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British Motorcycles

Spagthorpe Motorcycle Co

The Spagthorpe Motorcycle Co is a little known manufacturer whose motorcycles dominated the South Coventry area in late August 1927. The founder of the Spagthorpe Motor works was Harry Shuttleworth.

Harry was born in a small village in south Swaziland, after national service in the Bengal Rifles he moved to Nottingham, where under an assumed name he worked as a tea boy for George Brough. His passion for motorcycles was developed by his long term companion Jeff, who once rode the Hajji railway that T.E. Lawrence blew up in the film. The 17 known Spagforth Lightning motorcycles were all built by Harry and a small band of his boys. Harry and the boys stole a component a day from the Brough factory until they had enough to build a bike. It is believed that the song "One piece at a time" by Johnny Cash was inspired by Harry's activities.

The known Spagthorpes all bear an uncanny resemblance to Brough Superior motorcycles, except for the ones that look like Ducatis.

One sure way of telling if you have a genuine Spagthorpe is to have the metal of the timing chain cover tested. Harry had a close relationship with a ruthless dentist who supplied used fillings; these were used to make the timing cover castings.

Spagforth is a common misspelling of Spagthorpe'.
 

Adapted from a web-log:

'Not many people are aware that the famous British marque was revived in 1981 when Julian, Lord Spagthorpe, inherited his title at the age of 24. A keen motorcyclist himself, he saw an opportunity to inject some character into what was becoming a rather bland industry, and started a manufacturing operation in Peter Tavy, Devonshire. His bikes have certainly been distinctive, from the first model of the Greyhound sportbike up until the present day.

Aimed at the American market, the Spagthorpe Wolfhound failed miserably, owing to the lack of dealerships, although it is understood that it was fairly succesful in Zimbabwe.

The concept was to build a long-distance cruiser, and the emphasis would be on low-end grunt and endurance rather than top speed. The obvious engine configuration was a V-twin, so it was decided to take he 347cc single from the Beagle, and join four of them on two meshed crakshafts to produce what would be known as the 1400 W-4, although the actual configuration was more like -|o|-, with the engine mounted longitudinally in the frame. The desmodromic valves only required adjustment every 3000 miles, but for all but the front cylinder even checking clearances involved removing the engine from the frame, along with the primary shaft which ran alongside the rear cylinder and drove the separate transmission. This complexity may have been what discouraged potential American dealers, but for the owners who persevered it was outweighed by the benefits of the machine. It had shaft drive, liquid cooling, disc brakes operated solely by the foot pedal with an ingenious "hydraulic computer" to handle balance, four-speed automatic overdrive transmission, and many luxuries not seen on bikes even today.' Sources: Grace's Guide


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