Ariel Exhumed: 1913 Deluxe Roadster

In the mountains of British Columbia, Jim Green found pieces of an Ariel Deluxe Roadster, which led to lots of digging, researching and eventual re-assembly.

| January/February 2018

1913 Ariel 3-1/2 HP Deluxe Roadster
Engine: 498cc air-cooled side-valve T-head vertical single, 86.4mm x 85mm bore and stroke
Top speed: 60mph (est.)
Carburetion: Single Brown & Barlow
Transmission: 3-speed epicyclic hub gear, belt final drive
Electrics: Bosch magneto ignition
Frame: Steel open-cradle w/engine as stressed member
Suspension: Druid fork front, rigid rear
Brakes: Stirrup-type wheel rim brake front, leather pad on steel rim rear
Tires: 2.75 x 21in front and rear
Price then: $287 (£59, 1913)

Without question, the tensioned wire-spoke wheel was one of the most significant inventions of the 19th century.

Without it, bicycles and early motorcycles would have had to use heavy, rigid and unforgiving wooden wheels. For this innovation we have to thank James Starley and William Hillman of Coventry, England, who quickly incorporated their patented wire wheels on the bicycles Starley was manufacturing. Because their invention made their bicycles much lighter, they named them Ariel — the spirit of the air.

In 1896, Starley merged his company with Westwood manufacturing, acquiring at the same time the Selly Oak, Birmingham, England, site that would become Ariel’s home for the next 70 years. Like many cycle makers at the time, Ariel was soon experimenting with the internal combustion engine and produced its first self-powered vehicle in 1898, a tricycle with a 1.3 horsepower De Dion-Bouton single-cylinder engine driving the rear axle. By this time, Ariel had been bought by Charles Sangster’s Components Ltd. Ariel’s first two-wheeled motorcycles appeared around 1901, with proprietary engines from Minerva and Kerry.

It was an Ariel motorcycle that was selected by the Auto Cycle Union (the U.K. motorcycle sports’ governing body) to enter the 1905 International Cup Races. The 6 HP JAP-engined Ariel, ridden by J.S. Campbell, recorded the best performance with an average speed of 41mph. And while Ariel had also been experimenting with its own engines, their next significant model used an engine by Coventry manufacturer White and Poppe.

Introduced in 1909, the Ariel 3-1/2 HP used a side-valve White and Poppe single-cylinder engine with a distinctive cylinder head with diagonal fins and widely spaced intake and exhaust valves (sometimes known as a “T” head). These bikes were known as “the Ariels with valves a mile apart.” The engine was so successful that Ariel bought out the patents from White and Poppe in 1911, and started manufacturing the engines themselves, at the same time increasing the engine from 482cc to 498cc. They continued to build motorcycles with the “mile apart” valves until 1926.

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