thly collection of classic titbits
This month’s selection of motorcycling titbits – enjoy it before it disappears
engine, which beautifully packed two pairs of pots in a square formation. It’s a design little explored in motorcycling (the last instance being Suzuki’s RG500) due to the difficulty of cooling the rear pair of cylinders. Unusual it may have been, but square fours powered 15,639 Ariels between 1931-58. The pistons fired in diagonal pairs, and in the case of the 4G MKII mustered 10bhp each. Conceived by famed Triumph designer Edward Turner in 1928, the Square Four would go on to outlive its master by four years. The Healey 1000/4 (1971-77) was powered by an Ariel Square Four modified to produce 52bhp in a chassis 80lb lighter than the parent bike. Only 28 were made.
This is the 1957 ex-works FB Mondial 250 Bialbero Grand Prix Racer Mike Hailwood rode in 1959, for his father’s Ecurie Sportive team, clinching second place in the Ulster GP, fifth in the world championship and victory in the british championship. All this in a season in which he also raced a Ducati, MZ, Norton and AJS in 125, 250, 350 and 500cc classes.
ELOPING TO ETHIOPA
n Ethiopian woman tries an Italian soldier’s ke for size, during the fascists’ five-year ccupation from 1935-40. The attractiveness nd availability of Ethiopian women was used as a spur to get Italian men to join the country’s empire-building. Soldiers could take advantage of a local temporary form of marriage – paid for by the month – called a dämoz. But soon after the fighting was over, the incentive was withdrawn, with the fascist government banning relations between Italian men and African women.
IRON HORSE, IRON DERRIÈRE
Twenty-year-old Vivian Bales graced the cover of the Harley-davidson Enthusiast in November 1929 after her pioneering 5000-mile solo round-trip through America. All of 5ft 2in and 6¾ stone, she was reputedly too slight to kickstart her 45 Twin D-model Harley herself, but it didn’t prove an insurmountable obstacle in her 78-day marathon. She even met the US President, back when that was something to be proud of: “With my eyes fixed on President Hoover’s face, I walked right over with my very best smile in full force and shook hands with him. Nope, I didn’t vamp on him, for Mrs Hoover was present,” she recalled.
It’s 1936, and New South Wales police have a morale-boosting day of play... with motorcycle chariots.
MONSTER PIXIE IGNORED
Ariel produced the Pixie in 1963, two years before the firm was to cease motorcycle production altogether. Designed to have a new engine to take the fight to the Italian and Japanese lightweights, BSA management decided to use its leaky, weedy Beagle engine instead, sleeved down to 50cc from 75cc. Even at 75cc the Beagle motor couldn’t match the 4.5bhp of Honda’s 50, and its unreliability meant warranty claims galore. It could have formed the basis of something much more ambitious. Designer Jeff Bishop, who had moved from Umberslade to Small Heath, schemed a 500cc V8, using Ariel Pixie rods and pistons. Former draughtsman David Myers tells CB: “I saw the outlines, and it was certainly neat and compact. But there was no response to it from above, whatsoever.”