Claude Mackenzie – an unsung Highland hero

I was delighted to see the photo and article from Arran Marshall about his Ariel ‘racer’.

During the 1980s the bike was owned by a good friend of mine, Claude Mackenzie, who lived at Tornagrain, near Inverness and sadly died about 10 years ago.

The Ariel that Claude built – reversing the cylinder head meant that he could make the exhausts from straight pipe.

He was a brilliant self-taught engineer with a penchant for challenging conventional practices, and built a tricycle that included two wheels from a Post Office cart, and matched two Atco lawnmower engines to power his creation. Just for fun and mischief, he exhibited it at shows as a 1910 Trip.

When I asked him why he reversed the cylinder head on his Ariel, he said it was because he could then make the exhausts out of straight pipe. Knowing Claude as I did, I believed that to be the logical answer as well as the technical challenge of making it all work.

The kick-start operates on a toothed ratchet, and he used to carry the lever in his pocket between stops.

Ariel did make a Model LG Special around the turn of the 1930s, hence the letters on the timing cover.

I have included a photo of Claude on his 1943 Ariel when he became the first man to cross Loch Ness on a motorcycle in June 1988.

Alastair Alexander
VMCC Area Rep for Scotland

Read more letters, news, views and opinion in December’s issue of OBM