Special Thanks to Jay Ubelhart a great guy and a regular attendee at Backfire Motorcycle Night for writing this post about his 1968 Greeves Ranger.
Photos by Sean Westlake
My bike is a 1968 Greeves Ranger with a 250 cc 2-stoke engine. It is the factory street legal model with headlight, speedo, & taillight. The unique color and distinctive front forks attracted me immediately. It’s a fun ride but geared pretty low for any highway driving. I found the bike this year and was pleasantly surprised at its condition and how well it runs. The 48-year-old Villiers/Greeves engine runs well and starts in one kick when I am by myself, and 30 kicks when anyone is watching. The best part of having a vintage machine like this one is riding it. Go find an old bike, fix it, and ride it.
Greeves motorcycles began as a manufacturer of 3-wheeled cars for the disabled, Invacar. Motorcycles were produced in Thundersley in Essex from 1953 to 1976. Bert Greeves was a motorcycle enthusiast who designed the machines and introduced his first units in 1954, one a trials bike, the other a scrambler model, powered by Villiers 200cc two strokes engines. They were easily identified by two unique Greeves features: the leading link front fork and the cast aluminum "down beam". The bikes were exclusively two-stroke powered, using engines from Villiers and Anzani. In 1962, Greeves introduced a new Villiers powerplant featuring a Greeves designed cylinder head and barrel. The new cylinder featured revised porting for better power and the familiar Greeves "square barrel" look.
In 1958, Greeves traveled to the Europe to compete in the FIM 250cc motocross class and was shaken to discover that the British were "regarded as rather a second-rate race in sporting spheres". Greeves redoubled the company's racing efforts and the commitment paid off quickly, with Brian Stonebridge garnering two second place finishes in the championship standings in the ensuing two years. Following the tragic death of Stonebridge, the company hired Dave Bickers as their rider. With a new motorcycle punched out to 246cc, Dave Bickers won the European championship in both 1960 and 1961. Greeves were successful in competition, with wins in the European Motocross Championship, the Manx Grand Prix, the European Trials Championship and the Scottish Six Days Trial, and with Gold medals in the ISDT and ACU 250cc Road Race and Motocross Stars.
It was about this time that Greeves motorcycles began to show up in western states desert races. The little silver and blue Hawkstones began to change peoples’ ideas about what kind of hardware was needed to win. Before the Greeves, lightweight bikes were a joke.
For a ten year stretch, from 1959 to 1969, Greeves motorcycles became the ones to beat. These were the first two-strokes to de-thrown the ruling BSA, Matchless, Triumph, four stroke thumpers both in European motocross, and the big four stroke 'desert sleds' in California.
Greeves was very successful in the USA and can be credited with helping awaken the off-road biking scene there, and with the invention, as early as the mid-sixties, of the trail bike with their road legal off-roader, the Ranger.
(most of the historical facts from the Greeves owners site, http://www.greeves-riders.org.uk/history and http://www.greevesguru.com/history.html )