Author Topic: True Conspiracy?.... The Story Line Continues.  (Read 2566 times)

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Offline moonpup

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True Conspiracy?.... The Story Line Continues.
« on: November 15, 2016, 09:46:26 AM »
A recent topic on the Hemmings blog about "What are your favorite automotive conspiracy theories?" produced this comment.....

"Here’s a true conspiracy.

In the 1960’s many Japanese manufacturers were breaking into the US motorcycle market. Among them was Bridgestone. Their motorcycles were very advanced for the time. The 350 flagship, a two-stroke equipped with rotary valves, was the fastest bike in its class. Of course, Bridgestone was also a major tire producer. Honda and Yamaha were scrapping over US domination, they did not need added competition from Bridgestone. So they approached the company and told them that if they wanted to continue their lucrative motorcycle tire business, they should drop bikes. They did so and even today Bridgestone is Honda’s prime tire supplier.

For another interesting true conspiracy, read Stealing Speed. The book details how Suzuki operatives got Ernst Degner and family out of East Germany and in the process stole all of MZ’s two-stroke speed secrets. Within two years, the previously hopeless Japanese company was winning world championships."

https://blog.hemmings.com/index.php/2016/11/14/open-diff-what-are-your-favorite-automotive-conspiracy-theories/#comments
Confucius say... "Better to have Bridgestone than Kidneystone"

Offline BRT-GTR

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Re: True Conspiracy?.... The Story Line Continues.
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2016, 12:28:24 PM »
          Then there's the opposing or maybe supporting theory that motorcycle production was never anything more than a relatively small sideline activity for Bridgestone.

        Maybe a wish to diversify their product lines and tap into the infinately large market for modern motorcycles they could see in the US and take a share of export sales that Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha were starting to enjoy. BS sales were very healthy in the early 60's (and I'm sure the, then big 3 competitors, felt the effect) but tailed off sometime in the middle of the decade. Why, I don't know being in the UK, anyone have an insight into this ??

     I also suspect BS were questioning the future of their venture into motorcycle production even as the GTR went into production but they had possibly gone past the point of cancelling and gave it a shot. Clue? the GTR manual is a very skimpy affair compared to previous bike models and has many errors in it, quick, cheap job ? Also a low volume first production run, about 6800 machines over 13 months. I have read Suzuki had a production capacity at that time of 5000 machines a month!

  It is also recorded BS needed additional rubber product factory space, at this time, which they didn't have short of building a new plant. Can't you just imagine the BS executives and accountants mulling this one over at a meeting in maybe 68 and deciding to back off the bike production. I still vividly remember Bill Smith telling me in 1969 there would be no more spares coming in from Japan for my GTR, bike production had ceased, a sad day.
         Most of the other producers had a longer history of bike production and would have had the resources, experience and adaptable machine tools that allowed them to continue. Kawasaki was the exception, starting bike production at about the same time as BS but they were a major industrial corporation with vast resources, financially and production capacity wise. They couldn't be 'leaned on' to drop bike production.

      I've always thought it odd that BS decided to dabble? in motorcycle production but I'm glad they did. Otherwise, we wouldn't still have these wonderful machines that fascinate us so much. Did tyre making machinery lend itself to a switch to bike production, I doubt.  BS must have put considerable money and resources into setting up to make bikes. Maybe this is why limited production, mostly for Rockfords ?,  lingered on until 1971, to try and recoup at least some of the original outlay.

  I've discovered and developed the above theories by pulling together information on this site and the internet since coming back to the BS fold 4 years ago. The Honda / Yamaha tyre myth ?, who knows ?,  but like many historical myths there's probably some truth in it.
    I feel very lucky to have lived through the 60's, a period coinciding with my teenage years. We didn't appreciate it at the time but it was a very exciting decade to be a bike rider. Lots of fabulous (to us) new road machinery coming out of Japan, witnessing now classic battles on the race tracks of Europe and hearing the first multi cylinder Honda and Yamaha racers. Now trying to find the back door into the summer of '69 when I got my first GTR.     Lol

  Brian.
 
« Last Edit: November 16, 2016, 10:48:05 AM by BRT-GTR »
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Offline dcr

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Re: True Conspiracy?.... The Story Line Continues.
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2016, 01:11:30 PM »
I wondered if they got into this from the moped market as an industrial hobby of sorts. Then as time went on and they realized the commitment needed to R&D as well as increased production brought them to a crossroads. It would seem they needed to either go "all in" or get out.

I would venture a guess that the real reason was a combination of several things with all of these at least being contributing factors. It would have been really cool to have been in the board room at that meeting. With a Japanese translator of course.

Just my thoughts.

Dan
1966 175 DT and 1968 350 GTR

Offline moonpup

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Re: True Conspiracy?.... The Story Line Continues.
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2016, 01:45:01 PM »
Dan, As far back as 1954 and probably earlier, they were producing these engines for bicycles. It most likely grew from there to scooters to motorcycles.
Confucius say... "Better to have Bridgestone than Kidneystone"

Offline OldSwartout

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Re: True Conspiracy?.... The Story Line Continues.
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2016, 05:51:04 PM »
I wondered if they got into this from the moped market as an industrial hobby of sorts. Then as time went on and they realized the commitment needed to R&D as well as increased production brought them to a crossroads. It would seem they needed to either go "all in" or get out.

I would venture a guess that the real reason was a combination of several things with all of these at least being contributing factors. It would have been really cool to have been in the board room at that meeting. With a Japanese translator of course.

Just my thoughts.

Dan

I agree, BS apparently hadn't invested enough (or any) in R&D, design and prototypes for the future.  There was a rumored 500, but by 1969, Kawasaki had the H1 on showroom floors, Honda was on the second year of the CB750 coming with front disc brakes and Kawasaski was about to launch the 900.  Apparently, BS still only had the 350. They would have been a minimum of 2 years away from producing a competitive bike, more likely 3 considering design, development and tooling time.  It's not difficult to see management bailing on motorcycle production with all the other reasons already mentioned.  Since there doesn't seem to have been any significant R&D going on, it may be that the decision was actually made in 1968 or 1969.
Karl Swartout
Mooresville, IN
BS175 Roadracer
BS350 GTR

Offline slawsonb

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Re: True Conspiracy?.... The Story Line Continues.
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2016, 08:38:35 PM »
This was probably an "easy" decision given the magnitude of their tire biz...bummer...a 500 would have been amazing. (but how do you do a center rotary valve on a triple...lol)...
...bert

Offline BRT-GTR

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Re: True Conspiracy?.... The Story Line Continues.
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2016, 10:42:48 AM »
               Our dear departed friend Graham Weeks gives a very good  history of the background to BS bicycle and then motorcycle production here :-

          https://bridgestone.skew.org/articles/potted_history.html

    The motorcycles developed from bicycles after 1945. Starting with bought-in Fuji auxiliary motors and then making their own in a steady progression. This mirrors almost exactly development of the very first motorcycles half a century earlier in Europe. BS still make bicycles, could they decide to extend that to motorcycles again. If only !!

   A few other observations. They pinned all their development hopes for world leading machines on the advantage of two strokes with rotary valves. Did they simply copy Suzuki, Tohatsu or have access to Ernst Degners secrets through recruitment ??  A lot of R&D and market research went into the 175 and 350 twins (is that why we still love em) and for a very short time they had a winner. Cheaper reed valve induction became the way forward  for road use (cleaner burning?) but we did see the V4 rotary valve racers in due course. Rotary valves weren't a blind alley but the cost of developing 2S engines beyond a simple twin was very high. Fuel injection a step too far?

   I have read BS were developing a 350 four but find that hard to believe and think it is another myth. Did their R&D get side tracked by the 50 twin racer?. The competition rapidly caught up as Dan and Karl point out. Throw in the BS high quality build and cost, the US environmental air pollution lobby, and I agree they had reached a production cross road. Cheap and shiny will always sell above quality (and shiny 8)), especially to the younger market.

   Are we restoration snobs? a restored BS will still attract a lot of admiration from all age groups. I spoke to a guy at Stafford who was drooling over Colin's former GTR.  He still remembered the road tests and believed they were something a bit special. Who are we to disagree.  :D ;D :D 8)
    Brian.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2016, 11:16:14 AM by BRT-GTR »
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Offline slawsonb

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Re: True Conspiracy?.... The Story Line Continues.
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2016, 01:42:13 PM »

Offline paul

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Re: True Conspiracy?.... The Story Line Continues.
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2016, 08:55:18 PM »
Mr Bridgestone had sold his automobile  company ,Prince,i in the 1960s , so maybe he decided to get  out of motorcycles too.

 


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