1964 Marusho ST 500
Frame no. F9-0084
Engine no. 2-0144
The Marusho Motorcycle Industrial Co Ltd, which was founded in 1951 in Hamamatsu, Japan by Masashi Ito, owner of an existing car repair and truck body manufacturing business, and sold its products under the Lilac name. The first Lilac was a shaft-driven 150cc lightweight and, like many of its Japanese contemporaries, was copied from a European design, in the Lilacs case a pre-war Zündapp. A succession of larger models was introduced including a 350cc horizontally opposed twin, almost all of which retained Marushos trademark shaft drive. Increasingly stiff competition from Honda forced a wholesale revision of the Lilac range in the late 1950s, the new line-up including a brace of transverse v-twins based on the German Victoria Bergmeister. At the same time Marusho concluded a commercial alliance with Mitsubishi, only to be saddled with an insupportable debt when the deal swiftly came unstuck. Despite an agreement to import Lilacs into the USA, the company was forced to file for bankruptcy and the factory closed in 1961.
Biding its time by acting as a sub-contractor to Honda, Marusho re-emerged as a motorcycle manufacturer in 1964 having been reorganised as the Lilac Co Ltd the previous year. Clearly influenced by the contemporary BMW, the revitalised companys first new product was a 500cc horizontally opposed twin, marketed as Marusho ST in the USA and Lilac in Japan and Australia. Unlike some of its Japanese contemporaries, which produced almost exact copies of the Beemer, Lilac avoided infringing BMWs patents, using entirely different ignition and electrical systems and its own design of clutch and transmission, the latter the result of 14 years experience in building shaft-driven motorcycles. In fact, Marusho introduced electric starting three years before BMW, on the Marusho Magnum Electra of 1967. Despite a worthy product, Lilacs production decreased year by year and the factory finally ceased motorcycle production at some time around 1967.
One of an estimated 150 survivors out of around 500 made, this ultra-rare Japanese classic was sold new in California and enjoyed three owners there before being sold to the fourth owner in West Virginia, who exported it to the UK. The machine passed to the next owner in Germany in the early 1990s. Benefiting from a restored engine while retaining mostly original paintwork, this Marusho featured in a German motorcycle magazine (Oldtimer-Markt, June 1998 edition) and has not been run since its acquisition by the Hockenheim Museum in 2001. The machine is offered with California Certificate of Title (1967) and German import documents.