The roar of an engine that seems to dominate the sound waves, the tangle of your hair as the wind whips, tears gathering in your eyes from the sting of the breeze as you seem to fly across the pavement, what isn’t exciting about riding a motorcycle? Something that could make the experience even more exciting is having everyones head turn because you are riding a vintage motorcycle. Here we are going to take a ride down memory lane to visit 4 popular vintage motorcycles.
Triumph Tiger 100 – In 1939, at a factory in Coventry, England, the lighter and sportier Triumph Tiger 100 was born. It was made to replace the Triumph Speed Twin motorcycle; in fact, in “unorthodox” fashion, Triumph launched the Tiger 100 by running it in a 1800 miles, then 6 hour continuous speed laps contest against the Speed Twin. The Tiger 100 did far better, reaching speeds of over 100mph, which was supposed to be its maximum speed, thus the “100”.
The Tiger 100 production began in 1939, but had to be halted in 1940 due to the entire factory being destroyed during the World War. Production of the Tiger 100 began again in 1951 and by 1953, it was race-kitted (Tiger 100C), though only 560 of those models were produced. Production continued through 1973 and then was revitalized again in 1993 by the Hinckley Triumph company. Bob Dylan actually owned at Tiger 100SS (500cc), but crashed it in July of 1966. After the crash, he withdrew from the public, made very few appearances and did not tour for 8 years.
Harley Davidson 45 WL (A) –Just before the World War, Harley Davidson produced the 45 WL motorcycle. It had a 45c.i. (740cc) flathead engine that was a low compression bike (most were high compression). This model came from the RL motorcycle family before it. The 45 WL was noticed by the United States Army, so Harley Davidson made the 45 WLA model, with the “A” standing for Army. The motorcycles were used by the US Army, but were mainly shipped to allies (mostly the Soviet Union) as part of the lend-and-lease program. Both armies used them for police work, escort services, courier services, scouting and equipment transfers. Mass production happened during World War II, dropped after the war ended, but then picked up again during the Korean War.
The additions that were made to the WLA are as follows. Most WLAs were painted olive drab, black or chrome. They were given blackout lighting on the headlights and taillights to reduce their visibility. The standard side fenders were removed to avoid mud clogging. A heavy duty luggage box was added for a radio, along with an ammo box, a machine guard scabbard, a slide plate, leg protectors, and a windshield. Finally, a fording was added to the crankcase to reduce water intake and an air cleaner/oil bath cleaner was added so the vehicles could go off-road.
Norton Commando – The Norton Commandos production started in 1967. It has a twin cylinder engine that was initially 745cc, but then was upgraded to a 828cc engine in 1973. It was modeled after the 1940’s Model 7 (497cc engine), the Dominator (650cc engine), and the 750cc engine Atlas. It was designed by Rolls Royce engineer Dr. Stefan Bailer. This engineer tried to reduce the vibration a driver felt by separating the motor from the driver. This was called the Isolastic anti-vibration system, which was mildly successful. Some of the biggest success the Commando showed was when it caught the eye of the police. Norton made a “Interpol” machine version for the police departments and sold many models.
In 2010, the Norton company decided to revive the Commando model for racing. It is currently shipping 5-10 machines weekly to racers.
BMW R32 –After World War I and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was not allowed to manufacture aircraft engines, which left BMW looking for another line of manufacturing. They quickly turned to engine design. In 1923, BMW came up with their first motorcycle – the BMW R32. The motorcycle had a M2B33 (486cc) engine that produced 8.5hp and went 95mph. At the time, this was considered a very fast bike! The engine and the gear box were a single unit and the boxer-twin, shaft-drive powertrain layout is still the one that BMW uses today.
This model was used to spark many more ideas for powerful, well-running motorcycles. One of the most popular models it inspired is the R75, which was request by the German Army during WWII. It came equipped with a sidecar and was highly maneuverable over any surface.
These bikes are just a few of the many popular vintage/classic motorcycles available today. If you’re in the market to purchase one, check out the selection at FossilCars.