Friday, March 27, 2009
Scott Flying Squirrel
In 1962, while I was still at school, I bought a motorcycle.
A 1934 Scott Flying Squirrel - a little-known 600cc water-cooled twin two-stroke masterpiece.
ANE 977 in the rather poor photo.
Actually, I paid £25 for a couple of large wooden crates which were supposed to contain all the parts of the bike which the previous owner had enthusiastically dismantled, less enthusiastically reconditioned & then run out of enthusiasm to rebuild.
In fact it was nearly all there, lacking only a few details like lights, number plates, switches & oil seals, so after quite a lot of late nights, it all went together & was soon running very well.
Scott had been making motorbikes since about 1908 & competed with some success in the Isle of Man TT races before the first world war.
His bikes at that time were quite unlike any others, mainly due to the water-cooled parallel-twin 2-stroke engines which were astonishingly small for their capacity & power, and architecturally very tidy at a time when other bikes looked like the rough assemblies of proprietary parts that they usually were.
Scotts kept the same engine layout, as an iconic "signature" until production fizzled out in the '70s.
They were always smooth & quiet while other bikes at that time were rough & noisy.
The "real" Scotts were the 2-speeders produced till the late '20s.
The later 3-speeders, including mine, began to get bigger & heavier & less, well – zen.
This is a cross-section of the engine from my 1934 owner's manual (I kept all my owner's manuals…) showing how the crankcase was kept so narrow by using overhung cranks with no outboard main bearings on the assembled disc crankshaft, with the flywheel & main chain drive & magneto chain drive exposed between the 2 inboard main bearings.
A truly neat & original piece of design.
The Bugatti of Motorcycles, as somebody else remarked.
I ran the Scott for a couple of years with no real problems.
The work-of-art honeycomb radiator did leak a bit, needing state-of-the-art remedies including Colmans Mustard powder & egg white until I could get it resoldered.
Suspension was not a strong point, as the beautifully triangulated frame was rigid at the rear, while there was a girder fork with friction damping at the front.
Bumps were best avoided.
I wanted to include some Scott soundtrack in this post, as the trademark "yowl" noise was such a part of the attraction, but surprisingly Google has not unearthed anything decent yet.
This is the only one I found, but the sound is not as smooth & deep as I remember it:
This is a link to Steve McQueen's 1929 Scott 2-speeder, now in a museum.
Parting thot: "You don't know what you've got till it's gone." – Joni Mitchell