The Healey hit the market in 1971, I was mistaken there.
Ariel had stopped making motorcycles in 1967. But by that time, they had been all over small-displacement two-smokes. They had stopped making four-bangers, and the Squariel, in 1959.
Their last model had delivered only 40hp, or 45 according to another source and that had been enough to create the problems that had made the engine notorious. 425lbs, that last Squariel, btw.
The square-four wasn't exactly a "thermally well behaved" engine. You got two cylinders and their half of the cylinder head getting airflow. And the rest don't get that.
Like I said, power/weight of a Japanese 2 smoke 250. Or the then current Honda CB250, apparently.
But with a British four-stroke that had already been notorious to be ... difficult, at 40hp. And they tuned it to 52. With a hot cam and increased compression. Stock compression had been a bit warm, they went all the way up to ... 7.5:1.
You'd get 52hp for a few minutes maybe. And then you'd probably get knocking.
All in an Egli frame, which in and off itself is a hotness. But that engine was hotter.
Or you could buy a Honda. Which weighed like twice what the Healey did, without having twice the power.
But what power it did have, the Honda would deliver, when requested, without complaining.
The Healey, meanwhile, was built from leftover bits from a manufacturer that would no longer provide new spares, by a pair of brothers in a back-alley garage who's marketing budget was maybe
enough to buy someone a pint. Probably more like a half-pint, actually.
Britain in the 70s. You've seen Life on Mars? Electricity shortages, 3 day work week, strikes, unemployment, you name it. The British economy was in the toilet, Norton-Viliers-Triumph was selling off BSA. The Japanese invasion was taking over the US market, and also all other markets, for that matter. I'm impressed they managed to build and sell as many as 13.
Were I to suddenly inherit a billion tomorrow and get my eyesight and reflexes back. You can bet I'd find one of these. You want to impress a motorcycle nerd with unobtanium, there's three or four machines that come to mind.
The "white Mars
", the proverbial unobtanium here in Germany. Which is a Maybach-engine bike from the 20s and is boring. Saw one up close and was left unimpressed.
The VanVeen OCR1000
, first production bike with digital ignition (in 1978!), with the Comotor two-rotor Wankel engine.
Only 38 were ever built. Until another 10 were made. Someone managed to track down all the spare parts and stuff that had been left over after the factory had closed, bought the lot and built another ten bikes. How you'd get a carburetted, 1978 vintage Wankel engine, which had been notorious for emissions even then, through the emissions tests for 2011. Unless they put the parts in previously registered frames of some other marque, the inspector would never even get to the entirely illegally loud exhaust, or that no tire maker offers any tires with a release for that model.
The aforementioned Healy 1000/4
. 13 were ever made. It's likely that a few were destroyed in crashes, or left to rot somewhere, misidentified as "some idiot tried to build a cafe racer from a squariel".
Only unobtaniumer that I'm aware of is the VanVeen OCR1100
. Increased displacement (or whatever you call that in a Wankel) and fuel injection. The production run ended after ... one. Built for an actual oil-sheikh, if memory serves.
Not a mere custom-job, though. It got the official model-designation and all.
If there were absolutely anything to be afraid of, don't you think I would have worn pants?
I said I have a big stick.