Splitting the single
Apparently a man of some means, Dr. Ehrlich could see the writing on the wall for Jewish citizens as Hitler prepared to invade Austria and made his escape in 1937. He fled to Britain where by 1939 he had built a 240cc split single engine, with each 44mm piston running in a 79mm bore. During the war he was engaged on several military projects, notably the development of a motorcycle engine which he fitted into an Ariel frame for evaluation by the army. That engine was a two stroke with twin pistons working on an articulated connecting rod. Not surprisingly, the army chose to stay with its staples; the G3 Matchless and 16H Norton, but in 1946 Ehrich moved into a tiny factory in Park Royal, Isleworth, London, where he planned to put his motorcycle into production as the 350cc EMC (Ehrlich Motor Company). From the outset, he faced a not inconsiderable problem in educating the staid and conservative British motorcycle buyer (and the associated media) in the virtues of the twin-piston design, which, after all, had appeared in several forms in Europe. The buying public were ambivalent towards two strokes in general, so a twin-piston two stroke was something to be eyed with considerable suspicion in a market where single and twin cylinder overhead valve four strokes reigned supreme. Added to the engine’s quirky specification was its appearance; the massively finned, square barrel and head, with the exhaust pipe emanating from the left side of the barrel, giving the bike an ungainly and slightly unbalanced look. Close inspection of the barrel revealed that the fins were actually of two different sizes – six large fins interspersed with smaller ones. This, Ehrlich explained, was to provide what he referred to as “differential cooling”; to allow the liner to slightly deform or corrugate when it reached operating temperature, and thus retain oil around the pistons. The rest of the EMC followed normal British practice, with a four-speed Burman C Type gearbox, Dowty Oleomatic (air suspended) telescopic forks and a rather neat double cradle tubular frame
with a rigid rear end. The frame was rather unique in that it used a magnesium-bronze steering head and top backbone to which the steel frame tubes were bolted. Ehrich’s own hubs and 7-inch brakes were used; a conventional “cotton reel” with bolted up drum and sprocket on the rear, and a Vincentstyle double-sided job on the front. With a retail price of £185, the EMC was only slightly more expensive than the popular 350cc BSA B31. Early versions of the EMC, designated the Mark One, used the antiquated total loss lubrication system with a Pilgrim pump, but this was soon replaced with his own design of reciprocating pump controlled by the throttle. The oil pump was housed in the outer half of the timing chest with two feeds and a plunger to pressure-feed lubricant to the big end bearing. The end of the pump plunger was located in a taper groove machined along the length of a cylindrical
slide, with the slide being actuated by cable from the twist grip, matching oil delivery to throttle opening rather than engine speed. To publicise the venture, he also prepared several racing models in 250cc and 350cc sizes which enjoyed reasonable success in Britain, notably in the hands of all-round racer and scrambles star Les Archer who won the very prestigious Hutchison 100 in 1947. By 1948, the racing 350 was pumping out 45hp at 5,500 rpm. Detail refinements of the road bike were made for 1948. A new frame with plunger rear suspension also differed from the rigid (which was still available) in that the manganese-bronze frame ‘backbone’ was now of forged duralumin. New conical hubs, attractively cast in L33 aluminium alloy with cast-in brake liners and straight-pull spokes, replaced the steel components and by all accounts worked very well. The alloy wheels alone gave a weight saving of 12lb, with the alloy frame section further reducing overall weight. The new model, presumably the Mark Two, was listed with a top speed of 80mph and a retail price of £198 for the plunger (plus the punitive UK Purchase Tax of £57).
Out in the Colonies
Production of the 350cc EMC never reached more than ten motorcycles per week, with Sweden and Australia being the primary export markets. Dean Govan owns two EMCs and has delved in what records exists to compile a local history.
“I first saw an EMC at the Port Pirie Easter speedway in 1948. I had read all about them as my father subscribed to both English magazines, The Motor Cycle and Motor Cycling. My memories of the bike stayed with me, however and I did not see another until in 1999 whilst visiting my friend Peter Allen’s shed I noticed he had a very sad and sorry bike in his collection. “Looking for a project I asked if he was interested in me bringing it back to life which he readily agreed to. The bike had been in his collection for many years and he had also collected much literature and information about the bikes.
As part of the project I sought to find as much as I could about the bikes history in Australia. Sven Kallins were the agents in South Australia and I was told that only seven or eight machines were imported however accurate records were not available and I ultimately located the remains of ten machines. This was confirmed because of the sequences of the engine and frame numbers of the bits and pieces that were located. I was able to contact several people that had owned one at various stages including former employees of Kallins. It was the confirmed opinion of those people that the machine was a bit of a lemon; most broke the frames, were prone to seize and were generally unreliable. Apparently as a result Kallins did not import any more. “Kallins, as part of the promotion of the make, sponsored Bill Thomas to ride a bike in various trials in 1948, including the Advertiser 24 hour, in which he came equal first. The late Bruce Hector rode one in the Marion Road races in 1948 and at the Flinders Naval Base races in Victoria. Bruce told me that it was a rather disappointing ride as the bike was nowhere as quick as the B.S.A. Bantam that he was also racing. “I had collected enough components to complete up to four bikes and did complete two, with one bike being used quite a lot. I found it a very torquey bike to ride, really only needing top gear, it could be started off in top and pull away without a care. I will refer to the bikes I got involved with by their registrations. I subsequently put together two bikes, SA 12041 and SA 99611 and 75% completed SA 93001. 99611 came home early in 2000, it had
no oil pump, rear wheel, headlight, magneto, carburettor or gearbox and had a cracked frame. 12041, which was the bike Peter had, arrived soon after minus a carby and with a broken frame, with a rear wheel for 99611 and another motor. Neither bike had a stand. Subsequently I acquired four further motors, two frames and other sundry parts that assisted in me completing two bikes.
I repaired the frames, fitted springs to the forks, made the stands, mudguard fittings, found headlights, footrests, levers and other sundry parts. They were not intended to be restorations as such; the project was to complete two running rideable bikes. “The engines, being two strokes rely upon crankcase compression, and one of the faults of the design was the manner in which the crankshaft was sealed. On both sides there was a series of plates with felt seals in between. These had been one of the design faults so I replaced the bearings on both sides with sealed bearings and they worked satisfactorily. Another fault was the design of the pistons; they were about 90mm long and the gudgeon pin was about 30mm from the bottom. Every piston in all the engines that I had showed signs of being severely seized at some time. In building the engines I picked the best parts from whatever I had. I had new gudgeon pins and piston rings made. They are fitted with Pilgrim double acting oil pumps and they had to be “timed” so that the correct amount of oil was delivered to the big end and the rear cylinder, and that proved a complicated process. The first one - 12041 - was completed and ridden in October 2000. It was a pleasant torquey bike to ride however it did not live up to all the claims Dr Joe made when first announced. The bike was registered and ridden by myself and Peter many times over the following year. 99611 was completed by July 2001. It seemed to be a better bike than the first one however it has not been used since completion. 93001 was about 75% completed and is somewhere in the Birdwood Mill from where some of the parts came from.
“As part of the project I endeavoured to find out what I could of the history of the bikes in Australia however very little information was located. Apparently some of the later version made their way to Australia as a 1948 version was located in Wagga, but little was known of its history. In addition to the two bikes I put together I located two other complete machines in N.S.W. one of which came from the original Adelaide batch. One intriguing thing I came across was that someone for whatever reason had modified an engine by machining about an inch off the diameter of the flywheels and added about twelve ‘Blades’ diagonally across them. It would be interesting to know who and why it was done. Unfortunately it was not one of the engines that I used. In NSW, Greg Freeman owns a 1948 EMC, one of the very few ‘late models’ to come to Australia. This motorcycle was purchased new by Greg’s
grandfather, Bob Jones, who will be familiar to a generation of dirt track riders who raced at the stilloperating Nepean Speedway – the only remaining dirt track in Sydney. Bob was ‘the man’ at Nepean, living on site in a very basic shack, operating the equipment that kept the track in top condition, building fences – you name it. In his later years, Bob helped to found the Macquarie Towns Motorcycle Restoration and Preservation Club which is based at nearby Pitt Town. Bob’s EMC was used for everything from daily commuting to various forms of competition – reliability trials, observed trials, scrambles and Short Circuit racing. In Greg’s hands, it has even appeared in Historic Road Racing. As it is substantially complete and original, Greg has no plans to restore the EMC. It has the standard fitment 20-inch front wheel with 19-inch rear, a Lucas TT magneto and Amal 29-Type carburettor.
Life after the 350
The 350cc EMC lasted barely two years in production. “Dr. Joe” was renowned for his peaks and troughs of enthusiasm for motorcycles, and obviously felt there were better ways of making a living. He also tired of the process whereby supplies of components such as magnetos, dynamo, gearboxes and carburettors were channelled into the major manufacturers at the expense of the small shows, such as his. Instead, he began importing Puch engines and gearboxes from Austria and building them into various proprietary chassis. He also built a series of 125cc Puch-based racers, no fewer than six of these being entered in the 1952 Isle of Man TT. One of these came to Australia where it was raced by future Fraser Government Minister Tony Street and later by Eric Lauder. In 1953, the good doctor drifted into the car scene, working for Austin until 1958. During this time, he also developed a single piston two stroke with loop scavenging. In 1958 he joined De Havilland, in charge of small engine development and further developing his own engine. This eventually evolved into a water-cooled 125cc disc valve racer with a six-speed gearbox, developing 27bhp at 10,000 rpm. By 1961, the racer was a formidable device and was raced by De Havilland employee Rex Avery, Derek Minter, Phil Read, Paddy Driver and Mike Hailwood. Mike made headlines when he defeated Luigi Taveri’s works Honda to win the non-championship Saar Grand Prix, and in 1962, EMC finished second in the 125cc Grand Prix standings. Ehrlich had a twin cylinder version on the drawing board, but De Havilland showed no interest (nor finance) so the project never went ahead. Instead, Ehrich left and set up his own company at Bletchley where he produced a series of open wheel racing cars for the British one-litre Formula Three. One of these was driven successfully by Mark Thatcher, son of the British Prime Minister. By the early 1980s, Joe was back with bikes, forming an arrangement with Waddon to develop their Rotax-engined 250cc Grand Prix machine. By 1984 Ehrich was extracting 70hp from the Rotax engine, even though the factory Rotax racers produced only 62. Running his own EMC team again, the 250s won four Isle of Man Lightweight TTs, including the 1984 race where Australian ex-pat Graeme McGregor defeated Joey Dunlop, Charlie Williams and Phil Mellor to win by over one minute. The EMC was the first 250 to lap the TT course at more than 110mph. In the same year Andy Watts finished second in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
April 2000, and the collection of bits and pieces that Dean Govan his restoration project began with. August 2001, and Dean Govan now has two completed bikes. TOP LEFT The two completed EMCs on show in July 2001. CENTRE LEFT Peter Allen and Dean Govan...
LEFT Sven Kallin’s showroom in Hanson Street, Adelaide in July 1948. Four EMCs, all 1947 models, are visible. ABOVE Col Brown on Tony Street’s EMC-Puch at Mildura in 1955. BELOW Bob Jones on his EMC when it was just 10 months old. BOTTOM Bob and the...
ABOVE A rather outspoken EMC advertisement. The bike shown is a 1948 model with rigid frame. BELOW LEFT Dr. Joseph Ehrich.
Dowty “go flat” air forks with the 1948 conical alloy front hub. Finned conical rear hub. Nice detail; cast alloy heat shield on the exhaust pipe. Massive barrel showing the asymmetric finning. Horizontal Amal 1 1/8” carb supplies the mixture.
One of Dean Govan’s 1947 models, as found.