This bike left the rest in the dust

24th October 2017

In 1928 Graham Walker won the Ulster GP on a Rudge TT. Not only did he win, but he won with a 200 yard lead, and he did it at a record average speed of 80mph (129kph). All on a four-valve, twin-port, 499cc Rudge.

Walker had experienced problems with the Rudge at the Isle of Man Senior TT later that year and was narrowly beaten. Not deterred he returned in 1930 with the Rudge team and secured second place behind team mate Wal Handley, who won at an average speed of 74.24mph (119.45kph). Their two other team mates finished sixth and seventh while the 350cc team achieved first, second and third in the Junior TT. 

In 1929, the production 499cc model was given the 'Ulster' name in commemoration of the 1928 victory. It featured the company's in-house, hand-change four-speed gearbox and eight-inch coupled brakes. In 1932, the gearbox became a foot-change type with the changer on the left-hand side and in 1934 the cylinder head was cast in aluminium bronze with parallel inlet and radial exhaust valves.  

Classic Motorcycle Mecca has not one but two examples of this amazing Rudge model.

First 1936 Rudge Ulster GP

Before it joined the collection in 2008, this bike was owned by some of New Zealand’s motorcycle history legends.

It is thought that this 1936 Rudge Ulster motorcycle was sold new in Christchurch, New Zealand, but the first official record of it is a 1969 Certificate of Registration listing the legend Robert ‘Bob’ Burns of Christchurch. Bob Burns was holder of the world land speed record for sidecar motorbikes in 1954. He set a stunning speed of 163.06mph (262.36kph) on an alcohol-burning Vincent Black Lightning. Bob Burns restored this Rudge and sold it in 1970 to Maurice Wear, another well-known Christchurch motorcyclist in the vintage and classic scene. In 1971 Winston Balfour of Christchurch acquired the Rudge Ulster. Then it went to the Maddock collection in Warkworth. Norm and Lynda Maddock are staunch supporters of the New Zealand Vintage and Classic Motorcycle scene. Norm used to run the Road Trial at Pukekohe and Lynda is well known for her efforts on the race track with their Rudge and AJS race bikes.

It now rests in New Zealand’s premiere motorcycle collection here in Invercargill, Classic Motorcycle Mecca.

Second 1936 Rudge Ulster GP

This 1936 Rudge Ulster GP motorcycle has been meticulously restored as a barn-find. It started life in England, first registered with the Lindsey Licensing Authority in Lincolnshire in 1936. It is believed to have had racing history at Cadwell Park and on the Isle of Man in the hands of a previous owner, a mysterious person named Hunter. A family who had owned it for three generations finally laid it up around 1961. Unfortunately in the following decades it was left to rust. In 2003, it was acquired by one Charles Balmforth as a restoration project. For Balmforth, it was the classic ‘barn find’ and he undertook a detailed restoration to return it as closely as possible to the original specifications.

Its old-style log book dates from 1945 and indicates that it was once fitted with a side car. It is accompanied by a tax disk from 1960, its UK Registration Certificate from 2003, an MOT Test Certificate from 2008 and a tax disk to 2009.

Both of Classic Motorcycle Mecca’s Rudge Ulster GPs are full of history and prestige. See them for yourself at Classic Motorcycle Mecca in Tay Street, Invercargill.