Rudge Whitworth's final sporting model
was named after the race in which it won its greatest
victory - the Ulster Grand Prix, billed as the world's
fastest motorcycle road race. As it was first offered
to the public, the machine was virtually a race replica,
although in later years roadster refinements were
Rider Graham Walker (later a journalist and father
of motorsports commentator Murray Walker) had been
appointed Rudge sales manager is 1926. When he took
first place in the 1928 Ulster Grand Prix, after an
epic battle against rival Charlie Dodson on his Sunbeam
Model 90, it was the first time a road race had been
won at over 80mph.
Before the year was out, Ernie Nott took the world
two-hour record at 100mph+ and there were further
records in 1929. In Grand Prix racing there were mixed
fortunes until 1930, when the first two Senior AT
and the first three junior places all fell to Rudge.
The winning formula was a triumph of technology and
engineering. All three junior Rudges were hone at
more than 70mph, the first machines to break this
speed barrier. It was the last year in which a pushrod
machine would win the race, although the Lightweight
TT fell to the 250cc version in 1931. As late as 1934,
a trio of 250s privately entered by Graham Walker
scored a Lightweight hat trick.
As a result of the factory's racing achievements,
the range-leading Sports models were rechristened
the Ulster in 1929. Refinements included dry-sump
lubrication, a new crankcase and enclosed valves.
Later models acquired contemporary styling, while
the performance kept pace - 100mph in 1930.
Financial troubles were a constant factor for Rudge.
The years 1931 and 1932 saw very poor sales and in
1933 the company had to halt many of its projects,
as well as giving up racing. Later that year, Rudge
went into receivership, but this was not to be the
end, and in 1936 the music and electrical company
EMI, a major creditor, took over Rudge. One of the
first developments to affect the Ulster and Special
model was a new aluminium cylinder head with enclosed
valves and revised oil system.
During 1937 the factory was moved to EMI's base at
Hayes, Middlesex. Sales gradually improved but it
was not enough to save Rudge. With the outbreak if
war, EMI had to concentrate on its main business,
chiefly the assembly of radio and radar equipment.
Although they had intended to resume production when
peace came, this was not to be and in 1943 the Rudge
name and tooling were sold off to Raleigh - a sad
end to a great pioneering marque.