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Information courtesy of Glenn Roberts
1967 Yamaha YCS1

Date of Manufacture: 1967
Engine Size: 180CC

It is doubtful that Torakusu Yamaha, born in 1851 and died in 1916, ever laid eyes on a motorcycle or anything powered by an internal combustion engine for that matter. Yamaha was an apprentice clockmaker and self employed engineer. He was asked to repair a school organ that led to the creation of a new company, Nippon Gakki, which used as its logo three crossed tuning forks. This new company was the forbearer of the huge musical instrument company Yamaha. After his death and many management changes, the leaders of the company in 1948 entered into the transport industry and began to produce small inexpensive motorcycles. The management decided to call the new company Yamaha after its founder. Because the motorcycle industry was in its infancy in Japan, the engineers turned to the European market for ideas and chose DKW (as many other manufacturers did) as its basis for design. Yamaha began to see increased consumer sales due to successful racing in Japan and Europe and were the first Japanese manufacturer to race in North America.

Yamaha produced many milestone models of which many spin-offs were derived. Yamaha developed the very successful DT (Dirt and Trail) line to capitalize on the off-road market that was sweeping North America. The DT line resulted in the competition YZ model of Motocross bikes in 1974.

Adler M200

Date of Manufacture: 1953
Engine Size: 200CC

Like so many of the early motorcycle companies, Adler began making bicycles in 1886 but also started to produce typewriters in 1895. The first motorcycle rolled out of the plant in 1902 but was a short lived production cycle of only a few years. The automobile was becoming the new style in transport causing Adler to delve into car production with the release of their first car in 1900. From the end of the first decade until the late forties, Adler concentrated its efforts on bicycles, typewriters and automobiles.

Forty years later Adler once again revived their motorcycle production to help meet the public's need for affordable transportation. The Adler soon had a good reputation for a comfortable ride with its front and rear suspension and solid frame. The company had some success in the area of competition as well, especially in endurance racing.

Early years in the plant's motorcycle history produced small engined singles which led to the twin cylinder M200. Later the M250 was Adler's best seller which caught the attention of other bike manufacturers and inspired motorcycles built by Ariel and Yamaha.

Adler was acquired by electrical giant Grundig in 1958 and motorcycle production ceased later that year.

Ariel Square Four

Date of Manufacture: 1938
Engine Size: 1000CC

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.

Benelli Tornado

Date of Manufacture: 1973
Engine Size: 650CC

In 1911 three brothers opened a small workshop only to become one of Italy's most famous and oldest motorcycle marquees. The workshop initially did repairs to automobiles, motorcycles and oddly enough, firearms. Shortly after opening the shop the brothers began to produce parts for automobiles and aircraft for the war effort. After the war, the need for cheap and efficient transportation prompted Benelli to build small engines to be attached to regular bicycle frames. The engine was too powerful for most bikes frames to handle so the Benelli brothers designed their own frame to mount the engine becoming the first Benelli motorcycle.

The company saw many years of racing victories but the late 1960’s saw financial troubles for Benelli. The 650cc OHV Twin Tornado was just released when the company was taken over in 1971 by Argentinian industrialist, Alejandro de Tomaso, who also owned Moto Guzzi. The new ownership cut most lines of Benelli motorcycles but the Tornado survived. The company later went on to produce in-line 4 and 6 cylinder engines.


Date of Manufacture: 1960
Engine Size: 247CC

Based largely on the R26, in 1960 the R27 added rubber mounts for the engine and boosted power to 18 hp.

The R27 was the last shaft drive single-cylinder motorcycle that BMW made. The 247 cc R39 was the first in 1925. The R27's 250 cc OHV vertical single was the only rubber-mounted thumper engine BMW ever produced. The engine pumped out 18 horsepower, the highest ever for a shaft-drive BMW single. BMW manufactured 15,364 R27s (engine numbers 372 001 – 387 566 ) over the production years of 1960 through 1966. Some of the 1966 R27s were sold as 1967 models because dealers in those years often would assign dates to BMW motorcycles when they sold them, and not necessarily when they were manufactured.

The vast majority of R27 motorcycles exported to the United States by BMW were black with white pinstriping. A few, however, were brought in by importer Butler & Smith in a color called Dover white, with black pinstriping. Why "Dover white?" Butler & Smith head honcho, Michael Bondy, had a 1942 Packard automobile in an off-white color called dover white. Bondy sent a sample of this color to BMW AG in Munich and asked that it be duplicated. BMW did copy the color, and Bondy ordered fifty motorcycles in that color. Today, BMW motorcycles in original dover white are a sought-after rarity.


Date of Manufacture: 1951
Engine Size: 500CC

The roots of BMW are carved in history as quality manufacturers of aircraft engines which began in the early part of the 20th century. Today's logo is still a representation of a spinning propeller. Following the First World War, the Peace Treaty of Versailles banned the production of such engines so BMW, who had a reputation as a quality engine building company, began to build engines on a much smaller scale. From their aircraft engine experience, BMW were quite familiar with pistons operating opposite each other so they designed a horizontally opposed two cylinder engine with the cylinders fore and aft. BMW supplied the Victoria motorcycle company with this engine.

In 1923 BMW went on their own to build their own brand of motorcycle realizing the need for quality in the marketplace. Aircraft engineer, Max Friz, designed the more commonly known transverse horizontally opposed twin cylinder engine, an engine design that BMW still uses today more than eighty years later. Within a year of the original engine design they had almost doubled the horsepower due to the introduction of overhead valves in the flat twin.

BMW R51/3

Date of Manufacture: 1950
Engine Size: 500CC

The BMW R51/3 was BMW's first modern postwar 500 cc motorcycle. It used BMW's time-tested boxer engine layout and exposed driveshaft. The R51/3 succeeded and modernized the 1950 R51/2, which was essentially a prewar design that was produced after the war.

Following World War II, Germany was precluded from producing motorcycles of any sort by the Allies. When the ban was lifted, in Allied controlled Western Germany, BMW Aktiengesellschaft (AG) had to start from scratch. There were no plans, blueprints, or schematic drawings. Company engineers had to use surviving prewar motorcycles to create new plans. In 1948, it introduced the 250 cc R24, which was essentially a pre-war R23, complete with rigid rear end.

When larger machines were permitted, BMW introduced its R51/2 [1] in 1950, a model that was in production for only one year and that was essentially a prewar BMW produced after the war. The R51/3 was then introduced in 1951 for a production run of four years.

The 600 cc R67, sister model to the R51/3 and almost identical visually, was also introduced in 1951, but it went through two revisions. The R67/2, with 2 hp (2 kW) more, came out one year later and was replaced in 1955 by the R67/3, which was in production through the 1956 model year.

In 1952, BMW introduced the 600 cc R68 [2] [3]. With 35 hp and a compression ratio of 8.0:1, this was the first BMW production motorcycle that could reach and pass 100 mph (160 km/h).

BMW R75/5

Date of Manufacture: 1970
Engine Size: 750CC

All slash-5 models have air-cooled, four-cycle, opposed-twin (boxer) engines with hemispherical combustion chambers. Their engine housings are one-piece tunnels housings. The camshaft, driven by a duplex chain, runs at half of the engine speed and is located below the crankshaft. This is the reverse arrangement from the /2 models and allows gravity to assist the delivery of oil to the camshaft. Valves are actuated by the camshaft through hardened followers, push rods, and rocker arms. The 500 cc and 600 cc models are equipped with Bing slide-type carburetors with 26 mm throats. The R75/5 comes with 32 mm Bing CV (Constant Vacuum/constant depression) type carburetors. As in all BMWs to the time, the clutch is a single-disk dry clutch. The slash-5s have four-speed transmissions and come with kick-starters as well as electric starters. The kick starters are less sturdy than on previous models and are a frequent point of failure, most often due to incorrect kick starting technique. They were intended for emergency use in the incident of an electrical failure. When properly tuned, a slash-5 can be started by operating the kick start lever with the hand, requiring very little force to start the engine. [1] Final drive is by shaft, running from the transmission by universal joint to an oil bath within the right rear swing arm and connecting to a bevel gear and ring gear on the other end. Unlike the slash-2 models, the slash-5 models are equipped with telescopic front forks, 12-volt alternator and electrics, and standard tachometer and turn signals.

BSA Gold Star

Date of Manufacture: 1950
Engine Size: 500CC

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.

Ducati 750S

Date of Manufacture: 1974
Engine Size: 750CC

Taglioni experimented with four valve heads at this time, but failed to produce better power figures than his two valve heads, so the two valve racers continued. He continued to experiment with four valve heads right up to 1973. In 1971 race results were spoilt by a run of gearbox and ignition problems. Phil Read's second to Agostini in the San Remo Grand Prix, and a fourth, also by Read, at Monza in the Grand Prix delle Nazione were the highlights of the season. .

A Seeley frame 750 cc had been tested by Mike Hailwood at Silverstone in August 1971 with a view to competing in F750. Hailwood decided against it, saying he didn’t think the handling was good enough.

Taglioni had already produced a new frame, for the production bike, incorporating some of the Seeley features. He later said he felt the Seeley frame had been too light for the V twins. They used the production frame for the 1972 Imola bikes.

The 200 Mile formula was first run in Italy in 1972, at Imola. Ducati prepared eight 750 cc bikes for the event. Paul Smart, Bruno Spaggiari, Ermanno Giuliano, and Alan Dunscombe were secured as riders. By now racing fever had set in, and the factory wanted to win. The bikes had the new factory frames and 750 engines, and were once more prepared in a very short time. Wherever possible the bike was lightened, and new 40 mm Dell'Orto carburetors with accelerator pumps were used. These engines delivered 80 hp at 8,500 rpm

Ducati 851 SP1

Date of Manufacture: 1989
Engine Size: 851CC

After buying Ducati, Cagiva invested in the development of another V-twin, but with liquid cooling, and four valve desmodromic heads. Massimo Bordi, had designed a 4V Desmo in 1973 for his thesis at the University of Bologna, and with Cagiva in 1985, saw his updated ideas come into production as the Desmoquattro.

Based on the Pantah motor, but with liquid cooling, fuel injection, and desmodromic four valve heads (with an included valve angle of 40 degrees), the 851 made Ducati race competitive again.

The original Desmo Quattro was an experimental 748 cc 4 valve racer (seen at the Bol d'Or in 1986) and used 750 F1 Pantah crankcases. Bordi collaborated with Cosworth to develop the heads, but in the time they had, they were only able to reduce the included valve angle of the desmodromic engine to 40°, while less than 30° was possible with valve springs. Ducati stuck with the desmodromics.[2]

The subsequent 851 road bike had stronger crankcases, while the heads and valves remained the same; designed to fit above the 88 mm bore of a 748 cc version.

The 1987 – 1988 Ducati 851 Strada used the signature steel tube trellis frame, adorned with Marvic wheels, Brembo brakes and Marzocchi suspension. That first release was criticised for its handling, so front wheel was changed from a 16 inch to a 17 inch wheel, and even better suspension components fitted

Ducati Monza

Date of Manufacture: 1966
Engine Size: 250CC

Adriano Ducati studied physics and was more interested in radios in his youth than mechanical machinery. He started an electrical equipment company in 1926 and soon expanded into optics and mechanics. The German Army commandeered the plant during the war and shipped the equipment back to Germany before heavy bombing destroyed the factory.

The company rebuilt in 1946 to produce the 'Cucciolo' (puppy), a small 48cc engine to be clipped onto a bicycle frame for cheap economical transportation that was desperately needed after the war in Europe. Ducati broke a 12 hour speed record in 1951 with the blistering speed of almost 42mph. Later this engine was to be mounted into a moped of Ducati's own design.

Ducati Pantah

Date of Manufacture: 1983
Engine Size: 500CC

When the 1976 350 cc and 500 cc vertical twins were recognised as a marketing disaster, Fabio Taglioni went to work developing the Pantah. The Pantah 500 is where the current line of V twins began. Developed from the last of the GP500 racers of 1973, the Pantah and its successors have shown that, contrary to the previously accepted wisdom, a twin can race against the fours and win. The bike was first shown at the Milan Bike show in December 1979. The prototype was different again to Ducati’s earlier bikes: it had a trellis frame, with the suspended motor acting as a stressed member, the swingarm pivoted on the rear of the crankcase, the SOHC was driven by toothed rubber belt, the primary transmission was via Morse chain and the front disc was a Campagnolo Hydroconico.[1] The claimed performance was impressive: 500 cc, 50 hp (36.5 kW)) @ 8500 rpm, 180 kg, 1450 mm of wheelbase, significantly different from the earlier bevel head V twins which were long bulky and stable, and easily surpassed the ill-conceived 1976 parallel twins.

The Pantah came onto the market in 1980 as the red and silver 500SL, with the engine using belt driven camshafts, and a plain bearing crankshaft. It had the same bore and stroke as the old 500 racer, 74 mm x 58 mm, but the head had a 60 degree included valve angle and kept the belt driven camshafts used on the final 500GP engine version. They were noticeably lacking in bottom end and mid range torque, but revved freely enough. The suspension seemed less certain than earlier Ducati models, and the 35 mm front forks lacked rigidity.

Enthusiasts found the final gearing too tall, and the intake and exhaust restrictive. If you changed those for higher flow items, and lowered the gearing, it gave a performance increase

Ducati Sebring

Date of Manufacture: 1965
Engine Size: 350CC

In 1965, the first new concept bike arrived. The 350 Sebring was the largest Ducati of the day. Typically, Ducati built a racing 350 first. The 350 class was not common in the United States, so when Ducati team rider Franco Farne went to America to race at Sebring race, he had to race in an event catering to 251-700 cc machines. Despite the larger capacity opposition, he finished 11th overall and, more importantly, won his own class outright. In honour of Farne's victory the new model became the 350 Sebring. (Footnote: It was common for Italian manufacturers of competition cars or motorcycles to attach to the name their products events they have won.)

By the mid-1960's, production techniques had advanced to the extent that a road Desmo was now possible. Farne's appeared at the April 1966 Modena meeting, riding a prototype 250 cc machine fitted with an experimental Desmodromic head. In 1967 Roberto Gallina and Gilberto Parlotti raced at Modena on 250 and 350 versions.

Garelli Mosquito

Date of Manufacture: 1958
Engine Size: 50CC

At age 22, Adalberto Garelli received a degree in engineering and dedicated his work to developing and perfecting the 2-stroke engine for Fiat. Garelli quit in 1911 due to Fiat's lack of enthusiasm for the 2-stroke engine. He continued his own engine design between 1911 and 1914 which resulted in the 350cc split-single. Garelli worked for other motorcycle manufacturers from 1914 to 1918 during which time he won a competition organized by the Italian Army to design a motorcycle with which he used his 350cc split-single engine.

After WWI Garelli began to produce motorcycles in his own factory. The Garelli 350cc split-single stayed in production until 1926 and made a major impact in racing. By 1928 his motorcycle interest was waning and his factory began producing military equipment leaving motorcycle production completely.

Harley-Davidson H-D XLCR 61ci

Date of Manufacture: 1978
Engine Size: 1000CC

The history of Harley-Davidson is a long and illustrious one and far too vast for these few pages. There are many excellent books on the subject of the Motor Company at most book stores for those who wish a more complete history. Since the engine is one of the reasons, if not the main reason, the company is so well recognized I will give a brief history of the most famous of their engine designs, the 45¼ air cooled V-Twin.

The first H-D configuration of V-Twin the company produced was in 1909. A few different V-Twin configurations emerged from that initial design but today's engine is an advanced derivative of the 'Knucklehead' first introduced in 1936. The 1000cc and 1200cc Knucklehead engines were produced until 1947 and were the first H-D engine with a combination of a 45¼ air cooled V-Twin with push rod actuated overhead valves and a dry sump lubrication system.

Hercules Wankel

Date of Manufacture: 1974
Engine Size: 350CC

The Hercules company opened its doors in 1903 Nuremberg with their first motorcycle being an engine hung on a heavy-duty bicycle frame as many others were doing. Drive was direct from the engine to the rear wheel via belt. Hercules outsourced engines from many other companies and never did manufacture any of their own engines.

Hercules' main focus in its early years were small motorcycle/scooter design with small capacity engines. They began to increase to larger machines in the thirties and even saw some competition and long distance endurance success.

World War II resulted in heavy damage to the Hercules factory and production did not resume until 1950. The company developed a number of new models and stuck with those models for many years which helped them survive a downturn in the German economy shortly after their release. Hercules became one of the largest motorcycle producing companies in Germany. In 1966 the company merged with the Zweirad Union which also included DKW, Express and Victoria. In 1974 Hercules released the Wankel powered W2000 and were the first company to produce a motorcycle with a Wankel rotary engine.

Honda 305 Dream

Date of Manufacture: 1966
Engine Size: 500CC

Honda: Born in 1906, Soichiro Honda was the son of the village blacksmith in Hamamatsu, Japan. At age 16, Honda left home for Tokyo where he apprenticed to become an auto mechanic and later returning home to open his own auto repair business. Business was good allowing Honda to begin a successful part-time career in auto racing securing him an average speed record which remained unbroken for 20 years. A serious accident, however, ended his racing career. Japan was rapidly industrializing when Honda opened a factory producing piston rings. An earthquake leveled the plant completely in 1945, finishing the work of allied bombs one year prior. Japan, like most other war ravaged industrialized nations, had a shortage of transportation which had to be both inexpensive to purchase and to operate. As luck would have it, Honda happened upon 500 army surplus engines which he bolted to the frames of regular bicycles resulting in the first Honda motorcycle.

Honda being a self taught engineer, built his first two wheeler in 1947 after World War II. Those first 500 motorcycles sold fast prompting Honda to produce his own engine and purpose-built frame. The Honda motorcycle was still belt driven until 1949 when Honda released the 'D' model, or 'Dream', with a two speed gearbox and chain drive. In 1950, Honda's quality, dependability and the establishment of a large dealer network made Honda the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the country accounting for almost half of Japan's motorcycle production.

Indian Boardtracker

Date of Manufacture: 1920
Engine Size: 1000CC

1920 Indian 'Boardtracker' 61ci (1000cc) four stroke V-twin. Factory Board-Track racer running on alcohol. Full throttle only, no transmission, no clutch and no brakes.

These bikes only purpose was to travel fast in an oval track made of wood boards. Over the years the tracks would get chewed up and splintered, oil soaked and slippery. The bikes featured a wide open throttle, no clutch or transmission and brakes were non-existent, only a kill switch to stop the engine. It's no wonder so many men lost their lives competing in such races as well as many a spectator when the bikes left the track and crashed into the crowd.

Indian Chief

Date of Manufacture: 1947
Engine Size: 1200CC

Indian is best known for the Chief, Scout and the Four. The Four used a longitudinal in-line four cylinder engine. They had many other engine configurations over their distinguished history including a flat twin and many single cylinder engines

Universally recognized by the large skirted front fender and the Indian head which sits on top of it. Introduced in 1921 with a 1000cc engine it was a powerful fast motorcycle.

Innocenti Lambretta

Date of Manufacture: 1947
Engine Size: 49CC

The Lambretta was a line of motor scooters manufactured in Milan, Italy, by Innocenti. The name Lambretta comes from the name of a small river (Lambro) in Milan, near the factory.

In 1922, Ferdinando Innocenti of Pescia built a steel tubing factory in Rome. In 1931, he took the business to Milan where he built a larger factory producing seamless steel tubing and employing about 6,000. During the Second World War the factory was heavily bombed and destroyed. It is said that surveying the ruins, Innocenti saw the future of cheap, private transport and decided to produce a motor scooter – competing on cost and weather protection against the ubiquitous motorcycle. Innocenti company started production of Lambretta scooters in 1947 and ceased production in 1971. However, Lambrettas were manufactured under licence in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, India and Spain, sometimes under other names but always to a recognizable design (e.g. Siambretta in South America and Serveta in Spain).

As wealth increased in Western Europe in the late 60s, the demand for motorscooters fell as the small car became available to more people and Lambretta started to struggle financially. The British Motor Corporation (BMC) took advantage of Innocenti's financial difficulties as well as their production and engineering expertise and contracted Innocenti to produce cars under license from BMC. The Innocenti Mini used the mechanical components of the original but was in many ways superior to it.

IZH Planeta Sport

Date of Manufacture: 1980
Engine Size: 350CC

This company started in 1933 in the USSR town of Izhevsk which is where the name came from, the first three letters of the town name. IZH did as many Soviet motorcycle companies of the era did, they copied the technology of other manufacturers and the early bikes from IZH were direct take-off's of Germany's DWK. After WWII, IZH began producing ISDT racing versions using regular production parts but in the 1960's made specialized bikes with winning in mind.

These ISDT inspired motorcycles proved very successful winning gold medals in international competition for the Soviet teams. The Planeta line started in 1962. In 1971 to 1975 the plant expanded with a modern assembly line and increased production. This is when the Planeta Sport was introduced using IZH's own technology and was far removed from DKW technology. IZH continues to produce motorcycles and are very popular in the Middle East, Far East, Eastern Europe, Central Africa and South America.

Jawa OHC

Date of Manufacture: 1955
Engine Size: 500CC

Frantisek Janecek was an arms manufacturer in Czechoslovakia who in 1929, like so many other munitions makers, decided to start building motorcycles. Janecek bought the rights to produce the Wanderer brand and the name Jawa is a derivative of the two names, JAnecek and WAnderer. Jawa became the best known of all Czechslovakian motorcycle marques.

During WWII, Jawa secretly began designing and developing a new motorcycle. One of these designs was a 250cc model with ultra-modern unit construction, automatic clutch, telescopic front fork and plunger rear suspension. After WWII the company fell under communist rule but after a few years were authorized to compete in racing. Jawa cleaned up in the ISDT for many years. They didn't have as much success in road racing.

Although two stroke engines were the company's mainstay, they did produce a 488cc double overhead cam 4-stroke engine in 1952. 1953 saw a power increase to 28hp and 1954 saw a dual seat and larger brakes. The new 500 OHC Twin was a prestigious bike but sales were slow and production of the 500 Twin ended in 1958.

Kawasaki Mach III

Date of Manufacture: 1969
Engine Size: 500CC

Kawasaki Heavy Industries, the parent company of the motorcycle division, is one of the largest industrial companies in the world making the motorcycle part of the business somewhat of a sideline. The company began as a shipyard 1878 founded by Shozo Kawasaki. Prior to World War I, it had branched out to produce locomotives, marine transportation, steel, aircraft and engines. After World War II, all divisions had work except the aircraft plant which still had skilled workers and production equipment.

The plant began to produce motorcycle parts for other makers but in 1958 they decided to produce their own motorcycle. After much initial success in the Japanese motocross racing circuit, Kawasaki reluctantly chose to export as the Japanese market was flooded with lightweight motorcycles.

With small displacement engines and nothing to set them apart from their competition resulted in disappointing sales in North America. Kawasaki knew that speed was important in the North American market but concluded that acceleration was key. In 1967 they released the twin cylinder two stroke 250cc Samurai and later released the larger twin 350cc Avenger. The later could drag down the 1/4 mile in 15 seconds at 100mph from a standing start.

Mars Stella

Date of Manufacture: 1950
Engine Size: 150CC

Mars started in 1903 in Nuremberg with the production of motorcycles using Fafnir and Zedel engines as so many other companies did in that time period. The White Mars was designed and released in 1920 and was the companies best known motorcycle. The White Mars employed the 986cc flat twin engine made exclusively for Mars by Maybach. Germany went through some unsettled inflationary difficulties in the early twenties and Mars stopped producing motorcycles in 1924 but did continue production in 1926. Rudi Albert joined Mars in 1950 and designed his most notable motorcycle to date, the Mars Stella, with either a 150cc or a 250cc Sachs engine.

Matchless G80 CS

Date of Manufacture: 1960
Engine Size: 500CC

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.

Moto Guzzi Eldorado

Date of Manufacture: 1972
Engine Size: 850CC

Moto Guzzi was founded by Carlo Guzzi and Giorgio Parodi. There was a third man, Giovanni Ravelli, involved but he unfortunately was killed in a plane crash only days after WWI. The three motorcycle enthusiasts met and discussed plans to build a new motorcycle company while serving in the newly formed Italian Air Force. The flying eagle in the company’s logo is in memory of Ravelli. The greatest of all Moto Guzzi models are based on only two engines. The first engine produced was a 500cc four stroke engine that had the cylinder parallel to the ground and the other engine was the 90º transverse V-twin.

The single was in production since the initial prototype in 1920 and stayed in production until 1976 in various forms. The transverse V-twin came to exist to meet the requirements of a contract in the late 1950’s with the Italian army who wanted a workhorse engine in a military vehicle with a single front wheel and double tracks on the rear. The engine did give way in later years to becoming a motorcycle engine, due in part because of military and police demands for more power after many years of using Moto Guzzi's single cylinder powered bikes.

Moto Morini

Date of Manufacture: 1975
Engine Size: 500CC

Alfonso Morini, born in 1892, began producing a three wheeled truck in 1937. As many manufacturing plants did during WWII, Morini began producing military equipment. The factory was heavily damaged from Allied bombs but was one of the first factories to be rebuilt after the war ended. Morini died in 1969 and the company was left to Morini's daughter, Gabriella, to operate which she did until the company was taken over by Cagiva. The new owners let the name die a natural death as Cagiva concentrated their efforts on one of their other famous marquees, Ducati.

The extremely efficient 500cc V-twin with 'Heron' heads (the piston crown forms the combustion chamber) was debuted in 1975 and proved to be a popular and durable engine. The same engine was also used in ISDT competition as well as production enduro machines which offered excellent performance in a dirt bike.

MV Agusta

Date of Manufacture: 1945
Engine Size: 175CC

The Agusta name has a long history in Italy for its production in the aviation industry and today is one of the world leaders in helicopter manufacture. Count Domenico Agusta inherited his fathers business in the late 1920’s and considered motorcycling a keen hobby. In 1945 he produced his first motorcycle and the marque soon became known as the Ferrari of the two wheeled world.

Inexpensive cars surfaced in the late 1950’s that caused a number of motorcycle manufacturers to call it quits but luckily for Agusta he had the successful aviation business to fall back on. MV Agusta had enormous success in racing from the early 1950’s to late 1970’s and were ridden by some of the most famous racers winning 75 world championships, 270 Grand Prix wins and 3027 international race wins.

Nimbus with Bender sidecar.

Date of Manufacture: 1952
Engine Size: 750CC

Denmark's Nimbus began producing motorcycles in 1919 and was that countries leading motorcycle manufacturer. The first 746cc inlet-over-exhaust in-line 4-cylinder engine powered bikes were designed with functionality over styling in mind. Early models even had a swinging arm rear suspension years before other manufacturers.

Revamping the plant into a modern facility in 1934 allowed Nimbus to produce the new MkII model. The MkII used a modified engine from the previous design and incorporated an overhead cam, overhead valves and a hemispherical combustion chamber. Being an air cooled longitudinally mounted engine, overheating problems were obvious on long hard rides, evident by the extreme cylinder head warping. Although the engine did not produce an enormous amount of power it was well suited to effectively handle a sidecar.

The new MkII frame lost its swinging arm rear suspension and the heavy tube frame gave way to a riveted steel strip frame as the model shown here illustrates.

The MkII design lasted until the company closed its doors in 1958 and in the 24 years of production, the MkII's parts were interchangeable. Even after the plant closed it still produced parts for the MkII in order to fulfill Danish military contracts.

Norton Dominator

Date of Manufacture: 1955
Engine Size: 500CC

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.

NSU 250

Date of Manufacture: 1950
Engine Size: 250CC

NSU (Neckarsulm Stickmachen Union): NSU started business in 1873, manufacturing and repairing knitting machines and in 1900 began experimenting with motorized bicycles. They made a crude machine from a heavy-duty bicycle frame with an attached clip-on Swiss-made Zedel engine. Power was delivered by belt to the rear wheel or by conventional pedal and chain. Shortly after their initial offerings they built their own engines and by 1905 had built their own race bikes. Racing proved to be an excellent testing ground and it was well known that the public paid attention to the marques that won races and that in turn equalled sales. The first Isle of Man race in 1907 gave NSU a 5th place finish. Before the end of the first decade one quarter of all NSU sales were in Britain.

Exports to Britain obviously stopped at the onset of World War I and NSU directed their production to manufacture munitions for the German army. NSU began building motorcycles again right after the war and production peaked in 1922. By 1933, NSU was one of the largest motorcycle manufacturers in the world. War broke out again in 1939 and production this time shifted to produce thousands of bicycles and motorcycles for the German forces. When manufacturing restrictions were loosened after the war, NSU built bikes that continued to break land speed records right up to 1956 with a 210mph ride at the Bonneville Salt Flats on a streamlined 500cc twin.


Date of Manufacture: 1953
Engine Size: 250CC

In 1953 the famous NSU Max followed, a 250 cc motorbike with a unique overhead camdrive with connecting rods. All these new models had a very innovative monocoque frame of pressed steel and a central rear suspension unit. Albert Roder, the genius chief engineer behind the success story, made it possible that in 1955 NSU became the biggest motorcycle producer in the world. NSU also holds 4 world records for speed: 1951, 1953, 1954 and 1955. In 1956 Wilhelm Herz started at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. Herz was the first man to drive faster than 200 miles per hour, in August 1956. [dubious – discuss] In 1957 NSU re-entered the car market with the new NSU Prinz, a small car with a doubled NSU Max engine, an air cooled two-cylinder engine of 600 cc and 20 hp. Motorbike production continued until 1968.

In 1964 NSU offered the first Wankel engine car of the world: the NSU Wankelspider. In the same year Prinz 1000 and derivates like the TT and TT/S followed. As a family car the Typ 110 (later 1200SC called) was launched in 1965 with a more spacious body design. The last NSU cars with a conventional 4 - stroke engine had the air cooled OHC four cylinder engine in common. In 1968 the sensational 2 rotor 115hp NSU Ro 80 was presented to public and soon gained several design awards like "car of the year 1968". The sensation was never found back in sales figures.


Date of Manufacture: 1964
Engine Size: 60CC

Johann Puch founded the Austrian company in 1891 manufacturing bicycles and the company was sold in 1897. The company produced its first motorcycle in 1903 followed by its first automobile in 1910. Puch was active in racing with moderate success

Puch designed the first split single nicknamed the 'twingle' in 1923, an engine design that lasted for almost 50 years. In order to increase engine size, Puch doubled up a 250cc engine into a 500cc four-piston split-twin.

60cc two stroke single. Note the shrouded engine. The engine is cooled by an engine driven fan behind the left side louvered cover ensuring cooling even when stopped in traffic.

Rickman-Triumph Metisse

Date of Manufacture: 1967
Engine Size: 500CC

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.


Date of Manufacture: 1938
Engine Size: 500CC

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.

Scott TT

Date of Manufacture: 1928
Engine Size: 1000CC

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.

Suzuki T-10

Date of Manufacture: 1963
Engine Size: 250CC

Michio Suzuki, born in 1887, was an engineer and entrepreneur, starting his own business building silk looms at age 22. Unlike its modern competitors, Suzuki began to produce its first prototype engine in 1937 to produce Austin cars under license. The advent of World War II, however, meant the company had to change to produce equipment for the war effort dropping the engine development and Austin car production. Suzuki, like other fledgling motorcycle companies, began producing clip-on engines for the common bicycle although one difference remained, all components for the engines were made in the Suzuki factory. The first purpose built motorcycle from Suzuki without a clip-on engine was released in 1953. The ancillary engine ceased production in 1955 and the company concentrated its efforts to produce complete motorcycles.

By 1955, Suzuki was the second largest motorcycle producer in Japan, Honda being the largest. Suzuki realized large gains in the 60's with their CCI (controlled crankshaft injection) system on their two-stroke engines whereby oil would be injected to where the engine needed it most depending on engine load and RPM. This allowed the consumer to fill the fuel tank with straight fuel eliminating the need to pre-mix oil and fuel. The two-stroke designs of Suzuki served them well but it became evident in the 70's that four-stroke was the direction the company had to go to stay competitive and because of the looming emission laws facing two-stroke engines.

Triumph Bonneville

Date of Manufacture: 1983
Engine Size: 650CC

The original Triumph Bonneville was a 650 cc parallel-twin (two cylinder) motorcycle manufactured by Triumph Engineering Co Ltd and later Norton-Villiers-Triumph between 1959 and 1983. Initially it was produced as a pre-unit construction engine but later (1963), a unit construction model was made. It was named after the Bonneville Salt Flats in the state of Utah, USA, where Triumph and other motorcycle companies made attempts on the world motorcycle speed records. It was popular (particularly in its early years) for its performance, compared to other bikes available. Although later enlarged to 750 cc, in the late 1970s and early 1980s it suffered when compared to more modern and reliable Japanese motorbikes from Honda and other manufacturers. The T120 engine, both in standard configuration but especially customised for increased performance, was popular for installing in café racers, particularly Tritons but also Tribsas.

Triumph TRW

Date of Manufacture: 1957
Engine Size: 500CC

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.

Velocette Thruxton

Date of Manufacture: 1967
Engine Size: 500CC

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.

Victoria Aero

Date of Manufacture: 1949
Engine Size: 250CC

Victoria was founded in 1886 as a bicycle manufacturer in Nuremberg. The company produced their first prototype motorcycle in 1899 and was a pioneer in the German motorcycle industry. It wasn't until 1905 did they produce any motorcycles for sale to the public, these bikes had Swiss Zedel or German Fafnir engines installed. After World War I they continued to outsource their engines as well as using a 493cc horizontally opposed fore and aft twin cylinder engine supplied by BMW. When BMW began building their own motorcycles, Victoria recruited former BMW designer Martin Stolle to further develop the engine.

During World War II, Victoria supplied the Wehrmacht with mainly four stroke singles that they continued to produce long after the war. Heavy demand for motorcycles well into the late forties saw the company prosper and Victoria released the 250cc Aero.

Victoria Bergmeister

Date of Manufacture: 1954
Engine Size: 350CC

The V35 Bergmeister was the first post-war four stroke to be developed and marketed by Victoria. The Bergmeister was announced in 1951 but was not released until 1953 along with a new Aero model. The strong V-Twin with a four speed transmission had a powerful driveline and was seen quite often hauling a sidecar. The unique crankcase was large enough to house the carburetor, dynamo, battery and ignition components making for a very tidy engine compartment. The Bergmeister was a financial burden to the company but it was a well accepted motorcycle. Unfortunately it carried a high price tag due to high development costs and when it came right down to it, it was only a 350. The Bergmeister almost bankrupted the company. In 1958 the company merged with DKW

Vincent Rapide Series C

Date of Manufacture: 1953
Engine Size: 1000CC

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.


Date of Manufacture: 1939
Engine Size: 150CC

Whizzer began production in 1939 by incorporating a side valve engine that could be mounted on a standard bicycle frame. On early models, the engine's power was delivered via belt to a roller that was in contact with the rear tire easing the effort of pedaling the bicycle

Later models used a flywheel and pulley system on the rear wheel to deliver power via a jockey pulley to adjust the belt tension on the rear wheel.

1967 Yamaha YCS1 Adler M200 Ariel Square Four Benelli Tornado BMW R27 BMW R51 BMW R51/3 BMW R75/5 BSA Gold Star Ducati 750S Ducati 851 SP1 Ducati Monza Ducati Pantah Ducati Sebring Garelli Mosquito Harley-Davidson H-D XLCR 61ci Hercules Wankel Honda 305 Dream Indian Boardtracker Indian Chief Innocenti Lambretta IZH Planeta Sport Jawa OHC Kawasaki Mach III Mars Stella Matchless G80 CS Moto Guzzi Eldorado Moto Morini MV Agusta Nimbus with Bender sidecar. Norton Dominator NSU 250 NSU Max Puch Rickman-Triumph Metisse Rudge Scott TT Suzuki T-10 Triumph Bonneville Triumph TRW Velocette Thruxton Victoria Aero Victoria Bergmeister Vincent Rapide Series C Whizzer