Ital­ian builds replica of 1933 Rudge racer

A de­vel­op­ment of Rudge’s TT Replica mo­tor, only around 20 Dirt Track model en­gines were made. This one, which once pow­ered a rac­ing out­fit in a TT Rep frame, has been re­stored to its for­mer glory

Classic Bike (UK) - - Contents - WORDS AND PHO­TOS: PHILLIP TOOTH

Ev­ery mo­tor­cy­cle club needs some­one like Dante Petrucci. He’s the driv­ing force be­hind the Ital­ian sec­tion of the Rudge En­thu­si­asts Club and ev­ery year at the ASI Mo­to­show he brings to­gether an im­pres­sive dis­play of Rudges and Python-en­gined spe­cials from com­pa­nies like Miller, Linx, Ganna and Si­mon­celli. There’s al­ways a star at his show – one year it was Rudge TT Repli­cas used by Enzo Fer­rari’s race team, other years it has been a dou­ble-over­head-cam con­ver­sion and a V-twin with a home-made crank­case and Ul­ster top ends. But this year he brought along a Rudge that could have main­tained the pushrod four-valve en­gine’s com­pet­i­tive edge. In the 1930s Les Gra­ham (who would go on to win the first 500cc World Championship ti­tle in 1949 on an AJS Por­cu­pine) and his friend Roy Evans both raced Rudge TT Repli­cas. They were al­ways look­ing for ways to im­prove per­for­mance – and that’s where the Dirt Track en­gine comes into the pic­ture. Rudge Whit­worth had in­tro­duced the new en­gine to­wards the end of 1932. The crank­case mouth was beefed up, as was the cylin­der bar­rel which fea­tured shorter fins. Six through-bolts se­cured the bronze head to the crank­case, sand­wich­ing the bar­rel be­tween. The mod­i­fi­ca­tions al­lowed a higher 10:1 com­pres­sion ra­tio with­out the risk of blow­ing the top end off the bot­tom. The semi­ra­dial head had two par­al­lel in­let valves and a pair of ra­dial exhausts, as on the 1932 TT rep.

Smaller fly­wheels in the en­gine, com­pared to the 500cc TT rep, helped de­liver the quicker ac­cel­er­a­tion de­manded by speed­way (or dirt track) bikes. In­stead of dry sump lu­bri­ca­tion with a duplex plunger oil pump, the Dirt Track en­gine used a to­tal-loss sys­tem last seen on the 1928 models. The 1933 Rudge cat­a­logue of­fered the Dirt Track Model at £79, a whop­ping £14 more than a 500cc TT Replica, but it would be the last year it would be listed and only about 20 of these DT en­gines were made. Les Gra­ham got hold of en­gine num­ber D1, Evans picked up D5 and they mounted them in their race bikes. Evans hitched his Rudge to a side­car and had many lo­cal wins, but was out­classed by 600cc cammy Nor­tons on longer cir­cuits. Rudge D5 was sold to vin­tage sports car racer Ge­orge Bur­ton, who was pas­sen­gered by Eric Stevens. John Clay­ton (later pres­i­dent of the Rudge En­thu­si­asts Club) was the next owner of D5 and its TT Rep chas­sis.

“Af­ter John passed away, our friend Wal­ter Bald­issin bought Rudge D5. It was dis­man­tled and stored in a wooden box but it was all there,” says Dante, who is also the man be­hind Registro Storico Ital­iano Rudge. “I did the his­tor­i­cal re­search while club mem­bers Bar­badoro Paolo and Mas­simo Apol­loni car­ried out the restora­tion. We only needed to buy new valves and springs and a few mi­nor parts, so it was very easy to put it back to­gether. The en­gine is very strong, and it runs a treat!”

Wal­ter Bald­issin owns Rudge D5, which only needed new valves and springs to run again Cylin­der fins were skin­nier and fly­wheels made smaller in the Dirt Track for more rapid ac­cel­er­a­tion 2 Bowden steer­ing damper is ca­ble­op­er­ated by a lever on the han­dle­bar, so you don’t have to take your hand off the bar to al­ter it 3 Semi-ra­dial cylin­der head was the same as used on the 1932 TT Replica 4 Bike has been fully re­stored af­ter be­ing dis­man­tled and stored in a box 5 Ital­ian Rudge en­thu­si­ast Dante Petrucci on the bike pow­ered by Dirt Track en­gine num­ber D5 1

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