Saturday, October 31, 2009

What Would a New Orleans Motorcycle Look Like?

The passing of former gov. Dave Treen was a poignant moment because he was a reminder of an earlier breed of Republicans--honorable men of traditional values and who mostly conducted themselves with dignity and circumspection.

But what I always found most interesting was his former family business: the Simplex Motorcycle company, which was based in New Orleans from 1925 until it folded in 1960, although you could still spot them occasionally into the 1980s. As the article below mentions, it was the only motorcycle made in the South.
Read More: What Would a New Orleans Motorcycle Look Like?
 A masterpiece of minimalism, the design never changed much after the mid-1930s so by the fifties they looked old fashioned, which probably led the their demise. But they were really pretty cool--their design philosophy would have been right at home in England, or maybe an English colony like India, where they'd probably still be in business today. They also answered the question: What would a New Orleans made and designed motorcycle look like? Obviously, more intimate, European and anachronistic than their American counterparts.
1956 simplex automatic motorcycle side view
1956 Simplex Automatic
The 1956 Simplex Automatic motorcycle was designed and built in the United States. Several other manufacturers used the Simplex name, but they were based in Holland, Italy, and England. The Simplex was the brainchild of Paul Treen, who started the company in the late 1920s with a $25 investment.

Treen was a draftsman by trade and inventor by nature. The Simplex was a natural extension of his abilities and vision. It was built in New Orleans and, surprisingly, it was the only motorcycle ever manufactured in the southern part of the U.S.

1956 simplex automatic motorcycle side view
The 1956 Simplex Automatic's light weight
contributed to its 100-mpg fuel efficiency.

The first Simplex motorcycle was introduced in 1935, and as the name implied, was built with simplicity in mind. Its 125-cc engine powered the rear wheel through a direct-drive arrangement, eliminating the complexity and expense of a transmission and clutch.

Later models added more features. The Simplex Automatic motorcycle was fitted with an automatic clutch and variable transmission. Furthermore, its two-stroke engine incorporated a rotary valve that was quite unusual for the period. Light weight and efficient design combined to return a claimed 100 mpg.

1956 Simplex Automatic Pictures
The 1956 Simplex Automatic was a bare-bones machine that looked out of date even for the 1950s and had an antiquated front suspension -- and no rear suspension.

1956 simplex automatic motorcycle side view
Simplex motorcycles were built in New Orleans until 1960 
and are the only motorcycles ever built in the South.

1956 simplex automatic motorcycle side view
Other versions of the Simplex included this three-
wheeler similar to Harley's Servi-Car.

1956 simplex automatic motorcycle seat
A single seat spring provided rear suspension.

1956 simplex automatic motorcycle speedometer