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 Ricardo firm developed engines for Ducati including a three-cylinder GP, and a parallel twin rarely gets a mention.

The firm exists to this day and there is historical information on their site at at They speak of their current involvement with the motorcycle industry here:

Sources: Grace's Guide,, correspondence

For an extended history of the great man, see The Ricardo Exhibition

The Peter Swords post has been moved to the Triumph Ricardo page.

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