Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, March 19, 1916


  Pope Motorcycles introduces it's newest innovation, the cylindrical toolbox mounted on the rear fender.


  The Pope Manufacturing Company had been building bicycles with small "clip-on" single cylinder engines and then in 1912 introduced their first V-twin, and by 1918, Pope's reputation was well-known for quality construction and innovative engineering and they were suddenly giving Indian and Harley a reason to look over their shoulders.

  The V-twin in the 1918 Pope L-18, with it's 3 21/64" bore and 3 1/2" stroke give it a displacement of 61 cubic inches (1000cc) and it's 7.5 horsepower gave it a max speed of between 60 and 65 miles an hour.  Considering a large percentage of the roads at that time were still unpaved that was some dirt-eatin', bug-chewin' speed.

  It featured overhead valves, an Armored Magneto ignition, heads containing nickel-steel interchangeable intake and exhaust valves, an oil tank with a capacity of two quarts that was compartmented with a toolbox beneath the seat, but perhaps the most intriguing feature was the presence of a rear suspension (say what?!), a comfort virtually unheard of at that time.

  The rear-suspension design of the L-18 was uniquely Pope's.  Pope mounted the rear axle in a carrier that moved up and down between two posts, compressing a pair of springs on impact. Wheel travel was minimal, but, what the hell, something was better than nothing.

  Unfortunately, their motorcycle innovations wouldn't last long and the 1918 Pope L-18 represents the last of the line.

  With World War I raging in Europe, Pope suspended motorcycle production late in 1918 to concentrate on building machine guns.  After the war, only the bicycle portion of its business was revived.