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British Motorcycles

Motorcycles, Mopeds and Scooters Made in Great Britain

Notes on some of the rarer British marques

This page lists brands about which little historical information is currently available.
For a more complete listing visit the British Index.

A

AC Sociable Tricars


G.A.C.S. 1907
Glasgow Auto Cycle Services
An example is displayed at the Myreton Motor Museum in Aberlady, Scotland


Allen-Bennett
Allen-Bennett Motor Co of 9 to 11 Royal Parade, West Croydon
In 1922-23 they offered a 2 1/4hp lightweight under their own brand.
Dealers for Douglas, Calthorpe, Matchless, Rudge, Royal Ruby, Rover, OK, Triumph and several others.
Sources: gracesguide.co.uk, contemporary literature.


Austel

Manufactured by Austel Engineering of Maidenhead, Berkshire, 1985-1991

Chris Castell fitted Morris Mini engines to motorcycles designed for solo and sidecar use. Some 11 machines were built, no two the same. As combinations they were probably brilliant. Aesthetically not so much.

Sources: london-motorcycle-museum.org, wikipedia.en


B

Barko
Built by Arthur Barker, the 1915 Barko is quite similar to the 1915 Calthorpe Junior.
Source: Graeme Robert Wilson






Berkeley
Berkeley Cars Ltd of Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, built front-wheel drive microcars with motorcycle-derived engines of 322cc to 692cc from 1956 and 1960. They also built miniature caravans which could be towed by a motorcycle.
Source: wikipedia.en



Border Bandit
Built by Rob North and a partner in the early 1970s, possibly in California.


Busy Bee
These were cycle attachment engines from the 1950s which were home-built using instructions published in Model Engineer in 1951.
Source: BuyVintage


C

Collinge
Built in 1949 for speed records, the streamliner was fitted with a 500cc horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine and a cigar-shaped body in which the rider lay prone.
Source: wikipedia.nl


Coventry Duplex
"The Coventry Duplex Co.'s motor bicycle with Motosacoche attachment. Note the special construction of the front fork."
Source: The Motor Cycle, 1907


Crayshaw
Built by Mr. Raymond V. E. de B. Crawshaw in 1910, this very attractive rear wheel drive tricycle is thought to have been a one-off.
Source: The Motor Cycle


E

Earles

In 1951/52 Ernie Earles of Elms Metals in Birmingham built a simply beautiful BSA 500cc A7 twin (possibly ex-works) using a light alloy frame and forks of his own design. These forks were used under licence on BMW motorcycles for many years, and also by MV Agusta. The design remains very much in favour with sidecar riders.

A letter in classicmotorcycle.co.uk notes that the frame is thought to have been offered to Joe Craig at Norton who demurred, and he also refused to supply Earles with a Manx Norton engine. The Earles was ridden in the TT by Charles Salt of BSA, who achieved 18th place in the Senior. It was also ridden by Cecil Sandford.

The Earles BSA is on display at the Sammy Miller Museum.


G

GN Cyclecars
Manufactured by Henry Ronald Godfrey and Archibald Frazer-Nash from 1910 to 1914, and then by British Gregoire of Wandsworth until about 1925.

Source: Graces Guide

04-May-2019
steamflyer59 at yahoo.com
I would like to purchase a copy of the book from which your articles on the Olympia are from for my library collection.
Can you help me with this?
.....
Thanks for your timely reply and thanks for the info about the Boston Library Collection source.
To what should I refer to in order to digitally peruse this particular book?
I am a student of motorcycle history and I am surprised that there doesn't seem to be a work on the subject of the pioneer and vintage era motorcycle industry trade & public shows .
I really appreciate the work that you do as I have landed on your site repeatedly.
I am very interested also in cyclecars and have read your articles on this subject as well .
I have noticed that you show photos of the GN cyclecar's mechanical anatomy. Views of the car's frame and drive train suspension etc.
Where can I get digital copies of these as I am contemplating building a 1/8 accurate scale model of this cyclecar.
Angelo Capodiferro
9 Willow Street, Wallingford , Ct. , 06492


  • The magazines may be downloaded in digital format from the Boston Library collection.
    As far as I know there is no specific work on motorcycle trade fairs.
    Have no further info on the GN at present. Suggest you download the text files for the relevant years from the links provided, then search through those.


GMS
Geoff Monty was a successful racer and motorcycle parts specialist who developed a series of racing motorcycles. The GMS Special used a heavilly modified BSA Goldstar engine of 250cc. In partnership with Allen Dudley-Ward the Monward Triumph was produced in 500 and 650cc versions (the fastest of which was believed capable of 145mph), and in 1966 a Rickman Metisse-framed Triumph appeared.
Monty died in 2009, aged 92.
Source: Wikipedia


Gordon, 1954-1958
Manufactured by Vernons Industries Ltd of Bidston in Cheshire, at £300 it was the cheapest vehicle of its type on the market. Designed by Erling Poppe, previously of Packman & Poppe, the delta-style three-wheeler was powered by a Villiers 197cc engine mounted beside the driver. Several hundred were constructed.
Source: Wikipedia.


H

Harding
Manufactured in Bath by Gordon and Loxley in 1921, their focus was on invalid carriages, which they built under government contract during WWII. Production ceased in the early 1950s.
Some post-war models used Cyclemaster engines.


1939 Haythorn 500cc Four

Esta moto de construcción artesanal tenía un motor de cuatro cilindros con árbol de levas a la cabeza, refrigerado por aceite, y una novedosa transmisión de dos velocidades utilizando dos transmisiones diferentes por cadena a la rueda trasera. Este ejemplar, en el museo de Sammy Miller, es la segunda de las dos motocicletas hechas por John Haythorn, un ingeniero automotriz escocés que trabajaba para un fabricante de sobrealimentadores. Su desarrollo finalizó cuando fue trasladado para apoyar el esfuerzo de guerra en 1940, pero ya era una máquina utilizable que había sido presentada a la prensa del motociclismo.
A handcrafted motorcycle which has an oil-cooled OHC four-cylinder engine with a novel two-speed transmission using two different transmissions per chain to the rear wheel. The second of only two built is on exhibition at the Sammy Miller Museum. It was constructed by John Haythorn, a Scottish automotive engineer who worked for a supercharger manufacturer. Its development ended when he was transferred to support the war effort in 1940, but it was already a usable machine that had been presented to the motorcycling press.
Haythorn also built the engine for the Sackville
Source: Sergio Scalerandi


Holden, 1925
Built by Kenneth Holden, the 175cc Sport had an OHV engine (60x60mm B/S), saddle tank and Druid forks.
Fitted with CAV magneto, Binks carburettor and a Sturmey-Archer 3 speed gearbox, it was featured in an issue of Moto Revue which gave a Paris hotel as Holden's address. Geo Dupuy is mentioned in connection with this, but it is unclear whether the machine entered production under the Holden or another name, if at all.

A Kenneth Holden raced a BSA shortly before WWI. It may well be that this is the same person.

  • BSA's first successful activities on the race track came at Brooklands in Surrey (later to be the birthplace of its most illustrious model, the Gold Star), when chief tester Kenneth Holden took a standard 3½ model to a first ever victory in the Spring of 1913. This spurred the Birmingham concern into its initial foray to the Isle of Man TT. Seven specially prepared versions of the production 3½ were entered.
    ~ The BSA Gold Star, by Mick Walker.

Sources: iomtt.com, Moto Revue, et al.


I

Invicta Cycle Car, 1912
Sole Manufacturer H. Clarke, 1, Clarendon Square, Leamington. Telephone-692. 8 h.p. J.A.P. Water-cooled, Thermo-syphon, Leather Cone Clutch, 3-speed gearbox and reverse clutch...
This was for all intents and purposes a conventional motor car with four wheels. It is included here as it was marketed as a cycle car, advertised in "The Motor Cycle", and there were several other makers which employed the Invicta marque.
Source: The Motor Cycle


J

James H Smith
Built in Camberley in 1904 by an engineering firm which was still operating in the 1950s, only one machine survives.
Source: The Bikesheds archive


K

Koh-i-Noor
The Kennedy Motor Company Ltd, Shettleston, Glasgow, builders of the Rob Roy automombile, produced a flat-twin engine in the 1920s. Named for the famed diamond, it is thought to have been fitted to a few motorcycles.
Source: classicmotorcycleforum.com

L

Leader, 1908
The neat-looking Leader racer fitted with 7 h.p. Peugeot engine, ridden by E. Kickmam in both the Brooklands motor cycle races. In the first race Mr. Kickham finished second, but on the 9th inst. he was unable to catoh up the limit men. The engine is fitted with a special current distributor.
Source: The Motor Cycle, 1908



Lowen Sidecars, 1907

L.S.D. Motor Co
Manufactured three-wheeled cyclecars named the Family, Popular and Standard models as well as 3 and 4 cwt vans.
The firm was established in 1919 at Huddersfield, later moving to Linthwaite and then to Mirfield before closing in 1924. The name is derived from the initials of the founders, Longbottom (the designer), Sykes (the manufacturer) and Dyson (the accountant).
An example has beeen displayed at the Tolson Museum, Huddersfield.

  • L.S.D. Stand 169

    Hailing from Huddersfield, the L.S.D. is an exceptionally strongly constructed three-wheeler using various forms of the air-cooled J.A.P. engine in identical chassis.

    A two-speed reverse gear and shaft and chain drive is employed; detachable and interchangeable wheels are used.

    Bodywork has been considerably improved for next year, and a family model as been added to a range that now meets every need.

    The Motor Cycle, 1922


Sources: Graces Guide, The Motor Cycle


Lynton

M

Mead & Tomkinson
Most famous for their 1000cc endurance racer, Nessie, the car and motorcycle dealership run by the Thomkinson father and sons in Hereford and Tewkesbury successfully raced machines based on the BSA Gold Star engine at the IOM TT and in a variety of endurance races including Le Mans, Spa and Barcelona in the 1960s and 70s.
In 1974 their first multi appeared powered by a Laverda 3C engine. This was Nessie, which proved to be one of the most innovative racing machines of the period, if not the prettiest - hence the name.
Along with modified Difazio hub-steering it had an underslung fuel tank to reduce C of G, parallelogram rear suspension (as used later by Hesketh), and sophisticated electronics. Decades later most of these ideas had been employed by high-end sports machines.
Sources: Wikipedia, et al.


McLachlan
E. A. MCLACHLAN, 55, Brighton Road, Stoke Newington, S.E. This exhibitor shows a two-seated sociable motor tricycle, which he catalogues at £75 - a machine of simple construction, but with no attempt at finish, and driven by a heavy oil motor, a simple construction, adopting the usual plumber's lamp for starting the vaporisation of the oil, which then acts by direct suction. Two speeds are obtained by means of belts with jockey pulleys, and the weight of the car is given as three and a half hundredweight.
From a report on the 1899 Motor Show (Cordingley)
Source: Graces Guide


Megelli Logo

Megelli
Introduced at the Milan EICMA exhibition in November 2007, the motorcycles are produced by British firm which has them assembled in China. The Megelli range has been exported to 37 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America, and to Australia.
Source: wikipedia.en, megelli.com


Mercury
Manufactured 1937 by Mercury Motors, 1a, Canturbury Road, Croydon
Designed by Laurie Jenks of Croydon in 1933, only four were built using Scott water-cooled two-stroke twin-cylinder engines housed in a aluminium frame, and fully enclosed aluminium bodywork. Mudguards were nickel plated. Jenks had plans to develop a three-cylinder einspurato version.
Not all were impressed by the design. Occhiolungo writes, "... this was the decade of the most beautiful motorbicycles of all time (arguably), full of Art Deco flourishes, chromed fishtails, two tone paints, swooping mudguards, etc. This bike looks like a lead balloon that has gone flat."
Sources: Phil Aynsely, The Vintagent


Mitchel 1902
Manufactured by Davis, Allen & Co., 5, 6 and 7, Singer Street, London E.C. Used a clip-on style engine, most likely from France or Switzerland.
Source: period literature


Mitchell (1960s)
A 50cc four-cylinder two-stroke built by Duncan Mitchell of Moto Decla, Stevenage, in the early 1960s. The engine was designed by Eric Fitz-Hugh some years earlier and further developed by Mitchel, an experienced 50cc frame constructor, who also built a 5 speed gearbox for the machine. With a bore and stroke of 25.3 x 25mm, each cylinder has a capacity of 12cc. The machine was not completed due, it is said, to financial constrictions.
Source: classic50racingclub.co.uk


Murchie William Murchie of Newton Stewart, Wigtownshire, built several motorcycles in the early 1900s before becoming a dealer for Ford and Austin.
Source: scotsman.com


N

Norman Engineering Company
Founded in 1919, the firm built motorcycle and industrial engines. Initially based in Leamington Spa, they moved to Warwick in 1936.
Norman 143cc four-stroke engines were fitted to the Kenilworth scooter. They were also fitted to Italian motorcycles of the 1920s such Alfa and Doglioli & Civardi.
Motorcycle engine types included types E, EC, ECR (170cc) and MC (175cc). Production of motorcycle engines ended in 1936.
Sources: Wikipedia, et al.


North British Machine Company (NBMC)
Located at 24 Carlton Place, Glasgow, the company bought several Barr & Stroud engines, so it seems likely that they produced motorcycles, possibly between 1903 an 1909.
In the 1950s they sold motoring accessories, tools and equipment to the motor trade with customers throughout Scotland, and were agents for Elswick-Hopper bicycles
They may well have been related to The North British Motor Company of 310a St Vincent Street, agents for Clement, De-Dion and Lanchester Cars.
Sources: talkingscot.com, classicmotorcycleforum.com


O

Orwell
Manufactured by Ransome Sims and Jeffries in 1919, the Orwell was an electric sidecar combination with the batteries located below the sidecar passenger seat. The machine was road registered for road use and tested, but does not appear to have progressed further than prototype.
Source: Graces Guide


Oxford, 1899
The Oxford motor bicycle, a machine with a motor carried over the front wheel, which it drives with a chain, very much after the style of the Werner motocyclette, which machine it is probably an improvement upon, and the Oxford motor car, built either as a three or four-wheeler, at £90 and £95 respectively.
From a report on the 1899 Motor Show (Cordingley)
Source: Graces Guide


P

Petty Weslake
During the 1970's Ray Petty and Harry Carter built a racing special utilising a 750cc Weslake twin cylinder engine housed in a Petty built chassis. The machine, producing approximately 74bhp, was raced by Harry Carter's son during the 1970's. This example was built during 1999 using A replica of the original constructed by White Rose Racing in 1999 fitted with a reconditioned Weslake 750cc parallel twin engine. A Hemmings clutch and belt drive transmit the power via an RGM four speed gearbox.

The completed machine made its competition debut in 2000 at Cadwell Park in the hands of Gary Carter, Harry Carter's son and the original machines' rider during the seventies. It placed first.
Source: H&H Classic Auctions


Phoenix
Built in Worcestershire before the Great War in small numbers, information on this marque is scarce.
There were two other British Phoenix brands, one in London (1900~1928) and another in the 1950s, a scooter, also based in London.
Source: Graces Guide


R

REG
R.E. Geeson built a 250cc DOHC roadracers which were campaigned in the 50s and 60s by Derek Minter, John Hartle and John Surtees, the latter claiming the marque's first victory at Brands Hatch and setting a new lap record in the process.
British manufacturers took no notice whatsoever of Bob Geeson's efforts, with predictable results. The Italians and Japanese simply blew them into the weeds. Not to be outdone in the stupidity stakes, their successors have opted for Brexit.
The example in the Sammy Miller museum has been extensively restored and represents a 1959 season machine. It was formerly part of in the Geeson collection.
Sources: motorcycleclassics.com, realclassic.co.uk


Regina of Ilford

S

Scootacar
The Hunslet Scootacar was manufactured by Hunslett Engineering Company of Leeds, better known for its Puffing Billy style locomotives. Powered by a Villiers 9E 197cc engine, the tandem two-seater microcar had a fully enclosed fibreglass body. Designed by Henry Brown, around 1000 of these three-wheelers were built betweeen 1958 and 1964. From 1961 they were also available with a 324cc Villiers twin in the Mk3 version.

An example of the Mk1 was on display at the Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum for many years.


Sgonina Special
Charles Sgonina (b.1901) built an advanced DOHC racer in 1922. The cylinder head was of his own manufacture mounted on a Norton bottom end with bevel-driven cams. The engine was housed in a frame from Sunbeam using forks of the same brand. Transmission was by chain and it had a dummy-rim rear brake.
Sgononi's first attempt at a racing special was based on a sidevalve BRS Norton which he converted to OHV in 1919, some years before Norton introduced their own OHV motorcycle. Subsequently he developed a number of different configurations including chain-driven OHC before settling on a bevel drive system. During this period a supercharger was added with spectacular, if somewhat inflamatory, results.
1923 saw the final phase - a DOHC head with 90 degree inclined valves. Norton thought this a rather good idea and 14 years later built their own.
C. Sgonina was listed to ride a Triumph Ricardo in the 1922 Senior at the IOM TT.
The machine was displayed in Murray's Museum on the Isle of Man in the 1970s, and then disappeared for some time after the death of John Griffith, the owner, in 1983.
N.B. One source says that the engine was housed in a frame from Sunbeam using forks of the same brand.
Sources: thebestmotorcycle.blogspot.com, southwalessectionvmcc.co.uk


T

T.B. Cyclecars

The Thompson Brothers of Bilston built three-wheeled cyclecars at their aircraft factory from 1919 to 1924. These accomodated two adults and a child, and were guaranteed to do 60 m.p.h.

A distant relative of the machines saw service as an aircraft refueler during WWII and these remained active at some airports into the 1990s. Of the 150 cyclecars constructed in the 1920s only one remains, but some 20 of the 3-wheeled refuelers exist in museums and collections around the world.

Sources: wikipedia.en, The Motor Cycle.


W

Warrilow
Manufactured around 1906 by Warrilow & Co. of Weston-Super-Mare, the motorcycles were available with engines of the customer's choice. A known survivor is fitted with a Quadrant 454cc engine verified to be of 1906 manufacture.
Source: Yesterdays


Wilcomoto

Manufactured by by Wilcox Engineering of Holme Lacey, Hereford, 1981-1983

The firm built motocross and enduro machines fitted with a lightweight 500cc engine, making extensive use of magnesium alloy in components such as wheel hubs, fork sliders and engine components. Suspension was progressive monoshock and long-travel telescopic forks.

Although technically superior in several aspects, they did not fare well in competition and production was curtailed after just two years.

Source: brightwells.com


Wolseley Gyrocar
The Shilovski Gyrocar was commissioned in 1912 by Count Pyotr Shilovsky, a member of the Russian nobility. A clever gentleman, by all accounts, he designe the car whilst living in Britain and contracted the Wolseley company to build it. It was completed in 1914, just as things got rather busy in Russia - and elsewhere.

The gyrocar was powered by a modified four cylinder Wolseley 16-20 engine displacing just over 3 litres. This was front mounted with the radiator forming the firewall, and drive was via cardan shaft to the rear wheel. The machine had no wheel brakes; it used a transmission brake on the drive train.

Capable of carrying five passengers, it weighed in at 2 3/4 tons empty and with a wheelbase approaching 20 feet its turning circle radius was comfortably within that of a football field.

Shilovski returned to Russia at the outbreak of WWI and Wolsely did not hear from him again so they did the sensible thing and buried his machine. It was disinterred in 1938, restored and featured in the Wolsely museum, just in time for the next war. The weirdness failed to abate, however, and Wolsely broke the machine up for scrap in 1948.
Wolseley were also associated with the Italian Wolsit , and a Wolsley engine powered a Royal Enfield motorcycle.
Sources: wikipedia.en, et al.


X

Xtra-1921-TMC-0712.jpg
XTRA CARS at the Olympia Show 1921

The Xtra Car exhibit will be of interest to those who are looking for a cheap three-wheeled monocar which is economical in upkeep. Weather protection is ensured on the novel Xtra car.
More images...

Xtra Cyclecars

The Xtra was an English three-wheel cyclecar built from 1922 to 1924 by Xtra Cars, Ltd., of Chertsey, Surrey.

No vehicle built offers such a remarkable choice of power units, while otherwise remaining essentially the same as the 1923 Xtra car. A two-seater model has been evolved; in the runabout form, it is fitted with a 347 c.c. Villiers engine and costs £105; in the "touring" form a 976 c.c. V-twin J. A. P. is substituted, when the price is increased to £122 17s., incidentally the lowest priced two-seater three-wheeler on the market.

On this unconventional vehicle, two pairs of transverse springs act as front axles and carry car type stub axles on pivot pins. Rear springing is by two quarter-elliptic springs. The body also acts in the same capacity as a chassis on a normal car.

The Motor Cycle




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