Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ariel Motorcycle


Ariel was a bicycle, motorcycle and automobile marque manufacturer based in Bournbrook, Birmingham, England. Car production moved to Coventry in 1911. The company name was reused in 1999 for the formation of Ariel Ltd, a sports car producer.
The company dates back to 1847 when Ariel made an early pneumatic-tyred wheel for horse drawn carriages. The name was revived by James Starley and William Hillman in 1870 when they invented the wire-spoke wheel which allowed them to build a lighter weight bicycle and named it Ariel (the spirit of the air). They put the name on the factory where they made penny-farthing bicycles and sewing machines. In 1885 James Starley's nephew, John Kemp Starley, invented the Rover Safety Bicycle - a rear-wheel-drive, chain-driven bicycle with two similar-sized wheels, which is essentially the design still used on bicycles today. Use of the name lapsed but in 1896 it appeared again, this time on motorised transport.

The first Ariel vehicle was a Tricycle that used a 2.25 hp De Dion engine mounted at the rear. More tricycles were produced and motorised quadricycles were added in 1901 as Ariel then moved into car production.
In 1902, Components Ltd., owned by Charles Sangster, bought the company and began producing motorcycles, but the company suffered several financial crises including spells in receivership in 1911 and the early 1930s. In 1932, Components Ltd went bankrupt, and Jack Sangster, Charles Sangster's son, bought the Ariel subsidiary from the receivers at a bargain price. The company was renamed Ariel Motors (J.S.) Ltd, and promptly resumed production

The first Ariel to be fitted with an engine was a powered tricycle that appeared in 1898. In 1901 the first Ariel motorcycle proper was launched, powered by a 211 cc Minerva engine.

A range of motorcycles was made with engines either bought in or assembled to other people's design until the 1926 season when a new designer, Val Page, joined Ariel from JAP. Page created a pair of new engines for the 1926 season which used many existing cycle parts and then redesigned the cycle for 1927. These Ariels are known as 'Black Ariels' (1926–1930) and were the basis on which all Ariel 4-stroke singles were based until their demise in 1959 (except the LH Colt of the mid 1950s). During the 'Black Ariel' period the Ariel horse logo came into being as did the slogan 'The Modern Motor Cycle'.

The Ariel Square Four with 500 cc engine designed by Edward Turner first appeared for the 1931 season, but around this time the company went into receivership and then a new company was formed. The Square Four became a 600cc. The Square Fours had overheating problems with the rear cylinders which resulted in distorted heads throughout their history. A redesign in 1937 resulted in a 995 cc OHV version designated the 4G.

In 1939 Anstey-link plunger rear suspension was an option. It was still available when production restarted in 1946, with telescopic forks replacing the girder forks.
In 1949 the Mark 1 Square Four had cast aluminium barrels and heads, instead of cast iron. With the lower weight the bike was a 90 mph plus machine.
In 1951 Jack Sangster had sold Ariel and Triumph (bought in 1936) to the Birmingham Small Arms Company group (BSA), and joined their board. By 1956 Sangster was voted in as the new Chairman, defeating incumbent Sir Bernard Docker 6 to 3. Sangster promptly made Edward Turner head of the automotive division, which then included Ariel, Triumph, and BSA motorcycles, as well as Daimler and Carbodies (London Taxicab manufacturers).
In 1953 the Mark 2 Square Four had a redesigned cylinder head, and was capable of 100 mph.

In 1959, to the dismay of some motorcyclists, Ariel dropped its four-stroke engines and produced basically two models, the 250cc twin cylinder two-stroke engined Arrow and Leader models. There was also a 200cc Arrow version made for a short period. To give Ariel credit, the Arrow and Leader models were an attempt to bring the company up to date having recognised the threat from the new Japanese imports.

The Ariel Leader had a fully faired body from the headlamp aft. The Arrow was more open, though it kept the enclosed chain case and deep mudguards.

Ariel motorcycles ceased production in 1967.

In 1970 BSA used the name for the "Ariel 3", a 3-wheeler 50cc 2-stroke moped, different at the time because it was a tilting vehicle. The front half was hinged to the rear and could tilt into corners whilst keeping all three wheels on the ground. Production of the Ariel 3 was short and was dropped along with the Ariel name shortly afterwards.


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