Douglas Motorcycles

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History of Douglas Motorcycles

Douglas produced motorcycles between 1907 and 1957 and were located in Kingswood, Bristol.

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.

  • 1885 Company founded.

    1907 The first model was introduced at the Stanley Show. Mounted high in the frame, it had a 2.75hp flat-twin engine with braced forks and direct-belt drive. They also exhibited a compact V4 engine, but only two or three of these were made as the design was too advanced for the times.

    1909-1912 New frame design brought changes. A two-speed gearbox became available and a ladies' model was produced. Douglas began supplying Williamson with 8hp flat-twin engines for their machines. They also had their first success at the TT, with a win in the Junior class.

  • 1910 Stanley Show
Douglas Bros. Bristol. Stand No. 89.

The twin-cylinder Douglas will be the centre of attraction on this stand. It is a machine with a very high reputation, and has performed with great credit to itself in many of the most strenuous competitions which have been held in this country, and is one of a specification which has many features of outstanding merit. The engine is a 24 twin-cylinder with 60 mm. bore and 60 mm. stroke; the cylinders are bolted on, and are easily detachable; the pistons have lubricating lips, and are each fitted with three rings. No gudgeon pin set-screws are used, the gudgeon pin being driven in tight, and capped at both ends with copper. Very wide bearings of phosphor bronze are fitted; the crank shaft is of mild steel, case-hardened. The induction valves are automatic, the exhaust valves being mechanical and adjustable. Ignition is by Bosch magneto, and control is entirely from the handle-bar. Druid spring forks of registered design are fitted, and the frame is built of butted steel tubes, very low, with a long wheel base, and possessing detachable and adjustable footrests. The pulley is made adjustable for wear, having one loose and one fixed flange. These can be brought closer together by substituting a narrower distance sleeve. The total weight of this machine is about 100 lbs. Its finish is of the very highest quality, and altogether is a bicycle which is bound to be even more popular in 1911 than in the 1910 season.

The Motor Cycle

  • World War I. Several models were used by the forces and approximately 25,000 of these reliable machines went for service use. After the end of the war surplus bikes flooded the civilian market until around 1920.

    1920 The W20 model, with its 2 cylinder, 348cc sv engine, was equipped with clutch, kick starter and three-speed gear. It has a quite a few accessories, such as handlebar mounted watch, speedometer, full Lucas acetylene lighting, leather knee pads, protective shield under crankcase, holder for spare spark plugs and round leather case for spare tube or belt.

    Douglas Motorcycles, Cambridge, 1920

    The two Royal Princes, Prince Albert, foreground, and Prince Henry, at Cambridge University. 13th February 1920

    1920s During the decade, Douglas had a Royal Warrant for supplying motorcycles to Prince Albert (later 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 replaced 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.

    THE Douglas business has been taken over by a new organisation, whose policy, briefly stated, is to produce a better Douglas flat—twin, built up to a standard, not down to a price. Distribution of Douglas machines will be through duly appointed dealers only. There will be a dealer in every town of importance throughout the world. A new after—sales Service Department has been created for the benefit of every Douglas dealer and Owner. Liberal interpretation of the Douglas Guarantee will further aid the Douglas user. Complete re-organisation of the Douglas factory, covering 23 acres, ensures strict laboratory control of all materials and eliminates machining or assembling errors.

    The Motor Cycle, June 2nd 1932

    1932 New models were added, along with new names - Bulldog 500, Greyhound 600 and Mastif 750 - 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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