Showing posts with label Vintage Sports Bikes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vintage Sports Bikes. Show all posts

FN Four

FN Four vintage motorcycle

It may not have been known at the time, but the FN Four signalled a seismic shift in biking. After all, there cannot have been many breakthroughs to match the introduction of the inline-four. Belgium was the birthplace of that landmark engine layout. And FN was the much-to-be-congratulated manufacturer.

The first FN Four hit the highway in 1911. It produced 4bhp. From 491cc. At the time, such figures described state of the art technology. Top speed for the FN Four was 40mph. Not too shabby - for an 8-valve inlet-over-exhaust configuration. It rather went without saying that it was air-cooled!

The FN Four was light - tipping the scales at just 165lb dry. Not only its motor - but its chassis, too - was avant-garde. It featured a rudimentary form of telescopic forks. And FN added a new-fangled 'clutch' - and 2-speed gearbox - to the Four's slick set of tricks. A solid shaft-drive set-up output the power. So, who designed this visionary vintage machine? You will not hear the name Paul Kelekom shouted from motorcycling's rooftops ... at least, not very often. But, you should - for it was he who fashioned the FN Four. And, in so doing, he kick-started a craze for fast, four-cylinder two-wheelers. Last time I looked, the fad was still alive and kicking!

Scott Squirrel

Scott Squirrel British vintage motorcycle

Scott may not be the most famous manufacturer in motorcycling history - but it certainly has its place. As, indeed, does Scott's most celebrated bike, the Squirrel. The British marque won the Senior TT - in both 1912 and '13. And the Scott trial - which began in '14 - and became a bastion of off-road motorsport - was named after the Yorkshire firm. Founded in '08, Scott went on to produce finely-crafted motorbikes for decades to come.

Engineering excellence - forged in competition's crucible - flowed down into Scott roadsters. The Squirrel was the prime beneficiary. Squirrels came in several flavours. There were Super Squirrels, Sports Squirrels and Flying Squirrels. All came with a 596cc motor - mated to a 3-speed hand-change 'box. Squirrels handled well, looked and sounded good - and merrily skipped up to 70mph. In the Twenties, that was quick!

Squirrels were apt to be temperamental, though. Mechanically, they played up a bit, from time to time. And - with their hefty price-tags - that did not go down well with owners. As the model aged - and its cutting edge blunted - sales declined. To this day, though, there is many a motorcyclist who is nuts about Squirrels. With luck - over the years - a few of them were horded away. So, you never know ... Scott Squirrels may again be a common sight, on the highways and byways of Britain.

Indian Powerplus

Indian Powerplus American vintage motorcycle

So far as Indian was concerned, its Powerplus model was a cut above other motorcycles. The American company's customers clearly agreed. Sales-wise, the Powerplus was a soaraway success. Between 1916 and '24 - the span of its production run - occasional modifications were all that were required.

The Powerplus' 998cc engine produced 18bhp. That gave a top speed of 60mph. As a result, Indian entered the Powerplus in the 1911 TT. It vanquished all comers. Indian collected a clean sweep of podium places. The firm broke long-distance records, too. In '14, 'Cannon Ball' Baker shot across America. It took him 11 days, 12 hours, 10 minutes ... precision-timing, back then!

But, the Powerplus did not just perform well. In design terms, too, it impressed - clad in a mantle of Indian red. Its fuel tank was embellished with the 'Indian' scripted logo - in appropriate gold paint. Viewed today, the swept-back handlebars were a vintage objet d'art. Throughout, old school engineering was in artful abundance. Hours could be spent taking in the visual delights of the Indian Powerplus. Almost as many, in fact, as it took it to traverse the States!

Harley-Davidson Model 9E

Harley-Davidson Model 9E vintage motorcycle

Strange to think that the globally renowned brand-name that is Harley-Davidson started life in a small shed in Milwaukee. That was in 1903. After a few faltering start-up steps, the fledgeling firm found its feet in '13. The first Harleys to emerge from the shed - and take to the street - had a single-cylinder engine. The Model 9E, though, came with a 45° V-twin. At that point, not even co-founders William S Harley and the three Davidson brothers, knew just how iconic that engine would turn out to be. Harley-Davidson - along with bourbon whiskey distilleries - was what made Milwaukee famous. The 9E's 1,000cc motor kicked out 10bhp. That gave a top speed of 60mph. There are modern-day wags, of course, who claim that not a lot has changed!

As a rule, Harley-Davidson is not associated with racing. Since its primary legacy is a long list of laid-back cruisers, that is not surprising. Drag-strips have been more of a Harley domain - where their torque-rich V-twin engines can be given free rein. The firm has long competed at race circuits, too, though. The first Harley-Davidson factory team was formed as far back as '14. Dubbed the 'Wrecking Crew', the équipe battled it out with the likes of Indian, Merkel and Exelsior. Such events garnered Harley much-needed early publicity. They were the perfect showcase for their 8-valve V-twin motorcycles.

By '19, Harley's 'Bikes Produced' column numbered 22,000. Added to that tally were 16,000 sidecars. The big time beckoned! Henry Ford, however - and his affordable cars - were increasingly a thorn in their side. The Model T, in particular, put paid to many an American motorbike manufacturer. Indeed, Harley's own sales halved. Milwaukee's finest, though, would survive Ford's four-wheeled onslaught. It was fortitude to which millions of bikers would be later indebted. For - while the marque has long had its fair share of detractors - it was Harley-Davidson which really put motorcycling on the map. The marketing map - as well as the geographical one - that is. The Model 9E was an important staging-post. As for that shed in Milwaukee … mighty oaks do indeed from little acorns grow!