Motorcycles – Silodrome https://silodrome.com Gasoline Culture Thu, 18 Jan 2018 08:11:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 18077751 Death Machines of London Airforce Moto Guzzi https://silodrome.com/death-machines-london-airforce-moto-guzzi/ Tue, 16 Jan 2018 06:00:50 +0000 https://silodrome.com/?p=70311 Death Machines of London Airforce Moto Guzzi

This feature was written by James Hilton, the proprietor of Death Machines of London. When possible we like to give custom builders the opportunity to tell the story of their bike, to give an insight into their thought process and methodology. – Designed in memory of Giovanni Ravelli: WW1 fighter pilot, motorcycle racer, and one of...

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Death Machines of London Airforce Moto Guzzi

This feature was written by James Hilton, the proprietor of Death Machines of London. When possible we like to give custom builders the opportunity to tell the story of their bike, to give an insight into their thought process and methodology.

Designed in memory of Giovanni Ravelli: WW1 fighter pilot, motorcycle racer, and one of the founders of Moto Guzzi. Inspired by one of Giovanni’s biplanes and the Futurist movies of the time, Airforce has been released on the birthday of the aviation pioneer.

From the hand formed bodywork, to the aviation inspired chassis and wheels, Ravelli’s influence has shaped Airforce. In fact, pretty much every design decision began with ‘what would Giovanni do?’.

The Beginnings

The donor motorcycle, a 1982 Moto Guzzi LeMans Mk2, was discovered in a yard in southern Italy, having been involved in an argument with a truck. Left outside, it was quietly corroding away in the sun and salty air.

Despite its condition the potential was obvious and upon delivery back to our works in London, the strip down began. The engine was found to be in remarkable condition, with no major problems discovered. A full forensic inspection, vapour cleaning & reassembly, along with replacement bearings, seals gaskets completed the main engine work. The cylinder heads were subjected to a total refresh, along with our signature gas flowing. Carburation is through a pair of modified 36mm pumper Dell’Orto carburettors. The package is completed with our in-house velocity stacks and open slash cut headers.

Guzzi’s legendary ‘Tonti’ frame works. That is a fact. They handle well, you pick a line and they follow it, so any modification had to be limited. Our ‘what would Giovanni do?’ version of ‘limited’ was to radically modify, in the spirit of those pioneering times of course. Giovanni would have approved. As well as the obligatory de-lugging and subframe modifications, a custom in-house head stock was manufactured, to increase the rake by 3 degrees to 30. The original swing arm was swapped out for a heavily modified Moto Guzzi California swinging arm which was braced and coupled to a mono shock cantilevered system. Not something we’ve seen done before.

The frame and front wheel were then coated in our custom ‘Airforce Grey’, mixed specifically for this project. The wheels are modified California Hubs, laced to 21×3.00 aluminium rims, the rear utilising hand spun aluminium disc covers. Tyres are period Firestone items. The front end is a highly customised Aprillia RS250 arrangement, re-valved and refinished, while the rear suspension unit is an aviation-inspired bespoke item courtesy of Hagon.

Braking is taken care of by a pair of billet four pot Brembo calipers, operated remotely via cable to a Brembo RCS master cylinder. Designed and built in house, the 300mm rotors are one off DMOL designed steel items.

Engineering that has more in common with watchmaking, than with motorcycle building.

All the controls on Airforce are custom-made: clip-on tubes, grips, and internal throttle have all been fabricated in-house with pegs and controls working on modified Stucchi gear change linkage. Airforce also features our first set of completely custom levers: the inverse Lever Type IN01. Precision machined from aviation grade aluminium, the IN01’s will soon be available to buy as a part.

An M-Unit and custom loom controls the machines electric functions, with a single Xenon projector light working both hi and low beam and an LED rear light housed in our custom cluster. The speedometer has been redesigned and precision etched in nickel silver and brass, with dimmable radial illumination through a dedicated controller. Now, we know they didn’t have electric guitars and amps back in Giovanni’s day, but we like to think he’d be into his Foo Fighters, so ignition comes courtesy of a ¼ inch guitar jack with a built in immobiliser proximity sensor. Because hell yeah.

Hand-beaten aluminium bodywork that says one thing: Speed.

And finally to that bodywork. Beaten and welded by the hand of DMOL’s master craftsman, all the panelling has been built using the classic buck technique, where a wood skeleton is wrapped in aluminium – something Giovanni would’ve appreciated. This process, for obvious reasons, leaves imperfections – tiny hammer dents, small weld holes and the like. These are usually covered with filler and paintwork, but instead we chose to leave the metal raw and simply brush it – reminiscent of the WW1 fighter that was our inspiration for the project.

The front fairing slots into the side of the fuel tank, creating uninterrupted flowing lines. The lower concave curve of the fuel tank is mirror polished to reflect the high-gloss paint finish on the inside of the front fairing – the only part of the bodywork that is given this treatment. The bellypan is double-skinned, enclosing the exhaust pipes. Finally, the Italian leather seat features a hand-stitched pattern based on air-flow to enhance the impression of movement.

Airforce was built in 112 days (just in time for BikeShed 2017). So why did we wait so long to tell anyone about it? Because it needed to be better. There were parts we could’ve left alone without anyone noticing, except we noticed. It would’ve been far easier to not remake the belly pan or re-engineer entirely new levers. That would’ve been the easy thing to do. But as Mr. Giovanni Ravelli knew: the meek are seldom remembered.

Airforce is for sale at £70,000.00 – Click here to enquire on Death Machines of London

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About Giovanni Ravelli

14 January 1887 – 11 August 1919
Ravelli and Carlo Guzzi served together as pilots in the Italian Air Corps during WW1, where they met the mechanic Giorgio Parodi and discovered they shared a common passion: motorcycles. They then decided they would start building them together. Unfortunately Ravelli was killed in a test flight accident and never officially joined the company. So to pay tribute to him they set the Airman Eagle as the centrepiece of the logo of their new company, Moto Guzzi.

About Death Machines of London

Founded by designer James Hilton and engineer Ray Petty, Death Machines of London is rapidly making a name for itself as one of the UK’s most innovative automotive design brands. DMOL represents the imaginative application of art and engineering to create beautiful bespoke machinery.

First – The Bike Shed

Photography by Ivo Ivanov

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1962 Norton Petty-Molnar Manx Road Racer https://silodrome.com/norton-petty-molnar-manx/ Thu, 11 Jan 2018 05:00:34 +0000 https://silodrome.com/?p=70035 1962 Norton Petty-Molnar Manx Road Racer

The Norton Manx The Norton Manx is a British single cylinder race bike that had an extraordinarily long competitive life. It’s perhaps the most famous of the dominant British singles from the mid-20th century, and amazingly they’re still being built new by licensed suppliers around the world. The Manx was based on the road-going Norton...

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1962 Norton Petty-Molnar Manx Road Racer

The Norton Manx

The Norton Manx is a British single cylinder race bike that had an extraordinarily long competitive life. It’s perhaps the most famous of the dominant British singles from the mid-20th century, and amazingly they’re still being built new by licensed suppliers around the world.

The Manx was based on the road-going Norton International – a road bike that was built from 1931 to 1958 in various guises (with a production gap in the middle for WWII). The Manx was named for the Manx breed of cat that originated on the Isle of Man, known for its stubby tail, good hunting abilities, and strong, elongated hind legs.

Norton built the Manx in two major variations between 1946 and 1962, and from 1950 the model featured the Norton Featherbed frame – giving it a significant advantage over its rivals. The engine was available in capacities to suit different racing classes – either 350cc or 500cc (actually 348cc and 499cc).

From an engineering perspective the engine was actually quite advanced for the era, it’s a four stroke with bevel gear operated double overhead cams (initially with a SOHC), two valves per cylinder, a single Amal carburetor, and 54 bhp in stock trim.

Today the Manx is remembered as one of the most successful racing motorcycles of all time. From 1931 to 1954 the Norton Manx won all but two of the Senior TT races, and the riders in 2nd and 3rd position on the podium were often fellow Manx riders.

Despite Norton ceasing production of the Manx in 1962, the model has adamantly refused to die. It’s possible today to buy a brand new Norton Manx, made entirely from newly manufactured parts. As a result, the model is a cornerstone of many vintage racing series in their 350cc and 500cc divisions.

Formula 3 and the Triton

Interestingly, Formula 3 regulations from 1950 onwards allowed for engines up to 500cc, and many Norton Manx engines ended up fitted to the back of Cooper F3 cars.

A significant number of brand new Manx motorcycles were bought and stripped for their engines, and may of these rolling chassis ended up being fitted with Triumph parallel twins – creating the Triton.

Ray Petty and the Petty Manx

Ray Petty has perhaps done more than any other person to keep the Manx not only alive, but competitive. Petty designed and built a new frame for the Manx that replaced and improved upon the Featherbed, he also rebuilt engines for more power and better reliability.

Petty-Manx race bikes have won a long list of British Championships, they’ve clocked multiple 100 mph laps at the Isle of Man TT, and they featured prominently in the world championships in the 1960s. Thanks to his work lightening the Manx and extracting more power from its engine, his unique bikes weighed in at approximately 300 lbs dry, and often produced a dyno-tested 60 bhp.

The Molnar Manx

Andy Molnar is the man who carried forward the mantle from men like Ray Petty into the modern age, now making it possible to buy new Manx engines capable of a reliable 60 bhp.

He started producing parts by hand in the early 1990s when he was still an engineering student, and today the company occupies a modern 3,500 square foot factory, using CNC machines and other modern innovations to produce the many parts needed to keep the Manx alive.

The Norton Petty-Molnar Manx Road Racer Shown Here

The Norton you see here is a rare beast, and a testament to the model’s longevity. It uses an original Ray Petty frame (PR93006), and an original Molnar short-stroke engine with a displacement of 519cc (the maximum AHRMA overbore).

The fuel tank is an alloy Manx short-circuit style, there’s a hand-formed alloy seat and tail section, and an aerodynamic fairing. The engineering that went into the engine is a significant step forward from the Norton originals, this bike has a lightweight crankshaft assembly with needle-roller big end, a Carrillo conrod, and a JE forged piston. The valves are titanium with R/D springs and the engine uses a a 1 ½ in. Amal GP carburetor and an electronic PVL magneto built by Brian Richards.

This engine produces 60 bhp at the crank (tested), and is has an upgraded clutch and six-speed TT Industries magnesium-casing gearbox to handle the extra power. Magnesium brakes have been added front and back with a huge Fontana 210 mm up front and Norton conical at back. Handling is further improved with Computrak-tuned Roadholder forks and ultra-light Works Performance shock absorbers.

This is one of the most competitive turn-key Manx racers you’re likely to find anywhere, and if you’d like to join a local vintage racing championship you’ll need to set aside approximately $30,000 USD and make your way to the Bonhams Las Vegas Motorcyle Auction due to be held on the 25th of January.

If you’d like to read more about the bike or register to bid you can click here.

Images courtesy of Bonhams

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A “Shadowized” 1954 Vincent Rapide Series-C https://silodrome.com/vincent-rapide/ Tue, 09 Jan 2018 10:00:56 +0000 https://silodrome.com/?p=70004 A “Shadowized” 1954 Vincent Rapide Series-C

The Vincent V-Twin The Vincent Rapide was the first motorcycle from the Stevenage-based motorcycle manufacturer to be fitted with their new V-twin. This engine is considered by many motorcycle historians to be one of the most beautiful twins of all time, and funnily enough it only came to be because of a coincidence on the...

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A “Shadowized” 1954 Vincent Rapide Series-C

The Vincent V-Twin

The Vincent Rapide was the first motorcycle from the Stevenage-based motorcycle manufacturer to be fitted with their new V-twin. This engine is considered by many motorcycle historians to be one of the most beautiful twins of all time, and funnily enough it only came to be because of a coincidence on the desk of Vincent HRD designer Phil Irving.

Vincent was already producing two single cylinder motorcycles, the Meteor and the Comet. As the story goes, one day Phil Irving noticed that two engine drawings were laying on top of each other in a “V” formation. He immediately realized he could create a V-twin using Meteor barrels, pistons, and heads, and all he would have to do is design a new crankcase.

He created a proof-of-concept drawing, and approached Vincent company founder Phil Vincent, who was immediately enthusiastic about the idea. He’d wanted a more powerful engine for some time, and this new design would save a significant amount of time, money, R&D, and factory tooling.

The Creation of the Vincent Rapide

It only took Australian engineer Phil Irving and his team a matter of a few weeks to create the new crankcase, crank, cams, and other required parts and get a working prototype together. The completed engine was a 998cc 47° V-twin with a bore of 84 mm and stroke of 90 mm, 45 hp, and once installed into the new Vincent Rapide Series A, proved to be capable of 110 mph. A heady speed for 1936.

The outbreak of World War II put a stop to production in 1939, but the Rapide would return to production in heavily revised form as the Vincent Rapide Series B. This new model was vastly different to its predecessor as Irving had had the years of the war to work on its design.

In one of his memoirs he outlined his engineering philosophy by writing “What isn’t present takes up no space, cannot bend, and weighs nothing.” In a way this was an early precursor to Colin Chapman’s favorite quote “Add lightness”.

Irving worked to remove as much weight and complexity as he could from the Rapide design, he changed from pre-unit construction to unit – eliminating the gearbox casing and moving the cogs into the main crankcase (as is now down with modern motorcycles). He designed a box-section steel backbone frame that uses the engine as a stressed member by connecting to both heads as well as the steering head, and rear shock mounts. This UFM (upper frame member) also doubled as the oil tank.

In 1948 the Series C was released, changes were relatively minor, but notably it did get the distinctive new Vincent-designed Girdraulic fork. Although the factory never officially used the model designation Series D it’s become widely used by enthusiasts. These Series D Vincents had modified upper frame members, improved rear suspension, a separate oil tank, and a new rear subframe.

Production of all motorcycles stopped in 1955. The post-war austerity had dried up the market for high-end performance motorcycles, but the brand would live on and their race bikes would remain competitive for decades – thanks to engineers like Fritz Egli and Patrick Godet.

The Shadowized 1954 Vincent Rapide Series-C Shown Here

The unusual Vincent you see here is a kind of two wheeled greatest hits album, its engine has been rebuilt to the more powerful Black Shadow specification, and it’s wearing a Comet front end.

Some Rapides underwent engine rebuilds to further improve performance, and this engine had the work done using solely OEM parts. The significant new hardware fitted were high-compression pistons, and 1-1/8 inch bore Amal carburetors (as opposed to the original 1-1/16 inch).

These changes took power from 45 hp to 55 hp – likely meaning that it would be possible to ride it fast enough to move the speedometer needle close to the final mark on the gauge – 125 mph.

The Vincent is going to be offered by Bonhams at the Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction on the 25th of January. The estimated value is between $70,000 and $85,000 USD, if you’d like to read more or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing.

Images courtesy of Bonhams

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1966 Norton Atlas Cafe Racer https://silodrome.com/norton-atlas-cafe-racer/ Mon, 08 Jan 2018 10:00:01 +0000 https://silodrome.com/?p=69960 1966 Norton Atlas Cafe Racer

The Norton Atlas was released in 1962 as the replacement for the venerable Norton Dominator. British motorcycle manufacturers were all targeting the colossal American market, typically by appealing to their love of power and speed.

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1966 Norton Atlas Cafe Racer

The Norton Atlas

The Norton Atlas was released in 1962 as the replacement for the venerable Norton Dominator. British motorcycle manufacturers were all targeting the colossal American market at the time, typically by appealing to their love of power and speed.

With this in mind, the engineers at Norton set about increasing the capacity of their famous parallel twin from 650cc to 750cc (actually 745cc) – a significant increase over the volume it started out at back in 1949 – at just 497cc. In 1973 Norton would increase it one more time to 838cc (referred to as 850), and private tuning companies would go even further, boosting it to 920cc and from there up to over 1000cc.

In some respects, the Norton Atlas was a motorcycle in the Goldilocks-zone. It was fitted with Norton’s famous parallel twin bolted to Norton’s legendary Featherbed frame – almost certainly the most famous motorcycle chassis of all time, even today many decades later it’s still in production with small specialist companies around the world.

When it was introduced the Atlas was fitted with almost all the parts Norton had on hand, including the aforementioned engine and Featherbed frame. Up front there was a pair of Roadholder forks, the rear was held aloft on a set of adjustable Girling shocks, the front and rear drum brakes were sourced from the Dominator parts catalogue, along with the fuel tank, oil tank, and gearbox. The phrase “better the devil you know” largely ruled the British motorcycle industry at the time, particularly as funding for new designs was hard to come by.

The 59 Club and the Cafe Racer

In 1959 the 59 Club had sprung into being, popularizing the cafe racer motorcycle genre, named because the riders based themselves at the famous Ace Cafe in-between illegal road races – a humble transport cafe in Stonebridge, north-west London that would become a global phenomenon.

The term cafe racer doesn’t have a list of required features that are set in stone. The styling has changed somewhat over the years, but the original cafe racer motorcycles typically had some variation of the following: clip-on or clubman handlebars, a single seat with a bump stop, a fuel tank with knee indents on either side, no fenders (or minimal fenders), and an engine tuned for speed at the expensive of everything else.

The motorcycle wing of the club had been started by Reverend Bill Shergold at the Eton Mission in London in 1962 – the same year the Norton Atlas was first sold to the public. It’s easy to see that it was almost a foregone conclusion that the new, bigger-engined Norton would find its way into the ranks of the Ace Cafe faithful.

The 1966 Norton Atlas Cafe Racer Shown Here

The motorcycle you see here is a very well put together Norton Atlas cafe racer. Many cafe racers of the era used the Featherbed frame, as it was considered the best in England (perhaps even the world) at the time. Some kept the Norton engine in place and some swapped it out for a Triumph parallel twin – creating the “Triton”.

This motor has been rebuilt, with higher-compression Norton Commando pistons and connecting rods for more power. It also has a Tri-Spark ignition fitted for more reliable running and easy starting, as well as a Mikuni VM carburetor – also offering easier starting and more reliable operation.

Importantly, the electrics have been significantly improved with a solid state regulator/rectifier, an updated stator, and a complete harness upgrade to negative earth.

Flanged aluminum rims have been fitted front and back, with new tires and new stainless/nickel spokes and nipples from Buchanan’s. John Tickle headlight ears are installed, along with Buzz Kill custom clip-ons, and Norman Hyde rearsets.

With just 11,350 miles on the clock since the build this Atlas has the overwhelming majority of its life ahead of it. It’s currently for sale on the new motorcycle auction website MotoAuct, and it’s based in Belgium, Wisconsin.

If you’d like to read more or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing.

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Midnight Oil Cycle Co. Honda CX500 https://silodrome.com/midnight-oil-cycle-co-honda-cx500/ Sat, 06 Jan 2018 09:00:05 +0000 https://silodrome.com/?p=69916 Midnight Oil Cycle Co. Honda CX500

The Honda CX500 was a significant departure from the norm for Honda. The Japanese marque had made a name for themselves by introducing the Honda CB750 and creating what would become the Universal Japanese Motorcycle (or UJM) and have its basic layout copied by the other three major Japanese motorcycle manufacturers.

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Midnight Oil Cycle Co. Honda CX500

The Honda CX500

The CX500 was a significant departure from the norm for Honda. The Japanese marque had made a name for themselves by introducing the Honda CB750 and creating what would become the Universal Japanese Motorcycle (or UJM). This basic layout was copied by the other three major Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, becoming the de facto standard for many years.

Honda assigned Shoichiro Irimajiri and his team to the new CX500 project, this was the man who had developed the original Goldwing GL1000 engine, and who would go on to develop the most outlandish four-stroke Honda engine of the era – the inline-6 cylinder CBX.

The Design of the Honda CX500

Shoichiro started the CX500 with a blank slate, the goal was to design a mid-size motorcycle that would be suitable for new riders, but still have appeal to more experienced motorcyclists. The V-twin was chosen as it was thought to be already familiar to most American riders, though Shoichiro’s design had a lot more in common with the V-twins used by Moto Guzzi.

The biggest problem with longitudinally mounting an engine like a V-twin is that the crankshaft generates significant gyroscopic forces that can lean the whole bike over when the throttle is used aggressively. Honda sought to counter this effect by mounting the transmission under the engine, and having it spin in the opposite direction to the crank. It was a clever solution that largely negated the effect, but it did make the engine unusually tall.

The V-angle of the CX500 engine is 80°, and the heads are turned 22° to move the carburetors in-board, so they didn’t interfere with the rider’s knees. Although Honda had made a name for themselves with overhead camshaft motorcycles, they couldn’t make an OHC design work with the CX. The engine was already too high.

The engineers instead used a pair of trusty pushrods (per head) to actuate the forked rocker arms, that each operated two valves each, giving it a total of four valves per cylinder.

The engine was designed as a load-bearing unit, with a steel backbone frame, and the resulting bike had a relatively tight wheelbase due to the shortness of the engine. Up front a pair of standard hydraulic forks were fitted, paired with dual coil-over shocks at the rear.

Unfortunately for Honda, sales of their new model were slow. It was probably due to the unusual looks, though in the years that have passed since the model has developed a cult following around the world. From an engineering perspective they’re excellent bikes, and custom builders have realized that they make an excellent platform for a wide variety of motorcycle styles.

The Midnight Oil Cycle Co. Honda CX500

This build by Chris Benotto and Mike Johnston was created to take the best elements of the CX500 and eliminate any negatives – leaving a bike that even diehard critics of the model can’t help but like.

Chris is the founder of Mightnight Oil Cycle Co., an up and coming motorcycle-based clothing brand with a lifelong love of motorcycle culture. This is his first build – but Mike Johnston, long-time friend and vehicle dynamics engineer at Ford Performance, provided a helping hand.

The build started with a one-owner 1979 Honda CX500 Deluxe that Chris had purchased from the original owner. Once the bike was stripped, the frame was de-tabbed, the front fender was chopped down, a custom rear frame loop was welded in, and the battery box was relocated to a new home under the rear of the engine.

Chris had a very specific idea in mind for what he wanted the bike to look and ride like, and he experimented with a series of finishes and textures before settling on the specific color codes used on the finished bike. The frame, heads, and wheels were finished in gloss black powder coating, high-temperature satin black was used on the engine, and the tank was finished in a contrasting white.

The exhaust was coated with Tungsten Cerakote (used in firearms), and Chris’ brother who’s a woodworker make me a walnut ring to inlay around the ignition. The original electrics were showing their age, so the two men wired in an all-new simplified wiring harness, with new handlebars, and hand controls.

Attention now turned to the engine internals, the top end was refreshed, and the carburetors were re-jetted to suit their new pod filters and custom high-flow 2-into-1 exhaust. The completed bike is notably lighter that its stock starting point, and the engine revs more freely and produces more power thanks to the improvements in breathing and jetting.

If you’d like to see more from Chris and Midnight Oil Cycle Co. you can click here to visit the website.

Images: Ryan Ceshan Photography

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1951 Triumph 6T Thunderbird – Salt Flat Racer https://silodrome.com/triumph-6t-thunderbird/ Fri, 05 Jan 2018 10:00:09 +0000 https://silodrome.com/?p=69879 1951 Triumph 6T Thunderbird – Salt Flat Racer

The Triumph 6T Thunderbird was a British built motorcycle specifically intended for the Americans, who had been asking for more power both for racing, and for sidecar applications. The Brits were the muscle bike kings in the 1940s and 1950s, and the 6T Thunderbird was built to keep that crown firmly in British hands.

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1951 Triumph 6T Thunderbird – Salt Flat Racer

A Brief History of the Triumph 6T Thunderbird

The Triumph 6T Thunderbird was a British-built motorcycle specifically intended for the Americans, who had been asking for more power both for racing, and for sidecar applications. The Brits were the muscle bike kings in the 1940s and 1950s, and the 6T Thunderbird was built to keep that crown firmly in British hands.

Rather than build a new engine from scratch, the engineers at Triumph took the already highly regarded Triumph Speed Twin 500cc engine that had been designed by Edward Turner in 1937 and enlarged the bore. Now with a swept capacity of 650cc and well-understood internals Triumph trusted the bike enough to launch it publicly at the Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry in France.

This autodrome had a regular race track that included a 1.58 mile banked oval that proved popular with speed and endurance testers. Triumph chose the oval for a series of speed and endurance feats for their new Thunderbird to generate publicity for the launch.

A team of factory riders rode three identical Thunderbirds, averaging a speed of 92 mph over a distance of 500 miles (over 316 laps). After this they each managed a single flying lap of over 100 mph, before riding the bikes back to the Triumph factory in England.

Just over 3 years later in 1953 Marlon Brando’s Hollywood film The Wild One was released – in which the Brando rode a 1950 6T Thunderbird. At the time Triumph’s American importers saw this as a disaster, failing to see the potential of the free publicity, and they sent a sternly worded letter to the film’s producers. Fortunately the letter fell on deaf ears.

Over the course of its 1949 to 1966 production run the 6T Thunderbird would see many small updates, but significantly the model moved from pre-unit to unit construction in 1963. The fame and good-will that the 6T Thunderbird acquired for Triumph saw the model name used twice more in the company’s history, though these new motorcycles shared nothing with the original bike other than the nameplate.

The Triumph 6T Thunderbird – Salt Flat Racer Shown Here

Of all the 6T Thunderbirds that were modified for land speed racing and taken to the legendary salt flats in Bonneville, this bike is one of the most famous. Its rider was just 13 years old when he set a 122 mph pass on it in 1953, running on 3×20-inch Avon ‘File Tread’ rear tires, supplied by family friend Rollie Free.

The rider was Robinson ‘Bobby’ Sirkegian, a staggeringly talented multi-discipline motorcycle racer who at 13 become the first AMA/NHRA Grand National Champion. His father ran the Los Angeles dealership, Sirkegian Triumph, and together the father and son team built some of the quickest drag bikes in the state.

Before heading off to Bonneville, a 6t Thunderbird was rebuilt with new pistons and cylinders bored 0.040-over, a big-bearing crankshaft, special-grind Iskenderian camshafts and lifters, lightened, narrowed timing gears, and a flow-benched cylinder head with enlarged intake and exhaust valves.

New S&W valve springs were fitted, along with a special manifold setup for the twin Amal carburetors with GP-type float bowls. Up top they swapped out the original tank for a smaller, lighter 3-gallon unit from Triumph’s 3T model, and a brakeless spool hub was fitted up front.

Although Sirkegian didn’t set any new records, he was given a special award for the being the youngest rider ever on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Approximately 6 years ago, Bobby Sirkegian dusted off his old 6T from Bonneville and began a comprehensive restoration – and after many man-hours he got it back into the condition it was in when it rolled out onto the salt for the first time in 1953.

The bike is still accompanied by the brass SCTA timing tag from his run at Bonneville in 1953, and its due to roll across the auction block on the 25th of January in Las Vegas with Bonhams.

If you’d like to read more about this bike or register to bid you can click here to view the listing.

Images courtesy of Bonhams

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Motoped® Pro https://silodrome.com/motoped-pro/ Fri, 29 Dec 2017 07:00:11 +0000 https://silodrome.com/?p=69616 Motoped® Pro

The Motoped® Pro The Motoped® Pro is the halfway point between a motocross bike and a downhill mountain bike – with the best characteristics of each, and very few drawbacks. Many countries (and US states) will allow motorized bicycles on the street with engine sizes up to 49cc, but once you creep over this capacity you...

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Motoped® Pro

The Motoped® Pro

The Motoped® Pro is the halfway point between a motocross bike and a downhill mountain bike – with the best characteristics of each, and very few drawbacks.

Many countries (and US states) will allow motorized bicycles on the street with engine sizes up to 49cc, but once you creep over this capacity you have to comply with motorcycle licensing restrictions.

The team at Motoped® developed their original model to fit neatly under this common legal restriction, creating what is essentially a motorized mountain bike, with advanced upside down forks, an adjustable monoshock rear end, and a backbone frame that directly connects the steering head and swing arm pivot.

Engine and Suspension Options

The base model comes with a 49cc engine and 6″ of suspension travel, which will be ample for most people, but you can order up to 8″ of suspension travel and you’ll get a sizeable power increase if you tick the option to upgrade to the 125cc engine.

When you order a Motoped® Pro they ask you to choose between the kit build option or fully assembled – kits are popular with those who want to fit their own engines or modify the bikes beyond the original manufacturer’s specification. Most horizontal E-22 (Honda-style) engines up to 155cc will fit the Motoped® frame bolt pattern, and both electric start and kickstart motors are commonly used.

Measurements and Weights

The wet weight of the standard 49cc Motoped® Pro is approximately 120lbs, the seat height is 35” and the wheelbase is 52″. From a size and weight perspective the bikes are well-suited to being transported on rear-mounted automobile bicycle carriers (keeping within the weight limit of course), then used to explore the local area when you get to your destination.

Depending on the engine and the rider’s weight, fuel economy figures of 80 to 130 miles per gallon can be expected – better than most small capacity motorcycles. And additional fuel can be carried in polycarbonate jerry cans or fuel bags for longer journeys.

Uses and Pricing

Should you happen to live in an area where 49cc motorized bicycles are legal, then there are some obvious cost benefits to using it for regular transport. Fuel economy is excellent, there are no road tax or insurance costs to worry about, and maintenance should be exceedingly minimal.

Most consumable parts like tires, brake pads, chains, and fuel are easy to come by, and engine parts can be easily ordered online – these small Honda-derived engines are incredibly common and are in use in one way or another on almost all continents.

Prices vary between $2,499 and $3,299 USD, possibly making this the best value for money this side of the used motorcycle market.

If you happen to run out of fuel you can pedal yourself along like you would on a normal bicycle, and the most common problem most owners seem to face is that they’re frequently stopped by strangers who’re full of questions about what the bike is, how much it costs, and where they can buy one.

If you like the idea of downhill mountain biking, but don’t like the idea of having to pedal yourself to the top of the hill at the beginning, this might just be your perfect weekend vehicle.

Buy Here

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Steve McQueen’s Pope Model K Motorcycle https://silodrome.com/steve-mcqueens-pope-model-k-motorcycle/ Tue, 26 Dec 2017 07:00:37 +0000 https://silodrome.com/?p=69407 Steve McQueen’s Pope Model K Motorcycle

Steve McQueen was a noted collector of both motorcycles and cars, his untimely death in 1980 left behind a trove of remarkable machines including the beautiful 1914 Pope Model K you see here. A Brief History of the Pope Manufacturing Company Although they’re now best remembered for their advanced (for the era) motorcycle designs, the...

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Steve McQueen’s Pope Model K Motorcycle

Steve McQueen was a noted collector of both motorcycles and cars, his untimely death in 1980 left behind a trove of remarkable machines including the beautiful 1914 Pope Model K you see here.

A Brief History of the Pope Manufacturing Company

Although they’re now best remembered for their advanced (for the era) motorcycle designs, the company actually started out in 1876 making air pistols and cigarette rollers – a combination of products that I suspect means the company founders were rather fun people.

A year later in 1877 the company filed articles of incorporation with an expanded portfolio of manufacturing, explained in the original incorporation documents as follows:

“[to] make, manufacture and sell and licence to others to make, manufacture and sell air pistols and guns, darning machines, amateur lathes, cigarette rollers and other patented articles and to own, sell and deal in patents and patent rights for the manufacture thereof.”

Albert Pope was the founder of the company, with his father Charles Pope providing some funding, and his cousin Edward Pope getting a few shares too. The company imported some bicycles from England for resale in the USA under the Columbia brandname, this piqued Albert’s interest in pedal-powered transportation, which eventually led to full-scale bicycle production.

The Pope Manufacturing Company shifted much of their focus to pedal bicycles, and Albert showed remarkable business acumen by buying up as many bicycle-related patents as he could get his hands on – thus forcing his competition to pay him multiple royalties on every bike they sold.

Starting in 1902 Pope began building motorized bicycles, now known simple as motorcycles. They were one of the first to do so in the United States, other notable motorcycle manufacturers who started out in the same era are Indian (1902) and Harley-Davidson (1903).

Between 1902 and 1918 Pope would build both singles and V-twins, the models made a good name for themselves on the early board tracks and other burgeoning forms of motorsport. Pope was known for quality manufacturing and advanced engineering for the time, in 1912 they introduced the first OHV production motorcycle engines in the United States in both their single and V-twin models. Both with iron cylinders, separate heads, nickel-steel valves operated by rocker arms, interchangeable intake and exhaust valves, nickel-steel camshafts, roller-bearing connecting rods, and phosphor-bronze main bearings.

Schebler carburetors were used as well as Bosch magnetos in both models, and they came with a leaf-spring front fork, and the choice of direct chain drive or belt drive with a free-engine tensioner.

The insistence that Pope only use the best components resulted in relatively high costs, combined with a crowded marketplace and a consumer base focussed more on cost than quality. The company survived until 1918 before going under, though the Columbia bicycle wing of the firm carried on successfully.

Today the surviving Popes are worth a small fortune, and they’re loved by collectors and enthusiasts for their excellent engineering and reliability.

Steve McQueen’s Pope Model K

McQueen was renowned for his love of machines, in fact early in his career he paid for his acting lessons with winnings from his amateur motorcycle racing career, staring out at the Long Island City Raceway. By the peak of his career McQueen was the highest paid actor in Hollywood, known as the “King of Cool”, and beloved by audiences around the world for his understated charisma.

Of all the vehicles he owned, it’s clear that vintage motorcycles were close to Steve’s heart. When he owned this bike in the 1970s it was already 60 or so years old – the equivalent to you or I owning a bike from the 1950s now.

This Pope was restored during McQueen’s ownership, and still presents in excellent condition thanks to the fact it’s been in private collections since, including ownership of the famous collector E.J. Cole who bought it directly from the McQueen Estate Auction at the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas in 1984.

For the first time in a long time, the McQueen Pope Model K is due to come up for public auction with Mecum between the 23rd and 27th of January in Las Vegas. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing.

Images courtesy of Mecum

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1957 Catalina Grand Prix Motorcycle Race https://silodrome.com/catalina-grand-prix-motorcycle-race/ Sun, 24 Dec 2017 04:00:52 +0000 https://silodrome.com/?p=69360 1957 Catalina Grand Prix Motorcycle Race

The Catalina Grand Prix was a motorcycle race held annually between 1950 and 1958 on the island of Santa Catalina off the coast of Los Angeles. The races were hotly contested, and the rules that governed races on the mainland didn’t apply – meaning it was a hotbed of race testing with cutting edge parts fitted to...

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1957 Catalina Grand Prix Motorcycle Race

The Catalina Grand Prix was a motorcycle race held annually between 1950 and 1958 on the island of Santa Catalina off the coast of Los Angeles.

The races were hotly contested, and the rules that governed races on the mainland didn’t apply – meaning it was a hotbed of race testing with cutting edge parts fitted to motorcycles that were tuned to within an inch of their lives.

Racing was divided into two classes – 250cc and over 250cc. The 250cc race was 60 miles in total made up of 10 laps over a 6 mile course, and the over 250cc race was 100 miles.

There are only two ways to get to Santa Catalina – plane or boat. Most competitors made the journey on the steamer, with the factory-backed boys loading their bikes and gear into aircraft for the 17 minute flight.

Many have called the Catalina Grand Prix the American Isle of Man TT – and the comparison is apt. Just as the Isle of Man is a motorcycle race on an island made up of daring men and their cutting edge machines so was the Catalina Grand Prix – until it was axed in 1958.

Reasons for the races being cancelled are many, but perhaps Dave Ekins gives the best explanation:

“So, what happened? There are several reasons as to why they terminated this race. One of the reasons is that money commitment to cover the costs of the programs didn’t show up. After all, can’t have a race without a program. Another was actor Lee Marvin trying to incite a mutiny from the fantail of the homebound steamer. Marvin never needed a microphone even when shouting against the wind and it was all in jest anyway. But the Captain took Lee seriously enough to strap on a sidearm and stand on the bridge.

The ship was escorted to the dock by the Harbor Police.

Marvin had some explaining to do. Probably the most damaging was when Waikiki Bar owner Mel Porter closed up Saturday night and was mugged on his way home by several scum bags. Mel didn’t take kindly to this treatment and the Chamber of Commerce decided no more races. They chose the wrong person, Mel was the Mayor of Avalon.” – Dave Ekins

In recent years there’s been a movement to return the races to Santa Catalina, in 2010 Vinnie Mandzakand and Red Bull succeeded – bring the race back for a single year. Entries sold out and thousands of people travelled to Santa Catalina to spectate. The boost to the local economy was huge, and hopes were high that the race would become a regular annual feature on the calendar.

Sadly, it hasn’t happened yet.

Additional information provided by The Selvedge Yard

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Project Bike: 1915 Indian Twin Board Track Racer https://silodrome.com/indian-twin-board-track-racer/ Thu, 21 Dec 2017 07:00:11 +0000 https://silodrome.com/?p=69157 Project Bike: 1915 Indian Twin Board Track Racer

Project bikes don’t get much more interesting than this, although some may not consider it a project at all, preferring to keep it exactly as it is with its hard-earned patina in place. Despite the fact that over 102 years have passed since this Indian was manufactured, it still retains its original frame, engine, and...

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Project Bike: 1915 Indian Twin Board Track Racer

Project bikes don’t get much more interesting than this, although some may not consider it a project at all, preferring to keep it exactly as it is with its hard-earned patina in place.

Despite the fact that over 102 years have passed since this Indian was manufactured, it still retains its original frame, engine, and forks – a rare trifecta that’ll be sure to attract collectors.

The major non-original parts being used are aftermarket 8 valve heads – each head has 4 valves (8 combined) with exposed rocker arms and springs, as opposed to the more common 2 valve heads.

Although the listing isn’t specific, the engine looks to be in perfect running order (or very close to it). With short open pipes it’ll be fantastically loud, and as with all board track motorcycles you’ll need either a push start to get the motor running, or you’ll need to pedal like crazy until you get up enough speed for a bump start.

If you’d like to read more about this bike or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing on Mecum.

Indian Motorcycle

Back in the early part of the 20th century, Indian Motocycle were one of the most successful and prolific builders of both racing and road motorcycles in the world.

Most people don’t typically associate Indian with racing, but the Indian factory team took the first three places in the 1911 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy competing against the best in the world.

Indians were also a dominant force on the board tracks, dirt tracks, and hill climbs of the USA – and you’ll still find Indians from the era being used daily on Wall of Death attractions in carnival sideshows.

This 1915 Indian Twin Board Track Racer

The board track racer you see here is a great example of the kind of motorcycle that propelled brave young riders to speeds in excess of 100 mph around the banked wooden motordromes that dominated the racing landscape of the 1910s and 1920s.

As with almost all board track motorcycles, this one has no brakes, no suspension, a rudimentary single tube frame, a thinly padded seat, a fuel tank fitted between the upper frame members, low swept handlebars, and pedals to help with engine starting.

For protection, riders would typically wear a leather helmet, goggles, some moustache wax, and a nice woolen sweater.

This Indian is powered by the company’s famous 61 cubic inch V-twin (~1000 cc), with an intake-over-exhaust head (an F-head), a centrally mounted carburetor, and a front mounted magneto.

Mechanical inlet valves had been introduced for the 1908 model year, significantly improving performance and reliability, a year later in 1909 a new frame would be implemented that no longer used the rear cylinder as a load-bearing member.

Indian didn’t start building race-specific bikes for public sale until 1908, the same year that company founders Hedstrom and Hendee opened their own hometown pine board motordrome in their hometown. It was designed as a private Indian test track that could double as a race track on weekends, and Indian works rider Jake DeRosier completed countless laps as various engine and frame modifications were trialed.

Indian board trackers would win countless races across the USA during the golden era, and their distinctive look is still considered by many to be amongst the most beautiful motorcycle designs of all time.

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