Ariel, based in Birmingham, started selling motorcycles in 1902, with their first model producing about 2 hp from a 239cc two stroke Minerva engine.
Several improvements were made in the line until, in 1910, a 498cc White and Poppe 4 hp engine, originally made in Coventry, and then in-house, was used, and proved so durable and powerful that it was a mainstay of the Ariel line for 15 years.
In the 20’s, engine offerings increased , with a 249cc, 586cc and a 992 cc added, along with drum brakes, hardier wheels, and enclosed chain drives, to replace the belt drive of previous models.
In the 1927 , under the direction of former JAP head of engines Val Page, Ariel replaced the older style White and Poppe engine with an advanced ‘hemi’ overhead valve design, which produced more power, was quieter, and more efficient…
Another engine introduced around that time was Edward Turner’s concept for a big OHC four cylinder design called the “Square Four” , an idea that had been previously rejected by BSA, and it was used on a Ariel bike of the same name.
This engine caught the attention of the motorcycling world , and the square four engine would become synonymous with the Ariel line.
One thing was obvious from very early on, Ariel Motorcycle would be about large bikes, and powerful engines.
Their most popular bike in the thirties, however, was called the “Ariel Red Hunter” — a nimble single cylinder, dual valve, OHC sport bike offered in 250cc, 350cc, and 500cc configurations… the 500cc could develop about 25hp , with a top speed of 85mph.
The Red Hunter sold so well, Ariel was able to purchase competitor Triumph.
Between 1931 and 1959, Ariel produced a “Square Four” with a large 997cc, 8 valve, 4 stroke, 45hp model dubbed the ” Squariel ” — as it improved over the years, it eventually would reach the 100 mph top speed mark. ( ‘4G’, ‘4H’ – prewar , ‘Mark I’ 1949-1953, ‘Mark II’ 1953-1958 )
During WW II, over 42,000 Ariels were produced for the war effort, including the “W/NG350” .
In 1944, BSA acquired Ariel, and continued manufacture.
In the fifties and sixties, Ariel’s technology was outdated, their styling looked old fashioned to many, competition was very tight, and popularity waned.
They produced several smaller displacement bikes during this time, “Ariel Leader” 250cc, between 1958 and 1965, and also a 250 cc “Golden Arrow” in 196
1972 was a giant step forward for Yamaha when they introduced the now legendary RD range of two stroke motorcycles and by the end of 1973 Yamaha were selling more than 1 million motorcycles each year worldwide. It was also during the 1970’s that Yamaha began the development of four stroke motorcycles parts Dallas Tx to meet the new American emission regulations and also compete with the other Japanese motorcycle manufacturers. The results for Yamaha were a series of innovative motorcycles that were as good but far more economical than the two stroke models.
Like Ariel, Norton Motorcycles were also built in Birmingham.
Like Triumph, Norton Motorcycles has had several reincarnations.
Unlike most English motorcycle manufacturers though, Norton’s most popular and innovative bikes came after World War II.
The Norton pre-war story is similar to the others… … it started making motorcycles in 1902, using French and Swiss made engines.
Norton made its own engine starting in 1908 – one cylinder, side valve, 2 hp.
In 1922, Norton developed a motorcycle nicknamed “Speedy” — a 490 OHC “Model 18“, capable of nearly 100 MPH.
Development, initially slow, sped up with the development of that first overhead cam engine.
It was perfect for the Norton “CS-1“, a TT racing-bred sled that made about 25hp with the 490cc.
Soon behind that came the “CJ-1“, with a 350cc OHC.
Starting in the 1930’s, Norton had excellent results in the motorcycle racing circuits with these bikes, winning the Isle of Man Senior TT seventeen times before 195
During World War II, Norton production focused on the “16-H” — a 490cc single cylinder, four-speed model of which over 100,000 were made, and designated “WD-16H” — these bikes were highly prized for their endurance and high ground clearance.
After the war, Norton continued production of the “16-H” and the “Model 18” , adding telescoping forks, adjustments to the suspension and updating the style a bit.