A flood of warranty claims finished off the oh-so-promising ABC, although the 498cc French version, made under licence by the French Gnome & Rhone aero engine company, survived for a couple more years with considerable racing success. The Scootamota faded away.
The post-war slump slashed values. One rider early in 1919 paid £345 for an American four-pot combo; a couple of years later he got £35 in part-exchange for a new bike.
Indian launched the Chief, designed by Charles Franklin, and bought Merkel. Harley offerfed the 1,200cc JD – the first 74.
Norton and Sunbeam climbed onto the ohv band-wagon. Norton’s Model 18 would win TT glory and stayed in harness well into the 1950s.
Jack Sangster, production manager at Rover, went to work for his father at Ariel.
Bianchi opened a sales office in the UK.
Hugo Ruppe left DKW to set up Bekamo (Berliner Kleinmotoren Aktiengesellschaft; ‘Berlin small-power-engine Corporation’). His advanced 129cc two-stroke featured a pumping piston in the crankcase for forced induction; a sort of proto-supercharging. Ruppe eshchewed expensive steel in favour of a wooden (ash) frame. The Bekamo established itself as a formidable racer during the early 1920s. The engine was expensive to make and, despite supplying it to other marques, the firm lasted only three years.
DKW launched a143cc two-stroke motorcycle. It was marketed as the Reichsfahrtmodell, following victory in the Reichsfahrt race.
Cyril Pullin clocked up 100mph on a 500cc Douglas; as we’ll see he was also busy designing another motorcycle.
The Lighgtweight TT was won by Geoff Davison on a Levis two-stroke, though the fastest lap, of 51.0mph, was set by Wal Handley. Alec Bennett won the Senior on a Sunbeam 77x105mm ‘longstroke’, a comfortable seven minutes ahead of a Ricardo Triumph. He also earned a footnote in TT history as the first rider to lead a TT race from start to finish. which was followed home by two Scotts and a Norton. AJS maintained its grip of the Junior, courtesy of Manxman Tom Sheard ahead of another Ajay – but only after Bert Le Vack’s dohc Jap-engined New Imp failed to finish. TheAJS had a 2⅝in exhaust that led racing chief Joe Stevens Jnr to dub it the Big Port. Stanley Woods made his TT debut for Cotton and came fifth despite a refuelling fire, broken pushrod and brake failure. The Blue ’Un said “watch Woods”. Good advice.
Another soon-to-be-famous racer, Wal Handley, debuted on an OK-Blackburne. He was an 18-year-old factory tester when he was drafted as a last-minutre replacement in the new Lightweight TT, setting the fastest lap before his bike let him down, leaving Levis, Rex-Acme and Velocette to take 1,2,3. Also taking to the track that year was Jimmy Simpson and Stanley Woods. Between them they went on to take 15 TTs and many Continental GPs.
The cost of organising the races caused a rift between the ACU and the Manx government. The ACU threatened to stage the event in Yorkshire and was also considering an offer from Belgium. The Manx authorities threatened to take over the event. Shear’s Junior victory, a first for a Manxman, helped smooth ruffled feathers.
Messrs Bennett and Davison repeated their Senior and Lightweight TT wins at the French GP. To complete a bad day for French pride Garelli two-strokes took top three spots in the 350cc race.
Same riders, same marques, different sport: Bennett and Davison teamed up with Johnny Giles (AJS) to compete in the ISDT, held in Switzerland. Once again the locals won but the Brits came a creditable second, ahead of the Swedes on three Huqvarnas. Giles went on to win 11 ISDT Gold Medals.
OEC offered striking 998 and 1,096cc V-twins including a sidecar version with a steering wheel which was available as a taxi. The firm also built duplex frames for record-breakers including Claude Temple’s ohc British Anzani.
As well as his work for Triumph Harry Ricardo designed a three-litre racing car engine for Vauxhall so when Vauxhall planned an expansion into two-wheelers he was the obvious choice. Ricardo delegated the job to his chief designer. Frank Halford, who had ridden a Riccy Triumph in the 1922 TT and had designed aero engines. Halford came up with an ohv 945cc in-line four with shaft drive. Advanced features included leading-link forks, a duplex frame and saddle tank. Only two were made.
The Scots got busy. Say hello to New Gerrard, which stayed in production till 1940; Royal Scott, which only survived for three years; and Gri, which lasted less than 12 months.
The first Bol d’Or endurance race was held in France.
The first Ulster Grand Prix was won by Norton; other class winners were OK, Trump and Brough Superior.
Puch came up with a double-piston 122cc two-stroke single; a design sometimes, regrtetably dubbed a ‘twingle’.
The Italian flying-kilometre record was taken by a V-twin ohc Della Ferrara notable for uncovered camchains that had a habit of snapping to the rider’s discomfiture.
The Italians stopped taxing motorised bicycles, prompting a flood of tiddlers including Alato, Ancora, Dardo, Gaia and Alfa (no, not that Alfa). For power they looked to Villiers, Train (French), DKW (German) and Moser (Swiss) as well as home-brewed engines from Piva, Fulgor, Rubinelli.
The Swallow Sidecar Company was formed in Blackpool by William Lyons, on his 21st Birthday (4 September in case you were wondering) and William Walmsley. Walmsley had previously been making sidecars and bolting them onto reconditioned motorcycles. Within a few years they diversified into car bodybuilding before launching their own SS range. After 1945 when SS was unlikely to be a marketing aid they renamed their cars Jaguar and cease to be of interest to this timeline. However the sidecar interests were sold and Swallow branded sidecars survived until the late 1950s. [As a youth I ran a Swallow Jet 80 on a plunger A10 painted aubergene with blood-red flame effect. Sorry – Ed.]
Harking back to the Daimler Einspur of 1885 was the Einspurauto (one-track car) with its waist-high body, screen, hood and steering wheel running on two wheels with retractibe outriggers. Unlike the vast 1913 Biautogo the Einspur was a production vehicle with a 498cc water-cooled one-lunger, cantilever rear springing and a claimed top speed of 55mph. It was designed by Gustav Winkler and built by firearms manufacturer Mauser which was banned from making guns following the Great War. Some examples were built under licence in France as the Monotrace (one track).
BSA launched the Model G 986cc SV V-twin. It stayed in production until WW2 and was intended for heavy sidecar work, not least tradesmen’s sidecars.
James Norton applied for a patent (granted in 1924) for desmodromic valves, but still relied on springs.