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Motorcycles: Ghost Rider

Robert Ross

Surely every seriously smitten motorcycle aficionado has toyed with the notion of perching a fine machine in the middle of the living room. Jewellike engines and shiny fittings elevate the most beautiful two-wheeled conveyances to the level of art, as in the case of the Phantom EG, the exquisite mechanical sculpture recently introduced by the Phantom Manufacturing Co.

This curious enterprise is located outside of Cambridge, England, and—if one accepts the amusing tale about the company’s origins as related on its hugely entertaining web site, which blends the otherworldly with the very real—it has been there longer than any reasonable person might believe. It seems that the Phantom bike is about reliving history—whether actual or imagined—as told by the firm’s departed partners, Erasmus Thump, Enoch Podsnap, and Titus Bottomly, and sole-survivor Mabel Ramsbottom. While lending credence to the story of the Phantom and its founding "body" requires a considerable leap of faith, the machine itself is a sure bet.

In fact, the model designation EG stands for Erasmus’ Gamble, and, by all accounts, the gamble has paid off with this modern-day version of the quintessential pre-Depression-era gentleman’s competition motorcycle. Made in the tradition of a 1920s Brooklands racer, the Phantom EG, according to Phantom spokesman Mark Frost, is "a talisman of the 1920s, when blind optimism and belief in the supremacy of the machine held sway."

"Frosty" (as Thump and associates call Frost) describes the EG as "fulfilling a palpable desire in gentlemen of means for simpler times." The uncomplicated era to which he alludes enjoyed simpler machines that were carefully wrought by hand and unique by virtue of the artisans who built them. Those same discerning gentlemen for whom a bespoke suit is de rigueur will find the Phantom EG also suits their tastes, as each bike is built to accommodate the dimensions of its owner. Tanks are handmade, and two frame jigs allow the wheelbase to be engineered to fit a variety of riders—and engines—by altering the length of horizontal frame members, all of which are gas-bronze welded without any castings to obscure the beautiful welds.

The Phantom EG can be outfitted with a variety of engines, says Frost, provided the power plant is in keeping with the spirit of the era. The example pictured here uses a pre-unit Norton 750. This popular parallel twin is fed by a single SU carburetor with a proprietary Phantom intake manifold, and the electrical system runs on a magneto. The Phantom EG has also been built using engines as diverse as the J.A.P. 350 single and an inline 4-cylinder Nimbus.

Bladraulic forks, which pay homage to the original Vincent Girdraulic forks, furnish an interesting and effective front-suspension solution for the Phantom EG, while the rear is strictly seat-of-the-pants hardtail. Capable contemporary disc brakes make an elegant and sensible concession to the new.

Like Savile Row’s finest, each Phantom is tailored to the client’s specifications. The bike can be painted in any available hue, although, says Frost, "every motorcycle will employ the color Phantom Blue somewhere on the machine." It seems that this particular shade best reflects the auras of Messrs. Thump, Podsnap, and Bottomly, wherever they may be.

 

The Phantom Manufacturing Co., www.thephantom.co.uk

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