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Lot 303: Rudge Multi 497cc TT Model

Motorcycle and Motorcars, Bonhams & Butterfields (14 November 2009)

Like so many British motorcycle manufacturers, Rudge Whitworth had been a long-established bicycle manufacturer before entering motorcycle production in the ancient cathedral city of Coventry in the British Midlands. The first Rudge Whitworth motorcycle saw the light of day in 1910, a 499cc machine featuring technically relatively sophisticated inlet-over-exhaust design engine. By 1911 the Rudge featured the distinctive infinitely variable 'Multi' gear, making the machine simplicity itself to ride and providing a gear for every gradient. British motorcycle racing ace Cyril Pullin was to take the winner's laurels in the 1914 Senior TT race on that tiny but world-famous island off the West Coast of England, the Isle of Man. Over the arduous mountain circuit he rode his Rudge at an alarming average speed of 49.49mph and this was indeed the first single cylinder machine to win a TT. Rudge were quick to capitalize on that remarkable success and were to catalog a TT model with distinctive racing drop handlebars, based closely on the racing bikes. This model also notably featured a pedal-operated supplementary oil supply for use when the engine is running 'on full song'. Amazingly the clutch on the 'Multi' is recorded as containing no less than 64 separate plates.

With the outbreak of hostilities in Europe in 1914, motorcycle production at Crow Lane, Coventry, was focused primarily on production for the Armed Services, and the Multi's rugged reliability came through the most arduous war-time conditions with flying colors. The Italian Army ordered a batch at the end of hostilities and the Multi was the model selected for manufacture in 1918 to get civilian production underway again and to re-finance the Rudge operation. By 1921 Rudge production was running at 30 machines a day and notable British racers such as Bob Dicker and Bill Lacy kept the Rudge name in the headlines with successes at the celebrated, banked Brooklands Circuit and other race meets.

This machine was part of a cache of early motorcycles recently found languishing in a less than ideal shed on the edge of a wood in rural Buckinghamshire, England. It had been in its then ownership since 1964 and had lain unused for ten years or so. It remained in remarkably original condition and riding equipment includes acetylene front and rear lamps with generator, Senspray carburetor, bulb horn and rear luggage carrier with twin leather panniers containing early tools. The original specification includes variable belt drive with stirrup-type front brake, belt rim rear brake and radial spoked wheels. An unusual feature is the original pedaling gear with chain and sprocket.

Following a very long period in storage we feel that this quintessentially English motorcycle will respond well to careful recommissioning and careful conservation of its highly original and technically interesting features. The machine is offered with U.K. registration documentation.

Lot Details
Auction Motorcycle and Motorcars
Bonhams & Butterfields, Los Angeles
TypeMotorcycle
Lot Number303
Estimate$12000-$15000
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$10750
Hammer Price (inc premium)$12578
Year1922
Condition rating0
Registration numberME 3944
Mileage-
Chassis number805577
Engine number24681
Engine capacity (cc)497
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors