Today in Motorcycle History

White and Poppe Motorcycle Engines

White and Poppe of Holbrooks Lane, and Lockhurst Lane, in Coventry, were proprietary engine and gearbox manufacturers.

They also produced motorcycles (see below), although they were better known for the engines they supplied to other companies.

Prior to World War I, they served the booming motor industry, but in 1919, during the post-war recession, they were bought by Dennis Brothers of Guildford in Surrey, and became a subsidiary.

  • A Brief History:

1897 Alfred White first met Peter August Poppe, in August, when visiting a small arms factory in Austria. They became friends, and White suggested to Poppe that he moved to Coventry to set up an engine business.

1899 Supported financially by White's family, the resulting Company was registered in 1899.

White's family owned 337 shares in the company, Alfred White, 250, and Peter Poppe, 1 share.

1900 White and Poppe filed various patents for machine tools they had designed for their production line. They pioneered interchangeability of parts in automotive engines from their experience in the munitions industry. Their advanced carburettors mechanically controlled the proportion of fuel to air to achieve a consistent proportion throughout the operating range.

The company initially worked on the design of a single cylinder engine but this was interrupted by manufacture of munitions for the Boer war (1899-1902).

1903 The first engine produced was for a motor bicycle (80mm bore 85mm stroke, air cooled).

White and Poppe,

Government contractors, of Coventry, have now taken up the manufacture of engines for motor cycles, and are exhibiting on Stand 91 samples of their 3 h.p. air-cooled engines. We made a careful examination of these engines, and are very highly impressed with the quality of the workmanship and also with the neatness of the design. It is one of these engines which we describe somewhat fully as shown on Stand No. 6, occupied by Messrs. Starley and Co. (Stand 91.)

The Motor Cycle November 25th, 1903. p855
Crystal Palace Show 1903 Index

1905 They introduced a 80mm bore 90 mm stroke engine in 2, 3 and 4 cylinder versions (7-14 hp).

1906 White and Poppe were a proprietary engine manufacturer and became a preferred supplier to Dennis Brothers, at which point White and Poppe were supplying 22 different motor manufacturers.

1916 When the first German airship was shot down (Schutte-Lanz SL11) on 3rd September, it was fitted with a White and Poppe carburettor.

1919 On 5th November, in the post World War I recession, Dennis Bros purchased White and Poppe by exchange of shares to the value of £204,365.00. By then, White and Poppe had produced nearly 12,000 engines in total, including approximately 5,000 for Dennis Bros.

Alfred White was offered a knighthood after World War I, but turned it down because Peter Poppe was not eligible, being a foreign national.

1919 March. Advert for their engines and carburettors.

A selection of motorcycle manufacturers which employed White and Poppe engines:


1902 to 1914

They built their own engines in the same style as the ones they supplied to Ariel - with the valves to one side of the head, but spaced much further apart than usual.

By late-1904 they had a 5hp vertical-twin engine that had the pistons at 180 degrees and could be water cooled for tricycle work instead of the usual air cooling.

As well as the engines they supplied to other companies, the firm also built some motorcycles. This must have been unpopular with their engine customers, so production was limited.

In 1921, they listed a small two-stroke engine but, by then, were making car engines for William Morris among others.

The Australian Ariel Register lists the following W&P engines as fitted to Ariel.

1913 W & P 3.5 HP 498 cc
1914 W & P 3.5 HP 498 cc
1915 W & P 3.5 HP 498 cc 2.75 HP 349 cc 2 stroke
1916 W & P 3.5 HP 498cc 2.75 HP 349 cc 2 stroke
1917 W & P 3.5 HP 498 cc 2.75 HP 349 cc 2 stroke
1918 W & P 3.5 HP 498 cc 2.75 HP 349 cc 2 stroke
1919 W & P 3.5 HP 498cc
1920 W & P 3.5 HP 498 cc, W&P 4.5 HP 586cc
1921 W & P 3.5 HP 498 cc, W&P 4.5 HP 586cc
1922 W & P 3.5 HP 498 cc, W & P 4.5 HP 665 cc
1923 W & P 3.5 HP 498 cc, W & P 4.5 HP 665cc
1924 W & P 3.5 HP 498 cc
1925 W & P 3.5 HP 498 cc

Sources: Graces Guide et al.

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