By Allan Boyd
The Ariel motorcycle company had produced Ariel Red Hunters since pre-war times; however, the KH500 twin cylinder model was not released until 1948.
My Red Hunter is an early 1949 model and was imported into Australia by Leo Bolton & Co of Adelaide, which were the S.A. distributors for Ariel and several other makes. The Red Hunter’s history is a bit sketchy, however, I do know it was used as a road bike for many years. In later years it experienced some excitement in its life as it was raced on short circuit dirt tracks in South Australia.
I bought the bike in 1980 from Steve Hazelton, a classic bike dealer in Goulburn, who had bought a container load of bikes from Adelaide. The Red Hunter was stripped down for racing and had a damaged engine. At the time I did not know much about Ariels except that I remember my Dad rode a 1938 twin port 500. Dad’s bike had a Dusting sidecar that Mum and I rode in. I was about three or four years old at the time, and we lived in Brisbane.
I learnt a lot about Ariels as I completely dismantled and rebuilt the Red Hunter from the “ground up”. I had few contacts in Australia for parts and information in those days. I relied a great deal on the Ariel Motorcycle Club in England. The motor required the most amount of work. After dismantling it I found the crankshaft needed a rebuild, that when machined brought the bearings back to standard size. The cylinder liners were broken at the bottom so they needed re-sleeving to take the new pistons and rings that I had to import from England. I then had to send the parts to a Sydney engineering firm for machining and I eventually reassembled them in my workshop. I rebuilt the gearbox and clutch myself with the aid of many new and locally made parts, such as the bearings etc.
The frame and tinware, such as the mudguards, headlight, fuel and oil tanks and toolbox, were the easy part, although many parts still required bead blasting, repair and painting. I was able to prepare and spray paint parts myself, thanks to the handed-down knowledge from my Dad who was a first class panel beater and spray painter.
In 1986, my family and I moved to Queanbeyan where I joined the local veteran vintage club, and with the help of some like-minded members completed the restoration of the Red Hunter in 1987.
In 1990 a group of Ariel enthusiasts including myself formed the AAR (Australia Ariel Register) and held our inaugural rally in Canberra in 1992 where the Red Hunter and sixty-three other Ariels from Australia wide got together. This was a very satisfying experience for me. It was a learning experience also, as I found I had a few incorrect bits on the Red Hunter including the wrong fuel tank! Within a short time I located, restored and installed the correct pieces to the Ariel.
Since 1992 the Red Hunter has been ridden in various rallies in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Tassie and, of course, many local club events. Two years ago (2003) before attending the Victor Harbour SA AAR rally, I rebuilt and installed a completely new engine as the original was feeling a little tired after nearly 14 years of use.
Although I have NINE other motorcycles, the old faithful Red Hunter remains my favourite. However, there is always a bike to be restored, and I have a “basket case” 1937 twin port 500 Ariel, similar to my Dad’s 1938 model, waiting for my attention.