Language Barrier: The 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS

Bridgestone, long famous for its tires, also manufactured innovative 2-stroke motorcycles like the Bridgestone Mach II SS.

| July/August 2015

  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
    1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
    Photo by Elisif Andrews Brandon
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
    1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
    Photo by Elisif Andrews Brandon
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
    1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
    Photo by Elisif Andrews Brandon
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
    1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
    Photo by Elisif Andrews Brandon
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
    1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
    Photo by Elisif Andrews Brandon
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
    1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
    Photo by Elisif Andrews Brandon
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
    More than a bit neglected, Carlos Santana’s Bridgestone BS200 Mach II SS as found.
    Photo by Elisif Andrews Brandon
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
    Rotary intake valves place the carburetors out of view under engine covers.
    Photo by Elisif Andrews Brandon
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
    Rotary intake valves place the carburetors out of view under engine covers.
    Photo by Elisif Andrews Brandon
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
    Shifting the small transmission-mounted lever forward gives a standard 5-speed pattern; shifting back gives a rotary 4-speed pattern.
    Photo by Elisif Andrews Brandon
  • Chibi
    Advertisement for the Chibi, produced by BSTailung in Taiwan.
    Image courtesy Rockford Motors
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
    High pipes on the Mach II SS suggest offroad ability but were just following the then current rage for enduro-styled bikes.
    Photo by Elisif Andrews Brandon

  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS
  • Chibi
  • 1971 Bridgestone Mach II SS

Top speed: 85mph
Engine:
198cc air-cooled rotary induction 2-stroke parallel twin, 53mm x 45mm bore and stroke, 21hp @ 8,000rpm (claimed)
Weight (dry):
274lb (124 kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG:
2.64gal (10ltr)/40-50mpg (est.)
Price then/now:
$625/$2,000-$4,000

Here’s a story that features plenty of BS. And before anyone gets huffy about our language, let’s set something straight: BS stands for Bridgestone, as in Bridgestone motorcycles.

Early in its history, the Japanese manufacturer shortened its name to BS. Looking back, the decision to use those two simple initials seems a poorly considered marketing decision. Yet it didn’t seem to work against the company, which became known for its high quality, innovative, 2-stroke motorcycles.

A little Bridgestone history

Bridgestone’s roots go back to 1931, when Shojiro Ishibashi founded the Bridgestone Tire Company, so named because in English Ishibashi’s last name translated into stone (ishi) bridge (bashi). He reversed the order of the words to form Bridgestone, and the company produced tires and a number of other rubber goods.



After World War II, Ishibashi began looking for other products to manufacture. Bridgestone first got involved in automotive parts, but Ishibashi recognized Japan’s need for economical and reliable personal transportation. He began building bicycles in 1946, and by 1950 was pursuing the marriage of bicycles and engines with Bridgestone Cycle Industries.

Through an arrangement with Fuji Precision Engineering Co., Bridgestone sold 26cc engines. Called the BS Motor, they were simple friction-drive clip-on units that fit over the rear wheel of a bicycle. By 1953, Bridgestone was offering the complete BS-21 Bambi, its own bicycle and Fuji clip-on engine, and before too long the engine had grown to 49cc. With the Bambi selling well, Bridgestone decided to begin producing full-fledged mopeds and motorcycles.

TimKern
8/6/2015 8:56:34 AM

In the history section, I think you left out the 350GTR, produced 1967-71. When I was in college, I owned a '67 175 Dual Twin, which must have had an optimistic speedometer. I remember riding home from the University of Detroit to Chicago (along I-94) for Thanksgiving, 1968. The throttle had a (thumbscrew) set screw, which I clamped wide-open. I then stretched my 120-pound frame out atop the bike, feet hanging down past the luggage rack. I inched my hands (both hands) to the fork tubes, just below the headlight. After maybe a couple miles, I saw 100 on the speedo. The hardest part was getting my right hand back to the throttle, so I could slow down. The next summer, I sold the 175 to a friend and bought a '67 CB450 ("Black Bomber," a term I never heard until the 1980s).




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