The Ariel Red Hunter 500cc


The Ariel Red Hunter 500cc is one of the most iconic models produced by Ariel Motorcycles, especially known for its performance and reliability before World War II. The 1939 model stands out due to its engineering and design. Here’s a detailed overview:


  • Engine: 497cc, single-cylinder, four-stroke, overhead valve (OHV)
  • Bore and Stroke: 81.8mm x 95mm
  • Compression Ratio: Approximately 6.5:1
  • Power Output: Around 24 horsepower at 5,500 rpm
  • Transmission: Four-speed gearbox with chain final drive
  • Top Speed: Approximately 85 mph (137 km/h)
  • Frame: Steel tubular frame
  • Suspension:
    • Front: Girder forks with a spring dampener
    • Rear: Rigid (no rear suspension, as was common at the time)
  • Brakes:
    • Front: Drum brake
    • Rear: Drum brake
  • Fuel Capacity: 3.5 gallons (15.9 liters)
  • Weight: Approximately 350 pounds (159 kg)

Manufacturer Design:

  • Designer: The Ariel Red Hunter series was developed under the direction of Val Page, a prominent motorcycle designer.
  • Aesthetic: The 1939 Red Hunter features classic pre-war British motorcycle styling with a distinctive red fuel tank, chrome accents, and a robust, straightforward design.
  • Purpose: Designed as a high-performance road motorcycle, the Red Hunter was intended to offer reliability, speed, and ease of maintenance, suitable for both sport riding and long-distance touring.
  • Build Quality: Known for its high build quality, the Red Hunter was constructed with durable materials and featured meticulous craftsmanship, contributing to its reputation for reliability.


  • Pre-War Excellence: The Ariel Red Hunter series helped establish Ariel as a leading motorcycle manufacturer in the 1930s, known for producing reliable and high-performance bikes.
  • Racing Heritage: The Red Hunter was successful in various racing events and trials, showcasing its performance capabilities and durability.
  • Collector’s Value: Today, the 1939 Ariel Red Hunter 500cc is a highly sought-after collector’s item, valued for its historical significance, classic design, and engineering excellence.

Interesting and Important Facts:

  • Val Page Influence: Val Page’s design philosophy emphasized performance and reliability, which were key attributes of the Red Hunter series. His influence is evident in the robust engine and streamlined design.
  • Red Hunter Name: The “Red Hunter” name was derived from the distinctive red color of the fuel tank, which became a trademark of this series.
  • Engine Evolution: The Red Hunter series saw continuous improvements in engine design and performance, with the 1939 model being one of the most refined versions before World War II.
  • Military Use: During World War II, many Red Hunters were requisitioned for military use due to their reliability and ruggedness, although the 1939 model itself was primarily a civilian bike.
  • Innovation: The Red Hunter featured several advanced design elements for its time, including a well-designed lubrication system and efficient cooling fins on the engine, contributing to its performance and longevity.


The Ariel Red Hunter – 500cc – 1939 is a significant motorcycle in the history of British motorcycling, known for its robust performance, reliability, and classic design. It played a crucial role in establishing Ariel’s reputation for engineering excellence and remains a beloved model among vintage motorcycle enthusiasts and collectors. The Red Hunter’s combination of innovative design, racing success, and cultural impact make it an enduring symbol of pre-war British motorcycling prowess. Whether appreciated for its engineering, historical significance, or aesthetic appeal, the 1939 Ariel Red Hunter stands as a testament to Ariel Motorcycles’ legacy.


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