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Pre-unit construction?
#446133 07/25/12 7:45 pm
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My BSA had unit construction and my Commando has modular construction.

A few years back a fellow came up and told me the Commando had "pre-unit" construction.

This caused me to chuckle a bit since the Scott had unit construction from 1908 so pre-unit should apply to machines made before that. Of course many of the bikes made before 1908 did not even have transmissions so "pre-unit" is kind of nonsensical.

Anyway, that fellow owned a Jap bike and was just trying to say my bike was an obsolete piece of crap. This didn't bother me much considering the source but it did make me curious about where this prejudicial compound word came from.

Does anybody know the origin of this "pre-unit" term?

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Re: Pre-unit construction?
Murray_B #446139 07/25/12 8:01 pm
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When BSA and Triumph went to unit construction, the older bikes got to be known as pre-unit.

The twins and the BSA singles divide quite neatly into unit and pre-unit.



Amateur Loctite enthusiast.
Re: Pre-unit construction?
Murray_B #446146 07/25/12 9:32 pm
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Nortons built a unit construction 650, in the 1960s.
Anthony Curzon currently has it ?

P.S. HD big twins are still "pre unit construction" (separate gearbox), where the sportster went unit construction in the early 1950s. Guess which one is better regarded - and sells better ?

Re: Pre-unit construction?
Murray_B #446187 07/26/12 5:42 am
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I suppose we should distinguish between pre-unit and "non-unit," if no unit model followed. That's the sort of guys we are.

The unit BSA twins were more or less a completely new engine, with no real technical advances over the A10. Apart from gears and engine in a single casting.


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Re: Pre-unit construction?
triton thrasher #446188 07/26/12 5:52 am
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Originally Posted by triton thrasher
When BSA and Triumph went to unit construction, the older bikes got to be known as pre-unit.

The twins and the BSA singles divide quite neatly into unit and pre-unit.


Thanks, triton thrasher, for the information. It makes sense that it is a marketing term because it makes little sense. Calling the competition modular would not sell as many BSAs and Triumphs. It is amazing that the term is still used today seeing as both types trace their roots to the beginning of last century. I knew a Norton man way back that referred to the Norton as having "advanced modular" constructon and the others as unit as if to say unit construction was less advanced. To me it has always been six of one versus a half-dozen of the other since there are pros and cons to both types. Nevertheless I would still rather eat a can of worms than drive a Jap bike no matter what type of construction they use.

Re: Pre-unit construction?
Murray_B #446191 07/26/12 7:26 am
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It may have been important at one time, but now its just a descriptor, like chain or shaft and 6 or 12 Volt.

Bob


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Re: Pre-unit construction?
Murray_B #446216 07/26/12 1:20 pm
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Pretty much all the major british manufacturers went to unit construction at one time, some (BSA, Triumph) had more success with it than others (AMC, Norton). I guess if you really want to pull your anorak out (and I think you do!) the proper terms would be unit and non-unit. Would that make you happy? Would it make your non-unit Notrun happy? Would it make the non-unit Kawasaki owners happy? I'm guessing most people don't give a gnat's fart... grin


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Re: Pre-unit construction?
Phatt Bob #446331 07/27/12 6:47 am
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Originally Posted by Phatt Bob
It may have been important at one time, but now its just a descriptor, like chain or shaft and 6 or 12 Volt.
Bob

Thanks, Bob, but that is not exactly what i'm looking for. Back when I was young and had just bought my Commando I was talking to an old Norton owner and I used the term "pre-unit construction" in conversation. The older fellow then stopped me and pointed out that Norton men did not use the "pre-unit" term because it also meant old fashioned. He went on to say that he usually used the less biased term "separate construction" instead. I then volunteered "modular" and he was okay with that.

Today, it seems that everyone including those claiming to be Norton men use the "pre-unit" term almost exclusively. It doesn't bother me when a Triumph man uses the mildly offensive term and I expect no better from a Jap fanboy. It is just an odd thing to hear coming from someone caiming to be a fan of bikes with modular construction.

With this thread I am trying to learn is why the wildly inaccurate "pre-unit" term became dominant while the more accurate and less biased terms "separate" and "modular" have almost disappeared.

Re: Pre-unit construction?
Murray_B #446336 07/27/12 8:02 am
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Ok, sorry.

Clearly marketing is at the back of it, trying to make old technology look new. A bit like AJS/Matchless and their "cartridge" gearbox.
Down the line Isuppose folks recognised it for what it was, marketing semantics, and reverted to the more familiar term.

I'll shut up now

Bob


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Re: Pre-unit construction?
Phatt Bob #446389 07/27/12 4:59 pm
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Originally Posted by Phatt Bob
Ok, sorry.

Clearly marketing is at the back of it, trying to make old technology look new. A bit like AJS/Matchless and their "cartridge" gearbox.
Down the line Isuppose folks recognised it for what it was, marketing semantics, and reverted to the more familiar term.

I'll shut up now

Bob


No need to apologise, Bob, because I should have stated the question better.

What has happened over time is that the inaccurate term that has become the most common one. It kind of denies Scott the creadit for the innovation and makes it seem like it was a Triumph development. Some people also credit the Japanese for inventing the overhead camshaft in 1947 so it is not the first time something like this has happened.

Talk to you later.




Re: Pre-unit construction?
Murray_B #446541 07/28/12 6:42 pm
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When you google or search eBay under pre unit (with or without a dash) you get predominantly Triumph info with a little BSA thrown in.
Therefore, in practical terms, it refers to Triumph motorcycles and some BSAs built before 1963. It does not describe any other brands or construction form.
As a descriptor, it does leave a little to be desired.
Bill


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Re: Pre-unit construction?
HawaiianTiger #446574 07/28/12 10:39 pm
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Originally Posted by HawaiianTiger

As a descriptor, it does leave a little to be desired.
Bill


If you look back over motorcycle history, descriptors of lotsa varieties have been used - big bearing and small bearing (triumph cranks/cases), flat tanks and saddle tanks (1920s), high frame and low frame (1910s), points and open magneto and closed magneto etc etc.
Some of these are going back into history a LONG way.
Note they were not considered derogatory, just descriptive...

Lordy knows what Murray will make of them - international incidents no doubt... !!

Re: Pre-unit construction?
Murray_B #446607 07/29/12 4:34 am
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Quote
With this thread I am trying to learn is why the wildly inaccurate "pre-unit" term became dominant while the more accurate and less biased terms "separate" and "modular" have almost disappeared.


No you aren't. You are trying to make yourself seem smart by questioning a popular term among motorcyclists that may not actually mean what it implies. You have created a circular argument that no one can win unless they agree with you. 'A Norton Commando can not be pre-unit because it was never unit.' What you can't do is change the popular meaning of the term pre-unit to denote a separate gearbox and crankcase. Nor can you change the fact that many motorcyclists will refer to the Commando as pre-unit. Either put your big boy pants on and accept it or keep making nonsense arguments on message boards. Let's recognize this thread for what it is and not some altruistic search for understanding.

Scott

Re: Pre-unit construction?
Murray_B #446616 07/29/12 6:26 am
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Actually, now that the 961 is unit construction (?), mebbe old Commandos now are pre-unit construction.

Damn Stuart Garner for siding with the revisionists.
Now there are 2 of them !
Aaagh, the world will end soon at this rate ?

P.S. Triumph had a unit construction model back about 1913 or so.
Did the revisionists win that argument to, and they reverted to all preunit construction for nearly another 50 years.

Did BSA and Villiers, with semi-unit construction, not have enough of a quota of revisionists on the board to only half win the argument ??

Damn those revisionists, look at the legacy they left us.
Unit construction, semi unit construction, pre unit construction.
Where will it all end ?!!?

Re: Pre-unit construction?
Murray_B #446636 07/29/12 11:34 am
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when you stop feeding the troll...


When singing "Kung Fu Fighting" is outlawed, only outlaws will sing "Kung Fu Fighting"
Re: Pre-unit construction?
Murray_B #446641 07/29/12 12:05 pm
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Trouble is with this Troll is that he is attempting to rewrite history, if you do not reply then its left on the forum and enters a searchable database for new users to pick up in later years and he gets what he wants.

If a lie is repeated often enough it becomes the truth.

Re: Pre-unit construction?
kommando #446658 07/29/12 3:20 pm
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Should we mention the semi-unit that predates the pre-unit?

Don in Nipomo


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