Wednesday, March 18, 2015

1919 New Imperial and the mystery of the rotted frame

I recently dug out a box of old photos in a clear out and came by these two. The bike is a 1919 New Imperial that I imported from India something like fourteen or fifteen years ago. I think it came in with the same consignment as the 1940 Royal Enfield J2 that I still have.

The New Imp was a sweet little bike, all complete except for saddle and fitted with a 293cc JAP side-valve motor. The only real damage on the bike was that the saddle tube was half rotted through, it looked strange when the rest of it was in such a well preserved condition. Apparently this was because the bike had spent a number of years leaning up against a tree and the saddle tube was the point of contact.

There were a couple of interesting features on the New Imp; it had the very wide mudguards seen on quite a few bikes of the era on 'empire models' - ie those which were made for export. Also the front forks have an unusual mechanism: at first glance they look like the mechanically awful but practically effective Triumph rocking forks with their horizontal spring, however they have a series of linkages that transform the vertical movement of the forks in to a compression on the horizontal spring. Unnecessarily complex but quite an elegant mechanism.

I sold the bike on to a guy up in the Cotswolds, he moved it on fairly quickly after that. Funnily I overheard the new owner talking to someone at the Beaulieu Autojumble wondering how the frame had rotted in such a localised manner. I didn't manage to get to talk to him before he wandered off. Sir, if you ever get to read this post, the mystery is solved!

Sweet little 1919 New Imperial, fresh home from 80 odd years
in India and needing restoration.

You can just make out the rotted saddle tube if you look
carefully. Check out too the huge 'empire model' mudguards
and unusual mechanism on the forks.

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