British Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

HRD Motors

H.R.D. Motors, Ltd., Heath Town, Wolverhampton. HRD were motorcycles produced from 1924 to 1928 by Howard Raymond Davies, who used his initials for his own make. The design was by E. J. Massey of Wolverhampton.

Before the Great War, Howard Davies was a famous rider who achieved some success in the IOM Senior TT. He flew during the War and was mistakenly reported as having been shot down and killed. He went on to ride for AJS in the early 1920s and was successful in the TT in 1920 and 1921.

  • 1924. Howard Davies decided to build his own motorcycles. Having had no success in the TT for the previous two years, he wanted to produce a reliable, quality, medium-weight racing machine, with good handling. He chose a JAP engine, Burman gearbox, Webb forks and other components from AMAC, Renold, BTH and KLG Sparking Plugs. There was a range of models, all had three speeds, a saddle tank, looked good and performed well. They were the ohv 344cc D70 and D80, 488cc D90, D70S and a 488cc sv model, with or without a sidecar.

An excerpt of a report on the 1924 Motor Cycle Show reads:

The initials H. R. D. stand for Howard R. Davies, who, in conjunction with one of the foremost designers in the trade, is responsible for the design, which is the outcome of his own personal experiences on road and track. Four models are made, two of 350 c.c., and two of 500 c.c. In general, the design of these machines may be said to follow orthodox lines, but there are several features which depart to some extent from previous practice, and. the attention of the visitor to the show is drawn to them.

The design of the frame is one point, and that of the rear mudguards, which are hinged and quickly detachable, is another. A saddle tank is fitted with a capacity of two gallons. The oil tank is separate, and is mounted on the down tube. The foot rests are adjustable, and so also are the handle bars, which are designed to incorporate the lamp bracket."

Motor Sport Magazine

  • 1925. Howard Raymond Davies promoted his machine as 'Produced by a Rider' and entered the TT where he came first in the Senior and second in the Junior.
  • 1926. The D70 was dropped and the D70s became available with a choice of 490cc or 597cc engine. There was also a new Super 90 with a two-port ohv engine.
  • 1927. The range had several new models, including the Super 600 with a 597cc ohv engine, and other versions at the lower end of the scale.
  • 1928 Most of the models were still being produced, but by now the company was in financial trouble. Despite their quality, the bikes were expensive, so he tried to make lower-cost models, but he went bankrupt. Early in the year the firm was bought by Ernie Humphries of OK-Supreme who then sold it on to Philip Vincent, for £500, who, in turn, produced his own Vincent-HRD machines.
  • Note:' Enthusiasts can find further information at the Vincent-HRD owners' web site. [1]

HRD Motors Ltd was a British motorcycle manufacturer of the 1920s.

It was founded by Howard Raymond Davies. He had worked in motorcycling, and done some racing, enjoying some success in the mid-twenties, but often not finishing due to unreliability. This inspired him to build a reliable performance motorcycle himself. His company used the advertising slogan "Built by a rider". There were others who also aimed at a similar market, like George Brough of Brough Superior motorcycles.

After World War I many motorcycle makers assembled their machines from engines and other major components sourced from different manufacturers. Davies wanted to build a superior motorcycle from the best components available, and worked his way toward making it possible.

Motorcycles were produced from 1924 to 1928, but the undercapitalised company, even though it built a reputation for performance, struggled to survive, and was ulimately sold to OK-Supreme, who then sold the name and goodwill to Philip C. Vincent. The name was then incorporated into a new company, Vincent-HRD.

In 1924, with E. J. Massey, the first HRD motorcycles were built. Motors were sourced from J. A. Prestwich Industries (JAP), close ratio gearboxes from Burman, forks from Druid or Webb, chains from Hans Renolds Ltd, oil pumps from Pilgrim, and carburettors from Binks. The bikes were aimed at the more affluent among the mechanically minded, with sporting performance and quality components.

In 1925 Davies rode his own motorcycles at the Isle Of Man TT, coming second in the Junior and winning the Senior. This brought in orders, but while things seemed successful the firm was in fact losing money. The first premises were too small, so they had to enlarge, but were undercapitalised. There was always a waiting list, but only small numbers were produced. In September H. le Vack set a speed record of 104.41 mph on an HRD at Brooklands.

In 1926 the opposition at the TT were faster, and the best placing for HRD was a fifth. The model range was broadened, but production still failed to meet demand. A general strike inflicted more financial damage.

In 1927 Freddie Dixon took first place in the Junior TT, and sixth in the Senior for HRD. Despite this victory, the financial situation grew worse.

Finally, in January 1928, the company went into voluntary liquidation. It was bought by Ernest Humphries, of OK-Supreme Motors and he decided to sell the name, jigs, tools and patterns. These were promptly bought for £500 by Philip C Vincent, and the result was Vincent-HRD.

Sources: Graces Guide, Motor Sport Magazine

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