1932

Chancellor Philip Snowden refuses to remove roadtax from tiddlers but does cut it by 50% (to 15s/75p) for bikes up to 150cc. He also raised the weight limit for (30s/£1.50) roadtax from 200 to 224lb (100kg). Once again, manufacturers turned to Villiers, whose well-proven 147cc twostroke was soon powering a variety of lightweight ‘Snowden babies’, though Cotton opted for a 150cc sv JAP. Triumph put its own name on the fourstroke sv XO; Beeza came up with a scaled down version of its ohv 250. Leaders of the 150cc pack were the Royal Enfield Model T and the New Imperial Unit Minor which boosted the company’s sales by 48% in its first year of production.
AJS, now under Matchless ownership, beat the 224lb 30s tax limit with a lightened Big Port ohv 350 single, as did Douglas with a 350cc sv flat twin. Matchless went one better with an under-224lb sv 500 complete with electric lights and centre stand.

BSA launched the sporty 350/500cc ohv Blue Star, based on the works trials and scrambles models campaigned so successfully by Bert Perrigo, who received a halfpenny royalty for every one sold. The Stars – Blue, Empire, Silver and ultimately Gold – would shine brightly for years to come.

Rex Acme, one of the great names of the early British industry, merged with sidecar pioneer Mills & Fullford but within a few months the partnership went bust. Other marques to disappear in the early 1930s included AKD Chater-Lea, Diamond, Dot, Grindlay-Peerless, Ivy, LGC, New Coment, New Henley, New Gerrard (with its proud racing history), NUT (with its noble V-twins), P&P, Radco, Rex-Acme and Sharratt.

Show attendance fell to 68,000 as motorcycle sales slumped by 50% and more.

The UK exported 16,299 motorcycles, valued at £629,553. Some exporters were desperate enough to accept payment in kind, leaving them trying to sell everything from cocoa beans to carpets on a depressed British market.

F Gill of Bradford was off on a 23,000-mile overland jaunt to Australia on a Panther/Watsonian box sidecar. On his previous global trip, in 1929, Gill had beern chased by Bedouin tribesman. Forewarned is forearmed; his luggage this time included a revolver and a shotgun.

Calthorpe’s sole model, the all-white Ivory, grew from 350 to 500cc with an enhanced spec but no increase in price.

Having pioneered a positive-stop foot gearchange Velocette came up with a throttle-controlled pumped lubrication system on its twostroke GTP. Many years later Japan would reinvent this technology (but the vast majority of British twostrokes soldiered on with the traditional petroil mix so let’s not get too cocky).

The West Kent, Owls, Bermondsey and Sidcup MCCs got together with a Kent landowner to develop a permanent grasstrack site. They called themselves the Brands Hatch Combine.

The ISDT was once again hosted by Italy but this time the British Vase team (all on Rudges) took the honours. The British and Italian Trophy trios both had clean sheets on the final day so the Italian sv Gileras lined up next to Bert Perrigo (BSA), George Rowley (AJS) and Peter Bradley (Sunbeam combo) for a tie-breaking speed trial. The Brits won.

High-level exhausts, which were introduced for practical reasons on trials bikes, became popular fashion accessories. Twin-port heads also had more to do with form than function.

To mark the 21st TT races HRH Prince George, later King George VI, was on the Island to see Stanley Woods win the Junior and Senior for Norton; in the Junior Woods was chased all the way home by Handley and Tyrell-Smith on their Rudges. Rudge was expected to win the Lightweight but was beaten again, this time by a unit-construction New Imperial.

Harold Willis rode the blown Velo known as Whiffling Clara in the Junior and Senior TTs but dropped out of the Junior with a broken rocker; its Senior outing was ended, frustratingly, by a loose carburettor jet. At least Whiffling Clara was a nice nickname: New Imp’s 250 leaked so much oil that works rider Bob Foster dubbed his Lightweight TT winner the Flying Pig Trough.

The Motor Cycle teamed up with the British Motor Cycle Owners Club to establish the annual Clubman’s Day at Brooklands. With a mixture of races for amateurs and factory star riders it was soon established as one of the highlights of the season. The offbeat finale was a two-leg challenge between 350cc ohv Velos and 1,500cc Lea-Francis cars. One race was won by the cars, the other by the bikes.

Excelsior was marketed in some overseas markets under the name of its parent company, Baylis-Thomas (the US-made Excelsior was marketed in Britain as the American-X). The British Excelsior faced strong opposition in the 250cc class from the ohv New Imperials, which followed up Foster’s TT win with hat-tricks in the Belgian and Dutch GPs.

BSA developed the 500cc ohv V-twin J12 as a military mount but it was soon in use with police forces and then appeared in showrooms.

The Veteran Car Club set up a motorcycle section to cater for machines made before 31 December 1904.

A fire at Burman’s Brumagen site did not affect gearbox production; it was contained in a part of the factory devoted to hair clippers.

The German Ardie featured an advanced lightweight frame made of duralumin.

By year’s end there were 93,098 bikes on Italian roads.

The ACU staged a five-day Lightweight Demonstration Run, taking 15s-tax lightweights on tour around the South, the Midlands and industrial centres in Yorkshire. The event included public tests of reliability, ease of starting, braking, silencing, economy and ‘portability’ in line with The Motor Cycle’s ‘Everyman’ campaign.

A guide to the British motorcycle industry listed more than 200 marques that had been sold from 1922-32.

From a US bike magazine: “…England, where motor cycling is such a widespread sport, and they have more or less set the mark for the rest of the motor cycling world to aim at…”

From Moto Guzzi came a 500cc ohv triple, with its unit-construction lump mounted horizontally in a sprung frame. The ‘Tipo Tre Cilindri’ was a ‘gran turismo’ roadster. Its 120º crank layout would be seen again in MV’s 1960s world-beating racers.
The Amateur Motor Cycle Association was set up to promote off-road sport.

For his traditional show stealer George Brough squeezed a modified Austin 7 in-line four into a bike frame with two rear wheels.

In Germany DKW, which had been the world’s biggest motor cycle manufacturer, merged with Wanderer and car makers, Horsch and Audi Auto Union to form Auto Union.

Illuminated glass signposts were errected in Liverpool; the first pedestrian-operated traffic lights were installed on the Brighton Road, Croydon.

Matchless was working on the cammy 350 and 500cc Ajays. Also included in the AJS deal was a cammy 990cc V-twin that the Stevens boys had designed as a world speed record contender. It was being evaluated at Brooklands when news came that Ernst Henne had been to Hungary with the blown 750cc BMW to set a new record of 151.86mph.

Ariel launched a cobby ohv single, the 500cc Red Hunter. But Ariel was particularly dependent on exports and with the collapse of global markets the Selly Oak plant ground to a halt. Managing director Jack Sangster, whose father had started the firm in 1890, fought back. The factory contracted, staff were laid off (ace designer Val Page was snapped up by Triumph); others took pay cuts. Sangster poured his personal wealth into the kitty and the firm survived as Ariel Works (JS) with just two frame designs covering the range of 250, 350 and 500cc singles and the 600cc ohc Square Four.

Tohatsu  was set up in Japan to manufacture propriatory engines.