Shadow tune, with a softer model called the Meteor also available. Despite a pleasinVelocette LEg performance and near vibration-free running, the Comet was not a big seller. By comparison to the good-looking vee-twin, the machine looked unbalanced and potential buyers turned to conventional singles from the bigger factories.

Velocette LE

The Velocette LE, first in 149cc form and later as a 192cc, was an outstanding design. A side-valve, horizontally opposed twin with water cooling, it was one of the first really new post-war models to go into long term production. Features were shaft-drive, hand-lever starting and a monocoque frame. Extremely quiet with good weather protection, the LE was aimed at the mass market and although it was an impressive package, it did not achieve the commercial success that it perhaps should have.

AJS Model 18CS

The basis of the A.J.S. Model 18 500cc was a long-stroke single ohv engine from 1935, one of whose manifestations had been the Matchless G3L used by the British Army in WW2. The 18 CS was produced between 1950 and 1964. Comprising of an all-alloy engine in a sprung frame, it was aimed more at scrambles use than trials. A feature when introduced were the fat rear suspension units that immediately became known as jampots. They were an improvement over the slimmer versions as the internal pressure was lower but was still prone to variable damping as the temperature changed.

Panther Model 65

The middleweights of the P&M range, the overhead valve 250 and 350 machines first appeared for 1949. Despite adopting upright cylinders, they were very obviously the heirs of the pre and immediately post-war Model 60 and Model 70. The 250 Model 65's initial standard version was joined in 1950 by a deluxe variant with superior trim and four-speed gearbox. While solid-looking, weight was reasonably low at 304lbs but the bike was however down on power with a claimed 10.4bhp @ 5000rpm and strictly 40mph territory.

Royal Enfield 500 Twin

Royal Enfield's first contribution to the vertical movement, the 500 Twin was a well balanced design with much in its favour. In essence the engine was a double-up of the 248cc single-cylinder Model S and used the same bore and stroke dimensions of 64 x 77mm. Although the 500 Twin looks like a docile tourer, it did in fact have a distinguished sporting background. Representing the factory, a trio of Twins all gained gold medals in the 1961 ISDT in Italy.

AJS Model 7R

Announced for the 1948 season, the handsome 348cc AJS Model 7R had little in common with the pre-war road-racing 7  R AJS. A sleek black and gold beauty, it was similar to the rival Velocette Mk7 racer, which shared the same bore and stroke dimensions but it was lighter than the Velo, using magnesium-alloy crankcases, timing gear casing and conical wheel hubs and aluminium fuel and oil tanks. Nicknamed the Boys Racer, the model was of course raced by the official factory team but was primarily intended as an over-the-counter racer for the ordinary club driver.

Ariel Red Hunter

Based on a 1933 Val Page design, the Red Hunter was sold in 348cc and 500cc form throughout the 1930s, scoring many successes in trial and scrambles. Resurrected after the war virtually unchanged save for telescopic forks, it became renowned as a straight-forward and dependable machine capable of a surprising amount of unstressed power. The 500, with its more square dimensioned engine than the 350 and a frame that was no heavier, was proportionately the better performer.

Velocette MSS

The Velocette MSS was built post-war until 1948, being discontinued in order that production could be concentrated on the revolutionary LE. Powered by virtually the original 1935 designed 495cc long-stroke engine, there was little to disinguish it from the last of the pre-war line. In 1954 it was re-designed, the engine was now all-alloy and of square dimensions (86x86mm) giving a capacity of 499cc. A sprung frame and two-level seating were other features. A popular sidecar machine, it ran until 1971.

Norton 16H

As late as 1947 the Norton 16H, although garnished with teles, still looked much like its pre-war ancestor. The next year its old fashioned cast-iron block was exchanged for a large-finned, light-alloy casting, with new flat-base tappets and other modifications, which raised the power output to 15bhp. 1954 was the last year the 16H was manufactured. By then the AMC takeover was established and time had run out for this old fashioned but good looking and ultra-reliable "slogger". Nevertheless, 43 years hadn't been a bad innings!

Matchless G3

First appearing in 1941, the bike that really got the heavyweight singles going was the Matchless G3/L. Fast, with good handling and plenty of ground clearance, its most significant advantage over other WD issue machines was the Teledraulic telescopic front forks. These two-way clamped units were well ahead of their time and when civilian production recommenced in 1945, the Matchless and its derivatives were assured a good market.

Douglas Dragonfly

Introduced at Earls Court in 1954, the Douglas Dragonfly was an attempt to produce a motor cycle that would distance itself from the cluttered image of their earlier horizontally-opposed twins. A duplex frame carried a 350cc engine fitted with an ac generator and distributor and improvements included the general stiffening of the crankcase and a bolt-through system for the cast-iron cylinders and heads. Styling was radical with the lines of the fuel tank extending forward beyond the steering head and forming an odd looking nacelle. Finish was an overall light grey.

Velocette Venom

As far as road-going 500 singles were concerned the pre-Thruxton Velocette Venom was at the top of the tree in terms of performance. In its so called Clubman's trim, it had many aids to fast motor cycling such as light-alloy wheel rims, BTH racing-type magneto, Amal TT carburettor, rear-mounted foot rests and close-ratio gears. Top speed was 105mph, which from the rest came up in around three-quarters of a minute. Power output was in the region of 36bhp.


If there was one product that typified all that was so right and good about the British motor cycle industry, then surely it was BSA's over-engineered 350cc single-cylinder B 31. The new B31 was the first to resurface after the war and constituted the "promise of good times to come", which had been the company's slogan while the fighting was on. Good for over 70mph and 75mpg, the workhorse B31 was hugely successful for BSA. It was their first machine to use telescopic forks and with its bigger brother the B33 (499cc) made up the backbone of the BSA singles range throughout the 1950s.

Francis-Barnett Cruiser 80

In 1957, along with several other manufacturers of lightweight two-strokes, Francis-Barnett edged into the middleweight range with a 250. The Cruiser 80 was formed from a modified version of the cycle parts of the existing Villiers-engined 225cc Cruiser 71, but employed the new AMC 25T 249cc single, the top end of a range of one-pot engines specially designed for the parent organisation. Capable of 70mph, it cruised well at 55mph and could return 72mpg. At under £180 when new it was one of the cheapest 250 two-stroke twins available.

Norton International

Rarely referred to by their catalogue titles of 40 (350) and 30 (500), the International Nortons entered the post-war arena little different from the 1939 model. The slight differences were the front fork, tank, mudguards and gearbox end cover. Other than switching to light-alloy for the cylinder and head, the long-stroke motors were unchaged. These retained shaft-and-bevel drive for the single ohc. exposed hairpin valve springs ohc, exposed hairpin valve springs and a modest compression ratio. Featherbed rames were used until 1953.

Greeves Sports Twin

Smartly finished in two-tone blue and chromium plate and with gold lining of the tank, the Greeves Sports Twin proved itself  to be one of the most lively and most diverting lightweights of the period. Powered by a Villiers 249cc (50x63.5mm) two-stroke twin engine with separate iron cylinder barrels and light-alloy heads, top speed was just under the 70mph mark. With excellent steering, roadholding and general handling, the scrambles-bred Sports Twin used the familiar Greeves pivoted front fork suspension controlled by rubber in torsion and Girling hydraulic dampers.

Triumph Tiger 100

The high performance version of the Speed Twin, the Tiger 100 returned post-war in 1946. Changes were light, and mainly concerned the position of the dynamo, now at the front of the block and a reduction in the level of external oil piping. As before, it had an eight-stud fixing for the cylinder block and polished flywheels and connecting rods. Considered as one of the handsomest Triumphs, it had a top speed in excess 90mph. With the exception of the Vincent Rapide, which had twice the capacity, it represented the fastest standard tourer available.

BSA Rocket Gold Star

The Rocket Gold Star of 1962 was a very quick hybrid compounded of a tuned A10 engine and gearbox with a Gold Star frame and fuel tank. A variety of "go faster" options were available for the RGS and these included a track silencer (claimed to increase output to 50bhp) and headlamp wiring with plugs and sockets to give easy removal. Never very successful in production racing though, the model was discontinued in 1963. Perhaps best remembered as a fast, stylish and reliable road going motorcycle in the A10 tradition.

DMW Dolomite 2

Possibly one of the most handsome of all British post-war lightweights, the DMW Dolomote II was produced between 1957 and 1966. Fitted with a Villiers 2T twin, which produced 15bhp @ 5500rpm, cycle parts were similar to the existing 197cc Villiers-engined Cortina single and a characteristic touch was the circular chrome grille on the right of the headlamp shell, behind which the horn was mounted. A 2A version of the Dolomite, fitted with a 324cc Villiers 3T engine was made available from 1961.

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

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