Tagged: 1953

Hip to Be Square: 1951 Ariel Square Four

1951 Ariel Square Four L Front

By the 1970s, four-cylinder powerplants were dime-a-dozen in the motorcycling world. Formerly found only in high-end exotic machines like this Ariel Square Four, they’d become a characteristic of the generic “Universal Japanese Motorcycle.” But in the 1950s, a four-cylinder engine was something to brag about.

These days, inline and V4 configurations are common, but the Ariel used an unusual “square” configuration not often seen outside two-stroke race-replicas like the Suzuki RG500 Gamma. As you’d expect, the square four is really a pair of parallel-twins, each with its own crankshaft, geared together and sharing a head. This makes for a compact motor that slotted easily into existing frames, but one with the inherent cooling problems that result from limited airflow to the rear cylinders.

1951 Ariel Square Four R Engine

Introduced in 1931, the engine was significantly overhauled in 1937: in a seeming step backwards overhead cams were changed to pushrods, but the heads and barrels were changed from iron to aluminum and displacement increased significantly from 500cc’s to almost 1000. Reliability was increased and the character suited the bike’s mission: while performance was impressive with over 90mph possible, it was smooth and very torquey, a “gentleman’s express.” Production continued until 1959.

1951 Ariel Square Four R Rear

Today’s example looks to be in very nice cosmetic condition, but has been off the road for a while and will need some work to set it right.

From the original Craigslist post: 1951 Ariel Square Four for Sale 

You won’t see one like this every day… A MAGNIFICENT 1951 Ariel Square four 1000cc with a 1954 engine (four pipe manifold). Check the photos. One of the world’s best motorcycles ever from that decade. Much in the way of papers, manuals and history information available. After its long rest it will require some freshening before an outing, but it’s all do’able. The price has been reduced to $16300. Call for further information and an appointment to view.

This vehicle is currently Cal licensed , clear titled, and on non-op status.

The seller is asking a bit less than I’ve seen for nice Square Fours recently, and the mention of it being “reduced” suggests that interest has been low. I’m wondering if the updated engine is causing issues for fans of originality, or if the possible headache of getting this bike on the road is putting buyers off. The seller doesn’t mention why the change to the later powerplant was made, but certainly the performance benefits should be worth the update for fans of function, and the later exhaust manifold shows off the bike’s four-cylinder-ness proudly, whereas the original could be mistaken for a big parallel twin. The seller also doesn’t mention exactly what it might need, if anything other than usual, to get it back on the road as “its long rest” isn’t really quantified, but cosmetically, the bike appears to be complete and in good shape.

-tad

1951 Ariel Square Four Front

Rare Mongrel: 1953 Rickman Metisse Triumph/BSA Mark III

1953 Rickman Metisse R Side

The famous, sophisticated-sounding Metisse actually translates to “mongrel” in French, a testament to British humor, as well as ingenuity. This bike is different than our usual offerings: built for offroad use, it is powered by a Triumph engine with a BSA gearbox.

1953 Rickman Metisse R Side Engine

In the 60’s and 70’s, motorcycle design was still as much art as science: many innovative new designs came and went, and the physics that went into making a bike really handle were still not well understood, and many production motorcycles handled pretty poorly straight from the factory. Much of the problem was the primitive suspension available at the time, but a lack of frame stiffness and correct geometry played a huge role as well.

1953 Rickman Metisse Dash

Many small shops catering to serious riders created their own frames designed to work with existing engines to create sporting hybrids for road, track, and dirt use. Among these, Rickman was one of the most successful, offering first off-road and then road-going packages based around British twins and singles, and later Japanese four cylinder bikes. Their frames were constructed from distinctive lightweight, nickel-plated tubes and many featured internal oil-passages that replaced oil tanks and coolers.

1953 Rickman Metisse L Side Detail

From the original CraigsList posting: 1953 Rickman Metisse Triumph/BSA Mark III for sale

We have a unique, STREET LEGAL Rickman Metisse Triumph Mark III for sale! This is an oil-in-frame bike, powered by a 500cc Triumph twin. The engine also features an AMAL 386 Monoblock carb, Megacycle Cams, and a Lucas competition magneto that was recently rebuilt. For better shifting, the engine has also been mated with a rebuilt BSA SCR 4-speed gearbox, and the BSA primary case was machined to fit perfectly with the Triumph Crankcase. Bruce Holland Motorcycles in Boise, ID has rebuilt the motor & there is paperwork showing the details of the rebuild. This Rickman has original magnesium hubs in the front and rear, and are laced by Buchanan’s in Azusa to rare Dunlop spring steel rims. DOT approved Pirelli dual sport tires are currently installed on the wheels. A Sammy Miller kickstart lever unit is on the bike, which allows the lever to fold in closer to the frame, along with all new cables, grips, twist grip, levers & handlebars. The Rickman frame is nickel-plated & new, plus comes with a Certificate of Authenticity that states it was built specifically for the engine – allowing it to be titled as a 1953 model, instead of a special construction!

1953 Rickman Metisse Rear Wheel

The listed asking price is $17,000 for this rare bit of kit. True production numbers are a bit difficult to discern, as Rickman generally sold their bikes in kit form to be finished by the owners or local shops. But this looks to be in excellent shape and is definitely unusual. That the sellers are a specialist classic motorcyle shop in Orange, California to me only increases confidence.

-tad

1953 Rickman Metisse R Side Tank

The Other Bike from Bologna: 1953 Mondial 200 Sport

1953 Mondial 200 Sport R Side Front

History is littered with the corpses of car and motorcycle manufacturers that didn’t survive various economic crises and paradigm shifts and, unfortunately, boutique manufacturer Mondial is listed amongst the fallen. While we normally associate the failure of a manufacturer with the quality of their products, it’s generally far more complicated than that. The 1960’s saw a glut of cheap, incredibly well-engineered motorcycles from Japan flood a market formerly dominated by the European manufacturers that had grown by leaps and bounds in a postwar economy bolstered by the demand for inexpensive wheeled transportation.

1953 Mondial 200 Sport R Side Rear

Although the handling of these inexpensive machines was pretty far off the standard established by the racebred motorcycles from England and Italy, for most people, that hardly mattered, and quality, reliability, and even cheap speed trumped the cornering prowess of bikes from companies like Mondial.

Mondial built motorcycles from 1948-1979 and were very successful in Grand Prix racing during the 1950s. Although most Italian manufacturers of this period focused their efforts on practical, affordable transportation, Mondial was much more interested in building small-volume, high-quality motorcycles with a more sporting intent. Perhaps could be considered the Velocette of Italy. With handbuilt quality and performance, they could perhaps be thought of as the Italian equivalent of Italy and even designed and built a desmodromic cylinder head before Ducati, although it was never actually produced.

1953 Mondial 200 Sport L Side Engine

From the original eBay listing: 1953 Mondial 200 Sport

1953 Mondial 200 Sport in very nice restored condition. Everything has been redone. Motor was rebuilt in Italy and runs and shifts fine. Bike went through an extensive cosmetic restoration. All chrome has been redone and all aluminum has had many hours of polishing. Bike comes with a clean title. Any questions about the bike you can contact me directly. This is a super rare bike and a great opportunity to add to any bike collection.

Interestingly, the year 2000 saw a brief revival of the Mondial name and the creation of a Honda RC51 -powered superbike. This unusual engine choice was only possible because in 1957, Mondial provided Honda with one of their winning racebikes to use as inspiration. Honda wanted to repay the gesture and allowed the new Mondial superbike to use their engine.

1953 Mondial 200 Sport L Side

With its striking red and gold paint, this might easily be mistaken for a 50’s Ducati, although Mondial’s traditional colors were generally silver and blue. Bidding is active on this little Mondial, with just one day left on the auction. At $7,700 the reserve has been met, which seems a fair price for such a good-looking, unusual motorcycle.

-tad

1953 Mondial 200 Sport R Side

1953 MV Agusta 125cc SuperSport for Sale

1953 MV Agusta 125 R Front

My fantasy garage is filled up with the classics: a big Moto Guzzi V7 or LeMans, a bevel-drive Ducati, a Laverda Jota…  Manly, brutal bikes all. But I always find myself prowling around, looking for MV Agustas.  And while I do lust after the modern Brutales, F3’s and F’4’s, I always have an eye out for the little ones, the sporting 125’s and 175’s.  They show up from time to time online and pricing varies wildly.

1953 MV Agusta 125 R Side

I do love the idea of a burly, powerful machine that is way more than I can handle, I’m a firm believer in the old adage, “It’s better to ride a slow bike fast than ride a fast bike slow…” Honestly, the guy I saw in a tank top and half helmet, stiff-arming his brand new Panigale up the Garden State Parkway probably thought he looked pretty cool, but it was pretty obvious he had no idea what he was doing… On the other hand, the guy I saw riding a GS500E at a recent track day made me smile as he passed liter bikes and serious sporting machines in the corners…

1953 MV Agusta 125 Dash

It also doesn’t hurt that, while these little MV’s may be pretty pricey, they’re still generally a whole lot less than the bigger four-cylinder bikes…  These look like they’d be a hoot to ride on a winding, two-lane road. Or look great parked up in your living room.

1953 MV Agusta 125 Seat

This particular two-stroke machine looks familiar…

From the original eBay listing: 1953 MV Agusta 125cc Super Sport

Selling my ultra rare 1953 MV Agusta 125 Super Sport.This motorcycle was purchased from the renowned Guy Webster museum in California.It has the level of restoration to go in the Guggenhiem display.The bike traveled in Italy’s famous Moto Giro which is noted on front number plate prior to full professional restoration level.The gas tank was just sealed for future settlement or ride ability.The frame work and fenders on this particular year lends itself to such a cafe graceful look compared to it’s predecessors.The seat is a Radaelli which is a long comfortable seating position seat.The handle bars which I choose to call mustache bars are a piece of jewelry that have emmvee hand grips in like new condition.The motorcycle comes complete with original Automobile Club D’Italia paperwork framed from 1953.Where are you going to find a 1953 MV Agusta motorcycle going back that far with original doc’s.

1953 MV Agusta 125 Grip

This one looks an awful lot like the one that was for sale a while back and posted here on this site. It may not have found a buyer then, but maybe second time’s the charm? These are rare machines, but sometimes that rarity can work against you. Hopefully, it will find a home this time around.

-tad

1953 MV Agusta 125 R Engine