Rough and Ready but (Nearly) Always Reliable!

I’ve owned my 1953 Mk2 Ariel Square Four for well over a decade now and after a couple of years lying neglected in the garage it’s been bought out of hibernation for what could probably be called it’s third of forth restoration. Actually it won’t really be a restoration this time but more of freshen up and a chance to improve things cosmetically. It stands now looking a little neglected, front tyre missing after a friend who wore his down to the carcass on an epic journey to Scotland appropriated it to allow him to complete the final leg back to Norfolk from my place in Derbyshire. Various other bits have been “borrowed” to keep my ’52 Mk1 on the road but since that rather rudely threw its engine shock absorber assembly out through the chain case last year the ’53 gets its turn in the limelight.

1953 Mk2 Ariel Sq4

The Record Breaking First Restoration and Ride to the North Cape

Possibly a slight exaggeration but when I restored the bike for the first time back in 2003 it was completed in about 4 weeks flat! That was not only from a box of bits but if I remember correctly my father and I also rebuilt another bike at the same time. As was our habit at the time (and is still his) the bike was finally fired up and MOT’d the morning that we caught the ferry to Holland to start a grand tour through Germany and Denmark with friends from the Ariel Owners Motorcycle Club. After a couple of  weeks of touring we ended up in Sweden and after the rest of the group returned to England I carried on and rode the bike to the North Cape. Foolhardy on a fresh restoration but it made it and by the time I returned home 5 or 6 weeks later the bike had covered over 5000 miles. Not trouble free by any stretch of the imagination the bike featured quite a lot of impromptu mods by the time I returned to the UK.

North Cape

Life as a Sidecar Tug

Once children appear on the scene any self-respecting classic motorcycle enthusiast will start thinking about sidecars. I was lucky enough to acquire a use-able child adult Busmar York. The bike was smartened up prior to this by repainting for a second time in an improved finish. The sidecar was tidied up with a newly made mudguard and the seats replaced with securely anchored child car seats front and back. I think in the end I probably covered 4,000 odd miles with the side car and they were great times. It always seemed to put a smile on the face of passers-by and the kids enjoyed it, or at least while they were small enough to be unaware of their own mortality. Sadly an accident in the car seemed to alert them to the dangers of the road and they were never quite as care free. Their discomfort infected me and after a final trip down to Suffolk for a weekend rally I decided to stick rather than twist. The sidecar was sold to a fellow enthusiast and the poor old Mk2 sat in the garage for bits to be picked off it.

Busmar York


Handsome as ever but in need of improvement

The bike still looks fairly good overall and the paint will clean up nicely. Its brush painted with International Paints Japlac  but don’t get any ideas about the usual dull streaky brush finish. This paint will give a fantastic finish with proper preparation and careful application. It flows into a deep glossy finish that can be polished up once dried. The depth of shine defies belief and in my opinion is actually better than many sprayed finishes.

Anyway I digress. The bike is not and probably never will be totally original. It of course has one of our alternator conversions fitted but on the less salubrious side of things there is a digital bike speedo in place of the Smiths Chronometric originally fitted. Levers are modern alloy items with a longer throw to lighten the clutch. Cosmetically the indicators look a little of place but most the jarring omission is the missing chrome flash to each side of the tank and wheel rims powder coated silver to keep costs down. I’m not quite ready to splash out on having the tank re-done yet but it would be nice to do something about the wheels……

'53 Ariel Mk2 Sq4

Sexy new stainless rims and spokes but no nipples yet!!

A pleasant surprise in the post this morning spurred me into dragging the bike into the main area of my workshop. New stainless rims and spokes arrived from Draganfly Motorcycles in Suffolk. Brass nipples are to follow but the first job now the rims are here is to strip the old wheels down, paint the hubs and start lacing up. It’s been a few years since I built up wheels from scratch but I’m sure it’ll come flooding back!

Stainless Rims and Spokes

And the first injury occurs…..

As anyone who works on cars, motorcycles, bikes, tractors, boats, houses etc. knows skinned knuckles, cuts and bruises are all part of the fun. My first injury of this little tidy up session happened surprisingly quickly. In my giddy excitement ripping the brown paper covering off the rims I caught and sliced the side of my finger open. Looks like those punched spoke holes are pretty sharp on the edges. Never mind it’s all part of the fun, eh?!?!

Cut Finger