Posts in category

250 – 499cc


1951 BSA Gold Star 1951 BSA GOLD STAR – WHAT’S IN A NAME? Of course the origins of the Gold Star name is the stuff of legend. When Wal Handley lapped the Brooklands at over 100 MPH in 1937 on a BSA Empire Star, he was awarded the coveted Gold Star. Anyone who broke “the …

1938 VELOCETTE KTT RACING DEVELOPMENT Velocette was not only a trail-blazer in the field of advanced engine design, they were also the first and (for a while) only major manufacturer who was willing to sell the exact same race bikes and race parts that their factory teams were using to the general public. This opened …

1971 Triumph T100R Daytona 1971 TRIUMPH T100R DAYTONA BACKGROUND The Daytona became Triumph’s top-of-the-line 500 twin. The “Daytona” name came from Triumph’s 500cc racing successes at Daytona in 1966 and again in 1967. The first use of the name on a production bike was for the 1966 model year. Like it’s big brother, the 650 …

1952 Triumph TR5 Trophy ABOVE: This 1952 Triumph TR5 has a chrome tank with a silver panel and blue pinstriping. BELOW: This version of the same bike came with a painted take, solid silver with black pinstripes. 1952 TRIUMPH TR5 TROPHY BACKGROUND The Triumph TR5 Trophy was produced from 1949 through 1958. It was based …

1949 VELOCETTE KTT BACKGROUND Velocette was an early pioneer of advanced overhead cam (OHC) engine designs. Designed by Percy & Eugene Goodman (sons of the owner of Velocette, John Goodman), all OHCs were designated K-series. The “K” was for “kam”, the German word for “cam”, meaning overhead cam. OHC designs in the 1920s were almost …

1949 Royal Enfield Bullet 1949 ROYAL ENFIELD BULLET BACKGROUND Royal Enfield had been building sturdy, reliable motorcycles since the turn of the century. They produced military motorcycles for the British army in both world wars. They struggled at the edge of insolvency throughout most of the 1930s but managed to hang on until the the …

1935 Velocette KTT Background The 1935 Velocette KTT was the first year of the KTT line that would run until 1949. Based on Velocette’s very successful 350 KSS, which won the Isle of Man TT in 1926 (10 minutes ahead of the next bike), the KTT was a very advanced machine. The KTT went on …

1958 Triumph Twenty-One 1958 TRIUMPH TWENTY-ONE HAS BATHTUB STYLING. The British home market had been hungry for cheap transportation after WWII, and commuter motorcycles helped fill that role. But England being…well, England, was wet and rainy and to prevent rust an owner needed to wipe his bike down each night after getting home from work. …

1948 Ariel Red Hunter 1948 ARIEL RED HUNTER BACKGROUND 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 …

1966 Velocette Thruxton 1966 VELOCETTE THRUXTON Velocette has a proven design in their 500cc Velocette Venom. Big singles had sort passed from grace in the 1960s with the advent of all the twins pouring out of Britain, and now the high-revving, and totally-reliable twins coming out of Japan. Velocette didn’t have the funds to design …

1973 Triumph Daytona 500 1973 TRIUMPH DAYTONA – WHAT’S IN A NAME? Triumph derived the name of this bike from Buddy Elmore’s win at the 1966 Daytona 200 at Daytona Beach FL riding a Triumph T100T Tiger 500 twin. It was Triumph’s first-ever Daytona victory, with an average speed of 96.6 mph. By 1967, it …

1957 Ariel Red Hunter 1957 ARIEL RED HUNTER BACKGROUND 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. World War II …

1969 Velocette Thruxton 1969 VELOCETTE THRUXTON Velocette had a proven design in their 500cc Velocette Venom. Big singles had sort passed from grace in the 1960s with the advent of all the twins pouring out of Britain, and now the high-revving, and totally-reliable twins coming out of Japan. Velocette didn’t have the funds to design …

1953 BSA B33 1953 BSA B33 BACKGROUND The 500cc B33 and its smaller-sister the 350cc B31, were intended to be “everyman’s motorcycles”, which means basic transportation for budget-minded Brits just trying to get to work. As such, BSA kept costs low by sticking with the ancient plunger rear suspension, just as the rest of the …

1934 BSA Blue Star 1934 BSA BLUE STAR SETS NEW STANDARD Prior to the introduction of BSA’s Blue Star-series, motorcycles were fairly unreliable and needed constant maintenance and oiling during long trips. The Blue Star, which launched in 1932, ushered in a new age of reliability and ride-ability, being one of the first bikes that …

1933 Velocette KTT Background The 1933 Velocette KTT was the fifth year of the KTT line that would run until 1949. Based on Velocette’s very successful 350 KSS, which won the Isle of Man TT in 1926 (10 minutes ahead of the next bike), the KTT was a very advanced machine. The KTT went on …

1962 BSA Gold Star 1962 BSA GOLD STAR CLUBMAN While the BSA Gold Star was famous for its off-road and desert-racing prowess, when properly fitted out, they also made excellent road racing machines, on par the a Norton Manx. The Clubman edition got a 36mm bellmouth Amal carburetor, hotter cam and timing, higher compression, a …

1955 MATCHLESS G45 BACKGROUND Matchless introduced the G45 500 twin in 1951 as a race bike. It debuted at the Manx Grand Prix that year piloted by Robin Sherry, who took 4th place. The G45 was based on the street version of bike, the Matchless G9. The stock G9 was stripped, and the cast iron …

1954 Ariel Red Hunter 1954 ARIEL RED HUNTER BACKGROUND 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. World War II …

1939 Ariel Red Hunter 1939 ARIEL RED HUNTER BACKGROUND 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 …

1947 Ariel Red Hunter 1947 ARIEL RED HUNTER BACKGROUND 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. World War II …

1952 Norton Model 7 1952 NORTON MODEL 7 BACKGROUND Following Triumph’s lead, Norton, along with nearly every other British motorcycle manufacturer, entered the parallel twin race with its own new 500 twin in 1949. Known as the Model 7, its basic layout followed the established norm of a 2-main bearing crankshaft (no center main bearing) …

1960 Royal Enfield Bullet 1960 ROYAL ENFIELD BULLET – A LONG HISTORY Royal Enfield introduced the 350cc and 500cc single-cylinder Bullet line in 1948, and while many changes were made in the interim, including a change of ownership of the company, the Royal Enfield Bullet has the unique distinction of being the longest-running motorcycle model …

1951 Norton Model 7 Dominator 1951 NORTON MODEL 7 BACKGROUND Following Triumph’s lead, Norton, along with nearly every other British motorcycle manufacturer, entered the parallel twin race with its own new 500 twin in 1949. Known as the Model 7, its basic layout followed the established norm of a 2-main bearing crankshaft (no center main …

1956 Triumph TR5R 1956 TRIUMPH TR5R BACKGROUND Triumph offered the TR5/R in limited numbers in 1956 as a top-of-the-line 500 twin, and it was certainly one of the market’s finest. Factory records indicate that just 112 TR5/R engines were built in ’56 and just 104 were installed in complete bikes. The other 8 were presumably …

1947 Triumph Speed Twin 1947 TRIUMPH SPEED TWIN LEADS THE WAY At the end of World War II, civilian production of motorcycles ramped up quickly to tap into the tremendous pent up demand for transportation. 1946 was Triumph’s first postwar model year. The 5T Speed Twin was its best seller prior to the war, and …

VELOCETTE MAC BACKGROUND Velocette had great success with their OHC (Overhead Cams) singles, like the KSS, but in 1933, they decided to introduce a new line of OHV (Overhead Valves, ie: pushrods) machines, as a way of reducing their production costs while delivering a lower-priced motorcycle to market. The K-series had been expensive to produce. …

1968 Velocette Thruxton 1968 VELOCETTE THRUXTON BACKGROUND Velocette had a proven design in their 500cc Velocette Venom. Big singles had sort passed from grace in the 1960s with the advent of all the twins pouring out of Britain, and now the high-revving, and totally-reliable twins coming out of Japan. Velocette didn’t have the funds to …

The BSA M20 was just part of BSA’s massive wartime contribution to Britain’s war effort. But it was a very big part. 1937 was its first year of production that would last until the late 1950s. Designed to be simple, rugged and reliable, the M20 was a side-valve (flathead) 500cc air-cooled single with a cast-iron …

1948 Norton Manx 1948 NORTON MANX BACKGROUND The Norton Manx was developed in 1937, in both SOHC and DOHC form, to compete in and win the Isle of Man TT. Before fully developed, World War II intervened, and production of the Manx was delayed until 1946. The Manx quickly gained a reputation for its speed …

1962 Norton Manx 1962 NORTON MANX BACKGROUND The Norton Manx was developed in 1937, in both SOHC and DOHC form, to compete in and win the Isle of Man TT. Before fully developed, World War II intervened, and production of the Manx was delayed until 1946. The Manx quickly gained a reputation for its speed …

MILITARY ROOTS Long before the first Triumph Trophy came out in 1948, Triumph Motorcycles were cutting their teeth in the dirt, gleaning off-road experience designing & building military motorcycles for the British Army in World War 2. The 1940 Triumph 3TW 350 twin was built to a War Ministry specification, it was a lightweight at …

1959 Norton Manx 1959 NORTON MANX BACKGROUND The Norton Manx was developed in 1937, in both SOHC and DOHC form, to compete in and win the Isle of Man TT. Before fully developed, World War II intervened, and production of the Manx was delayed until 1946. The Manx quickly gained a reputation for its speed …

1953 Norton Manx 1953 NORTON MANX BACKGROUND The Norton Manx was developed in 1937, in both SOHC and DOHC form, to compete in and win the Isle of Man TT. Before fully developed, World War II intervened, and production of the Manx was delayed until 1946. The Manx quickly gained a reputation for its speed …

1949 Norton Manx 1949 NORTON MANX BACKGROUND The Norton Manx was developed in 1937, in both SOHC and DOHC form, to compete in and win the Isle of Man TT. Before fully developed, World War II intervened, and production of the Manx was delayed until 1946. The Manx quickly gained a reputation for its speed …

1952 Norton Manx 1952 NORTON MANX BACKGROUND The Norton Manx was developed in 1937, in both SOHC and DOHC form, to compete in and win the Isle of Man TT. Before fully developed, World War II intervened, and production of the Manx was delayed until 1946. The Manx quickly gained a reputation for its speed …

1939 Triumph Tiger 100, first year for this hot new model. Note Rigid frame & girder front suspension. A TIGER IS BORN The Triumph Tiger was the natural evolution of the constant & relentless quest for more & more power. The <a href=”https://www.classic-british-motorcycles.com/triumph-speed-twin.html”>Triumph Speed Twin</a> had literally changed the motorcycle world in 1938, and was …

1953 Matchless G9 500 Twin 1953 MATCHLESS G9 BACKGROUND Like everyone else in the British motorcycle industry at the time, when Triumph rocked the world with their 1938 Speed Twin, the world’s first modern 500cc vertical twin, AMC (Associated Motor Cycles), parent company of Matchless, and AJS, developed a new 500 vertical twin for both …

1955 Matchless G9B 1955 MATCHLESS G9B BACK STORY The 1955 Matchless G9B has an interesting history, that is also very telling about the British motorcycle industry at the time. Frank Cooper was the US distributor for AMC (Associated Motor Cycles) who produced Matchless, AJS and Francis-Barnett motorcycles. In the late 1940s, America was quickly becoming …

1956 Matchless G9 500 Twin 1956 MATCHLESS G9 BACKGROUND Matchless Motorcycles cut their teeth on the depressed British home market, depressed both before World War II and after. They did good business selling reliable single-cylinder bikes to commuters who used them as their only means of transport to and from work. But things were changing …