British Motorcycles

Ricardo Motorcycles

Manufactured by Ricardo and Co of Shoreham, Sussex in the early 1920s

Harry Ricardo's firm built a TT model in 1923 or thereabouts. Some twenty were built of which perhaps four are known to exist.

Major Halford, a friend of Harry's, had good success racing a Ricardo-modified 500cc Triumph, and this led to a contract with Triumph to develop a new engine.

The resultant Triumph Ricardo is named in honor of of Sir Harry Ricardo, and was regarded as something of a superbike in its day. It has a OHV engine with four-valve head, inclined valves, and had exposed rockers, valve-springs and pushrods. Primitive by today's standards but ground-breaking at the time.

In 1921 they designed a four-cylinder motorcycle for Vauxhall.

Motorcycles were one of many of Ricardo & Co.'s interests. At the tender age of 17 he began a small engine company, built and sold cars with his own engines in them, built marine Dolphin twostroke engines. At 19 he was building tank engines for the UK military, work from which he made enough money to buy his first property.

He shared his love of aviation with Halford (who went on to become famous in that field) and designed aero engines for Rolls-Royce. His Crecy design, a gargantuan V-12, delivered over 200bhp. Per litre.

Sir Harry died in 1974 at the age of 89, and his firm follows in his footsteps, and maintains its links with aviation designing and building the engine for the history-making Voyager aircraft which flew around the world non-stop in 1986.

The firm exists to this day and there is historical information on their site at at ricardo100.com

Sources: Grace's Guide, oldengine.org, correspondence

July 2016

Peter Swords of NSW writes:
... another dry build pic of a work in progress. It's a circa 1923 TT model Ricardo, one of only about four still in existence from a batch of about twenty.

These bikes were commissioned by Triumph with the sole purpose of winning at the TT. Most writers make no distinction between the TT model and the road version, the main difference being a different crankcase and cylinder head which has splayed exhaust ports. Major Frank Halford's motor is still in existence in the UK, fitted into a Triumph frame and built to look like a works racer. After a lack of real success at the IoM, some bikes made their way to the Antipodes. One was in the possession of the late Eric Langton in Perth WA, unfortunately now a rusty wreck with a blown up engine.

As for my own machine, when purchased was missing the cylinder head but sixteen years later the very head from this bike surfaced and I was able to purchase it, so now bike and head are re-united. the rebuild is progressing slowly due to too many projects in the shed. Hope these few notes help.

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