Showing posts with label 1950s Sports Bikes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1950s Sports Bikes. Show all posts

Matchless G50

Matchless G50 1950s British MotoGP bike

The Matchless G50 had a lot to live up to. To name your new company 'Matchless' needs confidence in its products - to put it mildly! That was something Charlie and Harry Collier clearly possessed, when they opened for business in 1899. They were located in Plumstead, south-east London. Both brothers were racers - of some repute. In 1907, Charlie rode a Matchless to victory at the first TT - in the single-cylinder category. Harry performed the same feat two years later. At the time, then, the Matchless moniker was pretty much justified.

Fast-forward to the Sixties - and Matchless were dominant again. Now, it was the turn of the G50 to hold all-comers at bay. First unveiled in the late '50s, the Matchless G50 was - to all intents and purposes - an AJS 7R, re-badged. Matchless had acquired AJS, in 1931.

More proof of confidence within Matchless can be found in its logo. It takes some hutzpah to rely on a single letter to get your marketing message across. Charlie and Harry, though, clearly felt that a winged 'M' was sufficient to identify a motorcycle as a Matchless. It is not as if it was an excessively long brand-name to display on the tank! There is a fine line, of course, between self-belief and hubris. The former is a prerequisite for success - the latter, an almost cast-iron guarantee of failure. However, it would seem that the two young Londoners got the balance spot-on. After all, Matchless motorcycles began winning races at the turn of the 20th century. And - at classic bike events, at least - they are still there or thereabouts in a new millennium!

BSA A10 Golden Flash

BSA A10 Golden Flash 1950s British classic motorcycle

The BSA A10 Golden Flash first appeared in 1950. In terms of engine layout, it was a classic British parallel twin. BSA were based in Birmingham - at the Small Heath factory. '71 saw the iconic marque hit the financial buffers. Mercifully, it was bailed out by the Norton Villiers Triumph conglomerate. By that point, though, BSA's best days were behind it. As if to clarify that, the last BSAs off the production line wore the Triumph logo!

The Golden Flash wrote the book on practical. British-built bikes had been known to deposit the occasional oil leak, back in the day. Not so, the A10! Economical and efficient, it was eminently reliable. Its 35bhp engine delivered user-friendly power. The A10's top speed was just a tad shy of the 'ton'. As far as handling went, the '54 model A10 sported a shiny new swing-arm. That was a big step up from its plunger-suspended predecessor.

On the visual side, the Golden Flash was a good-looking bike. Its BSA motor alone was a metallurgical masterpiece. Exiting it, sweetly-shaped down-pipes splayed around an intricate semi-frame. In both engineering and styling, then, the BSA A10 Golden Flash displayed the best of British design. Flash, by name, yes ... but certainly not by nature!

Ariel Square Four

Ariel Square Four 1950s British classic motorcycle

The Ariel Square Four was designed by Edward Turner. His finest hour was yet to come. He would go on to oversee Triumph - in its Sixties glory days. The first version of the Square Four, though, was released in '28 - back when Bonnevilles and Tridents were but blurs on the 'Brit bikes' horizon. Square Four referenced the bike's 1,000cc motor. It was, in effect, two sets of parallel twins - one in front of the other. The exhaust port was shared. The downside of that layout was that - while the front brace of cylinders enjoyed lots of cooling air - the rear two did not. That could make them recalcitrant - especially on hot days!

The '58 model Square Four was good for 105mph. Warp-factor speed for a road-bike, at the time. And - by definition - more than enough to keep 'ton-up boys' entertained. They were the 100mph Rockers - who had the occasional contretemps with Mods. Turner - and Triumph - would do brisk business with them, in the coming years. What made the Square Four's top whack stat still more impressive, was its weight. 465lb needed careful coaxing through corners.

As its name suggested, the Square Four was a solid-looking motorcycle. In the sense of impressively robust, that is. Its telescopic front - and plunger rear - suspension units complemented each other nicely. The four-header exhaust set-up sat neatly between the two. The 'Squariel' - as it was affectionately dubbed - soon took its place in the rapidly-growing roster of popular British bikes. All in all, then, the Ariel Square Four can hold its head high. Even in the company of the mythical machines toward which Edward Turner was moving!

Vincent Rapide

Vincent Rapide 1950s British classic motorcycle

In '49, the Vincent Rapide was a superbike. At the time, a top speed of 110mph was seriously quick. Handling-wise, it was impressive, too. Philip Vincent designed its cantilever rear suspension set-up while still at school. He just had not got round to founding the company at that point! And at the front end, too, the Rapide was suspended by state of the art hydraulic forks.

Naturally, such advanced engineering sought competitive expression. Land speed record attempts followed. In line with tradition, Bonneville Salt Flats - in Utah, USA - played host to them. Rollie Free topped out at fractionally over 150mph, on a suitably tuned Rapide. His protective clothing consisted of just shoes and swimming trunks - the better to save weight. Now, that is commitment!

The Rapide was a good-looking motorcycle. Vincent's scrolled emblem embellished a shapely tank - which itself sat atop a metal masterpiece of an engine. Pleasing lines popped up everywhere. Among them were latticed spokes, curved exhausts - and the deft diagonals of the shocks. The Vincent Rapide, then, was visually stunning - and had performance to match!

Moto Guzzi Falcone

Moto Guzzi Falcone 1950s Italian classic motorcycle

The Moto Guzzi Falcone was one of the most successful machines in the firm's history. It flew onto the European bike scene in 1950. Falcone was fitting - since Moto Guzzi's emblem is an eagle. That was decided when one of the founders - Giovanni Ravelli - was killed in a plane crash. In tribute, his two partners co-opted the winged insignia of their air corps.

The Falcone was the latest in a line of flat-single-cylinder bikes from Guzzi. They took in everything from luxury tourers to pared-down racers. Twin versions of the Falcone were offered - Sport and Touring. They kept the Falcone flag flying until '76 - a full 26 years after its launch. It became an icon on Italian roads. In Sport mode - with its flat 'bars and rear-set footrests - the Falcone was an impressive sight. Its fire-engine red paintwork was eye-catching, to say the least. Ordinarily, top speed was 85mph. But the cognoscenti knew that a sprinkling of Dondolino engine parts served up an appetising 100mph. With a bracing shot of low-down grunt as an apéritif.

The blueprint for the Falcone's 498cc engine was drawn in 1920. Back when Carlo Guzzi designed the first of the bikes that would bear his name. The 4-stroke motor - with its horizontal cylinder - had plenty of stamina. It just kept on going - whatever was asked of it. Moto Guzzi has been around for a century now. Its products have always been stylish - but with a homely feel, to boot. Borne up by their ever-loyal fan base, here is to another 100 years of gorgeous Guzzis. And more bikes with the finesse of the Falcone!

BSA DBD34 Gold Star

BSA DBD34 Gold Star 1950s British classic motorcycle

In a hit parade of the best all-time classic motorcycles, the BSA DBD34 Gold Star would be in with a bullet. And of the plethora of bikes produced by the 'Birmingham Small Arms' company, the Gold Star went straight to 'number 1'. The 'Goldie' wrote the book on classic bike charisma. Its name was a tribute to Walter Handley's 100mph lap of the UK's most famous banked oval racetrack. Handley was awarded a Brooklands Gold Star, for his high-speed trouble.

The Goldie was a great-looking machine. Race-style, clip-on 'bars crouched over a chrome tank - emblazoned with the Gold Star badge. Below, focus flowed from a gaping Amal carburettor - through the finned cylinder-block - to a stylish swept-back pipe. Such visual extravagance was matched technically. The Gold Star roadster had a straight-line speed of 110mph.

In sporting terms, the Gold Star was a versatile competitor. It shone not only in road racing - but in motocross and trials, too. '56 saw the bike's stellar début - at the Isle of Man Clubmans TT. The BSA DBD34 Gold Star was a café racer dream come true. Fast-forward a few decades ... and there is many a classic motorbike fan still dreaming!

Gilera Saturno

Gilera Saturno 1950s Italian classic motorcycle

The Gilera Saturno was launched in '46. Its heyday, though, came in the Fifties. In the fickle realm of motorbike manufacturing, Gilera was a big player in that fashionable decade. After that, the firm met with mixed fortunes. But - in the '50s at least - the Saturno was a flagship for the Italian brand. It rolled into the showrooms in Sport, Touring and Competition guises. And immediately began to sell well.

The Saturno was a hit on both road and track. The production racer version was competitive for many seasons. Indeed, it remained so for some time after the bike's production run finished - at the fag-end of the '50s.

In roadster mode, too, the Saturno stayed tethered to the tarmac. That was largely thanks to its telescopic forks - and vertical rear shocks. It rapidly gained a reputation as a performance bike of its era. Towards the end, Gilera linked up with Piaggio and Vespa. It found a much-needed niche as part of the scooter scene. Illustrious though those names were - and are even now - for Gilera, its best days were gone. The Saturno, though, still shone a light for the glory years!