The Bar Hodgson Collection of Motorcycles

British Bikes in the Bar Hodgson Collection Over the coming year we will be featuring an extensive photographic presentation of bikes from the Bar Hodgson Collection assembled by country of origin as originally published in Motorcycle Mojo Magazine, author and photographer Glenn Roberts, reproduced here with kind permission. This presentation of the first in the series features the Bikes of Great Britain originally published in the Fall 2004 issue of Motorcycle Mojo Magazine.

admirable characters

by Glenn Roberts

Photography by Glenn Roberts

Vincent, engine detail
At one point in my life I felt a bike was a bike, it had two wheels and an engine, but over the years I have realized a true fondness for the character most motorcycles possess. I believe that machines have character or personality, just as people do but in a different way. Character can be a pretty broad word and many people have their own idea of what it may be. In the case of a machine it might be the idiosyncrasies of the way it runs, coughs and hiccups, a particular way it needs to be started or even a certain way it needs to be parked so it doesn't leave that oil drip on your in-laws driveway. Character could also be described as the way in which mechanical parts are visible to allow you to clearly see how the linkages move and further understand how the pieces work together to create motion. To add to the visual aspect of linkages and mechanical movement is the way the lines flow over the body work, which on an old bike usually consists of two fenders and a gas tank which sometimes incorporates the lines of the frame itself.

In my mind the antique motorcycle usually has more character than a new bike for all the above reasons. I'm not saying that machines are better when they leak oil or cough and hiccup or that I would even like to have a machine that requires regular TLC but I sure find them easy to admire. Some of the early engines are so primitive one can almost hear the internal workings of the engine as it runs.

Engines are so efficient in this day and age that they generally don't leak oil and for some at least, run so smooth they sometimes sound like an electric motor. In addition to that, some bikes are smothered in body work which makes it impossible to even see linkages let alone the computer, sensors and wiring harnesses that keep the bike running. In comparison, today's motorcycles are designed by computer and in some cases built by computerized robots.

In the first two thirds of the 1900's, machines were dreamt up and invented by engineers sitting at a work bench. They would muster together ideas to figure out a linkage so that a lever could move a do-hickey and in turn activate the thing-am-a-jig, or design a way to invent a new type of cylinder head to allow for better cooling.

This is the first part of a multi issue article highlighting antique motorcycles from The Bar Hodgson Collection.

In this first part we will be featuring motorcycles from the United Kingdom and includes a very brief background of the motorcycle companies themselves. The United Kingdom has an extremely rich motorcycling history that began in the late 1800's but unfortunately came to an end, so to speak, in the early seventies. Some British motorcycle manufacturers still produce motorcycles on a small scale and some such as Triumph have rebounded to become a major player in the world's competitive motorcycle industry.

Most if not all the bikes in this installment you probably will have heard of but may never have seen in person. The Bar Hodgson Collection currently operates as a travelling road show, displaying at major motorcycle shows, race tracks and motorcycling events and supplies significant motorcycles to other museums such as the American Motorcyclist Museum and the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame.

I would like to give a special thanks to Bar and Hedy Hodgson for letting me photograph and research their collection for this and upcoming issues of Motorcycle Mojo Magazine. Also a big thanks to Ken Livingston and Dave Hall for setting the bikes up during the photo shoots.

BSA Goldstar
BSA: Birmingham Small Arms was England's largest and for a time, the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer. The company began in 1854 as a joint venture of a number of small Birmingham, England area gunsmiths to supply armaments to the British forces during the Crimean War. The progression to build bicycles came in the 1880's as a result of a decreased demand for firearms. BSA's motorcycle business started in 1903 building re-enforced frames to hold an imported 2hp engine. The first BSA to roll off the line with all of its parts produced in-house was a 498cc side valve engine in 1910.

During World War 1, BSA supplied some motorcycles to the war effort but concentrated most of its attention to making armaments for the allied forces.

The Gold Star made its debut in 1936 and was originally called the Empire Star. The name was changed to Gold Star after a tuned Empire Star broke 100mph at the Brooklands banked circuit and received the coveted lapel badge- a Gold Star.

BSA had a relatively strong racing presence prior to the Second World War. All racing activity was put aside during the War but resumed afterwards to give the company consistent racing results which had eluded them beforehand. Racing success equals strong consumer sales and the motorcycles were considered very reliable and a good value for the money.

BSA 1950 Goldstar
BSA 1950 Goldstar
1950 BSA Gold Star

500cc Four stroke single cylinder engine. Two pushrod actuated overhead valves.

BSA 1939 Goldstar
BSA 1939 Goldstar
1939 BSA Gold Star

500cc Four stroke single cylinder engine. Two pushrod actuated overhead valves. Plunger frame.

Restored by Tim Bardsley in 2004.

1938 Ariel Square Four
Ariel: The Ariel company started life making bicycles and in 1870, founder James Starley and William Hillman invented the wire-spoke wheel which allowed them to build a lighter weight bicycle naming it Ariel-the spirit of the air. In 1896 the company began making motorized four-wheeled vehicles followed by a motorized three-wheeled bicycle.

In 1902 Components Ltd., owned by Charles Sangster bought the company and began producing motorcycles but their progression over the next two decades was sluggish. During the 20's, Charles' son Jack Sangster hired some of the best designer/engineers in Britain and the marque was beginning to show promise. To little to late perhaps?

Ariel's parent company went bankrupt in 1932 when Jack Sangster bought the rights to the Ariel name and much of the tooling at a reduced cost and started a new company called Ariel Motors (J.S.) Ltd.. After the Second World War, Ariel voluntarily allowed itself to be absorbed by the BSA empire. One of Ariel's most notable engines was the Square Four, the first prototype emerging in 1930. As the name suggests, the cylinders were configured with two cylinders directly behind the front two cylinders. Starting as a 500cc engine, then increased to 600cc and finally the 1000cc configuration. The 'Squariel' was plagued with heat problems as one might imagine having two cylinders directly behind the front pair. Despite the heat issues it remained in production until 1954.

1938 Ariel Square Four, Restored by Tim Bardsley
1938 Ariel Square Four 1000cc four stroke, pushrod overhead valve four cylinder.

Restored by Tim Bardsley

1928 Scott TT Replica
Scott: Alfred A. Scott founded the company in 1909 in Shipley, England. Scott was a pioneer in the engineering field with two stroke engines, liquid cooling and rotary inlet valves. Some other innovations of the Scott in 1911 were the first motorcycle to have a kickstart, a foot actuated gear changer and was one of the first bikes to have a chain final drive.

Most riders of the day rode big four stroke air cooled powered motorcycles and usually shied away from the cheap smelly little two strokes until an early Scott humiliated bigger four stroke bikes at a hillclimb.

Alfred A. Scott died in 1923. Production continued but the company suffered without his determination and ideas and the company went into receivership in 1931. A new owner tried to revive the company and built a few bikes in future years, the last one in 1972.

1928 Scott TT Liquid cooled two stroke
1928 Scott TT Replica, Restored by Andrew Bosson
1928 Scott TT Replica Liquid cooled two-stroke tandem twin cylinder engine.

Restored by Andrew Bosson

1938 Rudge Special
Rudge: The Rudge bicycle factory began production in 1868 in Wolverhampton, England and produced its first motorcycle in Coventry in 1910. Rudge had a notable racing history during the early 1900's in a series of races all over Europe as well as a win at Brooklands 200 mile solo. Finances kept the company from being innovative and their technology became 'Old Hat', still using belt drive in the early 1920's. By the mid 20's, Rudge had developed 3 and 4 speed transmissions which helped to secure more racing titles.

Rudge went into receivership in the early 30's and was bought by, oddly enough, HMV (His Masters Voice), the gramophone company who continued to refine the machines. The last Rudge rolled off the assembly line in 1939. Notables on this bike are the unusual but effective hand operated centre stand on left hand side and off-set wheel spokes.

1938 Rudge Special 500 cc four stroke single
1938 Rudge Special restored in England in 1993
1938 Rudge Special 500cc Four stroke single cylinder engine. Four pushrod actuated overhead valves, twin exhaust ports.

Restored in England in 1993.

1967 Velocette Thruxton, Restored by Rob Hunt
Velocette: Partners John Taylor and William Gue began building bicycles in the Birmingham area in 1896. After the take-over of motorcycle manufacturer Kelecom Motors in London, England in 1904, the partners began producing motorized bicycles and in 1905 registered the name Veloce. The Velocette name would not surface until 1913.

After dabbling in small two-stroke single and twin cylinder engines and scooters, Velocette became well known for their four-stroke singles after 1925. Velocette had a rich racing history and were consistently winning races and breaking records for decades to come.

The end for Velocette came in 1971 while, ironically, developing the Viceroy Scooter. The R&D costs were too great to an ever demanding market as well as the owner's love of racing which became a money pit also contributed to the fall of Velocette.

The Velocette Thruxton had a race tuned engine and was named after the 1964 Victory at the prestigious 500 mile race at Hampshire's Thruxton circuit.

1967 Velocette Thruxton 500 cc four stroke single
1967 Velocette Thruxton

500cc four stroke, pushrod overhead valve single cylinder engine.

Restored by Rob Hunt

1955 Norton Dominator
Norton: James Lansdown Norton founded the Norton Company in 1898 in the motorcycle manufacturing rich area of Birmingham and produced and supplied parts to bicycle and motorcycle manufacturers. Norton began producing its own motorcycles in 1902 using Clement and Peugeot engines. Norton's were considered 'behind the times', still using belt drive by the dawn of the First World War but improved their technology soon after with a clutch, gearbox and chain drive.

Norton had considerable success in racing including taking nine places in the top fourteen in the first Manx TT in 1920 although none of those nine places garnered a win. Norton also boasted wins at Brooklands and many other races in Europe.

Norton was bought by motorcycle giant Associated Motor Cycles (AJS, Matchless, James and Francis-Barnett) in 1953 after it was evident that the company couldn't financially survive despite the success of the featherbed frame used in racing bikes as well as the Dominator in 1952. This take-over was not welcomed news to Norton aficionados.

AMC went into receivership in 1966. Norton was the only motorcycle marque in the company that made money at this point. The new owner called the reformed company Norton-Villiers. A few years would pass only to see financial trouble again.

In 1973, the British government's attempt to rescue the motorcycle industry forced a merger of BSA/Triumph and Norton-Villiers in return for funds to remain in business. The resultant company was called was Norton-Villiers-Triumph (NVT). This incarnation of Norton liquidated in 1978 but the new owner kept building rotary engined motorcycles for the next 15 years with some success but few sales until the Norton name as we know it just slowly disappeared.

1955 Norton Dominator 500 cc four stroke twin
1955 Norton Dominator

500cc four stroke, pushrod overhead valve twin cylinder engine.

Restored by Tim Bardsley

1960 Norton Road Racer 750 cc
1960 Norton Road Racer 750 cc four stroke twin
1960 Norton Road Racer, built and raced by Ron Peter
1960 Norton Road Racer

750cc four stroke, pushrod overhead valve twin cylinder engine. 1983 Vintage Championship winning race bike.

Built and raced by Ron Peter

1960 Matchless G80 CS
Matchless: In 1899 brothers Charlie and Harry Collier joined their father H.H. Collier in his bicycle manufacturing business and started building the first Matchless motorcycles. Charlie won the first ever Isle of Man TT in 1907 and brother Harry won the Isle of Man TT in 1909. Both brothers were also successful at Brooklands.

Matchless bought AJS in 1931 and Sunbeam in 1937. The company, now called Associated Motor Cycles or AMC, continued to buy rival motorcycle manufacturers such as Francis-Barnett as well as Norton and James.

The receivers were called in to AMC in 1966 and a new company called Norton-Villiers emerged. Any Matchless motorcycles after that time was really a Norton with the Matchless badge on the tank. The Matchless line of motorcycles ceased to exist after the 1968 release of the Norton Commando.

1960 Matchless 500 cc four stroke single Competition model
1960 Matchless G80 CS

500cc four stroke, pushrod overhead valve single cylinder engine. Competition model.

Restored by Warren Wheeler

1953 Vincent Rapide Series 'C'
Vincent: The Vincent was known in its day as the best bike ever made. It is still a much sought after motorcycle and is still considered by many as one of the best motorcycles of all time. It had speed, looks and dependability. It is arguably one of the most aesthetically pleasing motorcycles to look at. The Rapid Series 'A' was known as the 'plumber's nightmare' because of the jungle of oil tubes feeding the engine and was not the most desirable motorcycle of the Vincent line-up. Postwar Series 'B' to Series 'D' were much more oil tight and more dependable in every way. The Rapide's cousin, the Black Shadow had minor engine differences that developed 10 more horsepower and was dubbed the 'worlds fastest standard motorcycle' in production at 125mph. Vincent ceased operations in 1955.

1953 Vincent Rapide, 1000 cc V-Twin
1953 Vincent Rapide Series 'C'

1000cc pushrod two valve V-Twin cylinder engine. Features a monoshock rear suspension.

Restored by Byrne Bramwell

1957 Triumph TRW 500 cc 4-stroke twin
Triumph: Triumph was founded by Mauritz Schulte and Siegfried Bettmann, two German emigrants, in 1885 as a bicycle company. 1902 saw the first bicycle turn motorcycle with a 239cc Belgian engine. Triumph started its illustrious racing history in 1907 when it finished the very first Isle of Man TT with a second place finish and finished first the following year with a fastest lap at a blistering 68kph. Triumph continued to prosper and contributed approximately 30,000 motorcycles to the Allied war effort in World War 1. Triumph proceeded to develop new engines in the 30's and continued to collect racing trophies.

The Coventry factory was destroyed by a German air raid in 1940 and the factory moved to temporary premises but focused its war effort on making wartime equipment. By 1944, Triumph was once again producing motorcycles. Triumph was forced to join into the BSA merger with Norton-Villiers to form NVT in 1973. The newly formed company had labour disputes from the Triumph employees who had locked the factory doors from the inside for 18 months. The government granted a loan to the employees and the plant opened again to produce motorcycles once again as Meridian Motorcycles. 1983 saw the Triumph factory close for good as liquidators auctioned off any assets. The Triumph name was bought by John Bloor who built a new factory in Hinckley, Leicestershire, England and the new Triumphs were launched in 1990. One of England's largest industrial fires destroyed the plant but was again rebuilt and was producing motorcycles 6 months after the disaster.

1957 Triumph TRW - Canadian Military Model
1957 Triumph TRW 500cc four stroke flathead twin cylinder engine.

All original Canadian military model.

1959 Triumph Bonneville 650 cc
1959 Triumph Bonneville 650cc four stroke, pushrod overhead valve twin cylinder engine.

Restored by Tim Bardsley

1959 Triumph Bonneville 650 cc 4-stroke twin
1959 Triumph Bonneville 650 cc, Restored by Tim Bardsley
1959 was the first year for the Bonneville. It was named after breaking a motorcycle land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats on a tuned T110 in a cigar shaped shell.

1969 Triumph powered Dragster Alcohol burning 850cc 4-stroke
1969 Triumph powered Dragster - Alf Hagon chassis from England
1969 Triumph Powered Dragster Alcohol burning 850cc four stroke, pushrod overhead valve twin cylinder engine. Alf Hagon chassis from England.

Restored by Herb Becker

1972 Triumph Trident T150, 750 cc 4-stroke triple
1972 Triumph Trident T150, 750 cc 4-stroke triple
1972 Triumph T150 Trident 750cc four stroke overhead valve triple cylinder engine.

1967 Rickman-Triumph Metisse
Rickman: Brothers Derek and Don Rickman believed that there were good frames and good engines but the two rarely were put together. The brothers built the lightweight 'Metisse' chassis to fit a number of various engines to create off-road machines.

In later years the company made high quality street and racing frames and even began building motorcycles using left over Constellation engines after the demise of Royal Enfield. During the mid-70's, Rickman used Honda CB750 engines in their street bikes. The company stopped producing motorcycle chassis in 1975 and concentrated their efforts on manufacturing accessories.

1967 Rickman-Triumph Metisse
1967 Rickman-Triumph Metisse

500cc Triumph four stroke, pushrod overhead valve twin cylinder engine. Rickman Metisse frame.

Restored by Ron Peter

Originally published in Motorcycle Mojo Magazine, by author and photographer Glenn Roberts, reproduced here with kind permission.

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