My bike is a 1956 4GMKII. First registered in Gosport, UK on 3rd April 1956, it remained on the road until 1965. I am unsure of its history after that until my father imported it to New Zealand in 1977. I do not recall my father riding it much as he had a Norton Dominator which he seemed to prefer. My brother and I both used the bike regularly. I was an early member of the Timaru Post Vintage Motorcycle Club and took it on many club runs. Much later I had to borrow a 50cc Suzuki to sit my motorcycle licence on but that is another story!
During one of PVMC runs (while heading towards the Southern Alps on a trip across to the West Coast of the South Island), the bike experienced a significant engine failure and, as far as I can recall, this is the only time that it has failed to complete a journey under its own power. An engine pulldown revealed the only thing square about the square four was its camshaft. The engine was re-sleeved and cranks ground while the engine was apart and it was ready to go again for several more years of service.
Going back to the subject of breakdowns, the only other time that it suffered issues while I was riding was a mid-summer journey through alpine backroads in Central Otago (Sth Island again) and we ran into bad weather with snow. Being young and bullet proof, and as it was mid-summer in the hottest and driest part of the country at that time of year, I was only wearing a tee-shirt under my jacket and not wearing gloves. The rain and snow caused the throttle cable to freeze at about ¾ throttle. The road that we on was gravel with bedrock protruding in many places and was very steep and twisting with drops off every corner. I ended up descending the pass riding one handed using the ignition key as the throttle. I can assure you that the first pub that we saw was a very welcome site. I also moved the ignition switch to the offside after experiencing the joys wet hands fumbling through the HT leads to turn the ignition off and on!
A change in life circumstance meant that I moved to another city (and subsequently to another country) and was not able to take the bike with me so it was put into storage and along with “I must dig out the old Ariel and do something with it” thoughts for the next 20 odd years.
My father passed away at the beginning of 2015 so that gave me the chance to return home and while tidying up his affairs, I decided that it was now or never time to bring the bike out of storage, bring it across to Australia where I am now living and restore it as a tribute to my late father.
Making the decision to do that was the easy part! .