Speedway Workshop

Today in Motorcycle History

William Douglas

(Of Douglas Motors Limited - 1930)

The first dirt track meeting in which we were directly interested took place at King's Oak Speedway, Loughton, on Sunday, February 19th, 1928, under the auspices of the Ilford Motor Cycling Club. It must be remembered however, that for several years prior to this, Douglas machines had been used by riders so world-famed as Billy Conoulty, Charlie Datson, Vic Huxley and Paddy Dean in Australia. The machines they rode were standard racing machines. Other Australian riders were riding Douglas machines of a different type, and I have heard of our old O.B and O.C models being used by many riders in the Antipodes.

When, however, the sport was introduced into England, Keith McKay came over as the personal representative of one of the Australian promoters, and in the ship he formed an acquaintance with Billy Galloway, who was then acting as ship's barber. These two at once got in touch with us, and two machines were supplied for their first meeting. Unfortunately, Keith McKay, who took the engine down on its arrival, could not get it ready in time, so he had to ride a standard E.W machine, with which he won all his Heats, but in the final he shed a tyre. It is interesting to note that the A.C.U. compelled these Australian riders to have back brakes fitted, although McKay and Galloway had never ridden with a brake before.

The machine most favoured at that time was a standard model production, that is to say the R.A model of 1923, and it is this model which forms the basis of the present Dirt Track Model.

Interest had now been aroused in dirt-track racing. The Manchester Dirt Track was prepared, and early in April, well known Australian riders landed in England. These included Stewie St.George, Buzz Hibberd and Paddy Dean. As soon as he has got his land legs, we received a visit from Stewie St George, and a very useful day was spent in consultation with Mr John Douglas. Improvements were discussed, with the result that the dirt-track machine was built with a frame made up of the front section of the R.A machine and the back section of the O.C model. This machine was ridden by Stewie at Manchester, and after the meeting we received the following wire from him: "Motor and Frame perfect. Won everything - St George". After this success, the "Hybrid" frame was adopted for all our dirt track models-and is still used today.

Later, the chief plea was received from riders was for more engine power. The technical staff therefore held a meeting, and Mr John Douglas, Mr Fred Dixon and Mr Rex Judd endeavoured the power of the output of the engine. This was eventually achieved and the machines of late 1927 and early 1928 were made very efficient indeed as far as engine output was concerned. Orders for new machines had become so numerous that the works were at their wits ends to cater for demand. During 1928, minor engine improvements were introduced and close attention was given to the development of the engine. This experience has been incorporated into our 1930 models.

(William Douglas - 1930)

(With Special Thanks to Paul Reed who supplied much of the information on these Pages).

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