Earlier this month on Jay Leno’s Garage (Jay Leno’s YouTube channel), Jay talked about his personal 1929 Scott Flying Squirrel.
The Scott was at the forefront in two-stroke motorcycles, with the first one being launched in 1926. Jay’s in particular was called a replica TT model because in 1929 Scott came in third in the Isle of Man TT and they got so much publicity that they decided to build a replica of that race bike.
Back in 1929, the bike cost roughly twice what a four-stroke counterpart may have cost, and while most motorcycles were air cooled in that time, this bike was liquid cooled. The liquid cooling didn’t use a water pump, it uses thermo-syphoning, which takes advantage of the engine’s heat to keep pushing water (just water, not coolant) through. Fun fact: Ford’s Model T uses thermo-syphoning as well. In the video, Jay takes it out in 100 degree Fahrenheit weather and it doesn’t overheat.
The race models of the Scott Flying Squirrel had barrels painted red, this was specific to the race models. The street models had green painted barrels. Jay’s bike is also the first year of the long stroke engine, and the two stroke engine was what Jay calls “a bit of a dark art at that time.”
The bike has separate oil and gas tanks, however Jay recommends keeping a touch of two stroke oil in the gas just to make sure that the Flying Squirrel is staying well lubricated.
He had no comments on the three-speed gearbox other than it had a hand shift. However, he did point out that the engine was designed to have opening to allow easy access to the bottom end of the engine through little compartment doors. Pretty cool and forward-thinking. I like it.
Given that this is a race model version of the bike, it did not come equipped with a headlight, and at the time, a motorcycle without a headlight could still be plated and put on the road. Jay says it feels like riding a two stroke from the 1960s, and while it’s a 500cc, it feels about on par with a 250cc from the 1960s as well.
The motorcycle was developed by Alfred Scott who Jay believes is credited for inventing the kick-starter as well as possibly the twist-grip throttle.
Being a race spec bike, the front drum brake was actually fairly effective, and it comes with a steering dampener. No idea how will that works compared to modern standards, but still kinda neat. It goes almost 100 miles per hour too, not bad at all for a 1929 500cc motorcycle. I mean, it’s ninety years later, and Harley-Davidson’s Street 500 doesn’t even go that fast.