Muriel, an unusual debutante, was revealed for the first time at The Morgan pub in Malvern back in October 2010. Her coming out was witnessed by assorted Ariel, Morgan and general transport buffs, all intrigued to see what John Bradshaw was wishing upon an unsuspecting world. Long term Ariel nut, ex-Chairman of the Owners Club and a serious rider, he’s not renowned for being blandly conventional – witness the modern Dursley-Petersen bicycle he rides with some dash.
Bradshaw started with a set of Morgan three-wheeler chassis lugs and built the basic chassis, planning to plant an Ariel single where most Morgans wear a vee-twin. He used a 1935 500cc Red Hunter engine, which now wears a bronze head and has been fed on steroids to give it a 680cc bang. To withstand this extra urge, it has a Jawa speedway big end bearing and Manx Norton conrod, topped off with a Cosworth piston, all in an alloy JAP barrel. The power takeoff comes from the drive side of the crank and passes via a propshaft to a Dnieper gearbox and Ural shaft final drive.
Fixtures and fittings read like a transport history of the last century. Ford Model T steering column reduction-box, Austin 7 handbrake lever, Citroen 2CV headlights and sundry controls with Triumph Mayflower rear sidelights. The aircraft industry has contributed Supermarine Seafire spars as chassis members. Lancaster bomber switches and lamps, Wellington bomber instrument lights and rheostat, Messerschmitt hydraulic wing tank, Auster fly-screens, USAAF Jaeger rev counter, MIG15 clock and Westland helicopter seats. You feel quite disappointed he overlooked the Queen Mary when acquiring all that.
The alloy body, stiffened by alloy square-section bulkheads, was the work of Jim Ord-Hulme, who rode his Buell up from the Isle of Wight that morning. Jim’s normal working days are spent restoring the likes of Spitfires and Messerschmitts and in between he rides a variety of bikes, including an Ariel. Few if any amateurs could produce a body with panels that fitted as well as these.
This Morgan, Ural, Ariel fusion – no prizes for guessing where the name – Muriel – came from – is clearly not quite a Morgan with its slightly squat build and a tail with a flat platform that will accommodate a trunk for European tours or a picnic basket for summer weekends. But the lovingly crafted details reflect one man’s dream made metal, the sort of three-wheeler you could park outside a country pub and sit back while Those Who Know told friends that they recognise a rare works prototype that would fetch maybe half a million pounds at auction. They would be underestimating its value to the man who dreamed a dream and went on to realise it. To him, it’s priceless. And the rest of us can only look on and wonder.
One final unique touch. Accompanying Muriel at her coming out was John Bradshaw’s self published two-in-one book. One cover is for Transmogrification, the story of Muriel’s creation, and if you turn to the other cover you’ll find an upside down book called A Tall Short Story. It’s a novel, describing the origin of this unique machine and, in the author’s words, all lies. Even George Brough didn’t think of that twist to launch a new model.