The Red Hunters Ride Again: 1939 and 1947 Ariel Red Hunter

One man is the lucky owner of these two Ariel Red Hunters.

| July/August 2014

  • Pair of Ariel Twins
    1939 and 1947 Ariel Red Hunters
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Shawn Doan Riding His 1947 Ariel Red Hunter
    Shawn Doan aboard his 1947 Ariel Red Hunter single port, which he rode to the annual Norton rally last summer, a 2,500-mile round trip.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Left-Hand Side of 1947 Ariel Red Hunter
    1947 Ariel Red Hunter single port.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Right-Hand Side of 1947 Ariel Red Hunter
    1947 Ariel Red Hunter single port.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Close-Up View of 1947 Ariel Single-Port Engine
    The 1947 Ariel VH Red Hunter has a standard single-port engine.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Ariel VH Red Hunter Close Up
    Ariel VH Red Hunter.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Gas Tank of the 1947 Ariel VH Red Hunter
    Everything you need to know is on the gas tank, from speed to time of day.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • 1939 Ariel Twin-Port Engine
    Engine on the 1939 twin-port looks almost identical to the 1947 except for tell-tale twin exhaust headers. Gas tanks are identical except for color.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Gas Tank of the 1939 Ariel Red Hunter
    Engine on the 1939 twin-port looks almost identical to the 1947 except for tell-tale twin exhaust headers. Gas tanks are identical except for color.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Shawn Doan Riding his 1939 Ariel Red Hunter
    The ‘39 twin-port’s chromed dual high-pipes really make the look.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Left-Hand Side of 1939 Ariel Red Hunter VH
    A 1939 Ariel Red Hunter twin-port.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Right-Hand Side of 1939 Ariel Hunter
    A 1939 Ariel Red Hunter twin-port.
    Photo by Robert Smith

  • Pair of Ariel Twins
  • Shawn Doan Riding His 1947 Ariel Red Hunter
  • Left-Hand Side of 1947 Ariel Red Hunter
  • Right-Hand Side of 1947 Ariel Red Hunter
  • Close-Up View of 1947 Ariel Single-Port Engine
  • Ariel VH Red Hunter Close Up
  • Gas Tank of the 1947 Ariel VH Red Hunter
  • 1939 Ariel Twin-Port Engine
  • Gas Tank of the 1939 Ariel Red Hunter
  • Shawn Doan Riding his 1939 Ariel Red Hunter
  • Left-Hand Side of 1939 Ariel Red Hunter VH
  • Right-Hand Side of 1939 Ariel Hunter

Ariel VH Red Hunter
Claimed power:
26hp @ 5,600rpm (est.)
Top speed: 85mph (est.)
Engine:
497cc air-cooled OHV vertical single, 81.8mm x 95mm bore and stroke, 7.5:1 compression ratio (stock)
Weight (w/half tank fuel):
1939; 370lb (168kg)/1947; 350lb (159kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG:
3.25gal (12.3ltr)/45-65mpg
Price then (est.)/now:
$305 (1939); $625 (1947)/$7,000-$9,000

The decade before World War II was truly a golden age for the British motorcycle industry. British products outsold foreign brands many times over at home, and by a comfortable margin in most export markets, too.

And in every British motorcycle manufacturer’s range, one format dominated all others: the sporting overhead valve, 4-stroke single of 350cc or 500cc. BSA made the Empire Star, Velocette the 350cc MAC, and Norton’s Model 18 and ES2 500cc singles were solid sellers. Triumph had yet to launch the Speed Twin but had its 350 Tiger 80 and 500 Tiger 90, while AJS produced the Model 18 and sister company Matchless the G3. Rudge had the Ulster, Sunbeam the Model 9, New Imperial the model 60 Grand Prix and Royal Enfield the 350cc G2 Bullet.

But perhaps most easily recognized — and to many eyes the most handsome — was Ariel’s Red Hunter.



Starting gate

At the start of the 1930s, Ariel’s product range featured a bewildering array of single-cylinder motorcycles, including side and overhead valve engines of 250, 350, 500 and 557cc capacities with both vertical and forward sloping cylinders, single or twin exhaust ports, and 2- and 4-valve heads. Added to the range in 1931 was the 500cc overhead cam Square Four, penned by Ariel’s drawing-office newbie, Edward Turner. The first Red Hunter was actually the 1932 VH32 500cc single, a tuned version of the 4-valve VG32. Its specification included a racing magneto and carburetor.

The Ariel singles proliferated from a 1926 design by Valentine Page, who had arrived at Ariel from J.A. Prestwich, the “JAP” engine company. But the broad product range proved unwieldy in the early 1930s depression, and when Ariel ran into financial problems, Page left in 1932 for the then much smaller Triumph company. Turner replaced Page as design chief, and set to rationalizing the engine range: For 1933, the overhead valve range was cut to just three 2-port, 2-valve singles available in three trim levels. Top of the range was the 500cc VH Red Hunter.



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