Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Names that bypassed the experience

Only Avus and, perhaps, Plutarch will find any pork scratchings here. Everyone else can take the afternoon off.

The bike is a Matchless twin, circ. 1960. By then Matchless and AJS bikes were “badge engineered” (ie, identical hardware, different labels, the aim being to preserve two marques dating back several decades). It’s shown here because, to my surprise, a Matchless appears on the cover of the current Radio Times.

I had intended to expatiate on the quaint optimism embodied in this and other bike names of the period. After only a brief reflection I realised that even quaint optimism was a marketing rarity: Velocette, Triumph and possibly Ariel had the right idea but Sunbeam, Royal Enfield and BSA (standing for Birmingham Small Arms!) completely missed the point. Even worse were the excruciatingly dull names relating to human progenitors: Francis Barnett, James and (unforgivable, given its hairy-chested prowess) Vincent-HRD.

Virtually all British bike names, with the exception of Triumph and Norton (both small operations now), have disappeared and choice is limited predominantly to Japanese companies. Ironically the big four (Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki) all bear the names of their founders yet, because of their foreign-ness, don’t sound quite so tedious. In fact Yamaha, a company that started out making reed organs, and Kawasaki have almost onomatopeiac links with their bike products.

Ducati – the successful Italian manufacturer? Founded by the Ducati brothers.

6 comments:

Sir Hugh said...

What about Panther?

Barrett Bonden said...

I was hoping no one would raise that one. It sounds like a heads-up name but it went to the wrong bike: a 600 cc single-cylinder machine intended to haul a sidecar. A Panther with a wooden leg, if you like.

Avus said...

I suppose "Brough Superior" was quite a good one and reflected George Brough's flair for PR. (Although his dad who originally made plain "Broughs" was not best pleased with his son's cockiness)

A propos "Honda":
A man went to the doctor complaining that when he passed wind it sounded like "hondahondahonda".
The physician made and examination and found a lesion in the patient's rectum. "There's the solution", he said. "Abcess makes the fart go Honda".

Sorry about that - thanks for an interesting post and an unusual slant on motorcycle naming.

Sarah said...

Genetically (and you don't do biology B.B), I find it hard to deal with the concept of a "Matchless Twin". All that stuff about alleles and homozygous genes seems to have gone for nowt.Or am I missing the point?

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barrett Bonden said...

Sarah: Omigod. The British motorcycle industry failed in so many ways, and now it's failed again (posth.).