Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Dave in San Francisco has been investigating old motorcycles in far off lands; while travelling in Nepal and India this Fall, he "saw all kinds of neat stuff, and very occasionally hung out with some wealthy Indians who also loved old bikes. The smaller dealer-types assumed I'm a millionaire." He's been exploring dealers online since then, to see if anything worthwhile turns up; there are plenty of motorcycles for sale, sometimes a seemingly limitless supply of BSA M20s and Norton 16Hs. "They love Indian motocycles in India - they'd buy them all if they could." But the taxation rate is horrendous; 100% on new motorcycles, 180% for something old. "They don't want the market flooded with used cars, so weird collector stuff gets caught in the trap as well." Which is interesting; here in the US, old cars are considered polluters and frowned upon, while India is introducing the cheapest car in the world, the Tata 'Nano', which has absolutely no emission controls - a scary prospect for a country of 1 billion people.

When scouring far corners for old bikes (like India, Indonesia, Argentina, Paraguay, etc), the prices are often enticing, but, of course, there's always the issue of overseas money transfer, in a transaction with an unknown vendor. It can be scary to send a hard-earned pile of cash abroad to a stranger, but I have to say, I've never been 'taken' in such a deal. Angry, frustrated, exasperated, murderous, yes, but I always got what I paid for, eventually. Touch wood. Your results may vary.

So what has Dave found? This bike is a mystery to me, although it certainly looks European, with its wet-sump sv engine and flattened headlamp - very Frenchy-Belgish. Estimated date of manufacture, 1931-'36. 350cc or 500cc, it's difficult to tell.

I don't trust that the 'Norton' gearbox is original, and is probably a replacement from a convenient donor 16H, as are some of the instruments. The timing chest has a curious look, almost as if a chainchase had been cut off from the cover; something seems to be missing anyway.

The primary side is also odd, but could be standard. That large and featureless cover certainly lacks charm, but it seems to fit the crankcase casting well.

The engine has no identifying marks other than a number stamped on the drive side; 'M 2363 SL'.

The chassis seems sound, with Webb-pattern forks, a pair of 6" diameter Enfield-type brakes with aluminum backplates, plus a handsome tank with integral instrument panel, reminiscent of a '32 Ariel. The frame is a duplex full-loop type, and the exhuast ends in a nice fishtail.

There is a ban on export of pre-1941 motorcycles in India, as they are considered part of the 'national heritage', but crafty Indian traders break up the bikes into several lumps, and truck them to friendly shippers in Nepal. From Nepal, they are officially shipped abroad, using Calcutta as their port!

I'm sure if I dig into my library, I could find the machine in these photos... but I'm curious how long it will take if I put the matter to YOU. Do you know the make and model of this bike?

And we have our answer, which took less than two hours, and came from Australia!
Howard Burrows, who knows a thing or two about old bikes, sent this photo of a New Imperial from 1931, which sent me in the right direction.

He writes: "G'day Paul, It's a NEW HUDSON! Yes a New Hudson from about 1930 without its external engine cowls or covers. See photo. Howard" You win! Fabulous prizes to follow.

Further investigation reveals the machine to be either a 350cc, 500cc, or 550cc sidevalve from ca. 1931/2, as shown in the '31 Hew Hudson catalog. A range of models was available from a very standard sidevalver 350cc (which might be our machine) to more deluxe models with legshields and more capacity, to the hot-rod model 'Bronze Wing' 500cc ohv with a tuned engine.

All these photos come from an excellent New Hudson website on '1931-33 Models', which can be viewed here. There is also a book on New Hudson which was sold by the VMCC, but is currently sold out. Look for 'New Hudson, The History of a Motor Cycle Company', by Eric Ion. It seems my suspicion of the Norton 'box was well-founded; they originally came with Albion gearboxes.

The final photo shows just such a machine, with engine covers, at the Banbury run a few years ago (naughty - the Banbury is limited to pre-31 motorcycles!). And the estimated value for such a machine as Dave found in India? A restored model sold at Stafford in '06 for £3500, so an unrestored but correct model will make less - let's say $3-4k. Plus shipping via Nepal!


Anonymous said...

Norton Big 4 or 16H? Circa mid 30's? Highly butchered with some other gas tank. Just my WAG (wild ass guess). I see Dave can't stay away from his Indian bike contacts. Sooner or later he'll have one.

G'night, Jerrykap

Anonymous said...

Dear sir,
Thanx for the help in putting the bike pic on your website so that every 1 can see and track the bike now i know its new hudson it is requested u plz remove the pic from the site so that its good bcz or else if owner who has see on the site he will come to know its new hudson which is very rare in india and he wont sell the bike currently he thinks its a norton hand gear so if u remove it that would be great.
- (name witheld)

vintagent said...

Hello (-),

I've given a lot of thought to your request, and your most recent email cemented my decision to keep the images on my site.

The photographs were sent to me in good faith, with no proviso to keep them private. I asked sender (Dave) if it was acceptable to publish them, and he gave his consent. When you emailed your demand that I remove the images, I wondered why, and prepared a letter to ask you your reasons.

Now you have made clear that your interest is strictly commercial, that the motorcycle is not yours, and you fear that the actual owner might 'find out' that his machine is something other than a Norton, and presumably raise his price, or decide to keep the motorcycle.

I was asked to identify this machine, and spent a few hours composing my web posting - finding photos of similar machines, making links for anyone interested in New Hudsons to do more research or find resources. My website is devoted to enriching our understanding of motorcycles and motorcycling, not enriching individuals. It is strictly non-commercial. I will not participate in keeping the owner of the New Hudson in ignorance about his motorcycle, so that you can hope to make a profit. There are more ethical ways of making money than fooling an owner.

sincerely, Paul d'Orleans

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,
Thanks for the link, the bike looks like a 350sv or a 493sv, rather than the 550sv.

I’m having to migrate [my New Hudson website] soon, as MSN are devolving groups somewhere else, so it’ll be interesting to see how that affects traffic!

Keith Hodgson


Anonymous said...

I am alam this is my bike and I want to know about who has link this pictures.I want to talk about this bike.

Ishtiaq alam