In 1882, the Douglas brothers, William and Edward, founded the Douglas Engineering Company, first as a blacksmith's shop, but soon expanded to become an iron founders making quality castings, and later supplied parts to Joseph Barter, of Light Motors, for his Fairy engine. After the turn of the century and the advent of the motor vehicle they soon became involved in the development of engines.
1920s During the decade, Douglas had a Royal Warrant for supplying motorcycles to Prince Albert (late King George VI) and Prince Henry. Even King George V acquired a Douglas machine in this period.
1921 The 3.5hp model was dropped and pivot-forked rear suspension made a brief appearance. This was followed by the introduction of two models with ohv engines.
1923-1925 The firm did well in the TT and proved that their motorcycles were good performers in many classes. During this period Cyril Pullin became Chief Designer for Douglas.
1926 An 'all-new model' was launched as the EW - designed to appeal to those who demanded performance without a high price tag.
1927 By now there were five versions of the EW, and although a serious fire damaged the works, Douglas saw success in Australian dirt-track racing, as the low-slung design was well suited to the terrain.
1928 Cyril Pullin left the firm, to be replace by Freddie Dixon, who produced a racing TT model. It was later joined by a dirt-track model designed specifically for speedway.
1931 The firm had become a public company and it was sold by the family.
1932 New models were added, but the firm was soon in financial difficulty.
1934 They produced a 494cc shaft-drive model called the Endeavour. William Douglas, by now quite elderly, bought back the faltering business and produced a smaller range until the end of the decade.
1935 They were in financial trouble and were taken over by BAC.
1935 Public company named as Aero Engines Ltd.
1939-1945 During the war, Douglas made other products.
1947-1950 Douglas launched various new models. In 1948, Douglas was again in economic distress and forced to rationalize its line to a series based on a 350cc flat twin.
1951 A 500cc prototype was shown, but never made. An agreement was made for the company to build the Italian Vespa scooter under licence.
1955 The last model made was the advanced and novel 350cc Dragonfly. Distinctive looks and good handling could not hide the low top speed (75mph, although a sports model claimed 84mph) and poor low-rev performance.
1956 The firm was taken over by Westinghouse Brake and Signal Co.
1957 The Vespa was still imported, but the end of the Douglas was nigh.
1961 Light engineers and metal founders, specialising in the manufacture of Vespa Motor Scooters, Road Brakes and Signal and Colliery Equipment. 2,000 employees.
Note: For many years afterwards, still trading under the Douglas name, the company imported Gilera mopeds and lightweight motorcycles.
Source: Graces Guide
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