Friday, August 28, 2009

Ariel Motorcycles...It's another history lesson

1927 Modal A Ariel Vintage Photo.

Ariel Motorcycles....

Ariel started life as a manufacturer of air inflated rubber tires for horse drawn carriages around 1847. By 1885, Ariel, under the leadership of William Hillman and James Starley changed gears, turning the factory toward the wave of the future, the bicycle.

Ariel decided to ride with the design known as Rover Safety Bicycle, with it's wire spoked wheels, chain driven propulsion and it's all metal opposed to the "penny-farthing" bicycle design of the times.

Rover Safety Bicycle

Photo from Science Museum, London

Penny farthing bicycle
Photo from Photo from Science Museum, London

By 1900, Ariel being the progressive company and thinkers of the day, had begun to shift their mechanical attentions toward the motorcycle. It all started with their de Dion-Bouton powered vélocipède tricycle in 1898.

1900 De Dion-Boutin Tricycle
Photo from

Then in 1901 a motor driven bicycle....

Minerva Motorcyclet diagrams
Photo from the website

Minerva Engine
from the website

Early Ariel models used 3rd-party engines manufactured by J.A. Prestwich Industries Ltd. in Middlesex.

J.A. Prestwich Industries Ltd. in Middlesex.

1910 Ariel 482cc Outfit
Photo from/by Denis Gosney. Thanks to David Withers for pointing out that the DL registration is from the Isle of Wight. And also thanks to Alf Ashbrook for identifying the bike as a 482cc Ariel of around 1910.

To learn more about JAP Industries be sure to click on the above link!

In 1927, Ariel put into production: The Ariel Red Hunter. This bike was designed by Val Page, who in 1925 became Ariel's chief designer. According to Wikipedia
Page had to wait until 1927 before a suitable frame and cycle parts were designed. These formed the basis for what was to be the Ariel Red Hunter, which continued successfully until Ariel ceased production of four strokes in 1959.

1937 Ariel Red Hunter
This photo is from: and is the property of Alistair Godfrey of Bristol

From here on out...the information is so good, I could only copy and paste, I don't think I could write it as well as these folks.... The only contribution to the storyline from here out... I found the related pictures and posted em here...Sigh...

The introduction of Edward Turners OHC Sq 4 500cc occurred in 1931.

1932 Ariel Square 4

The Sq was enlarged to 600cc for sidecar use in 1932, but shortly after this, the company went in to liquidation following the depression of the early '30's. The phoenix that arose from these ashes went on to rationalize the range back to upright singles and the 600 OHC Sq4, all installed in a more or less common frame.

Towards the end of the 30's the Sq4 became an OHV pushrod motor of,

1946 Ariel VB600
VB600 From

first 600cc then the 1000cc Iron engine 4G of the Pre and Post-war era. Late in the 40's Ariel introduced a 500 OHV twin designated KH.

1954 Ariel KH500
This photo belongs to Andreas Melcher

At the beginning of the 50's the Iron engined Sq4 was developed into an Alloy engined model, the MK1,

1951 Ariel Square Four 4G Mk I
1951 Ariel Square Four 4G Mk I Photo from

which was itself superseded in 1953 by the classic 4 pipe version, the Mk2. For the next year the range of Ariels were produced in the Pivoted Rear Fork frame option, except the Sq4 which remained in a plunger frame until production ceased in 1959.

In 1954 Ariel produced the 650 Huntmaster,

Ariel Huntmaster 650cc 1959
Ariel Huntmaster 650cc 1959 Thanks to Martyn Roberts for this picture of his 1959 Ariel Huntmaster 650cc.

the engine of which was based on the BSA 650 A10, with which it shares many internal components, and also a small 200cc four stroke machine, the Ariel Colt.
The Ariel LH Colt model was built from 1954-59 and was essentially a copy of the BSA C11G model.

Ariel Colt

The revolutionary 250cc Ariel Leader was produced from 1958 until 1966, being joined by its undressed sibling, the Ariel Arrow, in 1960. A smaller 200cc engined version came on the scene in 1964.

By the early 1940s, British industrialist Sir Bernard D.F. Docker (1896-1978) became chairman of BSA. Docker was also chairman Daimler Motor Company during roughly the same period. Under Docker's leadership, BSA acquired Triumph Motorcycles in 1951, making them the largest producer of motorcycles in the world. He also acquired the motorcycle interests of British manufacturers' Ariel, New Hudson and Sunbeam.