Spagthorpe Motorcycles

Modern Spagthorpe:

From what I recall, the unique part of the design was that it had a single-tube tubular frame, and some sort of truly bizarre backwards Earles front suspension. I'll post more information if I find it.

Digging through some old books at the Science Museum Library, one rainy day in London, I came across the following (badly written) article concerning the Yorkie scooter. I copied it for future interest and, prompted by Mr. Quist's curiosity, I dug it out. Unfortunately, a bottle of linseed oil (used for oiling cricket bats and other small furry sporting creatures) had been spilt on it and all the pictures and diagrams were ruined.

Name Yorkie
Manufacturer Spagthorpe Motorbike Works, Dulwin-on-Marsh, Ipsley.
Type Scooter.
Fuel Users choice. Primarily petrol and castor-oil.
Colour Black, chrome and grey with BRG detailing.
Power Variable, depends on fuel type. 25-175BHP.
Taxation class Bicycle.
Options Sidecar, gun-mounts (MOD use only), skids, high output generator, candy-floss whipper (very popular at fairs) extra lighting, race fairing, etc.
Weight 19 stone.
Performance Variable, depends on tuning and fuel. Known to top 170MPH
Transmission Belt-drive. Centrifugal clutch with Castor-oil hydraulic semi-automatic gear-changing system - Spagthorpe Half Integral Transmission system (S.H.I.T.)
Passengers Two, plus rider. Separate, heated seats are provided.
Tyres Avlop: A Stickwell on the rear and a Gripright on the front.
Electrics The Yorkie was the first Spagthorpe to feature the famous SWEAT system. (Spagthorpe Wireless ElectricAl Transmission). The Magneto's output was transmitted through a special aerial and devices requiring electricity used the Spagthorpe Condenser Aerial Receiver crYstal systems (SCARY) for their feed. The riders had to ensure that they wore no metal as the induced current could cause severe local heat problems.
Engine The Yorkie used a contra-rotating pair of rotary engines, turning in a bath of castor oil. Sparking plugs were connected to the ignition system by means of contacts on the inside of the motor housing whenever the rotary engine was in the correct position in its cycle, thus eliminating the need for a distributor, timing system and HT leads and sparking plug caps. The whole motor was supercharged by an early version of the supercharger used later on by Rolls Royce for the Merlin engine used in Spitfires, Lancasters, etc. The engine was robust enough to use all manner of fuel types but castor oil had to be added to the fuel to lubricate the rotating pistons, con-rods and bearings.
Chassis The frame was made from a single tube, about two foot in diameter. Various sections were cut out to allow the rider, wheels and engine unit to be accommodated. This system is unique and made the whole machine resemble a "Flash Gordon" type of rocket.
Suspension Reverse Earles-Fork, as pioneered by the Spagthorpe Greyhound series. Braking caused the front-end to rise and thus put more pressure on the rear and allowing the rear brake to be more effective. Discontinued shortly afterwards due in no small way to the outcome of the famous Lord Davenport crash inquiry when he sued the Spagthorpe Company after flipping his Greyhound completely over during a spot of emergency braking.
Carburation Anal Gasper, two and a half inch bore with exterior jets. Side tickler and float chamber glass were optional.

As I said before, the diagrams and pictures are now unreadable. Sorry.

The Yorkie evolved into the Dauntless, of which the following tale appears in the archives:

My Cushman was idling at the stop light and here comes an all-black Spagthorpe Dauntless. It was so named because, with that high-powered supercharged 2-stroke motor and the nimble handling provided by 8" tyres, both the scooter and the rider could not let a trace of fear into their hearts.

Well, that was the line, anyway. I certainly wasn't afraid -- the Cushman was short on power, but my foe was wearing aviator goggles and a leather baseball cap, so I knew him to be a new rider incapable of judging the lights.

When the light turned green, I let off the brake (the motor was wide open, but the Cushman brake was able to restrain all 5hp) and took the holes hot. For the next block I watched the Spagthorpe rider kick his scooter back into life, he having dumped the clutch and not bothered with getting the motor anywhere above 1500rpm. I was set for a perfect victory, and visions of champagne and scantily-clad women filled my eyes. I should have watched the mirrors instead.

Suddenly I was passed by this black streak, and the Cushman sputtered to a stop. As I sat, wondering what the matter might be, I was passed by several fire trucks, apparently all headed towards that inferno three blocks distant. Only later was I able to piece together what had happened.

The Spagthorpe passing me had created such a vacuum that it literally sucked the air out of the carburator on my Cushman. This is what caused it to die.

Spagthorpe was never known for incredible braking, however, and post-accident investigations show that the belt-drive on the supercharger broke. Thus, the rider closed the throttle, the supercharger spun free, and at least 30psi of boost opened the carburator butterfly. This was a known trait on the supercharged models, but one most riders could live with. The poor rider of that particular model swerved around obstructions for three blocks before his wide-open motor dropped a rod and the hot oil ignited the gasoline tank, which explains the inferno. The rider, however, merely side-stepped through the EZ-Ryder frame and was unscathed.

There are few surviving examples of this Scooter From Hell, and perhaps this is as it should be. Had I been able to acquire one, not only would I have won the race, I wouldn't be here today telling my tale of losing, and liking it, to a Spagthorpe Dauntless.

From: Nick Pettefar (
Subject: Re: Spagthorpe vs. Cushman
Date: 1993-02-23 09:52:18 PST

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