|Industry||Manufacturing and engineering|
|Fate||Sold to BSA and discontinued|
|Key people||Jack Sangster, Edward Turner and Val Page|
Ariel Motorcycles was a British motorcycle manufacturer based in Selly Oak, Birmingham. It was one of the leading innovators in British motorcycling, and was part of the Ariel marque. The company was sold to BSA in 1944 but the Ariel name survived until 1970. Influential Ariel designers included Edward Turner and Val Page.
The original company was established in 1870 by James Starley and William Hillman to make bicycles. The name came from the first penny farthing bicycle, which was so light they called it the Ariel "spirit of the air". It merged with Westwood Manufacturing in 1896 and made a powered tricycle in 1898 with a de Dion engine. Hillman left soon afterwards to found Premier Motorcycles.
In 1902, Ariel produced its first motorcycle, which had a Kerry  engine with an innovative magneto ignition and a float carburettor. In 1905, Ariel was taken over by Charles Sangster, who built a three-speed, two-stroke he marketed as the "Arielette", but his small factory closed on the outbreak of the First World War. In 1918, Sangster's son Jack took over and developed a motorcycle with a 4 hp White and Poppe engine that proved successful. Jack increased the range of motorcycles to include 586 cc and 992 cc machines and persuaded the designer Val Page to join the company. Ariel was merged with a company called Components Ltd. but this venture failed and in 1930, Jack was able to regain control and set up a new factory in Birmingham. One of their first bikes was the Ariel Square Four, designed by Edward Turner followed by the Ariel Red Hunter. The Red Hunter was a success, and made Ariel able to purchase Triumph.
During the Second World War, the Ariel factory was turned over to military production, including the Ariel W/NG 350 army motorcycle based on the Red Hunter but with higher ground clearance. In 1944, the company was sold to BSA and the 500 cc KH model was produced, together with the more powerful Huntmaster, which had a modified BSA A10 650 cc engine. Reliable and capable of 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), the Huntmaster proved popular with sidecar enthusiasts.
The Red Hunter formed the basis for Sammy Miller's 1955 trials motorcycle which proved very successful in competition. In 1959, Ariel broke with tradition and produced the Ariel Leader, a fully enclosed 250 cc two-stroke that aimed to combine the benefits of the motorcycle with the advantages of a scooter.
BSA decided to close the factory in 1963 and move production to Small Heath. In 1967, Ariel produced its last motorcycle, Ariel Arrow 200 with capacity reduced to 200 cc introduced earlier during 1964 to qualify for lower UK rider insurance.
In 1970, BSA produced the Ariel 3, a 49 cc automatic trike with a coupling between the front and rear frame sections allowing banking when cornering.
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- Salvadori, Clement. "Retrospective: Ariel Red Hunter 500cc: 1932 – 1959" Rider Magazine, 8 November 2011. Retrieved: 2 August 2012.
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- Motor Cycle, 19 November 1964. 'Earls Court Show Guide'. p.850. Ariel models for 1965 season. "..the relatively new Arrow 200...Reduced insurance premiums, for only slightly less performance; that's the Arrow 200 claim." Accessed 2013-08-20
- "Ariel". Archived from the original on 3 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-15.
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