Author Topic: Junkyard Villiers find - Waratah history  (Read 9089 times)

Offline cardan

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Junkyard Villiers find - Waratah history
« on: February 02, 2021, 09:17:33 PM »
I have a car friend who likes to frequent a scrap metal yard in Melbourne. He was pleased as punch with his latest find, which seems to be a 9D (125cc) Villiers engine/gear unit? Complete with twistgrip. 33d6 - you need to be more vigilant?

Leon
« Last Edit: February 03, 2021, 05:36:36 AM by cardan »

Offline 33d6

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Re: Junkyard Villiers find
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2021, 10:43:33 PM »
I currently have several of them awaiting attention in my shed. Another one arriving would have to snuck in behind management. She was delighted to see a couple of engines go a few weeks back but not so happy when she saw the same deal include another engine coming in.
COVID lockdown has seen a lot of complicated manoeuvring to shuffle engines interstate without breaking the rules.
That particular 9D is ex -1946-49 Excelsior Universal. The one with the gear change coming up through a slot in the tank.
These gather a lot of attention if found with a Waratah transfer on the tank as the owners usually think they have a piece of Australian made exotica. Maybe so for prewar Waratah but post war are simply re-badged Excelsior. Not quite the same provenance.
Nevertheless, Iím pleased to see the wee beast saved. Itíll make someone very happy.

Offline cardan

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Re: Junkyard Villiers find
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2021, 12:23:29 AM »
That's interesting about Waratah and the Excelsior.

So are these Waratahs - from 1951 - Excelsior also? There was a 197cc model too.

Leon

Offline R

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Re: Junkyard Villiers find
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2021, 01:43:25 AM »
So are these Waratahs - from 1951 - Excelsior also? There was a 197cc model too.

Yes.

Its been discussed someplace that Waratahs were sold in Sydney by P & R Williams in Wentworth Ave,
and Excelsiors were sold just up the road by Tom Byrne. The Waratahs had a few shillings price advantage.
https://cybermotorcycle.com/gallery/classics-w/images/Waratah-1951-PR-Williams.jpg
The Excelsior adverts are trickier to find, I'll work on it.

What is not clear is when the Waratah decals were applied ?  Since the paint scheme is different between the Waratah
(black) and Excelsior (maroon), were the Waratah tanks shipped out bare and the decal applied in Oz, or did Excelsior apply the decal even ?
Or was some level of finish done in Oz ??

Offline cardan

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Re: Junkyard Villiers find
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2021, 02:20:16 AM »
I don't know about the decals, but one thing I've learned in studying the Australian industry is that companies here were pragmatic. If Excelsior offered to paint and affix transfers for a good price, this would save an awful lot of time and mucking about when uncrating bikes off the boat. My bet is Waratah transfers went on in the UK.

Here's an interesting snippet for the Waratah story. The first reference I have is in 1911, when Waratahs were offered with a 4 1/2 hp Fafnir engine. At the time, the Canada Cycle and Motor Agency Ltd (W. A. Williams was the Manager, three Williams on the board of directors), makers of the Waratah, were importing agents for Douglas and Excelsior. Perhaps the Excelsior connection lasted all those years. 1953 is the last year I've seen mention of Waratah.

Leon


Offline cardan

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Re: Junkyard Villiers find
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2021, 02:55:15 AM »
How about this Waratah, from 1938. Excelsior? Or...?

Leon

Offline 33d6

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Re: Junkyard Villiers find
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2021, 03:26:27 AM »
Interesting. Definitely Excelsior and in fact is the exact Excelsior model involved in the frame number query G4 571 of a few days back. It is an Excelsior ďMeritorĒ 250. The cheapest of the various 250ís Excelsior made at that time.
I always thought P&R Williams started rebadging Excelsior in the 1940ís. I didnít know they were doing it in pre war days. Thatís a very helpful photo. It adds a little more to the story.
Can I ask itís provenance?
Cheers,

Offline cardan

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Re: Junkyard Villiers find
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2021, 03:56:48 AM »
Sorry, not my usual file name structure. I clipped this out of a one page article in The Australian Motor Cyclist in March 1938.

This is getting very interesting. I've been doing some serious trawling and I'm beginning to doubt that ANY Waratah was made in Australia. At least after some date. It's that pragmatism thing: why bother to build a motorcycle if someone else will build it for you, and still give you a good profit margin.

Let's try to find a Waratah that ISN'T an Excelsior. How about this one from 1928?

Leon

Offline cardan

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Re: Junkyard Villiers find
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2021, 04:02:19 AM »
Or the 1924 model - here's both sides of the same bike, I think, even though from different newspapers.

Leon

Offline R

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Re: Junkyard Villiers find
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2021, 04:56:38 AM »
I'm sure I've read that the Waratah and Acme and several others were built up from components.
Surely they couldn't claim in any measure to be 'Australian' if they were fully imported.
I'm not sure I haven't seen pics of Bennett and Wood building up Acme motorcycles, to some degree ?

I wonder if we have left it too late to hear from someone who worked there what actually went on ?
Or if it would have been reported in a magazine someplace.
The tax or import duty folks might take a dim view if what was being claimed wasn't being adhered to ?!

But, if the Waratah was only a few shillings the difference with an imported Excelsior, it sounds like
there was no real savings - post WW2 era anyway.

Offline cardan

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Re: Junkyard Villiers find
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2021, 05:22:53 AM »
Surely they couldn't claim in any measure to be 'Australian' if they were fully imported.

There's the rub: Williams Bros. most often claimed the Waratah to be "British"! This doesn't necessarily mean that they were actually made in Britain - for example Invincible JAP liked to mention the word "British" a lot, despite being made in Australia - but in the case of Waratah I'm now wondering just how many, if any, bikes were built or assembled in Australia.

There is a large Wikipedia page on Waratah, compiled by a number of authors: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waratah_motorcycles with lots of references to original articles. Unfortunately the authors don't seem to have followed through with the info in some of these.

Over here in South Australia, we had Elliott Bros producing Villiers-engined bikes in reasonable numbers through the 1920s. I happen to know they assembled them in their factory, in part because I have a box of left-over lugs in the shed that came from Elliott when they closed! But is there any evidence of Williams Bros actually making anything?

Let's explore the "all Waratahs are badged Excelsiors" idea until we come up with something that is certainly not Excelsior. Then we can think about where that came from!

I see there is a Waratah Facebook page, which neither Google nor I can see. Perhaps they know the proper story?

Cheers

Leon


Offline cardan

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Re: Junkyard Villiers find - Waratah history
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2021, 05:43:56 AM »
Back to the 9D Villiers:

The Museum of Applied Arts and Science has what looks to be a tidy c1948 Waratah: https://collection.maas.museum/object/61186

Engine No. 580/31457 (compare 580/33202 on the junkyard engine)
Frame No. AU/2517

The 580 is the Excelsior engine code, and the "AU" on the frame number is interesting.

Leon
« Last Edit: February 03, 2021, 05:45:34 AM by cardan »

Offline R

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Re: Junkyard Villiers find - Waratah history
« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2021, 07:28:25 AM »
My little Waratah is almost identical in appearance to the MAAS one. I had a very good look at it when it was on display.

My engine code is 539/     and a number about 6000 more, Frame is AU/     and a number about 700 more.

I bought it at a farm clearing sale from the original owner. He bought it from P&R Williams in Sydney in 1945 with his pay from being demobbed,
and rode it (with petrol coupons) out into western NSW. At a steady ~30 mph, he said it took him a day and a half to get home.
And used three coupons.  (3 gallons !)

I corresponded with a few folks over these.
I don't think anyone has found the full history yet, beyond the bare outlines,  unless someone has unearthed something recently ?

The MAAS one has a single (redone ?) broad gold pinstripe on the tank, whereas mine has some very fine gold stripes.
(Almost worn away).

I need to refresh my memory, but the Waratah has different exhaust details to the equivalent Excelsior ?
Inc the Waratah having black mufflers.


Offline R

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Re: Junkyard Villiers find - Waratah history
« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2021, 08:49:53 AM »
« Last Edit: February 03, 2021, 08:57:00 AM by R »

Offline 33d6

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Re: Junkyard Villiers find - Waratah history
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2021, 09:34:32 AM »
539 identifies a 9D originally fitted to a post war James ML. AU is the Excelsior frame identifier for the immediate post war 1946-49 9D powered Excelsior Universal. (Excelsior used Universal as a model name over a variety of low capacity machines).
The black muffler was common on many of the cheaper end two-strokes. Decoking silencers was a regular job and the easiest and cheapest way to do it was to burn the muck out. As this ruined any chrome plating why plate it? Just paint it black and save a few bob. It was no bother for the owner to give the silencer a fresh coat of paint or even cheaper to just apply a coat of domestic stove blacking. Stove blacking was a common domestic item found in just about every kitchen back then.

Iíd like to explore the ďall Waratah are ExcelsiorĒ as well but Iíve written enough this time.