Historic Motorcycle Brands
In the 1960s, Swiss engineer and bike racer, Fritz Egli, put a tuned Vincent Rapide engine into a tubular-backbone frame of his own design and won the 1968 Swiss hillclimb championship. Thus began the ongoing history of Egli bikes, with a range of different engines.
Fritz Egli at work
The Egli saga began back in the 1960s, when Fritz Egli decided to make his Vincent race bike more competitive with newer machinery.
In 1965 Fritz opened a bike tuning business and began racing a Vincent Rapide in the Swiss hill climb championship. After two seasons of ongoing modifications to the engine and the chassis that still couldn’t get him on the winner’s dais, he faced the fact that the Vincent chassis was completely outdated, compared with the benchmark Norton Manx.
Fritz Egli simply designed a new frame during the 1966/1967 winter and went out to win against the day’s fastest motorcycles. The frame’s secret was a 75mm-diameter tubular ‘spine’ that employed the engine as a stressed member. The tubular section doubled as the oil tank, saving space and weight.
After winning the 1968 Swiss motorcycle hill climb championship, Fritz Egli picked up orders for replica Egli-Vincents.
Fritz Egli with the ‘banana tank’ Egli-Vincent
Vincent was a well-established name in the early post-World War II years and its flagship Rapide model was widely recognised as the world’s fastest production motorcycle, until the Black Shadow derivative came along.
Originally launched as the Series A in 1937, the Rapide was powered by an air-cooled V-twin, designed by talented Australian engineer Phil Irving.
It was housed in a frame with cantilever rear suspension, a stainless steel tank, foot-change and four-speed Burman gearbox. Developing 45 horsepower, the early V-twins suffered from gearbox and clutch problems, something Vincent addressed with the Series B of 1945 by switching to unit construction, with the now 50-degree cylinder-angle engine becoming integral with the frame.
The gear-change and brakes were adjustable for reach, to suit the rider.
The problem facing Fritz Egli was the scarcity of Vincent engines, because the company had ceased series production in 1955, then continued producing only limited parts until 1959.
Egli frame for Kawasaki power
Big-engine supply then came from an unexpected source, as Japanese makers took the motorcycle world by storm. Egli designed frames for the large Japanese motorcycle engines of the 1970s, especially the Honda CB750 Four and the first big four-stroke motorcycles from Kawasaki.
The central tubular spine increased up to 120mm and internal honeycomb sections further stiffened it.
Egli influenced other frame builders who went on to build their own ‘straight-tube’ frames, including Manfred Rau and the Healey brothers, whose Healey 1000/4 motorcycle combined an uprated Ariel Square Four engine with an Egli-type frame.
However by 1988, the might of the Japanese brands had caught up and Egli ceased building its own frames, instead focusing on selling production motorcycles.
Then, Le Mans 24hr stalwart Alexander Frei purchased the company to revive the brand.
“My first motorcycle was a Triumph Bonneville 650,” said Alexander Frei.
“I’ve known of the Egli Motorradtechnik Company since the 1970s and they were always among the best and most successful performance bikes.
“So when I heard Fritz Egli was retiring from the business I was immediately interested in building on his success and taking over the company – with the goal of building new, quality, hand-made motorcycles.”
Egli Fritz W1300
The revived company’s first machine was the Egli Fritz W1300, designed by Othmar Bachmer and Juerg Lindenmann, who both worked on the last Egli to be built in the 1980s.
Using a Yamaha XJR1300 engine as the powerhouse, the machine featured a steel frame with the signature Egli oil tank, a handmade aluminium tank, seat and mudguard. Weighing in at an only 208kg ‘wet’, it was 32kg lighter than the stock model.
In parallel with the non-Vincent, modern Egli factory bikes, the heritage of Egli-Vincent lives on, through the efforts of Patric Godet and Terry Prince.
2016 Egli-Vincent specially built for Australian collector Luis Gallur