Today in Motorcycle History

Ricardo Motorcycles

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

Harry Ricardo (26 January 1885 – 18 May 1974) built a machine for the 1921 TT which performed very well indeed on its first outing, and went on to achieve a string of successes. 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 his honor, 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.

Harry was knighted in 1948 for his services in the development of the internal combustion engine.

Sir Harry died in 1974 at the age of 89. The firm which he founded maintains its links with aviation - they designed and built 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.

There is a wealth of historical information on the firm's website at at They speak of their current involvement with the motorcycle industry here:

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

Sources: Grace's Guide,, correspondence, et al.

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

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