As with a number of the publications in the Rider’s Library series, this selection was found in an antique shop. This particular shop is called the Antique Mall and it is part of a great little complex called the Craft Mall near Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
Unlike the other publications in our Rider’s Library, this one is a magazine — just over 67 years old — and from the U.K. It is the Thursday, October 17, 1946 issue of The Motor Cycle. Something like this is a very rare find in my area, and it probably is in yours, too, unless you live near a motorcycle memorabilia collector who won’t throw anything away.
You might be surprised by what moto-journalists and their readers were talking about back then. And since this isn’t an everyday find, I’d like to share some of it with you.
The first post-war Paris Motorcycle Show and the trends it revealed was a feature. Design features emerging from multiple manufacturers were unit construction engine/transmission set-ups and telescopic forks.
Radical designs were seen like the 350 cc four-piston, two-stroke Gnome-et-Rhone and the 33 cc Cyclo-Rex moped that has the throttle controlled by how fast the rider cranks the pedals. Think a three-wheeled BRP Spyder is a radical modern concept with its two wheels up front? Not so new — the Mathis of 1946 not only had two wheels forward, it had a car-like enclosed body and front end that resembled a 1980s vintage BMW sedan.
A feature article meticulously illustrated with exploded view engineering drawings described the new Burman gear box with torque assisted clutch. Another feature covered a discussion about the problem of noisy motorcycles and how they tended to turn the non-riding public against the sport. Sixty-seven years later, not much has changed on that issue.
Brief pieces on the editorial page pondered when motorcycle manufacturers would bring out a three-cylinder engine, debated the merits of metal passenger hand grips behind the saddle and lauded the efforts of the Luton Motor Cycle Club in the name of motorcycle accident prevention.
Letters to the editor had a little more range in issues than we tend to see in motorcycle magazines today. One letter debated the virtues of women riding motorcycles and what they should wear when the do. Another letter on the continued rationing of petrol had riders in a bad mood and urging other riders to write to their members of Parliament about it.
Others advocated side valve engines over the rising fad of overhead cam engines, urged more manufacturers to include neutral lights on their bikes, and expressed outrage at the high price of tea, without sugar added, at the Scarborough race course!
Perhaps one of the most interesting part of this paper time machine was being able to read advertisements from the day. Iconic brands of motorcycles long-gone now had full page ads like the one for Ariel’s 1000 cc Square Four—the first year that any model other than the 350cc W/NG model was produced after WWII.
The front cover was essentially a near-full page ad for Triumph. Panther Motorcycles, James, Vincent H.R.D., BSA, and Norman Motorcycles all had major ad space.
- Title: The Motor Cycle
- Author: Multiple—classic periodical. Editor: Arthur B. Bourne.
- Published: Thursday, October 17th, 1946.
- Publisher: Dorset House, Stamford Street, London, S.E. 1.
Note to readers: many of the books that we will feature here may be out of print and some may be difficult to find. That could be half the fun. The Internet should make the search relatively easy but ironically, none of the books currently scheduled for eventual retro-review for the Rider’s Library section were found with the help of the Internet. They all were found at book stores, used book stores, antique shops, motorcycle shops, yard sales and so on.