BIKES YOU’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE: 1974 TYRAN 125 MX/TYRAN 400 MX
The Tyran 125 MX was designed by Ted Wassell, who designed a series of bikes from his W.E Wassell Limited company in Lichfield, near Birmingham, England. Not only did Wassell build bikes for Tyran and Penton, but they marketed their own Wassel brand. Ted’s original idea was to mimic what the Rickman brothers did for big British single-cylinder four-strokes, only with small displacement two-stroke engines.
Wassell was able to employ lots of experienced craftsmen from the Dalesman firm, which had folded, including Jim Lee and Pete Edmondson. Unfortunately, Ted Wassell passed away in 1975 before the Tyran made its way to the American market, and the resulting probate litigation postponed the release date by two years.
The Tyran had the unfortunate timing of appearing on the scene at the same time that the motorcycle industry went 125 motocross bike crazy—and, in this market, the Tyran was too slow, too expensive and its British components didn’t add much to the reliability side of the scale.
Without Ted Wassell, the company turned to Sprite Developments for their next machine. Sprite had done the worksmanship on the Wassell and Tyran frames and had access to a very close copy of a Husqvarna 400 engine. The end result was the Tyran 400. If you know your British motorcycle manufacturers you will remember that Sprite Developments is best remembered as the manufacturer of the American Eagle brand of 125, 250 and 405 bikes. The American Eagle was a private-label bike built at Sprite in Oldbury, England, by former racer Frank Hipkin. It was a one-stop shop for a wide variety of brands, that shared almost everything in common—except the brand names.
In England, racers could buy the bike as the Sprite 405 Talon. Americans were offered the bike as the American Eagle 405 Talon. Australians knew it as the Alron 405 and Belgians thought it was the BVM 405. Guess what? There was also the Tyran 400. All the bikes were identical, with the exception of the small touches to delineate them for each nation.
Amazingly, all the different national distributors tried to pretend that the Sprites were designed in their home countries. It wasn’t until many years later that each country learned the truth about the “other” Sprites. The Tyran 400 had a same clone four-speed fake-Husqvarna engine as the other Sprites, but the highlight of the bike was the Reynolds tubing and the brightly polished gas tanks and side panels.
The Tyran was not a sales success, but it didn’t make much difference as, amazingly enough, when Frank Hipkin started exporting Sprite-built machines in large numbers, the British government closed the tax loopholes that Sprite Developments was using from when they were selling kits bikes (frames, components and rolling chassis, but no engine) and, following the collapse of the U.S. American Eagle distributor (Galaxy Wholesale in Garden Grove, California), the financial losses were too great for Sprite Development to absorb and the closed the motorcycle business.