Australian Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

Swastika Motorcycles

The Swastika was built initially by Jimmy Wells, and later by Lou Borgelt, at 144 Magill Road, Maylands, S.A. At that time the symbol did not have the sinister implications it gained in the 1930s.[1] Wells commenced his business in 1909 and built the first bike about 1914. These early machines used mostly Villiers engines, and a few JAPs. He was assisted in the assembly work by Lou Borgelt, who at the time was apprenticed to Wyatt Motoria, helping Wells at night by cutting and pinning frame components, ready for Wells to braze the next day.

In early 1915 Wells was in financial difficulties and the business was put into the hands of the liquidator. Borgelt, just out of his apprenticeship, bought the remains, initially seeking jobs with quick cash turnover. A few machines were built using leftover parts, but no more were built during WW1. In 1918 Borgelt started assembling again, using components bought from Taylor’s [2] in Adelaide, and JAP engines. His later machines were built by Healing and rebadged. The end came in 1922 when Borgelt obtained the New Imperial agency. These JAP-engined machines were superior to the local machines.

Source: Nick Smith quoting from Rob Saward's tome, with corrections by Robert Elliott.

In June 1915 Wells enlisted in the AIF and prior to being shipped off he sold the business to Borgelt. A member of the 10th Battalion, he received a medical discharge in 1916 and was sent back to Australia. He was 24 years old.


Intends To Visit Isle Of Man For T.T. Races

Mr. L. A. Borgelt, who has been connected with the motor cycle trade since 1909, will leave for England by the Moldavia today. He will visit motor cycle factories in England and on the Continent. and intends to see the Tourist Trophy races on the Isle of Man. He will be away for six months. Mr. Borgelt was the guest of honor at a dinner given by representatives of the motor cycle trade, salesmen and speedmen, at the Hotel Botanic on Tuesday night.

The president of the Motor Cycle Traders' Association (Mr. S. J. Lower) occupied the chair. Other speakers were Messrs. Frank Taylor, P. Moody, W. W. Devling (on behalf of the Motor Cycle Club of South Austria), J. Chapman, Arnold Hansen. George Bolton. D. Faulkner, L. Elliott, and L. Woodrow. Mr. Borgelt began work with the old Wyatt Motoria in 1909, under Messrs. L. Blake and W. Todd.

In 1915 he opened a business in Maylands. He first entered competitions in 1920 and won various trials, hill climbs, and races at Sellick's Beach. In 1922. he toured England and the Continent, returning by way of America in 1923. Mr. Borgelt was one of the first riders to compete on the Gawler racecourse track when it was used for motor cycle races.

The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA) Thu 27 Feb 1936 (Trove NLA)

1. The Swastika is a Tibetan Buddhist symbol which was commonly found in many designs, for instance bookbinding decorations.
2. J.N.Taylor, JAP distributor for South Australia.

Further reading: There is an excellent article on the Swastika-JAP by Robert Elliot and Jim Scaysbrook in OldBike Magazine, 1st September 2014.

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