Colour charting

Friday, 2 November 2012
James Robinson editor of TCM
James Robinson editor of TCM
In our office this week, there has been some debate about motorcycle colours, mainly in response to the launch pictures which came back from some exotic location or another of a new Yamaha FJR1300

The bike's a gargantuan touring type thing, featuring lots of ‘exciting’ electronic gadgets and more horsepower, the two things most moderm motorcycles least need, but I digress – finished in brown. Not really the ‘dream shade’, I’d have said, but the colour does have a bit of two-wheeled history.

Brown motorcycles have mercifully been few and far between – there were several brown Hondas in the 1970s, with the same decade spawning a brown and gold Bonneville, while if one goes back to the 1920s, there was the brown NUT too, while James also toyed with shades of the same colour.

The favoured motorcycle colour has, surely, been black, relieved with something else, often gold. Sunbeam – which would dip its frames up to seven times, as revealed in the interview with former employee, the late George Peck – was among the best in the business, but there were others too for which the scheme was synonymous, chiefly Velocette, Vincent and AJS (of Wolverhampton, and on a few, often sporting models, later). Further ‘trademark’ colours which come to mind readily, include Norton’s silver tanks, Ariel’s postwar maroon (while vintage Ariels are known as ‘Black’ Ariels) though Triumph took a different view, establishing certain colours for particular models (Amaranth Red for the Speed Twin in particular). Perversely, BSA’s Gold Star was never gold, while neither was its Golden Flash, or the Blue Star blue for that matter, likewise Matchless’s Silver Hawk and Silver Arrow were, neither of them, silver.

Personal favourite colour scheme? I’ve always loved the blue of my Rex-Acme tank though the same firm’s purple has always appealed too, while I’ve always been a sucker for a good black and gold finish; it’s very satisfying to get a good ‘sheen’ on a black and gold petrol tank.

But brown? Hmm, not so sure, though saying that, I would quite like an early 1920s big V-twin NUT, but…didn’t the Tyneside firm do a peppermint green one too?

James Robinson, editor

The Classic MotorCycle Issue 41-09 - September 2014

Where legends come to life

About the Editor

James Robinson, Editor
James Robinson, Editor

James Robinson has been the editor of The Classic MotorCycle since 2002. Aged 34, he has possessed a motorcycle licence for 16 years and during that time has owned and ridden all manner of motorcycles, spanning over 100 years from oldest to newest.
Presently the custodian of a varied shed full of motorcycles, his overriding enthusiasm is for pre-World War Two sporting machines, with a couple of cammy Velos, a Rex-Acme and a Model 9 Sunbeam among those competing for attention.

Contact James

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