Not too many people are familiar with OSSA motorcycles much less Yankee. A quick history here…isn’t that part of the charm of this blog???
OSSA actually started out making movie projectors in the 1920′s, motorcycles didn’t come along until after World War Two. At that time a lot of motorcycle companies got into the business of making (or importing) smaller two stroke motorbikes…BSA, Yamaha and even Harley Davidson. It was also a time that Moto-Sport was growing. Europe was the international base for all things motorcycling…Moto-Cross, Enduro’s, Trials and Road Racing. The only Moto-Sport America can lay claim to is Desert Racing.
Up until the mid to late 1960′s American Desert Racing was dominated by Triumph, BSA, and Harley Davidson…big, heavy, single and twin cylinder bikes from Britain and here at home, then came the Europeans with their light weight two strokes and literally and figuratively left everybody in a cloud of two stroke smoke and dust.Husqvarna,Bultaco,Montessa,OSSA,DKW,Penton,KTM…the list goes on. The Japanese got into the game as well.
OSSA was primarily known for its Trials and Enduro bikes but also had some relative success in both Moto-Cross and Road Racing. In the late 1960′s Eduardo Giro (grandson of the OSSA founder) developed a Monocoque framed road racer that in the hands of Santiago Herrero won four 250GP’s. Sadly Sr. Herrero was killed at the Isle of Man in 1970. After the death of their racer, OSSA withdrew from roadracing and focussed on Trials.
Here in the United States, OSSA was popular in Flat Track racing, National Champion and racing legend Dick Mann won the 1969 Santa Fe National ShortTrack aboard an OSSA he helped develop…cool huh?
Now you know enough about OSSA to get you laughed out of any motorcycle trivia game. But this post is about the Yankee Z500, which is basically two OSSA 250′s mated together. The motor was originally developed for European road courses but they were also looking for versatility both on and off road. The Yankee Motorcycle Company was the importer of OSSA Moto Cross and Enduro machines and John Taylor, the head of Yankee in New York wanted to design and build a bike that would compete with the Euro’s but be better by being more powerful,better built, more reliable and faster. OSSA was well known for being reliable, some thing I can’t say about my beloved(?) Bultaco’s. Mr. Taylor enlisted the help of Dick Mann to design the chassis which had some unique features such as a rear disc brake, the first of its kind on a dirt bike. Also, low gear in the standard 6 speed transmission, which wasn’t allowed in AMA racing, could be disabled to comply with the rules. And one more cool thing about the Yankee…the top fork crowns were manufactured by Smith and Wesson. I guess you could shoot somebody if they got ahead of you on the trail? Just kidding, this is non-violent blog.
There were 762 Yankee Z500′s built. A couple of things happened here, first production delays. The first 500′s didn’t come the assembly line until 1971 and by that time the Japanese manufacturers had really stepped up their development and Yankee was now behind the curve. Secondly, no matter how good they rode, they were a bit on the heavy side for serious Enduro riders. So production of the Z model was discontinued after a short run. But I have a question, there was a regular street going 500, has anyone seen one here in the U.S? This motorbike looked to have huge potential? Why wasn’t it brought to market? Granted the road going two strokes were starting to fade by that time. Could it have competed with the Suzuki T500? Oh yeah!!. The Kawasaki triples?,Handling yes, performance no. The Yamaha twins? Probably so.
Today I found a really nice, I mean really nice 1972 Yankee Z500 on ebay. This bike has only 1880 miles on the odo, it is all original with the exception of the front fender which is a Preston Petty unit which is period correct. It is not a runner but the seller says it has good compression, kicks through and shifts through all the gears. My guess is that getting it running should be pretty easy, it has just been sitting decades. The bike is cosmetically in great condition it appears. So, I think someone should get this bike and make a very unique and cool cafe racer out of it…what else would I think?
Click on the pics below for more pictures and some info.
“Just as much at home threading its way through slow traffic with two up or ‘Thunderbolting’ up a steep grade”. That is how Motorcyclist magazine described the 1968 BSA A65 Thunderbolt. Some may disagree but I think the A65T was probably BSA’s best twin ever.
The A65 twin was built from 1962 to ’72 in various versions, the high performance Lightning and Spitfire models and the ‘touring’ model Thunderbolt. I rode a ’67 Lightning for years and loved it, but I also rode a Triumph Trophy, which I tended to ride more often (much to my step fathers dismay…it was his bike).
The thing about the Trophy was that it was actually easier to ride than the Lightning. The Lightning was faster no doubt, but the Trophy had better low end power that came on earlier in the powerband, which for me, made it easier to ride fast on the canyon roads near home. The BSA Thunderbolt feels the same way.
When comparing the BSA Thunderbolt to the Lightning, it’s ‘the same girl just wearing a different dress’. Same motor (pretty much), same chassis, same brakes but it’s the small details that made the difference, mainly the change to the single carburetor. The bike was tuned to cruise comfortably at 70+mph all day and when your testosterone level is up so is the Thunderbolt…topping ‘the ton’ was easy. With the slight changes to the motor, the Thunderbolt didn’t vibrate as badly as the other BSA twins, nice for touring.
In 1968 BSA made some really good changes to the Thunderbolt. A new, longer kickstart lever took some effort out of the starting ritual but the big deal was switching from the Amal Monobloc carb to the Concentric carb. The Concentric was much less prone to flooding and combined with the longer kickstarter, the Thunderbolt became much easier to start…hot or cold.
BSA made some really good improvements to the motorcycles but had one glaring problem…poor workmanship. And truthfully, at this period in time, this is what killed the British motorcycle industry. That aside, the Thunderbolt is a wonderful motorbike. It is smooth, comfortable, fast enough for fun, excellent handling (of course, it’s a BSA!) and absolutely beautiful. As Cycle Magazine said, “One of the best designed motorcycles we have had the pleasure of testing”.
I found a beautiful 1968 Thunderbolt on ebay this morning that with some new tyres (english spelling) is ready to go. The motorbike has just 1763 miles on the clock, it is a bike that has aged quite gracefully and honestly is one of the better values I have found lately.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info. And as BSA once said, “Move up to a mans motorcycle, move up to BSA”
There is something about a single cylinder motorcycle that just brings the true essence of motorcycling out. It is a simple machine, especially if it is a kickstart only model. Singles are a motorcycle that you actually ‘feel’, they haven’t been built to sewing machine smoothness that separate you from its soul. A single doesn’t have a high RPM whine, it has a bark!
Pushing a button on the handlebar while you finish your latte’ doesn’t come close to finishing your basic black coffee in a heavy, white diner style mug then throwing a leg over your motorbike, swing the kickstart lever out, slowly rotate the lever until the piston comes up to TDC, then…one strong swift kick on the lever and the bike wakes up with a bark…and so do your neighbors.
British singles generally define what a single is. It is a bit cobby, it is powerful and it is a pain in the ass to start…until you learn the secret handshake. Over the years more races have won on British singles than any other motorcycle (that is a statement that I cannot verify, but I think is probably quite true). British singles ruled off-road racing up into the 1970′s when the Japanese and European two strokes took over. British singles ruled road racing as well from the beginning of the century until the 1960′s.
The BSA singles are actually a development of the original Edward Turner designed 150cc Triumph Terrier, which soon later became the 200cc Triumph Cub, a great selling, solid reliable little motorcycle. I imagine that more than one great British racer cut his teeth on a Cub. In 1958 BSA brought the C15 250cc then bumped it up to 343cc. The C15 Scrambler was the basis for the bike that Jeff Smith eventually won two 500cc World Championships on in 1964 and 1965 (at that time it been bumped up again to 441cc).
The BSA single did have its flaws as it grew but by 1969 BSA had sorted out most of them. Early problems with lower end bearings and the transmission/clutch and electronics (even though they were still Lucas..aka the ‘Price of Darkness) were somewhat solved. The ignition went to a battery and coil system, which was blasphemy to purists but much better for everyday riders, and the compression ratio was lowered to take the strain off the bearings and make the bike easier to start. again, all to make the bike a better bike for the general public.
I have owned a BSA single (a C15), ridden quite a few Gold Stars (my absolute favorite) and my good friend Tad still rides his B50 (quasi) Cafe Racer on a regular basis. BSA singles, to me, are the epitome of the British motorcycle industry through the ‘Golden Age’.
I found a ‘diamond in the rough’ BSA single on ebay today that with a bit of love could be a true treasure. This 1969 B44 Victor has been sitting for decades and it shows. But…that is not necessarily a bad thing. The seat is way wrong and the gas tank seems to be from maybe a Triumph Trident? Wherever it came from, I think it’s wrong, but it may work if you get the right seat. The seller says it kicks through with good compression and most all the parts are there. This would be a great winter project that will provide huge riding rewards come spring time.
Singles are without a doubt the most fun motorcycles to ride. A single is light, narrow and they almost know where to go before you do. A single has a soul that was born before your great, great grand daddy. This one I found on ebay may not be perfect today, but it can be without too much investment of time or money. Just make sure you paint it properly (it’s pretty damn ugly right now).
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
Starting a racing career in the California deserts in the 1960′s was great! These were the days that on the starting line were legendary names…Bultaco, CZ, Maico, Husqvarna, Ossa, Penton, Sachs, DKW, Zundapp and probably a half dozen others that I can’t remember right now. But, also were the heavy weights…Triumph, BSA, Norton, even Harley Davidson (yes, the big motors, not the little Italian jobs, even though there were plenty of them as well) and believe it or not once in a while a BMW?! The Japanese were making serious inroads into off-road competition as well, I rode a Honda SL350 for two years in Enduro’s and desert races. And then to add even more fun to these event were the ‘sidehack’ racers. Talk about nutballs!?
This was a period in time where innovation and experimentation ruled in motorcycling. Off-road racing had the Rickman brothers and Eric Cheney building better chassis’ than the OEM, Flat Track had Champion and Track Master, Road racing had their fair share of custom builders as well. This was a time to take a good motor and make it handle better. This may not be considered the ‘Golden Age’ of motorcycling to some, but to my generation, yeah, it was.
I found a cool Cheney Racing framed Triumph on ebay today and it got me to thinking and remembering…and doing a bit of research. My step-dad’s best friend Stan Hughes had a really cool Cheney/BSA single that I thought was the hardest motorcycle in the world to start, I think I’m still right on that one (but I did learn the secret to easier starting…a few years later). I never got to ride the bike very far but I do remember how good it felt. Everything seemed to just fall into place (ergonomics) and the bike steered with almost no effort. And, on top of all that it was beautiful.
There is a good amount of Eric Cheney’s history on the web, he built the frame for British MX Champ John Banks’ BSA, he developed ISDT (International Six Day Trials) for Triumph from 1968-71 and many other racers. Most of his frames were built around the BSA Singles of the time but also built kits for the Triumph twins. A Cheney framed bike was a prized possession.
Eric passed away a few years ago and his son took over the business. You can still get a Cheney frame built to your specs! How cool is that!
The bike I found on ebay is in very good condition, I don’t think it runs but the seller believes it’s an easy fix to get it going (weak spark…Lucas electrics?). If you want an interesting vintage off roader this is a good choice. And the Triumph 500 motor is a blast to ride!
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
In 1969 BSA commanded 80% of all the Brit bikes sold here in the USA. Eighty Percent! Who woulda thunk? I, and I think most of us, would have pegged Triumph as the leader but not so say the statistics. What was it about BSA that made it that strong a seller in a time when the Japanese manufacturers were dominating the market? Was it styling? No. Was it performance? No. Was it reliability? Certainly not. So what was it?
Let’s find a bit of perspective here. BSA may have had 80% of the British bike sales here in the states but ‘Made in England’ motorcycles constituted a very small percentage of the total bikes sold here. So small that within a decade, they were all gone from the US market.
From the late 1950’s through the mid 60’s, the British were competing with the very popular Harley Davidson Sportster in the performance category. The Sportster was Harley’s ‘sportbike’, it had a slight horsepower advantage, it had a new look (the peanut tank was quite stylish then), it had the Harley sound and, of course, it had the advantage of being made in the USA. BSA, Triumph and Norton all were better handling motorcycles but back then, straight line speed was king, not the ability to go around corners fast.
Each of the big three from the UK tried styling mods to attract the American market, Triumph with the X75 Hurricane, Norton tried (and miserably failed) with their Hi-Rider chopper model and BSA tried with…well, nothing. Sure, BSA tried a few styling changes like a smaller slimmer tank, the oil in the frame design (which nobody was really happy about), and of course the ray-gun mufflers of the Rocket 3. Personally, I love the ray-gun mufflers but at the time they went over like a fart in church. Anyway, the Brits just faded away into the sunset. Today, Triumph is back in a big way and Norton is getting set to comeback this year with a new Commando and it is beautiful. I hope it succeeds.
I started my street bike life aboard a BSA so the brand has a certain spot in my heart that will never go away. Yes, it stranded me more than once with faulty electric’s, and yes, it leaked more oil in a month than any Japanese bike I’ve ever owned did in a lifetime. It could be a bit (?) temperamental when it came to starting in the morning (or when it was hot and the bike didn’t feel like going anywhere), and it could vibrate the fillings out of my teeth if the carbs weren’t balanced properly, but…when everything was working as it was supposed to, what a joy it was to ride that Beezer. I was raised to ride the canyon roads, to believe in handling over horsepower, and the sound coming from a parallel twin was the sweetest sound in motorcycling.
At one point in time (actually a couple of times) the Japanese manufactures realized that there was something about the British bikes that still captivated the American buyer. Yamaha did great with the XS650, designed to compete with the Triumph, Kawasaki brought out the W650 to head to head with the BSA and Honda tried with the GB500 single. The only one that succeeded over the long run was the Yamaha. Today, the Triumph Bonneville is a huge success because it looks like a proper English motorbike without the oil puddle underneath it.
Lately I have been thinning the herd of bikes in my barn and am starting to look for a new adventure…once I have finished the other four projects I have going, and am being drawn towards a BSA 650. I’m actually looking for one of the last designs more than the old chrome tank styles, mainly because I think they are probably going to be cheaper on the market(?). Today on ebay I found one that might just fit the bill.
On ebay today, there is a 1969 BSA A65 that has been set up for vintage roadracing. Remember, the A65 was BSA’s ‘roadracer for the street’. The A65 put out a very respectable 54HP and would top out at around 105MPH. This particular bike has been upgraded with Marzocchi forks, more modern rear shocks, and a Suzuki twin leading shoe front brake, which was a very good upgrade from the standard brake the BSA had at the time. The motor has been given some extra muscle by way of a 750cc kit But, here is the cool thing about this bike, it can easily be retrofitted with the electric’s to power a headlight, tail light and blinkers so you have a perfect cafe racer with almost no effort! The seller says that it does need some carb work but that’s no big deal. This could be a very sweet Sunday rider. Oh yeah, you may want to add some sort of small mufflers on, JC Whitney has a couple of styles that would look just fine and still let you have that sweet English parallel Twin sound.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info.
British singles, I love ‘em. I’m not talking about the ones on match.com.uk, well, some of those are quite attractive as well but I’m talking about motorcycles. I have owned one that was stolen out of my garage, I have ridden a few that I was loaned and I believe that the British Single cylinder racing motorcycle is truly the epitome ‘Golden Era’ of motorbike racing.
As I look back on my years of riding and racing, most of the memories that are truly embedded in my brain are on big singles. Desert racing on a BSA 441, vintage roadracing on a BSA Gold Star and a Honda Ascot. I have a Yamaha SRX 600 in my shop waiting for its turn.
Single cylinder motorbikes have a look, sound and feel that can’t be matched by any other bike. You feel and hear everything. Singles handle like no other…light steering, low center of gravity, narrow enough for you to just tuck into, and because of all that, you and your motorbike become one. The engine vibrates enough to let that it’s alive, and the sound is pure music. I love singles.
Today on ebay I found a really nice 1956 B33. It’s a 500 single bred out of the very successful B31 350. These are not the high-bred Gold Stars, these are the more pedestrian ride it to work, take the wife for a Sunday morning ride or even attach a sidecar to it kind of bike. The B33 was just a good solid reliable motorbike…Cycle Magazine called it, “the poor mans ‘Gold Star’”. Good handling, easy starting and smooth riding. When magazines tested the B33 it was good for about 90mph. Truth be told, I would feel very uneasy riding one of these at those speeds…I have been on a Gold Star at about that speed and had to check my underwear when I stopped.
The bike I found today is a very nice example of a bike you could buy and go riding this weekend. This B33 has a bit over 43K miles on the clock but is a solid runner according to the seller. The bike looks its age and that’s just fine. This will be a wonderful bike to have and ride, classic style and sound. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. Owning a classic British single cylinder motorbike is something every true motorcyclist should do at least once.
Getting thrown over the handlebars while trying to kick start your motorcycle is never fun. Kicking and kicking and kicking until all you can do is either fall down in exhaustion and frustration or hoping a willing (but no so smart) friend will take over the kicking. Welcome the world of big BSA single cylinder motorbikes. OK, I’m exaggerating a little, but not by much. The big BSA’s are tough to start, until you learn the trick and then one, maybe two kicks and you are off riding one the most fun big bore bikes ever made.
I have owned a couple of the BSA singles, a C15 and a 441 Victor. The C15 was a project bike that got stolen out of my garage and the 441 was sold after a short time because I was told I had too many motorcycles (wife at the time was unhappy that she couldn’t park her car in the garage?). I got the Victor in good shape and it took very little to get it into great riding shape…however, I couldn’t ride it until I learned to start it! After suffering a nearly broken ankle, a really sore foot, a throbbing knee and a lifetimes worth of frustration, I got my next door neighbor to help me bump start it.
Running start,2nd gear, dump the clutch…nothing except a short skid mark on the street. Try again, this time in 3rd gear…same skid mark. Ok, one last time…running start, 4th gear, pop the clutch…BOOM!!! I was so shocked it started I almost stalled it! I rode up the street and back laughing all the time, I LOVED IT!! Out of common courtesy, and a sense of obligation, I let my neighbor, who pushed me up and down the street many times, take the bike for a ride…he stalled it a block and a half away. He leaned up against a tree and walked back. We were back to pushing the bike, this time a block and a half. It was time to learn how to start this beast.
My next day off, I made a trip over to my friendly Brit Bike mechanic with the bike in the back of the truck hoping to get a lesson on how to start the B50. When I arrived and told Jack my story he chuckled for a moment, climbed up into the truck bed, onto the bike and two kicks later had the B50 barking happily. “How in the hell did he do that?” A five minute lesson later and I could start the big single with no problem. But could I do it at home when the bike is cold? A couple of hours later I tried ‘the technique’ and the BSA fired up on the second kick!
The next Sunday I had off I headed to Texas Canyon with my friend Tim, he on his CZ and me on the BSA. We rode through two tanks of gas each and I had so much fun on that Beezer. It has the torque of a locomotive, it actually handled well, and the sounds that big single made, well, set me off on a lifetime of loving big single cylinder motorcycles.
There is a lot of great history with the BSA B50 MX, it was the last of the big bore singles from England, it actually grew out of the C15 250, as a matter of fact, the chassis was the 250 chassis and they just stuffed the 500 in there…that’s why it is as light and nimble as it is for a big bike. Then there are the Cheney designs.
Eric Cheney, a successful racer in his own right, designed a chassis to work better than the BSA stocker for the British ISDT team, and the race winning B50 for John Banks and the BSA B50 that held the record for its class at the Isle of Mann TT. Interesting little tid bit here regarding Eric Cheney, he had no formal engineering education, he used to design frames in chalk on his workshop wall, ingenuity at it’s best. In 1973 production of the B50 ended, there were a few left overs that were rebadged as Triumphs and sold as 1974 models.
Today I found a really nice B50MX that if you are interested in vintage motocross on a classic four stroke this a perfect motorcycle for you. This particular bike was stored for a long time, it looks great, was serviced just this last October. It is a good runner and if you want to learn the secret to starting this beast without getting tossed over the handlebars, there is a great video on YouTube…the bike is well worth learning how to start…it is a blast to ride. Whack open the throttle in any gear and the front end comes up and the rooster tail you’re throwing…I pity the guy behind you!
Click on the pics below for more info about this bike and more pictures.
I have a very good friend who lives and breathes Norton motorcycles, well, he lives and breathes all kinds of motorcycles but Norton’s are his first love. He has taken a 1959 Norton to the Bonneville Salt Flats and set a land speed record, built a Bonneville Streamliner powered by a Norton motor and has roadraced Norton’s for the past three decades. In his work shop are the aforementioned Norton’s plus a couple more, one being a 350cc International (it happens to be in a variety of boxes at this time however). He does have plans to get it all back together someday but in reality, he has about a half-dozen other project bikes that are little higher on the list, so the International sits lonely and looking for some love. Sigh.
The Norton International has a great history. Built from 1931 to 1957, with a short break during a little thing called World War 2. When production resumed in 1947 they went back to the iron head motor instead of the pre war alloy ‘race’ model, but they did make a slight change to the suspension. The rear end was still using the older type ‘plunger’ suspenders but the front got Norton’s new hydraulic ‘Roadholder’ forks to replace the girder front end. The bike handled so much better.
The International had a great racing history throughout the 1930′s but by time the late 1940′s and early 1950′s the International was being out paced by the BSA Gold Star’s and Norton’s own Manx. Though the engine did get the pre-war upgrade back to the alloy head and barrel in the early 50′s, the biggest improvement was the ‘Featherbed’ frame in 1953. Sadly, this is one of those cases of too little, too late. The bigger faster twins were leading in every aspect of the motorcycling marketplace and the simple single cylinder motorbikes were becoming dinosaurs.
Being a lover of singles, I have a couple buried somewhere in the barn…actually one is on the lift being brought back from the dead at this time, I am always on the look out for parts and bikes. Today on ebay I found a very nice 1947 (the first year back in production after the war) Norton International 350 in good condition. Yeah it needs a little love, but what bike this old that hasn’t been totally restored doesn’t.
The great thing about vintage motorcycles is seeing their life in the oil mist on the frame, the shoddy electrics and then spending time making back to what it was and then riding it. The seller says that all it needs is a battery? You might want to put a bit more effort into it. The price is a little up there but you know what, if you would like to own a great piece of British motorcycling history this is a great bike to have.
Click on the pic’s below for more pictures and a little info.
First and foremost, any bike that Dick Mann has touched is worth its weight in..gold?, titanium?, chromoly? Doesn’t matter, its going to be a great bike.
In 1970 something, I had a father in law that loved Yamaha’s. In his garage sat an RD350, an R5, a DT1, and an XS650. He never rode the R5 or the XS650, but truly loved his RD350 and the DT1. The XS was too heavy and the R5 wasn’t the RD. Ah well, there is no training some people.
One day while working as a lot monkey at Bobby J’s Yamaha in Albuquerque, this guy rides in on a Yamaha TT500 that didn’t look like any TT500 I had seen. Tank was right, seat was right, side panels right, it was a TT motor but something was different. I called my father in law (never a pleasant experience) and asked him to swing by the shop, if he was coming into town, and take a look at this bike.
Jay showed up a couple of hours later, looked at the bike, talked to the shop service guy and then left. Didn’t say a word to me…OK, he never liked me anyway because of a ride we took a year or so earlier and I left him in a cloud of Kawasaki H2 two stroke exhaust. Actually, I was so far gone, he only got the slightest whiff of Castrol, but that is an entirely different story for another time.
The TT got its new tires and off it went. Nobody really noticed anything about the bike so I just forgot about it as well.
A month or two later, under great duress, I went over to the outlaws, I mean in-laws, for dinner and was shown the new treasure…a Dick Mann framed Yamaha TT500. It was beautiful. In a moment of lunacy, father in law Jay asked me if I would like to ride it. Let me think about this…I couldn’t grab my helmet fast enough.
The TT was set up dirt only. Fine by me, we lived right next to about five million acres of desert, mountains and riverbeds. I had ridden his old TT500 before and thought it was a street bike dressed up to be an almost dirt bike. Riding the DMS TT500 was a whole new experience. A full tank of gas later I showed up for dinner with a huge grin on my face and looking for a pen and paper to get Mr. Mann’s phone number.
So, what has this got to do with the BSA Scrambler on e-bay? Almost everything…I’ll go back to the opening line here…”Anything Dick Mann touches is worth it’s weight in gold”. There are very few motorcyclists left that so intimately know how any type of motorcycle be it flat tracker, road racer, moto-crosser, trials or everyday street bike, will ride, Dick Mann is one of those very few.
This BSA is beautiful. The 650 motor is perfect in so many ways and when set into a Dick Mann frame, you now have a motorcycle that will do whatever you want it to do, when you want it to do it and, how you want to it to do it. These motorcycles are truly a riders motorcycle.
This is a motorcycle that right now is a bike that is under valued and I wish I had the money to go get it. Click on the pic’s below for more info.
Everybody that really loves vintage motorcycles needs, at one time or another, to own a classic British Single. The reason I say this is having owned a few, once you own one and if you are smarter than me, you’ll never be tempted to own another. They are difficult, temperamental, a little tough to find parts for and…so much fun to ride. Having spent time (and restored to rideable condition) with a BSA C15, A Gold Star (it wasn’t mine though, sadly), a 441 Victor (which was mine sadly) and a B50 MX (that too was loaned to me by a so-called ‘friend’), I developed an affinity for single cylinder motorcycles. The simplicity, the feel and sound,the uniqueness, and in my opinion the ‘high giggle factor’.
The single cylinder motorcycle has been a mainstay in motorcycling forever. Honda is having great success with the new 2012 CBR250 Single because singles work! Singles may not be the best choice for traveling across the country, though there are those have been brave enough to do it, but for commuting and Sunday rides, a single can’t be beat.
Now, being an old bike guy and enjoying the simplicity of the older bikes, I always look for motorcycles that have an interesting pedigree or history, this particular BSA M20 I found on ebay has both.
Here is the ‘Readers Digest Version’ of the M20′s history. The design started in 1936 primarily as a military side car unit. The M20 was heavy, slow and had less than optimal ground clearance, nonetheless, the British military bought all that BSA could make. The main reason for such support was the reliability of the machine, which at first was a bit dodgey but a few modifications by the factory took care of those issues, and the M20 became the longest serving motorbike in the British military…up until the 1970′s!!?? Want to know how valuable the M20 was?…The main factory was bombed out by the German Air Force, fortunately BSA had a number of other factories so production could continue.
Prior to 1951 the BSA M20 had a girder fork and a rigid rear suspension, after that point, the bike adopted the telescopic forks and plunger rear suspension.
A good number of the military machines were turned over to the civilian market…repainted mostly, but still set up for sidecar usage. These are great motorbikes for someone who is looking for a bike with a history. The M20 was well renowned for being indestructible and easy to start and ride. What more could you ask for?
I found a really nice example this morning on ebay. The owner says it’s a 1953 but someone else who did a bit of research says it is a 1957 based on the motor number. That’s OK, there isn’t any difference. This bike is completely stock and has been sitting for over 35 years in a garage with classic cars in Reno Nevada. No rust and just the right amount of vintage patina. The bike also comes with a box of spare parts. This is really cool motorcycle that you can start down the dark path of British singles with ease. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
There must be something going on in the universe that keeps bringing me these Kawasaki twins. I’ve always liked the KZ750 twin and have developed a great fondness for the W2 models. I’m not going to go into the history of these Kawasaki models because I’ve done that at least twice before. It is a good story, just go back a few postings and you’ll find the story of the Kawasaki 650′s. Contrary to popular belief, they are not just clones of BSA twins of the era. Yes, there are similarities and yes, Kawasaki did have a licensing agreement with the folks at the Birmingham Small Arms company for some designs, but Kawasaki did do some things their own way, especially in the second generation W series motorbikes.
Today I found a very nice W2SS that has a good amount of work done on it and is so far selling for a very reasonable price. The owner found this in a shed 6 years ago and has spent this time bringing it back to life. The motor was torn down and gone through, new bearings, pistons,rings,valve job; the carbs were done, trans and clutch were refurbished, and the front end got new seals. The frame was sandblasted and painted and the tank was also repainted. The seller says the tank paint was purposely distressed to look old? All in all this is a nice example of an interesting motorcycle.
There are a couple of things I would do however. First, upgrade the suspension front and rear, go through the brakes and make sure they are up to spec and put a set of GP Touring bars on. After that, take it for a good long ride. The only question I have is, why is the bike sitting on a lift instead of the side stand?
Click on the pics below for more pictures and a lot more info about this nice old Kawasaki.
I have written before about my fondness for the Triumph Triple, I’ve told stories about my friend Ted Toki and his Trident and I have put quite a few miles on the T160. To this day, I still have a Triumph triple, albeit a more modern version, that I won’t give up for anything.
There is a lot of interesting history that comes with the Trident. This was a motorcycle that while being designed and developed was actually ahead of its time. The design and development started back in 1961. At that time there were single cylinder motorbikes, twins and fours, but no three cylinder models. One of the biggest issues with singles and twins of the era was vibration; bone numbing, eyeball shaking, teeth rattling vibration. Norton attacked the problem by developing the ‘Isolastic’ engine mounting system which really worked quite well. Triumph designers came up with the idea for a three cylinder machine with a unique firing order that would quell the vibrations.
Many people believe that the 750cc Trident was originally designed as a ‘Daytona and a half’ (the Daytona being the 500cc twin), but that’s not true at all, the Trident motor design is unique unto itself, more can be read about that on a number of different Triumph websites.
The Trident was and is a great bike and, if all had gone according to plan, it truly would have been the first multi-cylinder superbike on the market, but…squabbling and internal politics slowed bringing the bike to market. This was at a time when Triumph and BSA were living under one corporate umbrella and sharing a lot of the resources. Again there is a lot of interesting information about this time in British bike history out there. One of the things that I found most interesting, even back when I was riding a Trident, was that most people thought that the BSA Rocket 3 and the Trident were the same bike, just badged differently…au contraire. They are very different motorcycles. Now, originally they were supposed to be the same bike rebadged and with a few other minor changes to differentiate the two, but the boys at Small Heath (BSA’s home) didn’t like that idea and wanted something they could call their own and that’s when everything started slowing down.
We have all heard the expression that goes something like ‘there’s nothing sadder than unfulfilled potential’ well, the Trident is one of the great examples of that saying in the motorcycling world. Because of the internal politics causing the bike to be a year late in being brought to market, Honda trumped the Brit’s with the much more sophisticated and, less expensive, 1969 CB750 four cylinder machine. And, on top of that, the first year Trident was probably one of the ugliest motorcycles ever built…period. The design team apparently spent way more time at the pub than they did in the design studio. The slab sided gas tank caused the new Trident to be dubbed the ‘shoebox’ tank design. The mufflers were also derided, called the ‘Ray gun mufflers’ or the ‘Flash Gordon’ mufflers, now, some may call them ugly but I love ‘em and on top of that, they actually gave the engine better performance than the models that followed.
Fast forward a couple of years and BSA goes belly up and Triumph forges on. The Trident continues for few years getting better and better, but is way behind the Japanese Superbikes. The Triumph handled better, and Meriden went back to traditional styling for the Trident. Now, here is a bit of irony for you…BSA didn’t want a rebadged Triumph for their triple, but when they went under there were still a lot of the BSA engines lying around and Triumph feeling the need to do something unique to try to capture some of the US market with the Trident, brought in designer Craig Vetter (of Windjammer fairing fame) to design a motorcycle based on the British three cylinder bike. The result was the X75 Hurricane. Less than 2000 of these models were built and here is where the irony comes in…it is a BSA Rocket 3 badged as a Triumph. The X75 Hurricane is currently one of the most sought after bikes amongst collectors and enthusiasts.
All of this brings me to the bike I found on ebay this morning. A 1973 T150 Trident that is mostly all stock and is a good runner. This bike was bought and then taken apart (not down to the engine internals though), gone over, refreshed and put back together. The bike looks good, it has a set of lower bars vs. the ‘buckhorn’ style that would be original. It is a right side shift, proper for a British motorbike, and kick start only. And so far a good value. But there is more to this bike.
This Triumph Trident is being auctioned off to benefit the Jacobs Journey House in Tempe Arizona. Jacobs Journey Ministries provides shelter and help to the homeless and disadvantaged in the Phoenix and Tempe area. Before recommending this bike and where the money will be going I did some research and did find out that these people do good work in their area and are well worth supporting. So…if you are looking for a cool British motorbike, especially a Trident that has been set up nicely and runs good, click on the pics below for more pictures of the bike and the process that Seth went through freshening up the T150 and, a little more info. The ad does not say if it runs but I contacted the builder, Seth, and he assured me that it runs great. And one more thing…whoever wrote the ebay listing is the worst speller I have ever seen…actually, we all got a good chuckle reading the listing. Don’t let that take you away from a bike that can help a lot of people.
There is nothing like a big single to stir your soul. The feel, the sound, the way the motor just pulls away from a corner. Riding a big single cylinder four stroke is addicting. But not for everyone. I happen to be one of the intoxicated ones. I have ridden big BSA singles in the desert, Honda singles on the road race track and tortured my former father-in-law’s Yamaha in the mountains of New Mexico. I love ‘em.
Yamaha, with the XS650, figured out that American’s were in love with British bikes but wanted the Japanese technology, reliability and price. The big singles from the UK were the benchmark; Matchless G50, AJS, Norton Manx and the BSA Gold Star. The most accessible of them all was the Gold Star and that is where Yamaha started.
First came the TT/XT 500′s. We Americans were getting into the big singles, off road, but still hadn’t found the love for them on the street. We were still loving the big twins. Yamaha was happy with the success of the XT series in the US and decided that Europe was ready for a road going model, enter the SR 500. This is a bike that the engineers didn’t really want to build. A couple of years of success in Europe and the SR was brought stateside.
The SR was born from the XT but there were a lot of differences. The XT was designed for reliability and simplicity; the SR was designed to be comfortable and more importantly, easy to start for the daily rider. The SR was given an electronic ignition vs. points and condenser and a decompression lever at the handlebar. Why not just put an electric starter on the bike? Well, Yamaha wanted a lightweight road going single with good power and plenty of torque so an easy to use kick starter was the the only way to go in their minds.
The kick starting of an SR500 is really quite easy, you hold in the decompressor lever, move the kickstarter just enough to bring the piston up to TDC, which is indicated by a little white line in a window on the top of the motor, then give a good solid kick through and the bike fires right up…a whole lot easier than the Goldie. Trust me on that one.
SR’s are a blast to ride, it did everything Yamaha wanted it to do…except sell well here in the US. It did good in Europe and Asia and in the homeland. They even developed a 400cc version for Japan to meet the demands. The SR only stayed in our market for a few short years.
So, while looking for parts on ebay for my own Yamaha single project, an SRX, I found this really sweet SR500. Low miles, stock condition and in generally really good shape. I gotta tell ya, for the money I’m putting into my SRX, I could fly over to Arizona, buy this SR, ride it home, stopping to gamble a bit in Laughlin (it’s a big single…I’m not crazy enough to try and ride it all the way home in one trip…) and still have money in the bank! This is a great buy for someone looking for a unique and wonderful motorcycle that is ready to ride now.
From the March 1980 Cycle World review, “For those that accept the SR500 for what it is, the rewards are worth the effort. For them, this is the most satisfying bike on the market”
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info. And another cool thing about this particular bike is that it comes with the manuals and the original bill of sale. It’s also a great deal.
Sometimes a bike becomes a classic because it is rare, or unique or just plain weird. Other times a bike becomes a classic just because. The Kawasaki W2 650 Commander is one of those motorcycles. The Kawasaki Twin has an interesting history.
Most people will say that all Kawasaki did was copy the BSA A7. That’s kind of true but the story starts before then. The Kawasaki twin started life as a Meguro 500cc OHV twin in 1954. It was a good motorcycle by standards of the time and place. In 1959 Meguro brought out the K1 model which pretty much was a copy of the BSA A7, BSA gave Meguro a license to copy it because they were going to discontinue the model anyway. Easy.
Kawasaki enters the picture in 1960 acquiring Meguro and the license to build the motorcycles. 1962 saw the first motorcycles to roll of the assembly line wearing the Kawasaki tank badge. Kawasaki upgraded the twin to 624cc’s in 1965 with the new W1 series motorcycles. At the time everybody was saying that Kawasaki had copied BSA’s A10 model and in some ways maybe so but there was one very distinct difference between the Kawasaki and its British counterpart. The BSA motor was a long stroke motor while the Kawasaki utilized a short stroke design. The short stroke allowed the Kawasaki to rev up quicker than the BSA and was actually a bit faster. However, the main problem with the Kawasaki was vibration, it would shake the fillings right out of your teeth.
1968 saw the new and improved W2 SS Commander model make it’s debut. A number of the shortcomings of the W! had been addressed and the W2 was a much better motorcycle. It was also the largest motorcycle being built in Japan.
The big twin only lasted a short while as Kawasaki turned its technological eye to the two stroke motor. The blisteringly fast 500 H1 Triple came out in 1969 and ended (for a short while) the Kawasaki four strokes.
So, in my daily cruise of ebay I came across a 1969 W2 Commander 650 that needs a new home and some love. It is in decent condition overall, seems like most all the parts are there and whatever is missing is probably not too hard to find as there are a number of good web groups, forums and parts suppliers out there that cater to this model. The bike has a little under 15K miles on the clock which isn’t too bad and I think with some clean up this is a pretty easy resto project. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
Little side note here, the W2 was in reality a very good motorcycle at the time and in the late 1990′s when there seemed to be a resurgence of classic styled motorcycles, Kawasaki brought it back…in an updated form of course. The motor was now a long stroke motor that gave it more of a sound and feel of the British twins that it was emulating, but now the cams were bevel gear driven similar to earlier Ducati motors. The downside to this story is that Triumph brought the ‘new’ Bonneville. The classic British twin was back. Everybody loved the new Bonnie and the Kawasaki W650 was only on the market here for 1999 and 2000. What I find so interesting in that story is that most moto-journalists actually thought that the Kawasaki actually out ‘Triumphed’ the Triumph. The W650 in its latest form was actually the better motorcycle…and from having put miles on both, I too found the Kawasaki the better ride. This coming from a die-hard Brit bike lover.
Anyway, check out this W2 Commander, should be a really fun and not too much work project to get you a very cool ride for the summer.
Yes, BSA goes everywhere, including war. During the ‘Big One’ World War Two, motorcycles were a huge part of getting information and people around. The three great forces…Germany, Britain and America brought their motorcycles. Germany the BMW, America the Harley Davidson and Britain brought the BSA. Most all were side car units and extremely utilitarian. The motorcycle had to be strong (if you think the potholes on your local roads are bad, think about roads that have giant bomb holes!!!), reliable… (I don’t think the Auto Club would come to your rescue at that time and place), and be able carry a couple of soldiers, a machine gun or two and a bunch of hand grenades. These were sturdy motorcycles.
BSA first presented the M20 to the British war department and it was turned down. The BSA didn’t pass the durability test. After a few modifications the M20 was deemed sufficient. Yes it was slow, heavy and lacking in ground clearance, but it was durable and easy to maintain. The M20 was a simple 469cc side valve single cylinder motorbike that put out only 13 horsepower but mountains of torque, important when hauling a fully loaded sidecar or when traversing the mountains. The M20 motor was a very low compression unit because it often ran on very low grade fuel. It’s interesting that a motorbike that was at first deemed unacceptable became the widely used unit in the British military, over 126,000 M20 were in service during the war. The M20 was particularly useful in the North Africa campaign. The M20 was considered the true war horse of the second world war. The M20 has a great war history and there are great number of websites that tell the story so well.
After the war the M20 was kept in production for a number of years being ‘civilianized’. Because so many were built and maintained by the British military there are still many alive and rolling today, however few are still in military trim. I found one.
I found a really nice 1942 model M20 on ebay this morning, which is why I spent the time learning about it. The owner of this particular bike gives virtually no information about the bike except for ‘good condition, slight wear on the seat and original saddlebags’. There are a couple of phone numbers if you have questions…like, does it run?
Anyway, if you are a military buff and need a motorcycle that suits your style, this is a great choice. There is a lot of information available out there if you need to work on it. Click on the pics below for the contact info.
At some point in life every true motorcycle lover needs to submit to the love, joy and punishment of owning a classic British single. I know. My step father and his friends corrupted me from an early age. Triumph Tiger Cubs, BSA Gold Star’s and the “your’e trying to kill me” BSA B50MX. That’s how I ended up starting my singles building and racing career on a BSA C15.
As I matured (read, grew older) I wanted something more exotic, maybe something Italian? I looked at Ducati and Moto Guzzi singles but they were way out of my budget. Maybe an Italian Harley/Aermacchi Sprint? Yeah, I still want one. Japanese singles…been there, raced them and crashed them. So, it’s back to my long time love, the classic British one lunger.
AJS, Matchless, Norton, BSA, Triumph, Vincent???…Matchless wins. There is so much to the Matchless history that why wouldn’t you want one? The racing history of the big singles…1907, the first Single to win the Isle Of Man TT with an average speed of, hold your breath here…38mph. There is so much more.
A quick history here. Matchless started back in 1899, actual production in 1901. They continued until 1966. Matchless motorcycle engines powered the Morgan 3 Wheel car back in 1933 (just a fun little tid bit). Matchless was one of the first motorcycle builders to incorporate the swinging arm rear suspension and in 1941 brought out the ‘Teledraulic’ front forks. Both significant steps in motorcycle design.
1938 Matchless joined forces with AJS to form AMC (Associated Motorcycle Manufacturing).That continued into the late 60′s and early 70′s as all the British motorcycle builders were joining efforts to combat the Japanese invasion. In the end, only one was left standing, well…kind of, Triumph.
Matchless motorcycles have a mystique about them that other British makes haven’t been able to meet over the years. The legendary G50 that raced successfully for decades, The G80…Matchless’ legend is exactly that. There is the racing history in all it’s forms…roadracing, scrambles, trials, there is nowhere Matchless hasn’t left it’s mark. And I don’t mean a puddle of oil underneath the bike, which probably will be there. It is English.
So, this morning I found this really nice Matchless 250 on ebay that I thought would be a great bike for someone to start their path into the world of British single cylinder motorcycles. It’s in great condition, a good runner and reasonably priced. Click on the pictures below for more info and more pictures.
I had a C15 back in the early 1980′s. However, Someone decided that they liked it more than I did. Yes, it was stolen…right out from under my nose. No kidding.
In 1983 I was working on my ’74 Chevy Nova out in the garage when the ‘it’s lunchtime’ alarm went off in my stomach. Off to the kitchen I went, made some lunch, probably a tuna sandwich and whatever less than healthy food (beer) I could find. Twenty minutes later I walked back out into the garage and noticed that something was a bit different…where is my H2 and where is the old BSA?
Within that 20 minutes somebody decided they liked my motorcycles more than I did. Needless to say I was way pissed off and depressed at the same time. Think about it…I had bought all kinds of parts to restore the C15 and the slime balls that stole the bike didn’t even bother to take the parts that go with it…idiot’s. If you’re going to steal something, at least get all the parts that make it valuable.
So, in my daily peruse of ebay, I find a nice little C15 that mine may have become. It’s got a few flaws but hey, don’t most of us and our motorcycles? This particular C15 is a good runner, it has just been serviced (?), and considering it has been sitting for about 3 decades (thirty years for those of you are that are a bit math challenged), that is a good thing. This little 250 will just chuff along the road, but when that road gets tight and twisty this bike bike becomes way fun. Really, put on a classic old style helmet, your best old school leather jacket (no body armor, ventilation or logo’s all over it) and just motor past big bore bikes that are struggling to slow down before the corner, and you’re doing it with pure class.
The seller has put into his listing some cool pic’s from the era…if you haven’t seen the movie ‘Quadrephenia’, go rent it. It’s a great period piece and a great story.
I like this little bike a lot. There are plenty of resources for parts, remember, a lot of the parts you may need are also available as Triumph Cub parts. The airscoop on the front brake is nice, the tail light is unique and the seat is not the regular seat, but it does work with this bike. The price is so far pretty reasonable and should stay that way. It is a neat little bike that would be a fun Sunday ride or head off to any “Brit Bike’ ride.
Click on the pics below for more nice pictures and a bit more info.
A what??? What, you don’t know Danuvia?? How about Pannonia? maybe Tunde? What about White? Where have you been? Obviously not in Hungary. This is the beauty of the internet, you can find every unusual piece of equipment ever made. I love finding unique motorcycles and this one certainly qualifies.
These motorcycles were produced in Hungary from 1951 through 1975. They were made by the state owned Csepel manufacturing, sold under a variety of names, Csepel, Danuvia, Pannonia, Tunde, and White here in the United States. These were mostly little two stroke singles and twins. Danuvia actually started as a small arms company, like many other motorcycle builders, BSA being the first that comes to mind. At the time most Eastern Bloc companies were state run and as long as they were making money they kept getting funding from the government. Well, in 1975 Danuvia wasn’t making enough money to satisfy the government so funding was cut off and Danuvia, Pannonia, Tunde and White went the way of the Doh-Doh.
The motorcycles were popular when they first showed up; well built, (by standards of the time and place), affordable, and relatively stylish???
Csepel motorcycles were raced rather successfully in European trials and enduro’s and here in the US, under the White brand, a few did pretty well in Eastern MX races during the early 1960′s. I don’t ever remember seeing one here in the West. Here in the desert the main Euro’s were CZ and Maico but no White’s.
I found this nice little Danuvia 250 located outside of Las Vegas on ebay today and it’s a neat little bike. It has been completely restored to new condition. The owner considers it a piece of art. Ok…? So, if you’re looking for something quite unique to add to your motorcycle collection or put it in your foyer as a welcoming piece of art, this may be a nice little motorbike to have. Click on the pic below to get the contact info for more pictures. The seller doesn’t provide any information so you’ll need to ask some questions on your own. There is a pretty strong network of owners here in the US so you should be able to find out a lot about this bike.
This is what I traded in for a Kawasaki 750 H2 back in 1972. The bike, not the girl. Do I regret the trade? Not in the least. Do I wish I had that old BSA back again? Absolutely. The girl? Probably not. As I have grown older (no wiser, just older), I look back at bikes I have had and wish I had most of them back. I could do without the Bultaco El Bandito I had and certainly the Maico 501 that just about killed me, but most of all the rest, I would still love to be riding.
The Lightning 650 was/is a great motorcycle. At the time, the Triumph Bonneville completely over shadowed the BSA Lightning. The Bonnie was sportier in all respects…lighter, faster, quicker handling and…Steve McQueen rode one. However, in the real world; daily commuting, Sunday rides and cruising the boulevard the BSA was a better ride. The Lightning had been tuned down a bit from the the supersport Thunderbolt. A quieter ride, more mid range power and, believe it or not, less oil leakage…well, for an English motorcycle. Even though the motor had been retuned it would still get you up over 100mph pretty quickly. It did have a tendency to be a little ‘weavey’ at anything above about 85mph but you got used to it. Truthfully, I think it was the stock Dunlop tyres that caused the weave not the bike.
Now, the coolest factor of the Lightning 650…in 1965 it was featured in the James Bond film ‘Thunderball’ ridden by a beautiful woman, not 007.
I found this really nice ’67 Lightning on ebay this morning and it is a good value…so far. It has been repainted, nicely, new tyres, speedo, cables, fuel lines, petcock and a lot more. This would be a great motorbike for somebody wanting to tip their toes into the Brit Bike waters or, if you have a thing for English bikes and want a good rider consider this BSA seriously. Change the bars to a set of GP touring bars and you will love how this bike feels. Trust me on this one, it’s a good bike for the $$$ Click on the pics below for more info.
I have written about these bikes before and every time I see one I want to buy it. There is just something about these Kawasaki Twins that really get me going. I know they’re heavy, kinda slow, don’t handle all that great, but…they really work great.
Kawasaki a couple of times has tried to go toe to toe with the British twins, Triumph and BSA with their W650 and neither time were successful. The first go ’round back in 1966 was a pretty dismal failure, looking more like a BSA 500 twin but performing something more like, well, anything but a BSA 500, it was a sales disaster. Kawasaki made the W1, W2 and W3 versions for a number of years but they never really caught on here in the US.
In the mid 1970′s Kawasaki tried it one more time, but this time instead of trying to mimic the classic British Twin, they opted for a more modern design all the away around. My feeling was that they saw the success of the Yamaha XS650 and said to themselves (in Japanese) hey, if they can do it, we can do it? Hence the KZ750 Twin was born.
The KZ750 is a great platform for just about any kind of riding you want to do. Daily commuter, solo traveler, custom, and of course my favorite way to set up this motorcycle…cafe racer.
The big (by vertical twin standards) handled it’s vibration issues pretty well with a counterbalancer and rubber engine mounts but it is important with this model to keep your carbs in balance. I know some owners that have junked the stock carburetors in favor of a pair of flat slide Mikuni’s and tell me that that one change made the motorcycle come to life. Well, along with a period appropriate Kerker exhaust system…
It’s not a true classic now, but I really do believe that the KZ750 will at some time become a relatively valuable collector bike. I guess that most any old motorcycle will find a niche somewhere at some time…I’m betting on my newly acquired Yamaha SRX to fall into that category?!
I found this very nice KZ750 on ebay this morning and even though the opening value may seem a bit high, I don’t believe it is. It’s a 1978 model B with only 12,000 miles on the clock. It is completely stock except for the mirrors and grips. The chrome and paint are all in excellent condition. This one really nice example of a really good motorcycle for just about any riding you would want to do. My suggestion, place a bid at the last minute, fly out to where the bike is and ride it home. But, winter is coming so do it soon! Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
Now it’s time for me to work on my little SRX…
Now, who wouldn’t feel really cool riding around on a genuine military issue Triumph? I’d love riding around on one of these. My friend Jeff, has a BMW sidecar rig that is about as close to a military rig as they come without being full military. All he needs to make it the real deal is an authentic paint job and a couple of machine guns. Considering what he does for a living and traffic issues, I would imagine the machine guns are a little higher on the priority list than the paint job. And don’t ask me what he does for a living cuz I won’t tell. Well, maybe if you ask real nice…Anyway, there are a lot of riders out there that have great collections of all things military and a Triumph TRW500 would be a perfect addition.
There isn’t a whole lot of information available about the TRW500 out there but there is some. The British military during WW2 knew that a motorcycle was the best way to get around. BSA came up with a bike as did Triumph. Triumph was the winner. Here’s how it worked. The military wanted a sturdy reliable motorbike but it also had to be quiet, better to be sneaky behind enemy lines, the twin that BSA came up with was too noisy as was the basic Triumph twin. Side valve motors were deemed the better choice. Triumph had a prototype ready, they slid it into an existing Trophy 500 frame.
The bike was originally designed in 1943 but it wasn’t put into production until ‘The Big One’ was over?! So as you can imagine, a large portion of the 15,000 or so TRW500′s were just sitting in a warehouse. In 1948 Triumph started selling these military vehicles off to foreign countries. Pakistan, Nigeria and Canada were just a few of the countries buying these bargain basement vehicles. Most of the TRW500′s that you find here in the US of A came out of Canada, probably not too many arrive here from the mountains of Pakistan. The sales of these motorbikes carried on through the early 1960′s.
I found one of these gems on ebay yesterday and it’s a pretty neat bike. It comes with 7278 miles on the clock, and almost all the good military stuff. It just needs the saddlebags. There are a couple of dings on the bike, as any good military bike should have…war wounds is what you would call them and needs a battery. Other than those things it’s a rider. The owner has a video up to show the bike running. This is one of those motorcycles that you can ride to any bike gathering place and be guaranteed you’ll have the most interesting motorbike there.
Now, you may be saying to yourself, “yeah neat bike, but parts for this thing don’t exist”. Wrong World War Two breath! There is a great source of parts for this Triumph, http://www.burtonbikebits.com These guys have a great supply of parts and knowledge available. This really would be a fun motorbike to have.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info. I don’t think the bike comes with machine guns though…sorry Jeff.
Hey, it’s cold outside. And…all those Christmas bills are piling up. Time to unload a motorcycle or two. Each morning after my first cup of tea and the first round of the news cycle, I sit down at my computer, check the racing news, see how my favorite riders are doing in the Dakar Rally, and then cruise through ebay. I need a few parts for my various Cafe Racer projects, the Benelli 250 that I received as a gift the other day, and to see what might be interesting to pass on to you.
This morning I found a bunch of bikes covered in snow. This got me to thinking / questioning, when is the best time to sell a motorcycle? There are a lot of answers to that question and it mostly depends on what kind of motorcycle you are trying to sell. My day job as a motorcycle salesman…one step ahead of a used car salesman and insurance agent…gives me a bit of insight here.
During the winter, the bike (street or dirt) is sitting there, you haven’t ridden it for a while, maybe a long while, and you’re thinking “I gotta pay off Christmas bills” or, “My wife says I have to clean out the garage”, or, “I need more room in my basement for that vintage BSA I want to slide in here without the wife knowing…”. Whatever the reason, this is the second most popular time to sell a motorcycle.
Lets look at this from another angle, the buyers angle. Somebody looking for a motorcycle or a winter motorcycle project sees this as the best time to get a bargain. They’re right…and the seller knows that too. Buyers do have the upper hand this time of year, but that will end in about sixty days. When that first good thaw hits, it becomes a sellers market again. There are some great values out there, now, so this is a great time to buy a snowbound motorcycle. You can pick up that winter project that will keep you from having to watch American Idol or, if you live in an area that is not snowbound you can pick up a cool scoot to ride ride now at a really good price.
So now you’re asking yourself, “if this is the second best time to sell a motorcycle, when is the first?” When the first flowers of spring pop up through the snow and riders get excited about riding again, then my friends the price of that new dream ride of yours just went up a few hundred dollars.
Every now and then I come across a unique motorcycle that I really know nothing about, this Meguro is one of those bikes. It didn’t take a lot of research to realize I knew more than I thought. Meguro Motor Works and Kawasaki Heavy Industries share a life.
Back in the early 1900′s, some say 1909 others 1920, so I feel pretty safe in saying ‘the early 1900′s’, Meguro started building motorcycles in Japan. As time went along, Meguro became the first ‘full’ motorcycle manufacturer. Japanese builders were, for the most part, buying parts from outside sources. Meguro made and assembled all their own parts into motorcycles in house.
At one time in Meguro’s life, it was rumored that BSA in England and Meguro had an agreement to build motorcycles for the British company but those stories have never been confirmed…however, look at the engines of both. The Japanese were well known for copying designs, change the logo’s and you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between a BSA A7 and a Meguro…well from a distance at least.
In 1960 Kawasaki Aircraft bought up Meguro and brought out the W1 650 twin. It was a very good motorcycle for the time and the largest Japanese motorcycle being made. Kawasaki tried bringing it back decades later with no success sadly.
I came across a Meguro 250 cc single this morning on ebay that sent me on about an hours worth of research and curiosity satisfying. It’s an unrestored 1958 S3 250. it is an old bike that has been sitting for decades and it looks it but it doesn’t look bad, just old. The owner doesn’t look at the bike as a rider (after being restored) but more of a museum piece. Me, I would ride it, but that’s just me… you know, ‘ride ‘em, don’t hide ‘em’. It’s a very good motorcycle with a lot of potential, yeah it needs a couple of parts that might be hard to find, but the search would be worth it, and check this out…the bike comes with a spare engine and transmission, cool.Heck, the engine all polished up would make a nice coffee table decoration?! Maybe.
Click on the pic’s below for more pictures, info and a good amount of Meguro history. You know, when I was researching this motorcycle and the company this morning, it was a case of the more I looked the more I got sucked in. I think this bike is going to be a bit pricey but not out of the realm of reality. Give it a look if you’re into rare and unique motorcycles with some history.
Triumph motorcycles have a cool factor that none others have. Take the movie ‘The Wild One’, everyone looks at that movie and thinks of all the bad guys riding Harley Davidson’s… and, at the time Harley did have the ‘bad boy’ image going full speed. The Brit’s however, had more of a ‘poof’ image going for them. Well, Marlon Brando didn’t ride a Harley, he rode a Triumph into Hollister California.
Next, you add the coolest of the cool, Steve McQueen. He rode Triumphs everywhere. Desert racing, on the street and in one of the greatest movies of all time…’The Great Escape’…( I have always wondered why Steve was riding a Triumph and all the German’s were riding BMW’s??? OK, before I get blasted here, I know it was Bud Ekins that did the jump over and into the fence not Steve…). Triumph’s really are cool. You don’t see BSA’s in the movies do you?
I found a great deal (maybe) on ebay this morning for a pair of Triumphs. For very reasonable money you can add two running, nice Triumph’s to your collection, a ’68 Bonneville and a ’69 Trophy. Both appear to be in really good shape, mostly stock, and both have had some service and upgrades done. The Trophy has a sidestand issue, appears the the frame tab is gone or damaged but that is an easy fix. The Bonnie has only 8900 miles, while the Trophy has 18,000 miles on the clock. Hey, I’ve told you before that Trophy’s are the better riders. The seller says that both are currently on the road so that is a good sign. But I wonder…this is a really good deal for two bikes..is there something that the seller is not saying? There are only a few pictures and not much info but you can contact the owner and ask some good questions. If all things check out, this could be your Christmas present to yourself. Click on the pic’s below for a bit more info and the contact. Looks pretty good to me.
Oh, I forgot…the ultimate in cool factor for Triumph…Fonzi jumping over the shark in the TV show Happy Days…just kidding, Triumph got more screen time on Happy Days than anywhere else. I wonder if that helped, or hurt, sales?