La sortie, c'est par là ! Old Motor Cycles
The Pioneers 1884-1900
A new-type design of 1903, when the industry realised that the place for an engine was in the frame: The Star with French Griffon engine, sold for £60. (1) Sheet-metal box containing petrol and oil tanks, coil and battery. (2) Throttle lever. (3) Ignition advance lever. (4) Ignition switch. (5) Spray carburettor. (6) Silencer. (7) Contact breaker. (8) Direct-belt drive from pulley. (9) Automatic inlet valve.
Very little is usually known about the early days of large industries. Few of the pioneers bothered to record their own efforts ; in fact they were more concerned to hide them from the world and their possible rivals until a measure of success had been achieved and financial returns seemed possible. All this is certainly so in the case of motor vehicles ; the records are fragmentary, and it seems likely that many early designs were lost or destroyed. The real ancestors of the motorcycle were perhaps the steam tricycles which were made from the eighteenth century onwards ; many of them undoubtedly ran, but as they were not usually permitted the use of public roads, the incentive to build them must have been largely academic.

The problem of applying the internal combustion engine to road vehicles was tackled independently by several engineers in the mid 1880s. N. A. Otto had laid down the principle of the four-stroke cycle in 1876 and Clerk did the same for the two-stroke pumping-type engine in 1881. Both methods were tried in the very early engines, but the enormous difficulties making a workable mechanism out of a mere principe can be understood when one reads, for instance, of the experiments which were carried out with gunpowder as the propelling agent. Many of the early workers undoubtedly followed impracticable ideas, but few of those whose names we know failed to add some contribution to progress.

We must remember, too, that in the 1880s even the bicycle as we know it did not exist - a two-wheeler was almost necessarily a penny-farthing, and what was known as the " safety " bicycle, invented by Starley, did not become popular until the early nineties. For this and other reasons such as the weight of the engine, the first motorcycles all had more than two wheels.

It seems possible that the first motorcycle successfully built and run was produced by an Englishman, Edward Butler, of Erith. His design dates from 1884, and the machine was certainly in running order in 1886 or 1887. It was a tricycle with a steering pair of front wheels, one each side of the drivers seat, and a single wheel behind flanked by two cylinders which faced forward with piston rods working on crossheads and long, curved connecting rods transmitting the power from there to the live axle of the rear wheel through a chain drive and a six-to-one reduction gear. The cylinders were water-cooled and, unlike any other design for years afterwards, Butler employed a float-feed carburettor and electric ignition. Things like these seem to us now an essential part of all petrol engines, and it is strange how long some of the pioneers struggled with unpractical alternatives.

Butler's machine was not developed any further, since there was remarkably little encouragement for motor vehicles in this country - in fact they were restricted by law to 4 m.p.h., although it is not true that a red flag was ever carried in front of a motor vehicle. Continental soil was more fertile at this time, however, and Gottlieb Daimler, usually thought of as the father of the motor industry, produced his first machine in 1885. This was a primitive hobby-horse type of bicycle with wooden wheels, with the engine mounted vertically in the frame and two small outrigger wheels to ensure that the arrangement remained approximately vertical. It was intended more as a mobile test-bed than as a road-going concern, but the engine showed considerable promise and a two-cylinder version was built before the inventor turned his attention to cars. The engines possessed an aluminium crankcase containing a connecting rod working between two flywheels in the modern fashion, air cooling and a primitive form of poppet valve.

One or two other inventors produced motor tricycles with a single front wheel, notably Carl Benz of Mannheim, but these were generally coachbuilt and partook more of the nature of cars than motorcycles. J. D. Rootes, however, built a motor tricycle with saddle and handlebars in 1892, and his general layout was followed by most of the subsequent designers. His water-cooled engine was inverted behind the rear axle - a two-stroke unit using vaporised oil and driving via reduction bevels. It seems to have been a practical layout, although details of its performance are not on record.

The year 1895 brought some important advances ; in France the Marquis de Dion modified Daimler's engine and installed it behind the rear axle of a pedalling tricycle. The engine was now quite a practical proposition and the machine proved a commercial success, being marketed up to about 1902, not only by de Dion but by many licensees and imitators (plate 1), and was developing all the time.

A German motor bicycle appeared in 1895 under the name of Hildebrand and Wolfmuller, and a number were sold to the public, one being imported into this country for demonstration purposes, finally ending up in the Science Museum. They had open duplex frames ; the two water-cooled cylinders were horizontal, open-ended, and driving the rear wheel by directly coupled cranks. The firm's trade mark was a little angel. A somewhat similar layout was designed by Colonel H. Capel Holden in the same year, but his cylinders faced each other in two pairs, with a crosshead and long cranks to the rear axle, the rear wheel being made very small for " gearing down " purposes. This has claims to being the first four-cylinder motorcycle, and arrangements were made to produce it commercially. It came on the market in 1899, beautifully made and finished but already out-dated by new developments, and not many were sold.

In 1895, too, an American, E. J. Pennington, built at Coventry a bicycle and a tandem, both fitted with two-cylinder engines projecting behind the rear wheel and driving it by direct-coupled cranks. The cylinders had no cooling arrangements ; carburation was merely a petrol drip into the intake tube, ignition by battery and coil with a wiper contact on the piston heads. The layout was not practical, although the machines were persuaded to go for short distances for demonstration purposes and were supposed to have attained 30 m.p.h. The silver-tongued American returned to the States £100,000 richer, but no further examples were ever built.

The pedal cycle was now well established ; it had tangent-spoked wheels, pneumatic tyres and driving chains, all items useful to ease the path of the motorcycle designer. Open cranks and exposed pistons in those days of dusty roads and deep muddy ruts must have reduced the life of the engines to a few hundred miles, even if they could be persuaded to go as far as that ; no more were built after the Holden, all subsequent machines having enclosed crankcases. Surface carburation was, however, universal up to the turn of the century - a method by which air was drawn through the petrol tank by the engine, vaporisation being assisted by the exhaust pipe passing through the tank. The air/vapour mixture needed continual adjustment according to weather and road surface, and speed changes were usually effected by advancing and retarding the ignition, where this was electric. Often, however, it consisted of a dangerous contraption involving a platinum tube kept hot by a small petrol burner which fired the gas in the cylinder by pre-ignition, and usually set fire to the machine whenever there was a skid.

The Beeston motor tricycle appeared in 1897, very much along de Dion lines, and attained popularity. The firm also made quadricycles, an arrangement based on a cycle frame with four wheels, an engine behind and a basket seat or padded chair for a passenger between the front wheels. Some of these machines were even exported. Another tricycle, the Bollée, well designed with a low-slung chassis, front passenger seat and single-cylinder engine alongside the rear wheel, earned quite a name for speed and reliability, aided as it was by a three-speed sliding gear much in advance of its day. This was to have been made under licence by Humber, but a fire destroyed their factory about this time, so a separate firm, the British Motor Syndicate, was organised to produce a number of variants. Humber themselves had been building a " tricar ", a cycle with two front wheels, a passenger seat between them, and an engine mounted behind the rear wheel. This they called the "Olympia Tandem" and exhibited it at the 1899 show, although sales were few.

The motor tricycle industry was well under way and a number of famous firms were producing variations of the de Dion layout, notably the MMC (used in the Boer War), the Enfield, with de Dion engine, the Dennis, Swift, Riley, Star, and the Ariel, which moved the engine forward of the rear axle, thus greatly improving the weight distribution. Two-wheelers were at a discount, and the only one made in any quantity, the Werner, had a particularly bad reputation for sideslip. This is hardly surprising when it is realised that the engine was mounted above the front wheel and was fitted with hot-tube ignition. The model was first put on the market in 1897 in France, and it was made under licence in Coventry, with coil and battery ignition, in 1899. Several good examples remain (plate 2). One more advanced design appeared before the end of the century ; this was a motor-wheel designed by Perks and Birch and later taken over and produced by Singer (plate 3). The engine was enclosed in two spoked aluminium plates forming the driving wheel ; it was fitted with a surface carburettor and with a low-tension magneto - probably the first design to be so equipped. The unit was compact and well thought out, and could be fitted to any bicycle or tricycle, but its cog-wheel drive made it harsh in power delivery, and it had very little power anyway.
Early Develoment 1900-1914
A typical straightforward designof 1910, the 31/2 hp single cylinder BSA. (1) Spring fork with cycle-type brakes. (2) Controls all now handlebar mounted. (3) Hand and foot gear control. (4) Pannier toolboxes and carrier. (5) Two-speed hub gearbox. (6) Belt drive from engine pulley. (7) Pedals and chain, principatly for starting. (8) Pepperpot silencer. (9) Fonvard-mounted footrests. (10) Magneto in front of engine.
The last chapter dealt with the origins of the motorcycle in some detail, and although few who read this will ever have a chance of owning a nineteenth-century example, it is right that the struggles of the first pioneers should be recorded. These men, in the days when even metallurgy was in its infancy, attempted to translate half-understood theory into practice without the benefit of written manuals, training, experience or any of the aids to design which might today be thought absolutely essential. They had only their own craftsman's instinct to guide them, and the progress they made was remarkable, especially in the face of the violent and unreasonable prejudice to which they were exposed. As a result of their efforts, the new century ushered in a period of prosperity, when the motorcycle with two, three or four wheels became available in quantity and variety, and offered the purchaser some degree of reliability. Stops by the wayside continued, of course, with some frequency, but in the majority of occasions they concerned something which the ingenious could remedy on the spot. Each increase in engine efficiency showed up weaknesses in forks, frames, spokes and transmission, and every motorcyclist was an expert puncturemender: horse and hob nails abounded and tyres were very thin. Ignition parts were mostly made out of what has been described as a form of metallic putty, the life of plugs and valves was short, and most people carried plenty of engine spares - and often a whip for hostile dogs. Motoring life was certainly still an adventure into the unknown, but it was possible for an ordinary tourist to cover big mileages with success.

The years 1899-1901 saw the beginnings of quite a number of firms whose names were to become famous in the industry for all time. The earlier year saw the beginning of experiments with Werner-type engines designed to clip to ordinary cycles. Machines along these lines were produced by the brothers Harry and Charles Collier (both later destined to win the TT), and by Alfred A. Scott ; these activities led within a few years to the founding of the Matchless and Scott factories respectively. Joah Phelon in 1900 took out patents for a very neat engine arrangement with inclined cylinder taking the place of the front portion of the frame and a chain drive to the rear wheel ; this design led to the foundation of the Phelon and Moore factory at Cleckheaton, and machines of basically similar layout were built under the Panther trade name as late as 1963. The design was adopted and produced by Humber under licence for both bicycles and tricycles (plate 4).

The Raleigh and Enfield concerns both manufactured variants of the Werner design in 1900, the latter having a long twisted rawhide belt driving the rear wheel. Belt drive was certainly the answer to the harsh transmission of the earlier machines, but brought with it troubles such as unreliability, and slippage in wet weather.

The two-wheeler was gaining ground, however, and a great step forward was taken when the Minerva engine became available. This was designed in 1899 by two Swiss engineers, and produced in Belgium ; of 211 cc capacity, it was provided with attachments to clip to the front down tube of any bicycle and thus made it possible for almost any cycle shop to become a motorcycle factory. Scores of them did ; the first substantial firm in this country to adopt it on a large scale seems to have been Bayliss-Thomas, late in 1900, under the Excelsior trademark, and they were followed by Alldays, Enfield, Ivel, Phoenix, Coventry-Progress, Quadrant and Triumph, all in 1901. This year too saw the founding of the Indian concern in the USA, and of AJS, when the Stevens brothers marketed a machine powered by a small American engine called the Mitchell. Other firms of note to launch into motorcycle production about the same time included Imperial Cycles (later New Imperial) with an all-British machine powered by a 500 cc engine and direct belt drive, and OEC, a racing 4 hp design by F. J. Osborne, built in Coventry.

The Minerva engine underwent continuous improvement, and by 1903 both valves were mechanically operated by cams situated in the crankcase. The old automatic inlet valve, opened by the suction of the engine and closed again by a weak and very sensitive spring, had the big disadvantage of power loss at low revolutions (plate 5); nevertheless, there was a surprising amount of opposition to positive operation of the valve on the grounds of " complication ", and the old type lingered on until the First World War.

1902 brought designs by W. Hillman of Coventry and William Morris of Oxford, also the Rex, which won a great reputation as a speedster, the Hobart and the Coventry-Eagle. Alfred Scott started production of a two-stroke engine-assisted bicycle strikingly unlike his later machines. On the whole, manufacturers were very reluctant to design special frames, the " clip-on " type of motor was very much the order of the day, and even this was not expected to do more than assist the exertions of the cyclist. Now, however, Werner came out with a completely new design, having a frame built to hold the engine vertically low down in what afterwards became the conventional position. The machine had power and reliability and won most of the competitions for which it entered ; its effect on future design was profound and its merits were speedily evident to many British engineers. Although the Werner layout was well protected by patents, these were circumvented by various forms of loop or cradle frame, and before the end of the year vertical engines mounted inside the frame were available from many factories including Clarendon, James, Quadrant, Bradbury, Rex, New Hudson and Phoenix, while on the Continent, Peugeot, FN and NSU followed the same trend. James Norton, chainmaker, used the Clement engine in a machine he offered under the name " Energette ". Various British factories produced proprietary engines, the most important of which was the JAP, fitted by Triumph in 1903, and this year also brought the first commercial sprung rear frame, marketed by BAT, the Rover motorcycle, and the first sidecars in a variety of tentative designs mostly based on leather-backed or wickerwork armchairs with footwells (plate 13). They speedily ousted the two-wheel armchair trailer which had been hitched on behind the saddle and had proved the most uncomfortable and dangerous form of passenger transport known.

Number plates became compulsory in 1904 ; the speed limit was raised to 20 m.p.h., and good spray carburettors and high-voltage magnetos came on the market in quantity. Bowden wire controls were introduced and front forks were strutted for strength ; one or two makers such as Quadrant even fitted a crude form of sprung fork. The rubber and canvas V-section belt began to replace the twisted rawhide drive (as fitted to treadle sewing machines) and JAP put on the market an engine of overhead valve design. 60 m.p.h. was attained on racing tracks. Altogether, the motorcycle was gaining strength and constructively measuring up to its problems, but it was just at this time that a big recession set in. The flow of new designs slowed down as sales dropped, even though 1905 saw the flat twin design by Joseph Barter (later to engine become the Douglas), a side-by-side vertical twin by Berclay, and the first four-cylinder FN. Many firms vanished overnight and it became evident that a large proportion of designs were underdeveloped and unfit for marketing. It seemed that only Triumphs, under their extremely able director J. M. Schulte, were able to maintain their sales. Phelon and Moore, however, were leading the way in design by introducing a trouble-free two-speed gear involving two chain drives to a countershaft fitted with a selective clutch (a layout later to be adopted by A. A. Scott), and by boldly omitting the pedalling gear. V-twin engines were now on the market (plate 9).

Interest returned in 1907 with the establishment of the TT races in the Isle of Man, and the building of the Brooklands track. Designers had previously attempted to win races by fitting larger and larger engines into lighter and lighter frames, but the new facilities for racing showed the fallacy of such ideas and proved ideal testing grounds. They aroused considerable public interest and ruthlessly pinpointed all weaknesses of design. The benefit to the industry was incalculable, and the motorcycle rapidly gained in speed and reliability.

In 1908 Scott marketed his water-cooled two-stroke twin, built by Jowetts and equipped with two-speed gear and kick-start ; it caused a sensation and speedily gained its long-lived reputation in competition work. Another outstanding design to appear was Barnes's Zenith Gradua, which provided a change of gear by opening and closing the pulley flanges on the direct-belt drive and simultaneously sliding the rear wheel in and out to maintain belt tension. The system was successful enough to be barred from hill-climbing competitions as " unfair ", a fact of which the manufacturer took full advantage in his advertisements.

Chater-Lea entered the market in 1909 with a V-twin of excellent quality, and from 1910 the trade recovered steadily, and design improvements came in a steady flow. The need for a " free-engine clutch " was beginning to be understood in the thickening traffic, and a number of two-speed gears appeared, notably on a well-designed Royal Enfield light twin with Vickers engine. Veloce reappeared with a workaday sidevalve model and Lea Francis designed a luxurious machine with a countershaft gearbox mounted behind the engine in what later became the orthodox position, fully enclosed chain drive and a V-twin engine from JAP (plate 12), thus forestalling by two years the almost incomparable Sunbeam, with its enamel almost as hard as steel, designed along similar lines. Other new firms that year included Clyno, Omega, and the four-cylinder Wilkinson with a bucket seat (plate 8). A number of rotary-valve engines were tried out on the public with limited success ; the best of them was the Corah. Rudge-Whitworth and BSA joined the ranks of the larger manufacturers, DOT produced a dropped frame with low saddle position, and PV a good rear-sprung frame. Two-stroke light-weights began to appear, the Levis of 1911 being the first popular example (plate 7); three-speed hub gears, stronger versions of those on contemporary bicycles, also became available from Armstrong and Sturmey-Archer. They were remarkably compact and ingenious pieces of mechanism, excellent when expertly maintained but tricky to adjust and liable to destroy themselves if not looked after. In the same year Rudge produced their famous " Multi " gear, with fifteen notches on the gearchange, operating on movable pulley flanges on both engine shaft and rear wheel, allowing the engine to slow down as the machine gathered speed very smoothly, and it became deservedly popular (plate 14).

Both Villiers and Blackburne offered proprietary engines in 1913, many of the larger manufacturers revised and extended their ranges, and new names included the Ivy, Hazlewood and Royal Ruby. The fashion for 1914 seemed to be for larger engines, the Rudge Multi going to 750 cc and the Excelsior even to 800 cc in one cylinder. New V- and flat twins became available, notably designs by W. E. Brough, W. A. Weaver (Montgomery) and Granville Bradshaw (the first ABC). Two-stroke lightweights proliferated, notably from Clyno, Connaught, Levis, Radco, Velocette, and also Triumph (plate 18), who fitted a two-speed countershaft gearbox. Starting these machines was very easy, and some of them dared to dispense with pedals. The new Calthorpe lightweight and the JES motorised bicycle both had small four-stroke engines.

This brings us very briefly to the end of the veteran era and the outbreak of war. Civilian machines continued to be available for the time being but in reduced numbers.
The Vintage era 1915-1930
The ultimate development of acetylene lighting was attained about 1930 ; there was a large choice of makes.
It bas been said that there is nothing like a war for advancing research and design, and the motorcycle of 1920 certainly showed very considerable improvements over the corresponding 1915 designs even though production for civilian use ceased in November 1916. Output for war purposes was of course, stepped up and the factories were never so busy ; the bulk of the Army requirements was met by Triumphs, who turned out over thirty thousand units during the course of hostilities, nearly all of them fitted with the new Sturmey-Archer three-speed countershaft gearbox and belt drive. The reliability of the machines brought the universal nickname of " Trusty ". Douglas, too, made considerable numbers of their lightweight two-speed flat twins, all finished in khaki paint (plate 22). In the early days, when a war of movement was expected, orders were placed with Clyno, Royal Enfield and Scott for twin-cylinder sidecar machine-gun outfits, but few of these were made. RAF contracts were allotted to Phelon and Moore, Sunbeam manufactured for foreign governments (plate 17) and even turned out some belt-drive machines to order, but doubtless against their better instincts. A few Rudges and BSAs were also exported for use in distant parts. Later in the war Alfred Scott produced a three-wheeler capable of taking machine-guns over rough ground ; it was an extremely practical vehicle although its appearance was distinctly odd - something like a sidecar outfit enclosed in a dishcover with a radiator in front. He was not awarded any contract, but the factory developed the idea later for civilian use as the " Scott Sociable ", known more familiarly as the " Crab ".

Some months after the armistice the industry was permitted to revert to civilian production, and the results of wartime thoughts about design became evident. Demand was enormous and prices soared accordingly until such time as the supply situation caught up. One or two pre-war designs were reintroduced with more or less modification, such as the Rudge, the lightweight Triumph and the Norton with its now old-fashioned direct-belt drive and their fast engines with a guarantee of 70 or 75 m.p.h. Apart from the few diehards, direct drive was no more, nor were there any such things in the shops as chain-and-pedal starting or hub gears. The industry had at last realised that there was an essential need for a three-speed countershaft gearbox mounted behind the engine, and nearly all machines were fitted with a multiplate clutch and kickstarter. By 1923 all the larger machines were turning over to all-chain drive, and sidecar outfits at least had dynamo electric lighting. Frames were lower and the top tube was inclined or curved to provide a lower saddle position and enable the average rider to put both feet on the ground. Brakes improved and the era of the internal expanding brake design was but a year or two away ; tyres also improved greatly and the safer wired pattern began to supplant the old beaded-edge type which was inclined to jam the wheel dangerously when punctured.

The pent-up enthusiasm of the war years and the soaring demand had tempted many people to enter the industry in a small way and innumerable brand names came on the market, mostly to wither and vanish within a year or two. There was a boom in cheap scooters and in very lightly built cyclecars, some of them with wooden frames, but by about 1922 they were all gone, the sound and experienced Morgan design alone being left to, continue for another twenty years. The motorcycle itself was now a thoroughly practical affair, able to go anywhere in the world with comfort, speed and economy, and the variety and quality of British machines available for touring or racing were unmatched in any other country then or since. All forms of motorcycle sport throve, long and historic tours were undertaken throughout the five continents and records were broken regularly. Literally dozens of firms created competition departments and strove to carry off honours at national and international races, and rivalry was so keen that almost every race could be won by any one of the entrants. Enthusiasm and sportsmanship mattered in the main more than pot-hunting, and a racing clubman would have laughed to scorn the idea of taking his machine to meetings in a van: motorcycles, even racers, were after all for riding.

Year by year improvements were made in the hopes of stealing a march over one's rivals ; design was fluid and there were plenty of differences of opinion about the best features of an efficient motorcycle. One saw an immense variety of machines on the road or at club meetings, and the comparisons and arguments were endless. Roads were uncluttered by very many cars - the " blue, empty roads of Britain " they were called by Lawrence of Arabia, and almost everyone you met was a fellow enthusiast.

This was the day of the businessman-devotee who founded his own firm, designed, built, rode and raced his own products, and sold them to the public. This had already been done, of course, by A. A. Scott, James Norton, the Collier and Stevens brothers, but the scope was now wider. Jock Porter won the 1923 Lightweight and 1924 Ultralightweight TT and went into production with his machine, the New Gerrard, in Edinburgh. Howard R. Davies, having won the Senior TT in 1921 on a 350 cc AJS, considered he could design something better, and proceeded to win the 1925 Senior on a machine of his own make, the HRD. This was put on the market, proved a success, and was later fitted with the Vincent spring frame. As the Vincent-HRD, it became one of the most famous of all post-Second World War machines.

Ignition intensifiers are as old as sparking-plugs. This is the Phaulax, sold by Gamages in 1903 at 1s. 6d. Note the other motoring accessories-ladies motor veils, foot muffs, motor baskets and paraffin lamps. George Brough was perhaps the doyen of them all. Dissatisfied with existing designs in 1919, he built his own big twin racing solo, and with it took fifty-one fastest times at fifty-one meetings (plate 19). The fifty-second brought disaster when a tyre came off, so he turned his attention to producing machines to order, first in the factory of his father, W. E. Brough, and later, as the Brough Superior, on his own (plates 25 plates 29). His flair for publicity led him to design a tank shape so distinctive that his machines were instantly recognisable and the appearance continued very little altered until the last were built in 1940 ; the saddle-tank was probably his invention. The machines were made to personal measurement and were expensive, and Brough earned his reputation as the maker of the "Rolls-Royce of motorcycles" (plate 21). It was rarely that the autumn show did not provide a sensation by way of something very unorthodox from the Nottingham factory. " G.B. " himself entered regularly for all British and European long-distance trials and was at one time the fastest man on two wheels.

There were so many other practical racing men that it seems invidious to give further examples, but the merits of two more at least demand a mention: C. G. Pullin, winner of the Senior TT in 1914, designed and marketed the Pullin-Groom in 1920 and the Ascott-Pullin in 1928, both luxury allenclosed machines much before their time ; and F. W. Dixon who won the 1923 Sidecar and 1927 Junior races and who completely redesigned the then old-fashioned Douglas range in 1926. Other designers of undoubted genius in the motorcycle sphere included H. R. Ricardo, remembered for his 1921 four-valve Triumph design, and Granville Bradshaw, an engineer of particularly advanced ideas, responsible among many other things for the Sopwith-built transverse twin ABC, the oil-cooled overhead valve Bradshaw engines (plate 27) and the transversely mounted V-twin Panthette. His designs received universal respect due to their original approach but are said to have required skilled attention to keep them in good running order, and they were rarely competitive in a commercial sense. Barr and Stroud, two Leeds University professors, left their appointments to found a firm for the manufacture of single-sleeve valve engines. Designs of this kind involve a thin steel sleeve with holes cut in it to register with the ports and which moves between piston and cylinder. The engines had many endearing characteristics of smoothness and silence and were fitted by quite a number of firms in the middle twenties, but they did have the disadvantage that any lubrication failure destroyed the engine. The professors later turned their attention to optical instruments.

Valentine Page redesigned the Ariel range with saddle-tanks and new engines in 1927 and gave the old-fashioned firm a thoroughly modern image (plate 26). An American, C. A. Neracher, marketed a revolutionary layout which he called the Ner-a-Car, in 1920. It had a low, open frame, hub-centre steering like the front wheel of the contemporary cars, and a variable friction drive by way of transmission. Represented as proof against skidding, it was irreverently known as the motor-assisted mudguard.

In America, C. B. Franklin redesigned the Indian (plate 16), which had quite a vogue in this country in the early twenties. J. V. Pugh produced a new range of Rudge-Whitworth machines with four valves, four-speed gearboxes and coupled brakes in 1925. Proprietary engines led the way in motive-power design for a while, JAP, Anzani, Precision and Blackburne all offering thoroughly satisfactory high-performance overhead-valve engines very soon after the end of hostilities. Overhead camshafts for valve operation were first introduced by JAP in 1922, to be followed by Velocette in 1924, AJS (a chain-driven design to which they remained faithful for thirty years - plate 23), Norton (plate 28), Calthorpe, Humber and others all round about 1928.

Villiers came out with a magneto incorporated in the fly-wheel - a cheap and compact design for utility lightweights, and good enough to drive all its competitors off the market. Most firms fitted it although Dunelt favoured a two-diameter " top hat "-shaped piston in their two-strokes, which gave an extra measure of pumping compression (plate 24). British design was in a state of the utmost vigour. Some few of the varieties available to buyers have been mentioned but it seems almost invidious to single them out among so many. A few minutes with a motorcycle magazine of the twenties will give a better impression of the range then offered. Examples of most of them remain, however, and the discoverer must seek them out for himself.
Discovering Old Motor Cycles. By T. E. Crowley. N° 160 in the Discovering series. First published 1973. Shire Publications Ltd.. 12B Temple Square - Aylesbury. Bucks - UK Discovering Old Motor Cycles
By T. E. Crowley
N° 160 in the Discovering series
First published 1973
Shire Publications Ltd.
12B Temple Square - Aylesbury
Bucks - UK
Haut de Page