Published on February 20th, 2009 | by Al
THE FINE ART OF THE MOTORCYCLE ENGINE
“Finally”, I thought. “A motorcycle book without a BMW in it.”
I was flicking through Capricorn Link’s latest import: Daniel Peirce’s The Fine Art of the Motorcycle Engine, and reminiscing with Boris about motorcycles past.
“Ooh, an XS2,” I remarked. “That was a handsome engine.”
“Yep”, Boris said. “The engine that Triumph should have made.”
“True,” I agreed, “but they were too busy making the frame that Yamaha should have made.”
I was pleased to note that Daniel Peirce’s idea of art and my idea of art largely coincided.
There have been some truly beautiful motorcycle engines produced over the years, and Daniel’s managed to get pictures of about seventy of them — fantastic high-resolution photographs that have probably been ostentatiously computer-enhanced, but are nonetheless stunning.
The Benelli Sei was a bag of arse, but it was a beautiful motorcycle, and the engine contributed much to its appearance despite the fact that it was a thinly disguised copy of a Honda CB500 with an extra two cylinders grafted on. The Vincent Black Shadow’s combination of mass and menace contributed to that motorcycle’s iconic status, too.
The Poms are well represented. The Triumph Hurricane is there, and I agree that the sweep of the right-side exhaust gave that engine lines that the standard Trident didn’t have. The late model pre-unit 650s were pretty engines, too, and the book includes a T110 Tiger.
The Italians, of course, are well represented, too. The round-case Ducatis were pretty bikes. The Guzzi V-twins have always been attractive engines, as have the big Laverda twins and triples; and the slab-sided brick with camshafts that powered the MV Agusta America 750 is attractive too, although I can’t for the life of me work out why.
And the Jappers of my youth are scattered throughout the book. The Kawasaki H1 triple, the Suzuki Titan (I had one of them), the Kawasaki Z1 (I had one of them, too), the Yamaha XS2 (the motor Triumph should have made), and the Honda CB-400F, CBX-1000 and GL1000 all get a look-in; and I can’t argue with any of them.
There’s plenty I can argue with, though. For a start, there are three BMWs in there. BMWs are many things, like practical, and reliable, and expensive; but you can’t really say they’re pretty. Daniel manages to include the R12, (an unattractive flat twin), the R2, (an unattractive vertical single), and the R69 (another unattractive flat twin).
The Honda CB750 and the Munch Mammoth were superbikes of their era, but I don’t think their engines were good looking. Daniel does. And I never saw a Bultaco engine that I regarded as attractive. Daniel did.
The Guzzi Falcone is included too, and it has to have one of the ugliest engines ever built.
But, you get exotica. The 1958 Cushman Eagle is included, as is the Gilera Saturno San Remo, the Zundapp Norma, the Scott Sprint Special, the Yale Model 25 and the 1957 FB Mondial. I’d never heard of any of them.
There’s maybe a paragraph or two on each engine, and it’s not very informative. For example, there’s one paragraph on the Ducati 750SS which says that it a beautiful mixture of symmetry and asymmetry, followed by seven paragraphs of rambling about Daniel starting a business and riding on a friend’s Kawasaki Drifter for three days while he took photos of Texas Highways.
Ignore the words. This is a publication that you buy for the pictures. Like that magazine.
Overall, it’s a worthy addition to the motorcyclist’s coffee table. If you have another motorcyclist over you can argue aesthetics for hours, and if the Mrs has tuned the TV to a Jane Austin movie you have something to do.
It costs $59.99. It’s available at all good bookstores. If you run an ordinary bookstore and you want it to become a good one, send your wholesale enquiries by email to Capricorn Link Australia: firstname.lastname@example.org.