Lewis Motorcycles South Australia

Today in Motorcycle History

Lewis Motorcycles

Manufactured by Vivian Lewis Ltd., Lewis Cycle Works, Adelaide from 1901 to 1927.[1]
174-180 Gawler Place, Adelaide, (1913) 168-180 Gawler Place (1922)
Branches — Balaklava, Broken Hill, Clare, Kadina, Mount Gambier, Port Pirie, Unley. (1922)

Established in 1892 to built bicycles, they built cars for a brief period before launching their motorcycle marque, which proved very successful.

They fitted engines from Minerva (1902-1904), A.W. Wall, De Dion-Bouton, Stevens, Precision, JAP and Villiers, and also their own water-cooled 335cc sidevalve engines, introduced in 1910.[2]

who have a well-assorted and attractive display and with the great interest now being taken in the development of motor vehicles and motor bicycles this firm was wise in showing samples of its manufacture. The motor car shown is one in which several very successful runs have been accomplished. It has been over the principal hilly roads out of the city, including a run to Maclaren Vale (25 miles) in 1 hour 45 min., proving the adaptability of such vehicle over hills, as well as on the level. A motor bicycle, fitted with l¾-h.p. air-cooled engine, is also shown, and was favourably commented upon by cycling visitors. Amongst the bicycles shown...

The Register (Adelaide, SA) Sat 14 Sep 1901 (Trove)

...with various schemes for locomotion in and about Adelaide it was not surprising that the motors shown by Mr. V. Lewis, of the Lewis cycle works, proved a source of attraction. The exhibit was neatly placed in the main hall. Three motors were shown, including a motor bicycle, the main points of which varied little from the usual bicycle, though it was more strongly constructed. A motor tricycle with a De Dion 2¾ horsepower motor, looked a strong and powerful machine: Being fitted with two-speed gear it can be ridden over the most difficult hills or roads with ease.

The Register, Sat 8 Mar 1902 (Trove)

Tom O'Grady was works manager of the South Australian manufacturer, Lewis, who built a range of water-cooled motor bicycles in the veteran period. In 1902, O'Grady built this fine special with a large Excelsior engine very like the first machine John Osborn built which started his career in transport, and the Osborn Engineering Company he founded during WW1.[3]

Osborn's machine was pictured in Eric Walford's book about the motor bicycle before the motorcycling press came along. Compare the two: Excelsior by F.J. Osborn

~ Martin Shelley

At the Adelaide Spring Show of 1913 the Lewis 3½ h.p. water-cooled, three-speed motorcycle proved very popular, and by 1914 Lewis motorcycles had won every almost every event they entered, and also established a 24 hour world record. At the beginning of the war, one in eight motorcycles on South Australian roads was a Lewis.

The Vivian Lewis firm assembled a 9 h.p. Dayton motorcycle in 1915, built by the Davis Sewing Machine Company of Dayton Ohio.

A 1920 advertisement offered a Lewis 2-stroke and Lewis 6 h.p. JAP, along with P&M and Sopwith ABC motorcycles.

Vivian Lewis died in 1919 at the age of 54. The business was taken over by Fred Mann in 1924, and the Lewis Cycle Works continued to trade until 1975.

Lewis Motor Cycles.

No branch of Australian industry has achieved greater success than Motor Cycle Manufacturers, as seen by the consistent wins of locally manufactured machines. Take the last three years' record as an illustration. During 1913-14 season, out of 14 possibles in which they: competed, Lewis riders won first place on 11 occasions. It was in this year that J. G. Ramsey made his famous 24 hour ride on a 3½ horsepower Lewis and won the coveted honor of being the first Australian to establish a worlds' 24 hour record. In this season also the interstate-reliability ride from Adelaide to Melbourne was held and the team of four Lewis riders all rode through without losing a single point - a most unique and creditable record.

In 1914-15 season ten events were contested and nine first places were secured by the local machine, including the 60 mile championship.

The Lewis does not live on past victories. This season it has contested on four occasions, and has secured the judges awards of first place in every instance. These competitions are not limited to speed alone, but include reliability runs, hill-climbing contests, and petrol consumption tests. All-round excellence is required to secure such consistent victories, and the Lewis Company are to be congratulated upon having built up in South Australia a reputation for manufacturing a machine that can win against the world's best makes.

Blyth Agriculturist (SA) Fri 7 Jan 1916 (Trove)


Lewis Logo

1910-1916 Lewis 3½ h.p. Water-Cooled 380 cc single cyl. 75 x 86 mm, SV, Baker Precision

1914-1915 Lewis 6 h.p. Twin-Cylinder 760 cc 75 x 86 mm, SV, Baker Precision

1914-1916 Lewis 3½ h.p. 499 cc single cyl. 85 x 88 mm, SV, Baker Precision

Team Lewis:

A long list of those who worked with the Lewis company has been compiled which includes everyone from managers and office staff to factory employees. Typically, S. G. Virgo, J. Walters, W. Walters workshop foreman at the Broken Hill Branch, and Mr Washington who teamed with Cook to win the wheelbarrow race at the third Vivian Lewis Limited employees' picnic in November 1910.

Lewis People (FB post)

1. A Facebook post reads, "Before the formation of Vivian Lewis Limited in 1907, Vivian Lewis's businesses traded under various names including the Ormonde Bicycle Depot, the Lewis Cycle Works and the Lewis Cycle and Motor Works." It goes on to list over 200 people associated with the Vivian Lewis firm.
2. Bonhams writes "... in 1904 the similarities with overseas developments ceased abruptly with a patent design for water cooling... By 1905 the first water-cooled Lewis models were to be seen the streets of Adelaide, along with an air-cooled model of the same 2¾ hp rating..."
3. The Lewis company had earlier used the Osborn name.


Wikipedia NL,
Simon Fleming
Trove NLA
A. Vassiliadis
Martin Shelley

Leon Mitchel at earlymotor.com has detailed information on the marque

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