This blog started when I owned and MZ Skorpion Traveller and a bike magazine dismissed it with the phrase 'you can't tour on a single'. The Skorpion's gone and I now have a Triumph Bonneville, but I can't be bothered changing the title of the blog!
This week's 'Mystery
bike' was correctly identified as a Marman Twin, built by a company
owned by Zeppo Marx.
Herbert 'Zeppo' Marx
was the youngest of the Marx Brothers, and after making five films
with his brothers, left acting to concentrate on being a theatrical
Top to bottom: Chico, Harpo, Groucho and Zeppo
However, he was also an
inventor/engineer/tinkerer, and after a chance meeting with an
aircraft company executive who mentioned the lack of manufacturing
workshops, set up the Marman Company in 1941. They are most famous
for the Marman Clamp used to hold items inside aircraft, including
the WWII atom bombs.
The Marman Twin used a
flat twin engine from an unmanned aircraft (an early 'drone') fitted
into a Schwinn bicycle frame. It was marketed as a rival to the
popular 'Whizzer' and had the advantage of a proper clutch (the
Whizzer disengaged the drive belt).
The Marman design was
later sold to Jack & Heintz who sold the bike under their name.
Below is a video of Barry Gibb and family members unveiling a sculpture and walkway in memory of the Bee Gees, in Redcliffe, Queensland, Australia - the town where they signed their first contract in 1959. I really like how the sculpture doesn't depict them as the superstars they became, rather as teenagers starting out on their career.
I got another thing ticked off the list of plans for this year - I went to Club Noir's'Valentine's in Paris' night.
I'd been feeling a bit unwell all week, coughing and sneezing with a bad cold, and on Friday night had gone to my local pub with some friends. I was feeling so bad that I had to leave after an hour, and when I got up on Saturday I felt terrible. I got through the day by taking 'Extra Strength' cold remedies, and slept for a few hours in the late afternoon/early evening. I still didn't feel very good by the evening, but got ready and headed out to Club Noir.
It was a really good night with a really entertaining show.
Only usable picture of the show - my tiny camera's not really up it!
A lot of the people there really make an effort dressing up for the night, and a took a couple of photos in the bar (the more 'extremely' dressed people hang around in the area where you can't take pictures.)
Yes, that's a man dressed as 'Alice' accompanies by 'White Rabbit'. The girl on the left is wearing white PVC underwear and is with a man in a kilt and no shirt. These are the more conservatively dressed audience members!
Mostly 'sensible' people here, but you can see a man dressed as Napoleon!
It was a really good night out, but as the cold remedy was wearing off, I started to feel very cold and shivery, so decided to head home. It was a shame that I was so unwell as I was enjoying myself.
There should be more pictures soon on Club Noir's gallery. (They usually post them a few days after an event).
Now for the bad news. I mentioned a while ago that I'd got a new job testing electrical equipment for a local authority. I was employed by an agency who had said that the job was for three months, with the possibility of extending it to six. A couple of weeks into the job I was told that it wouldn't be extended, then on Friday I was told that it was finishing this coming Friday. This means that unless the agency has any more work for me, or I get something else, I'll be unemployed again by the end of the week. I'm going to phone the agency tomorrow to see if they have any more work, and I had an interview for a different job last week so perhaps something will come of that.
Look on the positive side, being unemployed means I can get more work done on the bikes!
Found this list of auction lots on a website. Looks like the collection of microcars from a museum or a very large personal collection. Includes one of my favorites:
The Peel Trident built in the Isle of Man. Some of you might remember an edition of Top Gear where Jeremy Clarkson drove one round London, then into the BBC Television Centre, taking it up in the lift to the show's office. Unfortunately, the BBC don't make this clip available for free on the Web, (so you have to buy the DVD), so here's some film of one at a show in Ireland.
If you go to the auction website and click on 'view lots' you'll see lots of very interesting and exotic cars that are also for sale. Just imagine how many you could buy if you won a lottery!
As Stuart correctly identified, the Mystery Bike was the Harley-Davidson 'Nova' project from 1979/80.
This version looks much more 'Harley'.
The Nova was part of a
project to built a family of modular engines based on a cylinder of
200 or 250cc. (Very similar to that conceived by Triumph at around
the same time). H-D's plan was to build a range of bikes using the
Porsche designed engines in V2, V4, and V6 configurations. All the
prototypes I could find pictures of featured the 800cc V4 engine,
including a projected race bike. There's very little information
about these bikes other than a couple of articles that I've linked
I just wonder what the
average Harley buyer in the US would have made of these had they
reached production. The reaction towards the V-Rod was negative
enough, and at least that's a V twin. Outside the US, I think the
reaction would have been more positive, and here in Europe the Nova
would have greatly raised H-D's profile.
Here's some photos and
a video, followed by an article I found.
a company that's been manufacturing motorcycles for a century,
Harley-Davidson hasn't often rocked the two-wheel world back on its
heels. Even the V-Rod, as radical a departure from Milwaukee
orthodoxy as The Motor Company has ever produced, breaks very little
technological ground compared to bikes from its competitors overseas.
But for a brief, shining moment 25 years ago, Harley sat poised to
blow the roof off the motorcycle market-and its own reputation as a
manufacturer of stodgy, technically unsophisticated products-with a
dazzling new model powered by a water-cooled V-4, code-named Nova.
Even a quarter of a century after the fact, Harley-Davidson,
a notoriously close-mouthed company when it comes to motorcycles that
never got past the prototype stage, is reluctant to discuss the
details of the Nova project. But not even H-D could withstand two
years of constant, good-natured badgering by American Rider, intent
on bringing the Nova story to light. And so recently the factory not
only granted us the rare privilege of access to archival material
(where we were astounded to find five Nova prototypes gathered
together in one place) but also invited us to its own photo studio
for a historic session with the Nova in front of the camera.
the time of the Nova's conception, Harleys were powered by big-bore,
long-stroke, slow-revving pushrod engines. A healthy Harley in a good
state of tune might register 50 horsepower on a rear-wheel
dynamometer. The plethora of short-stroke, water-cooled, overhead-cam
engines that the overseas competition would eventually usher in were
still just a gleam in their designers' eyes. But in 1976 Harley put
into motion a plan to design and produce a radically new family of
motorcycles powered by a series of engines that would incorporate all
those modern features...and produce up to 135 horsepower.
several years of development and testing, and with a planned release
date of mid-1981, the Nova project had at least 30 engines and 12
complete, running motorcycles to show for its efforts. The engines
had more than 2,000 hours of testing, and the bikes had logged
100,000 miles on the road. Engine tests and handling evaluations had
all been completed without experiencing any major structural failures
in either the chassis or the engine. One of the prototypes even met
strict California emission standards.
In all, Harley spent
more than $15 million on development and testing (about $40 million
in today's dollars), and even invested another $1 million in die-cast
tooling for the crankcase. By then the only task that remained was to
invest in additional tooling, set up the production line and begin
turning out Novas.
yet the Nova never made it past the prototype stage. The prototypes
were rolled, not into the light of day, but into the dark recesses of
a warehouse, away from the public eye...until now.
The Nova grew out of a series of meetings held in
mid-1976 that is still referred to in Harley executive's lingo as the
Pinehurst meetings, held at a resort hotel in North Carolina, with
the aim of mapping out a 10-year product plan for Harley-Davidson
motorcycles. There it was decided that due to the proliferation at
the time of high-tech motorcycles from other countries, and their
wide acceptance by American motorcyclists, a redesign of the current
74 (1,200cc) shovelhead engine would be insufficient to guarantee the
company's long-term growth. So planners proposed a two-pronged
strategy to ensuring Harley's future.
First, because of the
established product line's loyal following, they set into motion an
advanced V-twin project with the goal of updating the shovelhead Big
Twin and Ironhead Sportster. The eventual result was the Evolution
At the same time, an all-new machine with advanced
technology would be developed to appeal to riders who wanted more
contemporary performance. Harley's engineers laid out a number of
concepts on the Pinehurst table, including a series of motorcycles
powered by three basic multicylinder, water-cooled engines in six
displacements-the Nova family-all incorporating the latest
technology. By the close of the Pinehurst meetings, the planners had
mapped out Harley's future as a manufacturer of both traditional and
The Nova's mission was to penetrate
the 500cc to 1,000cc market-Harley's smallest air-cooled V-twin
engine was 1,000cc (the Sportster)-and attract the growing population
of performance-hungry riders. The Nova family, which perfectly
bracketed the most popular segments of the world market, could both
fill voids in the American market and give Harley a presence on the
But Harley's engineering resources would
be severely stretched with both programs. While most of the designers
were motorcycle enthusiasts, not all were card-carrying engineers.
The task of developing the Evo, in both Sportster and Big Twin
iterations, was daunting enough-the Nova would overload H-D's
engineering capacity. The solution was to farm out the powertrain's
design and development.
Harley solicited detailed design
proposals from three companies, then cut the field to two-Ricardo in
England and Porsche R&D in Weissach, West Germany. Porsche was
eventually selected and subcontracted at the end of 1979 to design
and develop the Nova engine and transmission. All chassis development
and testing would be done in Milwaukee.
cover the desired range of displacements, the Nova family would share
many common, interchangeable components. The basic concept revolved
around a 60-degree V-cylinder arrangement of two, four and six
cylinders. Other requirements included liquid cooling, double
overhead camshafts, a balance shaft to reduce vibration and a
five-speed gearbox. The valve gear and even the gearbox were to be
interchangeable. In addition to carbureted models, a fuel-injected
version would also be developed.
All the engines were
designed to use either 200cc or 250cc "wet" cylinder liners
and pistons. These would interchange between the V-twin, V-4 and V-6
engines (see chart, Nova Displacements, page 34). So the 800cc and
1,000cc fours are basically made of two 400/500cc twins, and the
1,200cc and 1,500cc six-cylinder versions consist of three banks of
The bore sizes were set at 66mm and 74mm (2.60 and
2.91 inches) for the 200cc and 250cc cylinder displacements,
respectively, with a common stroke of 58mm (2.28 inches). This gave a
very modern oversquare bore/stroke ratio of 1.14:1 for the smaller
engine and 1.28:1 for the larger size. The short stroke would allow
these engines to rev safely to nearly 10,000 rpm, an impossible speed
for a 5,000-rpm Big Twin with its long stroke of nearly 4 inches.
The cylinder heads feature two valves with bucket tappets
actuated directly by overhead cams. Harley looked seriously at a
four-valve head, but staying close to its conservative philosophies,
chose the least complicated configuration while not ruling out a
change later on-the production two-valve heads were designed to be
adaptable to a four-valve layout.
Harley engineers had
developed a preliminary design for the entire family before the
detail design of the first engine-the 800cc Nova 8-was started. This
size was considered the middle ground of displacement ranges thought
to be the most promising. The cylinder bore and stroke were also
based on engineering analysis of noise management, something Porsche
had considerable experience with.
As engine development
proceeded, the chassis designers weighed the final-drive options.
Belt final drive was not perfected then, and they chose not to trust
it for the high-performance Nova. That left either shaft drive and
chain drive. Despite its advantages in terms of cleanliness and low
maintenance, shaft drive was seen as too complex, too heavy, and too
costly to repair or replace. It also absorbed about three percent of
the engine's power every time the drive changed direction, twice in
the Nova's case.
Harley engineering's reluctance to adopt the shaft, it proceeded with
that alternative. In fact, there was even open discussion of turning
the engine 90 degrees in the frame, with the cylinders protruding
sideways in an arrangement similar to Moto Guzzi's; this would
eliminate one of the two right-angle drives in the shaft. That
discussion was quickly dropped.
By the time the FLT hit the
market in the fall of 1979, belts had been proven and the shaft lost
what little appeal it had for Harley engineers. The final drive of
choice became the belt, with a chain option. Besides, if needed, the
shaft could always be resurrected in the future.
The Nova was
never intended to look like any of the traditional Harley V-twins,
since its target market consisted of performance-oriented riders
accustomed to the styling of Harley's overseas competition. But
Willie G. Davidson, who oversaw the Nova's appearance, refused to buy
into the function-over-form philosophy prevalent in the styling of
high-performance bikes of the day, insisting that a large, flat
radiator stuck on the front of the bike was an affront to the eye.
(Davidson holds this opinion to this day, as evidenced by the V-Rod.)
It was his insistence on a concealed radiator that led to one of the
Nova's most unusual-and patented-features, an underseat radiator.
The radiator lies almost horizontally, with two large
forward-facing scoops protruding forward from what normally would be
the fuel tank, funneling air into a plenum chamber above the
radiator. A fan under the radiator pulls air through it, down and
rearward, away from the rider and passenger. What began as a styling
imperative offered inherent advantages. The air intake is mounted
well above ground level, preventing debris from being sucked into the
radiator. Because the airflow is channeled and controlled, a smaller
radiator can be used with greater efficiency. And almost as important
at the time, the "invisible" radiator kept Willie G. and
his stylists happy.
A pressed-steel backbone-style
frame-strong, light, and easy to manufacture-has a rear subframe
welded to it, and uses the engine as a structural member. With no
front downtubes or radiator, the engine bay has a clean look, and the
cylinders' "cooling fins" give the engine an appearance of
With the fuel tank displaced from its
traditional location by the cooling system, H-D engineers designed a
saddlebag-style tank that straddles the radiator. There is a distinct
advantage in this location: a lower center of gravity. Engineers had
minor concerns about the possibility of vapor lock caused by radiator
heat, and the problems associated with the fuel pump and
plumbing-required by the tank's low position-but these issues were
considered easily surmountable. The tank's placement also limits fuel
capacity, and therefore range. The solution, though not elegant, is
huge side panels, perhaps the Nova's single styling blemish.
dyno rooms hummed and prototypes logged test mileage, the Nova
appeared close to launch. A project of the Nova's scope, however,
required solid backing from the check-writers at the corporate level,
and Harley's parent company at the time, American Machine and Foundry
(AMF) not only backed the Nova, but supported Harley's overall
growth. Under the direction of AMF president Rodney C. Gott, who was
a motorcycle enthusiast, Harley acquired the York final-assembly
plant. The company grew with the influx of capital, and new people
were brought in. Jeff Bleustein, who joined AMF in 1971, moved to the
motorcycle group in 1975 under Motorcycle Group Executive Ray
The next year, Vaughn Beals joined as Deputy Group
Executive of the motorcycle group, taking an office next door to H-D
President John Davidson, and the task of rebuilding the company to
improve quality and productivity began. After Beals convened the
Pinehurst meetings in 1976, The Motor Company began moving in a new
direction, one that included the Nova project. In the years of 1978
through 1980, the motorcycle division was perhaps AMF's largest
profit center, according to Bleustein.
Gott retired, Tom York took over AMF, and the outlook suddenly
changed. Previously AMF's business was roughly half industrial and
half leisure, Harley being part of the latter group. In a major shift
in strategy, York ordered the expansion of the industrial side, and
financed it with profits from the leisure side. Under this plan
Harley-Davidson, AMF's largest profit generator, would become the
cash cow, milked of capital to feed other business interests. The
Nova project, ultimately considered expensive and risky, fell victim
to the bottom line, and was terminated.
In a way, however,
the Nova's demise sparked Harley-Davidson's resurgence. Cutting Nova
funds was one of the reasons Beals led the so-called "gang of
13" to propose buying the company back from AMF. AMF agreed, and
by mid-1981 Harley-Davidson became a privately held company. Highly
leveraged with an enormous bank debt, Harley's future options boiled
down to just two-either continue development of the Evolution V-twin,
or build the Nova. The Nova was the long-range hope, the 10-year
promise. But air-cooled twins promised the most immediate cash flow.
And so the Nova died yet another death.
Even so, Harley execs
continued searching for investors to fund a manufacturing plant for
the Nova. As late as 1984, Beals, along with Chief Engineer and Nova
Program Manager Mike Hillman, and Operations Vice President Tom Gelb,
made presentations to many companies in the United States and Europe,
but had no success.
Among the what-ifs that inevitably attend
a story of shattered dreams are these: What if Harley-Davidson had
gone ahead with the Nova? What would it look like today, and how
would it compare to its competition? And there's another question
that's just as intriguing; what if Harley had chosen the other path,
and dropped the Evolution altogether in favor of the Nova?
Chairman and CEO Jeff Bleustein has his own answer. "You never
know," he said. "You make the most of whatever decision you
make because you don't get a chance to play it both ways. We're
certainly not unhappy in the way our fortunes have gone."
Modern sportsbikes a bit slow for you? Feel the need for 320 horsepower? Then this is the bike for you! Powered by a gas turbine engine from a helicopter, the MTT Y2K has a top speed of 227 mph/365km/h!
More details at the company website and here's a video about it.
If you're thinking of buying one, US$185,000 = £117,000 = 138,000 Euro. Don't all rush at once!
Decided to spent today doing some 'proper' work on the CL 350. After all, it's only a year since I bought it, so it was about time I started especially as I intend going to Spain on it in October!
During the week I found something that I would never have imagined I could ever find - a luggage rack. Listed on Ebay by the company I bought my bike from, and mine for only £26.
OK, it's a bit rusty and scuffed on top (but nothing that won't polish out), but bear in mind that the CL ceased production in 1973 and was never sold in Europe, so this was an unexpected find. The 'slats' on top show that it was made for the US market (British ones tend to use tubes), and it fits very neatly.
It's also very slim so doesn't spoil the narrow lines of the bike.
Last year I'd bought a 'tail pack' on Ebay. It seems to be an earlier version of this and fits neatly onto the rack.
Unlike the newer version, the one I've got also has expanding side pockets. I got 5 t-shirts into one to show how big they are.
This should give me enough luggage capacity for a week in Spain, but I'll probably take a small rucksack as well to carry my overnight things on the ferry (saves carrying the tailpack up from the car deck) and it'll be handy for day to day running about. The new version of the pack costs £99.99, the one I bought, listed as 'used' but had clearly never been on a bike, was only £19.99 - there's bargains out there if you keep your eyes open!
I started stripping the bike down and was surprised how good condition the bike was in and how easily the nuts and bolts came apart.
Only problem I had was that the screws holding on the sprocket cover were well chewed.
I drilled the heads off and there was enough length of the bolts exposed that I could remove them with a Mole wrench. One was a bit tight (I thought it was going to snap), so I'll clean up the thread with a tap before reassembly.
It wasn't long until the engine was out.
And up onto the bench.
It was a bit heavier than I thought it would be, but I managed it - just! I'll turn it upside down and remove the lower crankcase half to repair the broken kick start mechanism and clean out any gunge I find.
Next job was to take both wheels off to check the condition of the brake shoes. Front came off easily enough, the shoes looked new, so I reassembled with plenty of grease and Copaslip.
The rear was a bit more difficult and the spindle had to be persuaded by Mr. Hammer to come out. When I took the brake plate out of the wheel, the friction material from one shoe fell onto the floor!
I'd seen this a few times before on MZ 2 strokes (and even have it happen on a bike whilst I was riding it!), but never on a Japanese bike. However, the CL is 41 years old and the shoes didn't have a Honda logo on them, so could have been pattern parts. Something else for the shopping list!
Other than that, I just sprayed all the nuts and bolts I could find with WD-40, to loosen them for next time I'm working on the bike. I'm really pleased how much I got done, and how easy it all was. Let's hope I don't too many 'nasties' when I open the engine!
To round off the day, I made an interesting discovery. When I took the saddle off I noticed it had a compartment that once held the owner's handbook. It was very stiff, but I manged to get it off without breaking the clip, and found this inside.
A registration document from 1991 for an owner in Delphos, Ohio! What a find! That will go into the CL's folder of documents, and might make registering it here easier.
Thanks to Pat Brennan for spotting this one and writing about it in the current issue of Jawa Motorcyclist.
Dinli are a major Taiwanese ATV manufacturer and displayed the DL282 at a show recently. The engine is a 750cc single with the cylinder inclined forwards like a Panther. What is especially unusual is that the transmission is a scooter-like CVT automatic setup with belt final drive. The DL282 also has an unusually low saddle high, making it attractive to shorter riders.
You can see more details in this video.
Note man with big camera at 0:47 who is clearly photographing the model's breasts!
I've no idea as to price, availability, or whether or not you'll be able to buy one in any of the countries my readers come from. However, it is interesting to see someone trying something different, and I would think a big lazy engine and automatic transmission would work well with a 'cruiser' chassis to give an easy to ride and undemanding bike.
Dinli also make a version of this bike called the DL281 with higher handlebars and a split silencer.