Archive for the ‘Ariel Square Four’ Category

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.

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.

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.


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……

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!

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?!?!

Beautiful Australian Mk1 Ariel Square Four It’s always nice to hear from previous customers especially when accompanied by photos and stories of their restored bikes. Roger in Australia purchased an Alternator from us a couple of years ago for his 1950 Mk1 Ariel Square Four. At the time he told me he had purchased the bike as a barn find from Canada based on emailed photographs only. A mere two years later the photo below shows the machine restored to superb condition. This model year of the Mk1 fitted with a chrome panel tank is one of the prettiest machines. It doesn’t have quite the butch appeal of the Mk2 four piper but the deep valance on the front mudguard and single saddle give a classic line that still has elements of styling from the previous decades. Ariel Square Four: Growing popularity and increasing values The Square Four has always been a mystical machine. Blessed with four cylinders from an era when singles and twins were the norm the powerful and torque laden power unit that creates so much of the attraction has also been a source of much trouble for owners. Some of that reputation is ill deserved such as the legendary “overheating on the rear cylinders” problem. Simply not true but so often repeated that you only need to stand next to a Square for about 5 minutes before some wise sage approaches you to relate this little nugget of information. Slowly over the years the value of bikes has crept up. Although some might argue this will eventually place them out of reach it has had the advantage of driving a healthy market in components for restoration and improvement.

Modern materials and components improve reliability Shortcomings in the original design of the engine do exist but thanks to modern materials and manufacturing processes these have slowly been solved. Composite head gaskets, improved oil pumps from Morgo and in the last couple of years newly manufactured con-rods. Once properly rebuilt this four cylinder engine can offer good levels of reliability. Proper maintenance and regular oil changes are a must but any owner of +60 years old vehicle will do that as a matter of course. With coil ignition the Mk1 and Mk2 Squares have always been reliant on a fully charged battery to keep going. Unfortunately with the original 70 Watt dynamo things were at best marginal. Our 300 Watt conversion based on modern 3 phase internals from Nippon Denso solves this problem entirely. Not only that it fits without modification and as you will see below is only discernible from the original on close inspection.

Alternator conversion makes the SQ4 an everyday machine In a subtle way this unit transforms the riding experience. It doesn’t make the bike go faster or handle any better but it does dissolve all electrical worries. This means that you concentrate on enjoying the bike for everything it offers: Relaxed cruising, comfortable handling and  the ability to keep up with modern traffic. Since we first introduced the Ariel Square Alternator conversion in 2010 sales have been steady. The hand built units are made to order  and the numbers sold are not significant in the scheme of things. However one has to consider that the market is limited by the number of surviving Ariel Square Fours. There are estimated to be only a few thousand of the 15,000 originally manufactured still in existence. Amazingly bikes such as this continue to surface after decades of hibernation and we are pleased to be one of the companies helping classic bike owners restore and improve these machines. Supplied with full instructions and a fitting kit the alternator can be installed on your bike in a few hours. Reliability has been perfect and the built in sold state regulator works with both lead acid and modern gel type batteries.