Devil in Disguise: 1948 EMC 350 Grand Prix Racer

The EMC 350 Grand Prix racer lives on as a testament to its designer’s inventiveness and as another step toward a better 2-stroke.

article image
by Kel Edge

While struggling to establish the fledgling bike business he’d founded in 1946, Joe Ehrlich developed a water-cooled EMC split-single 2-stroke GP racer. The bike used a ladepumpe supercharging piston in a design clearly based on the prewar DKW factory racer with which Germany’s Ewalde Kluge won the 1938 Isle of Man Lightweight TT — the first non-British bike/rider combo to do so.

Fitted in a twin-loop frame with a girder fork and plunger rear suspension, in the hands of all-rounder road racing and scrambles star Les Archer, the 250cc EMC won the prestigious Hutchinson 100 held at Britain’s first post-war National race meeting at Dunholme in 1947. Buoyed by that success, Ehrlich produced a 350cc version of the bike, now with Dowty telescopic forks but still a plunger rear end, which Don Crossley rode in the 1947 Manx GP. However, such was the supercharged engine’s prodigious thirst that it ran out of fuel on the Mountain on lap 3 en route to a planned single fuel stop for the six-lap race. Oops!

So for 1948 Ehrlich completely redesigned the motorcycle, with a much larger 5-gallon (22.5-liter) fuel tank atop a revised tubular steel duplex frame with a cast aluminum backbone and steering head unit carrying an inverted 1.5-inch (38mm) Dowty oleo-pneumatic telescopic fork — yes, an upside-down fork in 1948! At the rear there was now a tubular steel swingarm with twin Dowty shocks — again, oleo-pneumatic. The revised engine was now fully water-cooled, and claimed to produce 40 horsepower at 5,500rpm, compared to the 32 horsepower at 7,000rpm of the new, more conventional AJS 7R “Boy Racer” SOHC 4-stroke, which was also 13 pounds heavier than the 285-pound 2-stroke — though probably slightly lighter when fully fueled. So to stop what by prewar DKW standards undoubtedly had the potential to be a very fast bike, Ehrlich had produced beautifully cast aluminum conical hubs housing EMC’s own single-leading-shoe drum brakes, an 8-inch front and 7-inch rear, both housed in 20-inch wheels with Borrani aluminum rims.

The new EMC was entered for the 1948 Junior TT to be ridden by Archer — but at the behest of the newly formed FICM (the FIM’s predecessor) the ACU returned Ehrlich’s entry form just six weeks before the race, stating that the EMC infringed the FICM’s recent ban on supercharging introduced in April that year for all International events. Joe spent a lot of time contesting this decision, but ultimately failed to get it reversed, thus making his purposeful-looking new 350 GP model obsolete overnight — just like another later stillborn Italian victim of bureaucratic chicanery, the 1969 V4 Villa 250.

Order the January/February 2020 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read more about the 1948 EMC 350 Grand Prix racer. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email

Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine Featuring the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!