During the course of putting this issue together, several things have stood out to me, or at least raised questions and prompted thoughts.
When reading up about and researching for the 1959 Bonneville story (see page 58) a couple of things came to mind.
Among them is the idea that 1959 was perhaps the most important year in motorcycling. Let me explain…
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In 1959 there were record numbers of motorcycles registered and one fifth of vehicles on the road were motorcycles.
But other things happened too. The Austin (or Morris) Mini appeared, as is well documented.
This modern ‘car for the 1960s’ changed things, massively, and though it was a success, I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that its makers lost money on every one sold.
So not such a success, but anyway, it changed everything, it seems, with cars becoming what young people wanted.
The launch of the Bonneville is also significant and can, I think, be argued as the point that motorcycles and motorcycling started to become a leisure industry.
The Bonnie was basically a machine for leisure, aimed predominantly at the United States, or at least so Triumph envisaged.
But it soon became massively popular in the UK; more so than the Triumph 5TA (unit-construction) Speed Twin that Triumph gave greater prominence to for the UK market when the two were launched together, as the firm clearly reckoned that the bathtub-faired, clearly scooter influenced, all-rounder 500ccc model was what the UK market wanted. Not so, perhaps.
Fast-forward 10 years and have a look at the market – many of the machines on sale had more in common with the 1959 Bonneville (think CB750, Trident, Commando, still the Bonneville et al) with the middleweight all-round/commuter market (the 5TA) pretty much dead and buried.
It’s not an exact science but, I think, worthy of consideration.
Another thing I’ve been considering/noticed, is the amount of ‘forgotten marques’ (and makers) that for some reason have come to be included this month.
Even Richard Rosenthal, a self-confessed lover of the odd and obscure side of motorcycling, hadn’t heard of the Ekon carburettor (see YWA, p88), while there are a couple of marques in Richard’s summary of 1921’s roadtests that are mysteries to me. Stanger anyone?
Likewise Armis, while it can’t be claimed that the likes of Diamond, Kenilworth, Hawker, Hobart and so on are exactly well-known or remembered.
We’ve a combination of the well-known and the forgotten, the ‘vintage’ and the classic.
To me, that is what makes old motorcycles so fascinating, the mixture of familiarity and the unknown.
JAMES ROBINSON, Editor