Today in Motorcycle History

Iris Motorcycles

Iris motorcycles were produced from 1902 to 1904 in Brixton, London by Legros and Knowles.

1902 The machine was fitted with their own make of 2½ hp water-cooled engine, fitted into a diamond bicycle frame. The belt drive had a free-engine pulley to act as a clutch. It also had a hand starter. The front part of the tank acted as the radiator for the cooling system, with air tubes running from the front and exiting along each side.

1903 Added to the previous model was a 5hp water-cooled V-twin, with the engine fitted into a loop frame but all the other features retained.

November 1903 listed as Iris Motor Co of Holland Street, North Brixton.

1904 The models continued, the radiator was improved and air-cooled models were also listed.


That same year two cars were presented at Olympia with the "Legros & Knowles" brand, powered by four-cylinder 20hp engines. These proved unsatisfactory, and the following year the automobile marque was changed to "Iris" and a new machine, designed by Iván de Havilland, was presented at the November 1905 fair.

1906 Serial production of automobiles began.

1911 Directory lists them as Iris Cars Ltd., Scrubs Lane, Harlesden, London NW, and as motor manufacturers.

Reports from the 1903 Stanley Show:

The Iris Motor Co.

The principal feature of this firm's exhibit will be the two-cylinder water-cooled engine and the friction clutch, both of which have appeared in these pages recently. To describe the clutch, this handy device, which consists of a wheel with strap attached, fits on to the engineshaft in the same way as a starting handle. By giving a sharp pull the motor is started, the rider takes his seat, pushes the machine gently off to overcome the inertia, and releases the clutch, which immediately picks up without any jar, and the vehicle moves off quietly and easily. Thus, pedals are not needed, and are only fitted when specially ordered. The two-cylinder water-cooled engine of 5 h.p. is no wider than one of the single-cylinder type, and is just the thing for forecarriage and sidecar work.

The Motor Cycle, November 18th 1903
Stanley Show 1903

The Iris Motor Co, of Holland Street, Brixton, will be showing at the Stanley a range of their well-known water-cooled motor-bicycles. This exhibit will comprise the 5 h.p. double-cylinder water-cooled motor-bicycle, fitted with friction clutch, 1.25 inch non-stretching flat belt, and hand starter. The water tank has an ingenious little radiator on each side, and carries sufficient water for a run of 200 miles. This machine, as well as the other models, is fitted with 2.25 inch Swain voiturette tyres. The cover on the back wheel is firmly fixed, as are the tyres on large cars, by three security studs, which prevent any possibility of the tyre creeping, or coming off when deflated. The cylinders are nickel-plated, in order to show the cleanness of the casting. The whole machine, although water-cooled and having two cylinders, weighs 160 lbs. The carburetter is a new type, with automatic mixture adjustment, and the only lever is for the throttle.

The Motor, November 1903
Stanley Show 1903

Notes: There was also an Iris brand of sidecar of Highbury Station, London, in the mid 1920s. Several other firms used the Iris name.

Sources: Graces Guide;

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