|The inspiration for this article - my Charlie Lucas|
Not many enthusiasts will recognise the name of Charlie Lucas and be aware of the motorcycles he produced through the fifties. There is virtually nothing in print about his work and equally little on the internet, his bikes may be only a side note in post war British motorcycling history but are certainly worthy of remembering.
Charlie Lucas was an aircraft engine inspector from Watford and his passion was building motorcycles, more specifically individually designed motorcycle frames. How many frames were produced over the years is unknown but he appears to have been quite prodigious for a part-time builder.
From his home workshop immediately after World War Two Charlie Lucas began making grass track frames. At some point in the early fifties his interest switched to making road racing bikes.
The best known and perhaps most successful machine that Lucas was involved with was the MELEM special which was built in 1953 and was powered by a 250cc DOHC Manx Norton engine in a featherbed style frame fitted with Earles forks, Albion gearbox, Manx Norton front brake and EMC rear. The MELEM special achieved a thirteenth position in the 1954 Lightweight TT.
|The MELEM Special|
Lucas also made a series of Velocette engined race bikes (apparently all fitted with 'cut down' 250cc MkVIII engines).
Although not verified it is quite possible that Charlie Lucas built frames for the series of Velocette racers produced by Doug Beasley in the early fifties. These machines were raced by Beasely himself as well as Eric Pantlin, Percy Tait and Cecil Sandford.
|One of the Beasely Velocettes. Possibly a Charlie|
Lucas frame. The design is certainly very similar.
A feature of many of the Lucas bikes was Earles forks and variations of this design. Charlie also experimented with low profile framed bikes.
|Apologies for the terrible quality of this image.|
It is a 350cc Lucas Velo from 1952. There was also
a 250cc built at the same time which was possibly
fitted with a modified Rudge engine and had the
rear suspension units mounted beneath the engine
a la Moto Guzzi of the period.
|Another Lucas Velocette, this one a 250cc. This machine|
embodies several of Lucas' themes - note the leading
link forks fitted with an unusual tension spring unit
behind the wheel. Also note the low profile of the machine.
|Sorry, another bad quality image! This is the above|
bike in build stage, the image comes from a copy
of Motor Cycling magazine from 1955.
After the series of road racing machines Charlie Lucas turned his attentions back to grass track racing and resumed production of frames for that discipline. It is not known when exactly this was but some time around 1960 is a good estimate. An article at the time gave Lucas' reason for moving back to grass track as there being less work in a grass track machine, a greater and more readily available choice of engines for the discipline yet the sport was popular enough to provide a ready market for frames. Another reason given was that competition in road racing had become ever more serious. The early and mid fifties indeed was a heyday for the small scale amateur constructor in road racing, particularly in the 250 class, one that was largely forgotten by the bigger manufacturers.
Below are images of several of the surviving Lucas machines:
|Again my Charlie Lucas Royal Enfield 500 twin.|
|And the Charlie Lucas Royal Enfield as first built.|
Sadly no more is known of its history as of yet. The
engine cases are devoid of numbers and the gearbox
is an ultra rare close ratio racing one. Both of which
suggest if not actual Royal Enfield factory involvement
then perhaps someone who had close contact with or
worked at Royal Enfield.
|This sweet little Lucas framed bike is in regular use|
and currently sports a Ducati Monza Junior motor
which suits it nicely. Early history is unknown but
in its time it once had a BSA Sunbeam 250cc twin
scooter engine fitted.
|Easy to mistake this as just another Triton but it is|
in fact Charlie Lucas frame number 24. At one
time it had an NSU 250cc engine fitted. It sports
an NSU front wheel and an EMC rear.
Images used in this article are from myself, cribbed from the internet and from personal contacts. Most have appeared elsewhere but if I have unwittingly used an image without permission or consent please let me know and I will take down or acknowledge.