The Austel Lotec was the brainchild of British engineer and designer Chris Castell. He developed an entirely unique motorcycle powered by a Mini car engine resulting in a claimed engine life of 300,000 miles, with fuel economy of 90 mpg at 70 mph, and a top speed of 125 mph.
Castell named the motorcycle by combining “Austin” (from Austin Mini) with his own surname, with a dropped second “L”. The Model name “Lotec” is a hat tip to the simple or “low tech” nature of the motorcycle – the design of the Austel Lotec was for a simple machine that would be exceptionally cheap to run and have easy access to inexpensive spare parts from the Mini parts catalogue.
Austel motorcycles were built by Austel Engineering in Maidenhead, England from 1985 to 1991. Customers could choose to buy either a complete motorcycle or a kit which included a reconditioned Mini engine, they could also choose to use their own Mini engine.
Due to the physical size of the engine the resulting motorcycle built around it was quite large at 680 lbs dry, however it was a good cruiser and it proved well-suited to motorcycle sidecar duties under the model name Austel Pullman. Over the course of the 6 year production run just 11 Austel motorcycles were built and the one you see pictured here is believed to be the only solo Austel Lotec ever made – the rest were all sidecar Pullman models.
No article about Austel would ever be complete without mentioning the somewhat unusual looks of the motorcycles themselves. These were not machines penned by classically trained vehicle designers, they were designed by a no-nonsense engineer and as a result they have a no-nonsense appearance that values practicality and function over swooping curves and impeccable lines.
People seem to either love them or hate them, I fall firmly into the former camp but I can never resist the appeal of unusual ugly duckling vehicles with interesting history behind them.
Castell first began designing the Lotec in 1981, he used the Mini engine as a stressed frame member surrounded by a tubular steel chassis. Due to the weight of the bike he designed a set of anti-dive leading-link forks with Koni dampers which were fitted to all Austels, and the bike has a box section swing arm in the rear with twin adjustable shock absorbers.
The Lotec has a large single seat and a traditionally located fuel tank, the bike has angular bodywork which was fashionable in the 1980s in part due to motorcycles the Suzuki Katana, however Castell may have chosen a more angular design as it was far easier to produce than complex curved shapes.
The current owner of the bike explains that due to the engine’s torque you only ever really need to use the 2nd and 4th gears, however the bike retains its full four speed plus reverse automatic gearbox with manual override. Interestingly this Austel Lotec was at the London Motorcycle Museum for many years, this means it will need a full recommissioning before any riding is undertaken.
The team at Bonhams have set a price estimate of £5,000 to £7,000 or approximately $6,600 to $9,200 USD, and you can click here if you’d like to read more about it or register to bid.
Images courtesy of Bonhams
Data sheets courtesy of Red Devil Motors
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