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British Motorcycles

Clyno Engineering Co

  • The company was a producer of motorcycles (see separate entry below) and cars in Wolverhampton, from around 1912. The company was based at Thrapston, Northamptonshire, before moving to Wolverhampton. Clyno motorcycles were produced from 1909 to 1923.
  • 1922 Developing from a motorcycle manufacturer, the Clyno Engineering Company (1922) Ltd, founded by Frank Smith, became the surprise success of British cars, manufacturing in the 1920s becoming the country's third largest car manufacturer. Based in Pelham Street, Wolverhampton, England they made in excess of 40,000 cars between 1922 and 1929.
  • The name allegedly came from the slogan "Car Like You've Never Owned" but in reality is a nickname for "clined." Their early motorcycles used an innovated two-speed pulley for the belt drive, which they called inclined, hence "clined." The pulleys had been made by the Smith brothers in 1909 by the Clyno Engineering Company based in Thrapston, Northamptonshire, and in 1910 complete motorcycles were starting to be made using Stevens engines. Stevens went into voluntary liquidation in late 1910, and the Smith brothers agreed to buy their factory in Pelham Street, Wolverhampton.

1910 Stanley Show Report
Clyno Engineering Co.
Stand No. 262X.
This firm show three patterns of motor-cycles, one type being fitted with a side-car. The two heavier machines are both of 5-6 H.P., but one is belt driven, whilst the other is provided with two chains, and a two-speed gear is arranged. These two machines are fitted with partial covers to the valves—a step in the right direction. A single-cylinder 2i H.P. machine, of the belt-driven class, is also exhibited, and is a very handsome machine.

  • In 1912, they expanded into the factory that had been used to build Humber bicycles. The First World War brought many orders for a combination machine with Vickers machine gun. With the growth in car sales motorcycle production ceased in 1923.
  • The first car, and mainstay throughout their existence, the 10.8, designed by A. G. Booth, had a 1,368cc four-cylinder side valve Coventry Climax engine with Cox Atmos carburettor and a three speed gearbox. Initially no differential was fitted but this was soon added.
  • 1922 Restructured as the Clyno Engineering Co (1922) Ltd.
  • From 1926 four wheel brakes were standardised. It was renowned for its reliability and economy. About 35,000 are thought to have been made including some sports versions and de luxe Royal models.
  • 1924 A slightly bigger model, the 13 (later 12/28), but still with the same 8 feet 9 inch wheelbase was introduced in 1924 using Clyno's own engine which had a 69mm bore, 3mm more than the 10.8 but the same 100 m stroke. About 8,000 were made.
  • 1927 A new factory in Bushbury, on the northern outskirts of Wolverhampton, was added in 1927, and with it two new models. The 12/35 had the engine bored out to 69.5 mm to increase the capacity to 1593cc, presumably to cater for heavier coachwork, although most of these chassis seem to have carried fabric bodies.
  • 1928. June. Announced the small fabric bodied Nine with a 951cc engine selling at £115. The Century version was an attempt at a £100 car but quality was starting to suffer and the depression of the late 1920s saw a sales slump with severe competition coming from the Austin 7 and MorrisMinor.
  • 1928 Names Frank Smith as Managing Director and James Cocker as Director.
  • 1928 The Times says that the 12-35 Olympic saloon is the best Clyno car he has driven.
  • 1928 Aug 3rd. Meeting of creditors.
  • 1928 Sep 7th. Bankruptcy notice.
  • 1929 August. All company assets purchased by Alfred Herbert Ltd. A month later they sell it on to R. H. Collier and Co.
  • In an apparent attempt to move up market a prototype straight 8 was made, but never went into production.
  • Note: In its heyday Clyno was the third largest car manufacturer in the UK after Austin and Morris.

Motorcycles

1909 to 1923
  • 1909 The first machines were produced by cousins, Frank Smith and Ailwyn Smith. They had previously made their name as a supplier of adjustable engine pulleys for motorcycles, sold under the name of Clyno. Using the same name, they moved on to complete machines that they exhibited at the Stanley Show. There were two models, a 3hp single and a 6hp V-twin, both fitted with Stevens engines, belt drive, their own adjustable pulley and sprung forks.
  • 1910 Late that year, production was moved to the Stevens' former Pelham Street factory in Wolverhampton.
  • 1911 The twin had the option of two speeds and chain drive.
  • 1912 Using twin sets of primary chains to double up on the ratios, four-speed was achieved.
  • 1913 They offered just the V-twin with a three-speed gearbox and chain drive.
  • 1914 Directory lists them as Clyno Engineering Co., Pelham Street, Wolverhampton and as motor cycle manufacturers
  • 1914 That was joined by a lightweight with a 269cc two-stroke engine, an inclined cylinder and two speed built-in with the engine.
  • 1915 A larger two-stroke made a brief appearance and a second version of the V-twin was added. It was modified for army use as a combination that could carry a heavy machine gun and its ammunition.
  • 1916 Just that model continued for that year. Some were sent to Russia, followed by a later batch fitted with an 8hp JAP engine.
  • 1919 Post World War I, they exhibited the two-stroke and a new version of the V-twin with a larger engine, at the Olympia Show. That model was intended for sidecar use, so its frame was fitted with rear suspension controlled by leaf springs, but its appearance was delayed.
  • 1922 Following financial re-organization, that model appeared, but the two-stroke was only built for a year or two.
  • 1923 It made a brief return to run alongside the V-twin, but at the end of that year motorcycle] production came to an end as the company had become heavily involved in the car industry.
  • In 1929 Clyno went bankrupt and the assets were purchased by Birmingham based R. H. Collier. The main distributors had been the Rootes Brothers who at one time tried to buy the company. But, from 1928 they decided to concentrate on Hillman and this hastened the demise of Clyno.
  • 1929 The company went into liquidation on 11th February, 1929. During its lifetime it had sold over 15,000 motorcycles and 40,000 motor vehicles.


National Motorcycle Museum exhibits:-

  • 1914 - 1918 Clyno Machine Gun Sidecar Machine
  • 1914 Clyno 750cc V-Twin
Sources: Graces Guide


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Allen Motorcycle Museum
Allen Motorcycle Museum
Private museum in Boston, MA, with many highly collectable vintage motorcycles for sale.