Thursday, March 22, 2007


A friend (thanks Pete!) forwarded an email from a collector in Australia who needed to lighten his garage a bit; mostly he had pre-1916 bikes which needed vast amounts of work to finish or complete. But, nestled amongst the Veteran Triumphs and Rudges was a VINTAGE Rudge, which looked most intriguing. Of course, this was the bike he really didn't want to sell, but it attracted the most interest (it seems to be harder to sell the really old motorcycles nowadays, and the older collectors are passing on).
I put in my bid, and the Rudge may well end up in San Francisco. It's a '29 Ulster, which is a pukka TT Replica machine, a faithful copy of Graham Walker's 1928 Rudge (second pic) on which he won the Ulster TT at a 'world's first' road race average of 80mph. The factory wisely sought to capitalise on Graham's success by building a racer for sale, and the infamous Ulster was born.

The first year Ulster ('29) was a unique beast, and was essentially a one-year model. The engine had a total-loss oiling system, meaning it had no oil pump per se, but rather an oil metering device, and the oil was allowed to burn off/drip out rather than being returned hot to the engine. 'A constant supply of clean oil' was the thought, but properly circulating oil really helps keep an engine cooler! There are other features of the bike which are unique to the year, such as the twin-filler gas and oil tanks and large diameter wheels; in 1930 the tanks changed, the engine gained an oil pump, and the wheels got smaller. Ulsters were still top of the heap until about '34, when they began to add weight and complexity with no additional power (a very typical story of 30's bikes actually - they got heavier as the 30's wore on, with no gain in hp).
Regarding the poster of Graham Walker's machine; the owner has it attached to his garage wall - a pinup! Let's hope the Ulster looks as good as the calendar girl sometime soon.


artoftime said...

Paul - it was such a pleasure to see your name over at the Sartorialist - I bought your 900GTS in something like 1990 - never forgot how cool you and Denise(?) were - rode the wheels off that bike, sold it, traded it back for a painting and now just looking it in mock up state. Don't quite know where to go with it...anyway, now into vintage cars and a painting career. Would love to catch up - you even in NYC?
Gregory Johnston

vintagent said...

Hi Gregory, can't contact you via your artoftime handle for some reason; send me your email address! I was just in NYC, but will be back likely in early June. Send to
I was just thinking about 'ARTMS' when I was in NY actually, must have been psychic. What a great bike. If you want to sell it back, let me know. P

Anonymous said...

Wonderful article, I own and ride a Rudge Special 500 1937. The bike is new to me, however, my father had a Rudge in his youth. I love vintage cars and motorcycles. Would you be able to recommend a source to acquire an owners manual and spare parts list?


George Murphy