In his article on the Victoria, Andy Westlake remarks; “There can be few riders anywhere in the world who have owned the same bike for over 50 years.” And this article is followed by your Restoration guide to the Ariel Square Four.
I bought my 1938 Square Four in 1960, the same year as the Victoria was purchased, for £27-10s. Fairly soon afterwards, I hitched it to a Garrard child adult sidecar and took my wife and two daughters on holiday from Surrey to Herefordshire and Wales.
Over the years I have rebuilt the bike more than once and the enclosed photograph shows its most recent incarnation. Those in the know will see that it is missing its toolbox and therein lies a story… Back in the 1960s we didn’t worry too much about originality and bikes were cheap, so I ended up with three Square Fours – one 1947, one 1939 with a rather nice Canterbury sidecar and a spring frame, and my original. The original soon sported the tele forks from the 1947 bike and then a rebuilt engine also from the 1947 machine. The rebuilt engine and tele forks then found their way into the 1939 outfit, which was used up until 1965.
In 1966 a house move was needed as my job was taking me to Wiltshire and I wasn’t going on my own. This created a minor panic as, by then, we were running a car and had to either dispose of the bikes or arrange to take one or all with us. I decided to put together all the bits I could find of the original 1938 Four and dispose of the rest – which, by then, comprised several more than just the other two Square Fours! Various disposal arrangements were made including the local scrap man, a friend who was happy to receive bikes as gifts and one or two holes in the ground! I carted what was left to Wiltshire and by 1970 had the Square Four running again. Unfortunately, either during the move or earlier, the toolbox and the mudguards had gone missing. I was able to replace the mudguards quite quickly by buying a complete 1939 600 side valve VB to rob, but I still haven’t been able to find a good, complete, suitable toolbox. I understand, though that some new ones have been made so I could be lucky even now.
So, there it is. It may not be completely the same bike that I bought in 1960 but most of it is and it looks fairly original.
Just to prove it’s not just one machine I hang on to, I have a 1955 350cc Ariel that I bought for £12 in 1973 – that’s 40 years ago now.
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