Jacksonville, FL — An eclectic mix of rare, exotic and sometimes peculiar two-wheelers will comprise the “It’s Complicated” motorcycle class at the March 5-8 Amelia Island Concours, the event’s silver anniversary.
“Sometimes the complication is in the concept, sometimes it’s in the construction or design and sometimes it’s during combustion,” said John Duss, the lead judge of The Amelia’s motorcycle class.
Perhaps the most bizarre of the nine motorcycles in the class is the feet-forward, hub-center steering front wheel 1922 Ner-A-Car. With its pressed steel frame, the model was “nearly a car.” More than 6,500 were built in the United States and Britain.
The low-slung, steel-channel perimeter frame and hub-center steering contributed to the Ner-A-Car’s exceptional stability. Edwin G. “Cannonball” Baker rode a Ner-A-Car from New York to Los Angeles in 1922. The 3,364.4-mile enduro took a record-setting 174 hours. Despite its unusual appearance and design, the Ner-A-Car worked mechanically and dynamically, if not commercially.
More recently, Ducati engines have enjoyed a reputation for exquisite engineering. The 125 cc Gran Prix Desmo three-cam Ducati features an unusual method that both opens and closes its valves. The desmodromic — Desmo — valve train system does not use springs to close or open the valves. It employs three cams and has a valve-closing lobe that practically eliminates the possibility of valve float which can afflict high-revving engines. It has become a Ducati engineering trademark that has even found its way into the company’s potent marketing DNA.
Ariel’s Square Four promised the dynamics and trimness of a vertical twin mated to the smoothness, flexibility and performance of a multi-cylinder design. In 1953, the ‘four pipe’ 997 cc Ariel Square Four Mk II was released, with separate barrels and a redesigned cylinder head with four separate exhaust pipes.
But the price of the MkII Square Four strayed into automotive realms. By the late 1950s a new generation of high performance British twins and the nascent Japanese motorcycle industry eased the Square Four aside, and production of the MK II (1953-1959) ceased. But it remains a cult classic and one of the most desirable British exotics.
“It’s something of an Amelia tradition to display exceedingly rare vehicles and in some cases cars and motorcycles that many serious aficionados did not even know existed,” said Duss.
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