Top 10 Classic Motorcycles from British Manufacturers

As the motorcycle craze swept across Europe in the late 19th century, it wasn't long before enterprising individuals in England took notice and joined the industry. During the 1950s and 1960s, the motorcycle industry was the third-largest earner for Britain (after cars and whiskey), and British-made motorcycles had an unrivaled reputation worldwide. Their classic designs have become part of our cultural heritage and a proud industrial past. Even if you're not a motorcycle enthusiast, you'll recognize many of these models from their appearances in movies and other popular culture.

Top 10 Classic Motorcycles from British Manufacturers

Vincent Black Shadow
image via motographite.com

1. Vincent Black Shadow

A true embodiment of classic British style, the Vincent Black Shadow was a hand-assembled model with only 1,700 units ever produced. Its signature feature is evident in its name: 'black shadow'; In contrast to the popular chrome designs of the time, this motorcycle was black all over, from the engine to the kickstarter.

Triumph Bonneville 1960
image via motorcycleusa.com

2. Triumph Bonneville

The name Bonneville actually comes from a famous location in the US, the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, where it served as a proving ground for 'speed freaks' to test the limits of their vehicles. The T140 model won the prestigious Motor Cycle News Machine of The Year award in 1979 and has remained a popular classic model to this day.

From its cultural history, this motorcycle has appeared in several prestigious films such as An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) to Harry Potter (2010) and most recently appeared in CSI and Grey's Anatomy.

Norton Commando750 1971
image via motorcycles20thcentury.com

3. Norton Commando

The Norton Commando won the "Machine of the Year" award for five consecutive years (1968-1972). Often regarded as one of the last great motorcycles from British manufacturers, it is most famous for its revolutionary frame, known as the Isolastic System. Designed by a former Mercedes engineer, this innovation reduced distracting engine vibrations and was widely adapted to other motorcycle designs at the time.

The timeless design of the motorcycle is also an added value.

Ariel 350 W NG
image via Kingofwallpapers.com

4. Ariel 350 W/NG

The Ariel W / NG 350 is best known as the motorcycle for the British military, its contribution being heavily felt when it was widely used in evacuation missions at Dunkirk after previously being 'only' used for emergency vehicles.

Military versions of this motorcycle are very hard to find today, as most of them were converted back to civilian vehicles and resold. The W / NG often appears in popular children's films like Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang.

image via youtube.com/watch?v=mYafGZKBaFg

5. Royal Enfield Bullet

The Royal Enfield Bullet holds the title of one of the longest-produced motorcycles. First assembled in England in 1948, the latest model was born in 2007 with a new set of engines.

This motorcycle does not have the outstanding cultural heritage mentioned above, but it has had some recent appearances in blockbuster films Friday the 13th and Big Fish.

image via coys.co.uk

6. Matchless Silver Hawk

Redesigned in the 1930s, the Matchless Silver Hawk made its debut at the legendary Olympia Motor Cycle Show in 1930. Described by its manufacturer as "the most exciting machine to ride" this motorcycle was one of two luxury four-cylinder motorcycles introduced at the show.

It was a beautiful motorcycle but, despite having a loyal following and remains a popular classic motorcycle to this day.

image via andybuysbikes.com

7. BSA A65 Star

With a top speed of 100 Mph, this model gained popularity in the US market, where it successfully competed with Triumph models and new Japanese motorcycles. By the late 1960s, BSA motorcycles were a major part of British exports to the US and around the world.

However, perhaps due to its slightly dated appearance, the BSA A65 Star didn't really make it into movies and TV shows, which is a shame.

Triumph Trident 750cc
image via shannons.com.au

8. Triumph Trident

A production collaboration between Triumph and BSA, the Trident was also known as the Rocket3. This motorcycle was very popular due to its image at the time as the first super modern motorcycle. The Trident / Rocket3 was produced for seven years, from '68 to '75, but ultimately failed to capture the market, mainly due to the entry of Honda Goldwings from Japan.

image via petersmachines.com

9. Norton Manx

A true racing motorcycle, the Norton Manx is famous for its success in the famous Isle of Man TT competition. The Norton Manx was present from 1907 (the first year of the race) until the 1970s, but that's not the end of the story. The Norton Manx is still a classic racing legend to this day.

image via wesellclassicbikes.co.uk

10. Velocette Viper

Veloce Ltd, a small family-run Birmingham company, managed to compete with British motorcycle giants like Norton and Triumph by producing the Velocette Viper. While a well-built and well-designed motorcycle, the brand itself didn't have a large presence in films or TV. However, this motorcycle holds the record for a 24-hour enduro race at a constant speed of 100 mph!

This concludes our list of 10 classic motorcycles from British manufacturers. These bikes have not only left their mark on history but continue to capture the imagination of riders and enthusiasts today. Whether you appreciate their timeless aesthetics, groundbreaking engineering, or racing pedigree, there's a undeniable charm to these classic British motorcycles.

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