Reference: Triumph IR 'Ricardo'

1921 Triumph IR Ricardo

Triumph’s Ricardo is one of those models many enthusiasts have heard of, but not many have seen them, less have ridden them and even less have owned one. The ‘Riccy’ is a well-known model, and fans of 1920s machinery are familiar with its specification but it’s anything but run-of-the-mill.

This one has been restored by restoration ace John Guy. Many will be familiar with John’s work – be it his beautiful James V-twin, his 16H Norton, his Sunbeam, one of his many SOSs or his latest penchant, French Magnat Debons – and as ever, the workmanship on his Ricardo, which he’s owned for years, is second to none.

Officially, the Ricardo was the ‘Type IR’ but to most it was the ‘Riccy.’ The top end was designed by Harry Ricardo (later Sir Harry, knighted 1948) a well-known and recognised expert on the internal combustion engine – hence Triumph were plenty keen for the Ricardo link to be well-known. The initial machine appeared in 1921 – it boasted the bore x stroke of 80.5 x 98mm, giving 499cc, had four-valves and also a slipper-type piston, while the sparking plug was side-mounted. A foray to the Isle of Man for the 1921 TT races ended in disappointment, with a best finish of 16th – it was surely one of the few times in those years when Triumph was grateful for the existence of BSA as the boys from Small Heath fared even worse with their new design (all retired on the expensively assembled ohv sloper) which overshadowed the somewhat lacklustre showing of the new Triumph.

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Triumph continued to develop the model (with bore and stroke revised to 85x88mm for the works racers) and was met with success, notably at Brooklands with Major Frank Halford in the saddle, plus there was a second place finish in the 1922 Senior TT for Walter Brandish.  

Really, though, the Ricardo was to be considered as a refined fast tourer rather than an out-and-out speedster – Ricardo seems to have designed the cylinder head (which features masked inlet valves and small inlet ports) with fuel efficiency in mind and indeed Ricardo’s are supposedly capable of plenty more than 100mpg. And rather than a purpose-designed frame, the Ricardo made do with the same chassis as the firm’s side-valve (and indeed the bottom end was identical to the side valves too).

The Type IR survived until 1927 when it was phased out in favour of the two-valve TT Model, which benefited from the input of Victor Horsman and was considered a ‘proper’ sportster.

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