Ambassador Motorcycles - A Short History
Ambassador motorcycles began in 1946 by former car and motorcycle racer
Kaye Don. The company was then called "U.S. Concessionaires Ltd." and was
originally an importer of American cars to the UK. At first Kaye Don intended
to build a motorcycle with a J.A.P. four-stroke engine and a prototype
was built, however, this idea was dropped in favour of a Villiers engined
machine in 1947. Villiers engines continued to be used right up until 1964.
Ambassador motorcycles were comparatively more expensive than many of the other small lightweights of their day and consequently didn't sell in great numbers. Exports were important and the majority of those sold overseas seem to have found their way to Australia and New Zealand.
The first motorcycles were named 'SERIES' (1, 2, 3, 4 & 5) and production was based at Ascot, Berkshire, England. The 'Series 5' was the first bike fitted with a telescopic front fork and rectified lighting. The others up to then, sported pressed steel Webb girder forks.
1951 - the company name was changed to Ambassador Motorcycles
and the models gained 'names', i.e. 'Popular', 'Courier' (1951 only), 'Embassy'
& 'Supreme' and the 'Series' name was dropped. 1951 also saw the first
fully sprung Ambassador with telescopic front forks plus plunger rear suspension
and was named the 'Supreme', a name that was used on the top-of-the-range
model through until 1958.
1953 - 6" brakes were used for the first time ('Supreme') and '53 saw the last model fitted with girder forks ('Popular'). All models fitted with 197cc engines and the 'Sidecar' and 'Self Starter' models were introduced.
1954 - saw the introduction not only of a 225cc model but also swinging arm rear suspension ('Supreme').
1956 - the first model fitted with full width hubs ('Supreme') and a change of style. The 'Sidecar' and 'Self-Starter' were dropped and the 'Envoy' introduced. Gone was the long familiar silver tank and in came chrome tank-panels (1956 - 1958). Also for 1956 the 'Popular' was now fitted with a 150cc engine (Villiers 30C).
1957 - the 250cc twin cylinder engine was introduced and all the single cylinder models now had full width hubs. Diamond shaped plastic tank badges introduced.
1958 - the arrival of the first 175cc bike ('Statesman') and this same engine was fitted to the 1959 and 1960 'Popular'.
1959 - a big style change with rear fairings being the order of the day. Four models now produced - the 'Popular', '3 Star Special', 'Envoy' and the introduction of the popular 'Super S'.
1961 - the re-introduction of an electric starter model ('Electra 75') and the 'Popular' was dropped for the first time since 1951 (although was re-introduced as a 197cc in 1962). A 'Sport Twin' and a 175cc 'Scooter' were added to the range.
1962 - a 50cc 'Moped' model introduced. 1962 saw the end of Ambassador production at Ascot as they were bought by DMW Motorcycles. Three models were produced by DMW, badged as Ambassadors, all with fibreglass rear fairings.
1964 - the end of production of Ambassador Motorcycles.
Much of this article has been written by Fred Hibbert of Buxton who is, in my opinion, probably the leading Ambassador marque specialist in the UK. Michael Easton