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Bu­gatti is not usu­ally associated with mo­tor­cy­cles, but that does not mean he never ad­dressed them – and even rode them…

Bu­gatti is not usu­ally associated with mo­tor­cy­cles, but that does not mean he never ad­dressed them – and even rode them…

It may have been an­cient and ob­scure history, but ap­par­ently the Pen­ning­ton ar­ti­cles did tickle some read­ers. Reader Howard Branch was prompted by the Pen­ning­ton ig­ni­tion to send in a copy of a Fe­bru­ary 1957 ‘ Mo­tor Cy­cle’ ar­ti­cle by Alan Baker on the Gil­bert-Hobbs ig­ni­tion sys­tem. This was aimed at foil­ing the two-stroke habit of whisker­ing plugs, by the ex­pe­di­ent of plac­ing the earthed elec­trode on the pis­ton in­stead of the spark plug it­self. Any such whisker would quickly be bro­ken as the pis­ton re­ceded, the only prob­lem be­ing that a tricky ad­just­ment job was re­quired to set the plug gap (and the con­se­quences of get­ting it wrong do not bear think­ing about)! Thanks also to Mal Burgess, whose re­cent feed­back to HQ in­cluded a com­pli­ment for the col­umn, also prompted by Pen­ning­ton!

Last month PUB men­tioned vis­it­ing the Bu­gatti trust ex­hi­bi­tion at Prescott (home of hill­climbs). His cars are well known, and some will also know that the large (12.7 litre) ‘Royale’ car en­gine was also used in rail­cars. The Amer­i­can King-Bu­gatti aero en­gines have been men­tioned in this col­umn pre­vi­ously (roughly two car en­gines side by side), and there was a Breguet-Bu­gatti en­gine too (roughly two car en­gines end to end) – in fact his first straight eight was prompted by aviation and his friend­ship with avi­a­tor Roland Gar­ros. Gar­ros was the pioneer of fighter planes shoot­ing their guns for­ward, through the pro­pel­ler, but bravely tried it be­fore ‘in­ter­rupter’ gear was in­vented to syn­chro­nise the bul­lets with the gaps be­tween pro­pel­ler blades. In­stead he sim­ply fit­ted metal de­flec­tors to his wooden prop, and hoped that they would prevent him shoot­ing off his own pro­pel­ler (it worked – sort of – and thus sparked off de­vel­op­ment of bet­ter meth­ods).

Nat­u­rally the sec­ond World War stopped Bu­gatti’s lux­ury and rac­ing car busi­ness in French Mol­sheim. When it was over ‘Le Pa­tron’ Bu­gatti had been do­ing a lot of think­ing, and as much pro­to­typ­ing as pos­si­ble in the cir­cum­stances. The Trust ex­hibits in­clude a bi­cy­cle de­sign of his, in which the usual large di­am­e­ter tubes are re­placed with clus­ters of small di­am­e­ter ones in­stead. This ap­pears to go against con­ven­tional wis­dom (which says that large di­am­e­ter tubes are best, un­less their walls be­come so thin that they will buckle), al­though where loads are asym­met­ri­cally ap­plied to the struc­ture it may make it eas­ier to dis­pose the metal op­ti­mally? He also in­ves­ti­gated dif­fer­ent forms of sus­pen­sion ap­plied to slightly more nor­mal cy­cle frames, al­though his monoshock piv­oted fork rear had rather a lot of an­tecedents. Whether his cy­cle thoughts pre­ceded or fol­lowed his cy­clemo­tor con­cept is not known, but that cy­clemo­tor was some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary.

Et­tore’s de­sign was noth­ing less than a 10.5cc (22mm x 28mm bore and stroke) su­per­charged dohc sin­gle cylin­der fourstroke! The trans­mis­sion was equally com­plex, with a clutch, worm and wheel to turn the drive 90 de­grees to a sprocket that then drove the bi­cy­cle chain­wheel in­cor­po­rat­ing a free­wheel. The cylin­der sat be­hind the tim­ing gear and su­per­charger, which would not have favoured its air-cool­ing much. It is dif­fi­cult to see how he imag­ined such a com­plex en­gine could be sold to the im­pe­cu­nious look­ing for cheap trans­port. How­ever, it is as well to re­mem­ber that the Cuc­ci­olo cy­clemo­tor was also a four-stroke, and al­though it op­er­ated its valveg­ear by sim­pler pull-rods, it did in­cor­po­rate both a clutch and pre-se­lec­tor two-speed gear, and also drove through the cy­cle chain via a mod­i­fied bi­cy­cle chain­wheel.

That com­pli­ca­tion (com­pared to sim­ple fric­tion drive two-stroke) did not prevent the Cuc­ci­olo be­ing very suc­cess­ful, in mul­ti­ple coun­tries, and start­ing Ducati mo­tor­cy­cles on their il­lus­tri­ous way!

Per­haps fru­gal use of ra­tioned petrol might have been on Bu­gatti’s mind, or per­haps it was just a de­sign ex­er­cise and small be­cause ma­te­ri­als for any­thing big­ger were un­avail­able dur­ing the war years? Ap­par­ently seven such en­gines were built, two be­ing at the Trust (one as­sem­bled and one dis­man­tled for show), with an­other three known. In spite of the tiny ca­pac­ity, power was es­ti­mated as a cred­itable 0.5hp com­pared to the typ­i­cal 25-50cc cy­clemo­tors which usu­ally claimed 0.7 - 1hp.

How­ever this was not the only small en­gine on his mind, for he also made a Type 68 de­sign, ini­tially as a 330cc dohc 16-valve su­per­charged four cylin­der en­gine and then a 68B 370cc 8-valve for an ‘econ­omy’ car – show­ing that Le Pa­tron, as he was of­ten known, just couldn’t make any­thing other than ex­otic de­signs! A pic­ture on dis­play shows Et­tore him­self rid­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle us­ing the 16-valve four, cap­tioned in that case as 318cc. Whilst the Type 72 is com­pre­hen­sively de­scribed in David Beare & Phillipa Wheeler’s ‘Stinkwheel Saga – episode 2’, and so known to ded­i­cated cy­clemo­tor en­thu­si­asts, even PUB was un­aware of the Bu­gatti su­per­charged four mo­tor­cy­cle (or in­deed that Et­tore rode mo­tor­cy­cles)!

How­ever, RC read­ers prob­a­bly want to see some pictures of more than an ob­scure Bu­gatti prototype, and the re­cent Clas­sic Bike Show is al­ways a good place to source some­thing un­usual. As it hap­pened, the un­usual pre­sented it­self even be­fore en­try into the halls, in the shape of the ‘Project 55’ BSA. This en­gine, said the ac­com­pa­ny­ing in­for­ma­tion board, started in 1967 as an ex­per­i­men­tal dohc 4-valve 350cc (with very over­square 83.5mm x 63mm bore and stroke). Af­ter a pe­riod in stor­age at the Tri­umph fac­tory, it was even­tu­ally bought as a tea ch­est of parts. It has sub­se­quently been built up into a bike, us­ing an MRD Métisse frame, and more re­cently opened out to 500cc. The owner is hop­ing for it to race in the MGP, with the aim of achiev­ing a 100mph lap. Nearby was the Tri­dent/Rocket three dis­play, which in­cluded a home built Qua­drent (to rhyme with Tri­dent, un­like the fac­tory who called theirs Quad­rant), a dohc V6 BSA, both of which have fea­tured here be­fore, and a Tri­umph four built from two twins which has not. Shed dwellers never cease to amaze PUB!

Also out­side, and for sale, was a ‘Derny’ moped/cy­clemo­tor which should be pic­tured

nearby. Derny is now most associated with cy­cle rac­ing, be­ing the pace ma­chine used in Kierin events (which went a bit awry at the last Olympics), but orig­i­nated with the mo­tor­cy­cle firm which pro­vided most of them years ago. The thing that caught PUB’s eye about this one was the han­dle­bars, fes­tooned with levers – how many hands do French rid­ers have?

In­side, how­ever, was the place for all of the shiny bikes. Best in Show went to a pair of 1928 K10 AJS 500cc ohc bikes re­stored by Alan Smith, whilst Miller’s AJS Por­cu­pine and V-four pair helped the Foot­man James stand win the tro­phy for best trade stand. Glynn Bax­ter’s Se­ries A Vin­cent twin gained an award for best tech­ni­cal in­ter­est, on ac­count of be­ing the start of the Vin­cent V-twin line, and a very rare Royal Sov­er­eign jus­ti­fi­ably won best veteran. There were, of course, many other award win­ners that Den­nis Frost’s team of judges had the un­en­vi­able task of pick­ing out from the ter­rific qual­ity of restora­tions that are seen to­day.

But it is not only the award win­ners that pro­vide in­ter­est. The Na­tional Mo­tor­cy­cle Mu­seum’s Marsh four is the prod­uct of an ear­lier shed-dwelling gen­er­a­tion. Fred Marsh was in­spired by the Fifties GP rac­ing fours, and dis­ap­pointed that the Bri­tish fac­to­ries pro­vided no op­po­si­tion – so he made his own. Us­ing mod­i­fied Tiger Cub heads (cho­sen for valve an­gle) he con­cocted a 500cc air­cooled dohc four cylin­der, housed in a then very up-to-date Dou­glas Dragon­fly frame but with Nor­ton Road­holder forks. Tested in 1963 it would run to over 9000rpm and a road speed around 130mph, and was raced but not com­pre­hen­sively de­vel­oped be­fore Fred moved on to a V8 in­spired by the works Moto Guzzi.

Other no­table ma­chines on show were Gor­don May’s ex-Burma G3L Matchless which

he rode back there en route to Viet­nam, as de­tailed in his most re­cent travel book. Gor­don was else­where in the hall but PUB did not man­age to meet him. One of the fea­ture bikes of the show was pioneer Muriel Hind’s ‘Blue Devil’ Rex V-twin. Muriel Hind was born in 1880, and be­came one of the first women rid­ers, ini­tially with a Singer ‘Mo­tor­wheel’. She grad­u­ated to a Singer tricar with which she com­peted in the MCC Land’s End and Ed­in­burgh long dis­tance tri­als. Sub­se­quently she be­came a test rider and demon­stra­tor for Rex, rid­ing a num­ber of works V-twins with dropped frames to ac­com­mo­date the women’s dress she in­sisted upon re­tain­ing. It did not stop her from be­ing very suc­cess­ful in com­pe­ti­tion and by writ­ing a reg­u­lar col­umn in Mo­tor­Cy­cling she tried hard to en­cour­age other women, whilst many man­u­fac­tur­ers listed dropped frame mod­els for the same rea­son. How­ever, se­ri­ous women rid­ers soon courted out­rage by wear­ing trousers (tut tut), and pre­ferred the stiffer or­di­nary mod­els. Al­though cy­cling had ap­pealed to a lot of women, per­haps by free­ing them from home, en­gine power seemed to ap­peal much less than to the men­folk. Nev­er­the­less there were still fa­mous women rid­ers in tri­als, speed­way, and gain­ing Brook­lands Gold Starts up un­til WW2.

Ma­chines that read­ers may con­sider stretch the term ‘clas­sic’ some­what in­cluded a BSA Dandy, two Bea­gles and an Ariel Pixie in var­i­ous places! How­ever, dis­as­trous as those bikes were, PUB does not be­rate the firms for their as­pi­ra­tion to com­pete with the Far East for that mar­ket, but only for their ex­e­cu­tion and man­age­ment. Pon­der on how the lat­ter two might have fared had they fea­tured Val Page’s toothed belt driven ohc en­gine that Ariel had planned, in­stead of the min­imised Tiger Cub mo­tor that Ed­ward Turner in­sisted upon.

Read­ers may al­ready have read of the high­est price Bon­hams sale, the ‘White Shadow’ (painted black!), for £163,900 (with com­mis­sion) – and that for a restora­tion project! How­ever it was closely fol­lowed by the ex-Fred­die Frith TT win­ning Mk VIII KTT Velocette which took £135,100 to buy. Du­catis once again did not fare so well, the 1956 125cc ohc ‘Mar­i­anna’, and 1958 125cc ‘ Tri­al­bero’ be­ing un­sold for the sec­ond time – there be­ing a lit­tle doubt as to how

fac­tory orig­i­nal they are. The unique and well doc­u­mented 1960 ex-Sur­tees and Hail­wood Reynolds framed 250cc dohc twin cylin­dered Ducati also did not find a buyer at its £80100,000 es­ti­mate.

Broughs, of course, still com­manded high prices, save that no-one was in­ter­ested in a JAP 981cc sv with SS80 ori­gins, but now housed in a vin­tage Tri­umph CTT cy­cleparts. Not Brough enough it seemed. Ed­i­tor Frank may be in­ter­ested to know that the 1937 1000cc Matchless MX, in shiny re­stored con­di­tion, sold for £50,600 – they are fi­nally be­ing ap­pre­ci­ated. Some­one must have known more about the spe­cial works Ariels on of­fer than PUB did, be­cause the Ariel HT 500 ‘GOV130’ rock­eted past dou­ble its es­ti­mate to £24,725 whereas the Ariel HS 350, with de­scrip­tion sug­gest­ing it was unique, raised only £5,750 in line with es­ti­mate. The only lot that PUB might have been in­ter­ested in – a veteran that might have been eas­ier than her cur­rent ones to man­age – went too high. That is of­ten a prob­lem buying at auc­tion, but un­for­tu­nately it is in­creas­ingly hard to find many rare ma­chines ex­cept at auc­tion (that is part of the ser­vice the auc­tion houses are pro­vid­ing).

News­flash. Hav­ing al­ready ex­er­cised the Vin­cent at the weekend, PUB dis­cov­ered that it was a ‘trikes, side­cars, and three-wheel­ers’ day at Jacks Hill Café on Sun­day. That seemed like a good rea­son to wake up the slum­ber­ing Trik­ing, that she rarely has any rea­son to take out. It won a prize – this never hap­pens to PUB’s scruffy ma­chin­ery! No doubt it was be­cause only two three-wheel­ers at­tended (but plenty of trikes and side­cars, which were judged sep­a­rately), and the other one ar­rived late and prob­a­bly af­ter judg­ing. No mat­ter, it was a prize – brag, brag, bore bore…

Above: The Ariel Pixie was styled as part of the Leader/Ar­row ‘fam­ily’ al­though it in­ter­fered a bit with the ‘step-through’ con­cept of the Hon­das it was pre­sum­ably to com­pete with. It looks pret­tier with the op­tional screen and legshields, but hav­ing...

Top: Rather than ex­tend a Tri­dent by one pot, this spe­cial builder chose to con­struct his four by dou­bling up on the Meri­den twin. ‘RealTri­umphs were made in Meri­den’ the say­ing goes, ex­cept that they weren’t, they were made in Pri­ory Street, Coven­try,...

Above Right: Piece-parts of the Bu­gatti 10.5cc Type 72 en­gine. Cylin­der and dohc head top left, and Roots type su­per­charger lower right Above: Bu­gatti’s con­cept for a bi­cy­cle, util­is­ing the ba­sic di­a­mond con­cept but with a com­plex struc­ture of small...

Et­tore Bu­gatti had mo­tor­cy­cles on his mind af­ter WW2, as in­di­cated by this photograph of him on one util­is­ing his 318cc Type 68 four cylin­der, four valve, su­per­charged en­gine

Right: Al­though de­scribed as be­ing a one-off works spe­cial, this Ariel HS 350cc scram­bler failed to ig­nite pas­sions at the Bon­hams auc­tion, sell­ing for £5,750, whereas the ac­com­pa­ny­ing HT5 500cc tri­als ver­sion, GOV130, soared be­yond its £8-10,000...

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