British Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

Swift Motor Co Motorcycles

The 1915 model 5-6 h.p.Swift.

Its engine has a bore and stroke of 67x95 mm., capacity 670 c.c. A three-speed countershaft gear box is fitted and chain and belt transmission.

Swift motorcycles of Court Road, Balsall Heath, Coventry were produced from 1899 to 1915. The firm was closely associated with Ariel.

The first tricycle was very similar to the Ariel, with the engine fitted ahead of the rear axle, and the whole of the frame boxed-in to enclose the carburettor and the electrics. Under the saddle was a cylindrical tank that carried the petrol and oil.

1904 The firm began to build a model under licence from Starley, copying the transverse engine.

1910 Machines were now listed as the Swift-Ariel, fitting a 3½ hp engine to a rigid frame with Druid forks and sprung saddle.

1911 The two listed models, the Touring and the TT, were fitted with White and Poppe engines.

1913 They offered a Cyclecar fitted with a water-cooled vertical-twin engine, while the 3½ hp solo continued with the option of an Armstrong three-speed rear hub.

1914-1915 The range ran on, with an extra model fitted with a V-twin engine, before the firm's attention turned to other things.

Swift Cycle Co Timeline

1896. Prospectus for the company to take over the Coventry Machinists Co (see below). Directors: Right Honourable Lord Churchill[1] (Chairman), Major Walter H. Seagreave, Charles Wisdom Hely, M.P., Harvey Du Cros, (Junior), Alfred Du Cros (of the Coventry Machinists Co) and Richard Lee Philpot (MD of Coventry Machinists Co).

1901 The company was registered on 10 December, in reconstruction of a company of the same name, to take over the business of the Coventry Machinists Co.

In 1904, a single cylinder 700cc cyclecar was produced by a separate company the Swift Cycle Co. This car was also sold by Austin as the first Austin 7.

1910 Stanley Show Report
Swift Cycle Co., Ltd.
Coventry. Stand No. 57.
The "Swift-Ariel" motor-bicycle has not been altered in general design, but a good many detail improvements which appeal to the experienced rider have been made. Not the least of these is the complete encasing of the magneto, so that it is impossible for this delicate and important part to be interfered with by dirt thrown up by the wheels. A patent decompressor is fitted. The motor is very easily started by use of this device, and a variable gear is provided. Belt transmission is fitted. Needless to say that the machine is most excellently finished, and in addition to this all the working parts are very accessible - a great point in motor-cycle design: The frame is very strong and the saddle low, whilst the footboards are conveniently placed on either side of the crank case and form additional stays to the motor, which may thus be said to be carried in a kind of cradle.

1912 Listed in Spennell's directory of Coventry as Cycle Manufacturers.

1913 Issued additional £20,000 of shares.

1931 See Kirk and Merifield who bought the name.

Coventry Machinists Company (CMC)

The Coventry Machinists Company (CMC) was a sewing machine and cycle company in Cheylesmore. Established in 1861 as the European Sewing Machine Company in 1861, they changed their name in 1868 to the Coventry Machinists to reflect their decision to manufacture velocipedes of French design.

CMC was the first British cycle company and many now-famous names began their careers there including James Starley, William Hillman and George Singer before forming their own businesses in Coventry.

Over time the physical form of the machines developed through the Ordinary or 'Penny Farthing' to 'Swift' Safety machines in the late 1880s.

In 1897, the company name changed once more, becoming the Swift Cycle Company, and the following year they began making motorcycles as well as bicycles.

1. Lord Randolph Churchill, Winston's father.

Sources: Graces Guide,

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