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1952 500 Twin

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1952 500 Twin

I first read about the 500 Twin's participation in the 1951 ISDT event in Great British Motorcycles of the 1950s by Bob Currie. That was over 20 years ago and I've passionately longed for one since then. Apart from the stunning example destroyed during the tragic 2004 National Motorcycle Museum fire, I had not actually seen one of the early Twins in the flesh until I came across one for sale at the 2005 International Classic Motorcycle Show at Stafford. I bought it!

Early 500 Twins were mostly exported, due to Britain's post-war need for international trade and financial recovery. Never a mainstream machine and often maligned for its uninspiring name, 500 Twins have a reputation for being a sweet machine to ride.

The history of my machine is somewhat sketchy, but it is a 1952 model and has been partially restored at some time in its life. Apart from the fuel tank, the bike has been totally repainted. My guess is that the engine has never been fully stripped down and the barrel is still on standard bore.

The Twin was running rather shakily when I bought it, with compression particularly poor. I carried out a top-end overhaul: new valve and valve springs, piston rings and gaskets. The right hand spark plug housing also needed helicoiling to prevent the plug rattling around when the engine fired up.

The Twin now starts first kick and immediately settles into a steady beat. Handling is identical to a Bullet, but power is delivered at a smooth, pleasant pace with none of the bottom-end surge of the Enfield single. The exhaust note is a joy; deep and full-bodied.

Future plans include chrome plating the kickstart and gearchange lever along with the rear-wheel which is currently painted. I also need a genuine Lucas Altette horn and the front fork seals need attention judging by the small pool of ATF on my garage floor. Apart from those details, I'll just ride and enjoy.

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