The Vintage Rudge

1930 Rudge "Special"

Rudge were in trouble in the vintage years. They staggered into the 1920s with the Multi (still looking much like Pullin's 1914 model) and a 3-speed model both sporting the venerable ioe motor. The introduction in 1924 of the "four-valve four-speed" models got things back on track, so that by the late twenties the machines - by now featuring saddle tanks and coupled 8-inch brakes - came close to epitomising the sporting vintage motorcycle.

In 1930, you could choose your new Rudge from a range featuring 250, 350 and 500 cc machines, in a range of trims from the very pedestrian (the 250 side valve) to the ultra-sporty "Ulster" which at extra charge could be supplied with a guarantee of 100 mph. Pretty awesome.

500 cc engine

4-valve head and rockers

Although outwardly similar, the 500 cc "Special" and "Ulster" differed in wheel and tyre sizes, gear ratios, tank capacities, and of course the state of tune. As an idea of the difference in tune between the two motors, the inlet valve on the Special opened 0.2 mm BTDC compared with 10mm BTDC for the Ulster. Valve timing changes were accompanied by a boost in compression from 5:1 to 7:1. Note that both motors had parallel valves at this date. Despite Rudge describing the motors as having "radial ports", this was to differentiate from the earlier four-valvers where the exhaust pipes were parallel as they exited the head. Radial valves were first introduced on the 1930 racing machines.

Rider-wise, the layout was pretty conventional. In fact the pressed-steel inverted levers (yes pressed steel - don't mistake them for bicycle levers!) were a throwback to the veteran days. It wasn't until the post-vintage years that you would find a speedometer, an eight-day clock, or even a "Revulator" on the handlebars.

Control layout

The two 250 cc machines in the 1930 range featured bought-in motors, a rarity for Rudge. Both the side valve and the more sporting ohv motors were from JAP, although you would hardly know it from the Rudge literature of the time! Note the fitting of the M.L. Maglita combination magneto/generator, a device with an appalling reputation these days. Surely it can't have been that bad? Where no lights were fitted, the round pattern M.L. magneto was standard.

The 250 Rudges for 1930

The radial 4-valve 350 was on the horizon, and more racing success, particularly in the TT. Of course the looming world-wide financial crisis was about to spoil what could have been a really good year for Rudge-Whitworth.

Copyright Leon Mitchell 2000

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