Marusho / Lilac Models

Part 1: The Early Years, 1950 - 1959 Site Map Button

NOTE REGARDING ALTERNATE TEXT: For those without a graphical
browser, no alternate text is provided for this page since all
photos and drawings (except this one, which is a top view of a
model EN), are described within the text.

A note about dates: It's pretty easy to be sure of bore and stroke, but dates of production are particularly difficult to establish, especially with these earliest models. The last place to look is in one of the many motorcycle encyclopedias. The best is inside the serial number, as Marusho sometimes used open dating, such as -0- or -60- or -1960- as part of the frame number. Next best evidence is the dates that the ads appeared. For American imported models, the date of first state titling tells you only that the bike was built before that date. I have seen 1966 Marushos titled as 1970 models. The dates below are not inclusive dates -- they are just dates that the models were known to have been produced.

About the order of the models: Rather than list these bikes in chronological order, they are grouped with similar models so you can better see the marque's evolution. This section contains 21 models, counting the ML prototype.

Lilac ML/LB/LC, 1950/1951/1952 (150cc)

The ML was the prototype and the letters 'ML' describe the series. The first production bike Marusho built was the LB. The prototype ML side-valve engine achieved 150cc with a bore x stroke of 55 x 62, while the production LB bikes used OHV engines of 57 x 58. Surprisingly, there is one of the LCs in California (unless it has been exported back to Japan). The ML had a 2-speed automatic transmission constructed with a planetary gear and two centrifugal oil-bath clutches, while the LB and LC used a conventional 2-speed manual. This information comes from Mr. Sadamu Mizobuchi, Marusho's chief designer from the earliest days. Horsepower claims are all over the place: Some ads claim 3.3, others 3.5, others 4 and one even says 5hp. François-Marie Dumas has supplied the photo of a pre-war Zundapp KK200 at the right, which may have been the inspiration for the ML design.

Other Specs: Side-valve or OHV single (see above), 55x62 or 57x58 (see above), telescopic/rigid, 100kg, 80km/h, 2.75x19/24x2.75. Tire size note: When you see a big number (20-24) on a Lilac, that's the old style clincher designation.

Lilac KD/KE/KH 1952-53/1954/1954 (150/200/250cc)

The picture is of a KH. This 'new type' was introduced in November 1952 and was Marusho's first tubular frame model. An unusual feature is that the headlight nacelle and fork tube tops are a 1-piece alloy casting. Like the ML series, I believe the KD was 2-speed and the KH was 3-speeds, but do not know if they were automatics and have no information on the KE. The KH had the same bore x stroke (70x63, c.r. 6.5:1, 243cc actual) as all the 250 singles which followed, and it is my understanding that the engine was unchanged between this model and the SY below. This and all other 250s were OHV. Several of these survive in Japan.

Photos of Kikuo Iwatate's KD, © K. Iwatate.

Other Specs: Horsepower: While this is not logical, my sources show the h.p. for the KD as 3.5 and 9 for the KH (I would expect it to have been 5hp, especially as the company rated it at 90km); tire size 24x2.75 all models; 90km/h for the KD (10 more than the LC) and 100 for the KH; telescopic/plunger; 120kg (KD), 125kg (KH).

Lilac TW Dragon, 1953-1954 (350cc)

(Above) TW; (left) Zundapp 1953 250 prototype, never built (at least by Zundapp). This was the only Lilac in this series, though the engine was used intact in the SW below. Not many were apparently produced, but having built this model gave Marusho the credentials to later build the 500cc opposed twins. A few survive in Japan but there are none in the Register. The blueprint below is from Katsuyuki Inoue.

Other Specs: SV 338cc 2-cylinder opposed, 61x58, 12hp (also reported as 10 and 11), 160kg (also reported as a whopping 189), 110km/h (also reported as 100), 4.00x16 (everyone agrees on that), 3-speed, Earles front/swingarm (?). Total production: 73.

Lilac SW Lancer, 1955-1956 (350cc)

Now this is more like it -- basically an SY (the 250cc Asama race winner) with the TW's 350 engine.

One of our contributors has an authentic SW. Many more photos of this model are found on the 'Gallery / Photos of Other Lilacs' page.

Other Specs: SV 338cc 2-cylinder opposed, 61x58, 12hp, usually reported as 100km/h (same as the lesser SY), 177kg, 3.00x19/3.25x19, telescopic/plunger. Total production: 120.

Lilac SY, 1955-1956 (250cc)

The photos above are of the only SY (in fact the only single-cylinder Lilac 250) in the U.S., taken by Oscar Fricke (©) a long time ago. The tank badge is from an SY photographed in Japan (©) by Kikuo Iwatate. This is the giant killer mentioned in the 'Company History' section and the racing models section. A handsome bike, its engine came from the KH and would have a 6-year run. Early examples had the round chromed engine cover, while later ones had a 4-sided cover, which was carried over into the UY-2. You may recognize the BMW R25/R26 influence in the engine, but many Japanese manufacturers were building their versions of little BMWs, the most outrageous being BIM and DSK (model A25 shown).

Other Specs: 242cc OHV 70x63, 6.5:1, 8.5hp (also reported as 9.5), 142.5kg, 100km/h, 3.00x19/3.25x19 (also reported as rear 3.50x19 -- it is possible that the 350SW above used 3.50), telescopic/plunger. Total production: 4574.

Lilac UY/UY-2, 1956/1957 (250cc)

The UY was a modernized version of the SY, with a swingarm, enclosed drive shaft, tool boxes and a new tank. The UY-2 had yet another tank and new tool boxes and claimed 10.8 hp (reported in one source as 13.5!), up from the 9.5 of the UY, and increased speed of 110km/h over all the previous 250s' 100km/h. One UY and three UY-2s appear in the Register.

Other Specs: 3.00x18/3.25x18 (UY), 3.00x18 f,r (UY-2), 155kg (UY), 154kg (UY-2)

Lilac CY-2, 1958 (250cc)

You will find references to a model CY-3 also. I think that a long time ago someone made a typo and the myth of the CY-3 began. Yet another typo yielded a mythic CF-3. The references I find say the CF-3 was identical in specs and appearance to the CY-2 but weighed 6kg less and was produced in the same year (duh!). Show me any ad or manual for the 'CY-3' and I'll change this entry.

The successor to the UY series had a pressed rear section and tubular front, Honda Dream-style front suspension and swingarm, and turn signals. No examples are known to have survived.

Other Specs: 242cc, 70x63, 13.5hp, 150kg, 110km/h, 3.00x18.

Lilac FY-5, 1959 (250cc)

This was the last of the 6-year run of 250cc singles. The Dream front fork was switched back to the telescopic and a full tubular frame was employed. This frame, along with the new tool-box tank, would be employed for the first of the 250cc V-twins, the LS-18/1. None are known to survive, but it wouldn't be too much trouble to build one from a UY-2 and an LS-18/1.

Other Specs: OHV 242cc, 7.0:1, still 70x63, up to 15.5hp, still 150kg, still rated at 110km/h, 3.00x17 (down from 18), telescopic/swing.

JF / JF-2 Baby Lilac, 90cc / 104cc, 1953-1956

Confusion abounds over the model designation. The early ads called this a 'JF' and showed a telescopic fork. I found one ad from 1956 that used the popular designation 'JF-1'. Apparently the front fork was changed early on to a leading link, but this occurred before the JF-2. The JF was definitely offered as both a 90cc and a 104cc bike, so this is not the difference. Horsepower claims vary widely, from 2.5 to 3.2 to 3.5, but this could be a natural evolution and may not be incorrect. Speed claims creep up from 50km/h to 60km/h. I am discounting the name 'JF-1' in favor of 'JF' unless I find stronger evidence in the form of a factory manual that 'JF-1' was official. Also I hope a reader will spell out what constituted a 'JF-2', though that was indeed a bona fide model designation. Several 90cc examples survive in Japan, all with leading links, and the Register contains 4.

The "good luck people" and the first dream of the new year, some Lilacs of course. They are singing "luck, luck, Lilac" (alliteration).

Other Specs: OHV, 48x48 (90cc engine), 2-speed auto and possibly 3-speed standard later, 65kg, 20x2.50. Total production for all JFs: 853.

DP Baby Lilac, 1957-1958* (90cc)

*Years: Possibly introduced in 1956 and possibly still for sale after 1958. I can't credit this photo because I don't know who the photographer is. I do not believe it is a factory advertising shot.

I understand this did not sell well (and the JF did??) I'd buy one. Where else are you going to get a 6hp (also reported as 5), shaft drive motorbike? To my knowledge there is only one in the United States.

Other Specs: 2-stroke (2nd of 4), 73kg, 70km/h, 2.50x19.

Lilac AQ Sankyu, 1955-1957 (125cc)

Publications often mention a model '57 AQ' as if it is distinct from the original 1955 model AQ, but I find no evidence that any meaningful changes were made for 1957, and thus state that the AQ came in only one flavor. The nickname was 'Sankyu', which is to say 'Thank you', as Japanese does not have either of the English 'th' phonemes.

Other Specs: Earles/swing arm, 113kg, 85km/h, 52x58, 6.5:1 (also reported as 6.8:1), 4.1hp, 3-speed, 24x2.75. Total production: 2279.

Lilac BR (175cc) / BT (125cc), 1957-1958

Apparently the BT replaced the AQ and the BT constituted a new, short-lived class for Marusho. The BR and BT are virtually identical. The BT mustered 7hp (up 3) from the AQ-size engine of 52x68, with the same CR, 6.8. I was skeptical that both figures could be right, but the r.p.m. at which the 7hp figure is reached is higher than the AQ. Besides, Sputnik was launched in 1957 and perhaps this inspired a technological breakthrough at Marusho.

Other Specs: 3-speed, OHV, 111kg (BT)/110kg(BR), 10.2hp(BR) (not 14 as reported), 18x2.75 (BR)/24x2.75 (BT), 95km/h(BR)/90km/h(BT), 62x58(BR).

Lilac EN, 1958-1959 (125cc)

I'd like to credit the photographer but I don't know who he was. I believe this was a contemporary road test shot and not an advertising shot because of the unfortunate background.

Here we go again. You may encounter Lilac models 'EN-1' and 'EN-2' in the literature. Further, the specs for these two phantom models are identical and they were made at the same time. In fact, Marusho was not in the habit of naming things '1'. If a '2' came along then that might have been added to the model, but mostly these were inventions of the press and enthusiasts. In the case of the EN, I say there never was an EN-2 or even an EN-1, just an EN. Why build two models? Nobody apparently bought the first one. I know of no surviving examples. Perhaps a reader can prove me wrong. This model was replaced by the CS-28 125cc V-twin in 1959.

More specs: 2-stroke (Marusho's 3rd of 4), 52x58, 7.5hp (also given as 7.8), 97kg, 90km/h, bottom leading link/swing arm, 22x2.75, 3-speed.

Lilac PV Minna, 1956 (125cc)

'Minna' means 'Everybody'. We know that Lilac made at least one, because we have the photos. Like the AS-71 that followed, this was a 2-stroke (Marusho's 1st of 4) with automatic and final gear drive. If 'Everybody' or even 'Anybody' had bought one we might have an example around today, but none has surfaced.

Other specs: 5.5hp, 87kg, 65km/h, 3.25x12, bottom leading link/swing arm.

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