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1939 Ariel Red Hunter

1939 Ariel Red Hunter

The 1930s were indeed the Golden Age for the British motorcycle industry. At the time, nearly all of them relied heavily on one basic engine architecture: the air-cooled, pushrod OHV single, and most marques had built their lineup of 350 and 500 singles. As the 1930s opened, Ariel’s product line was a bewildering array of side-valve and pushrod 250s, 350s, 500s and 557cc singles, some with vertical cylinders other slanted forward, with both 2 valves and 4 valves. When legendary engine designer Val Page left Ariel to join upstart Triumph, he was replaced by the also legendary Edward Turner, who had just designed the Square Four for Ariel, and would ultimately leave Ariel for Triumph himself, where he would create is masterpiece, the Triumph Speed Twin in 1938. But for now, just having been named Ariel’s Design Chief, Turner set about rationalizing and simplifying Ariel’s line of singles. As the result, for the 1933 model year, Ariel built just three OHV singles, each in three trim levels. The top of the line was the 500cc VH Red Hunter.

The Red Hunter’s 500cc engine used a cast iron cylinder and head with 2 overhead valves per cylinder. The crankcase was made of aluminum alloy and split vertically, carrying a built-up crankshaft in two large main bearings. Lubrication was by plunger-type pump and was dry sump with a separate oil tank. Fully automatic oiling was still not a given, back in the 1930s. The 1939 Ariel Red Hunter could be ordered with either one or two exhaust ports, with either high or low exhaust pipes.

1939 Ariel Red Hunter SPECIFICATONS

Model designation
Engine type
Bore & Stroke
Compression ratio
Horsepower @ RPM
Primary drive
Final drive
Suspension, front
Suspension, rear
Brake, front
Brake, rear
Curb weight
Fuel capacity
Fuel economy
Top speed
1939 Ariel VH Red Hunter
Air-cooled OHV vertical single
497cc / 30.0 ci
81.8mm X 95mm
26 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Chain, oil bath
Multi-plate, wet
4-speed, right-foot shift
Girder forks
SLS drum
SLS drum
370 lbs / 168 kg
3.25 US gal / 12.3 L
45-65 mpg est
85 mph