Author Topic: Cottman Colt  (Read 490 times)

Offline 33d6

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Cottman Colt
« on: June 26, 2021, 07:56:47 AM »
I've started exploring info on the Cottman Colt, in the hope of refining that provided in Robs "A-Z of Australian made motorcycles". AOMC records list about 50 Colts on microfilm and possibly some more in the card system.

What I want to know is firstly,
Did Walter Cottman sell the Colt solely in Victoria or did he also sell some interstate? If solely in Victoria then possibly the AOMC list may include every one. If so there's a chance I can ascertain exactly when he started doing so.

And secondly,
Were they all re-badged Model A Royal Enfield or did he also sell other machines under the "Colt" name?

Finally, whilst exploring this has anyone got any other concerns I should keep an eye out for.

Cheers,

Offline cardan

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Re: Cottman Colt
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2021, 10:56:08 AM »
Here's the draft entry for the second edition.

COTTMAN COLT
Walter Cottman left his long-standing position as a director of Milledge Bros in June 1932 to form his own company, W.T. Cottman Pty Ltd, at 291 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, Victoria. Singer cars were the focus until 1938 when the business gained agencies for Triumph and Indian motorcycles. Sales manager at Cottmans in the 1940s, Ralph Aldridge, stated that Cottmans needed a two stroke to compete against the other dealers in Elizabeth St, and requested Royal Enfield to make some alterations to their model A 225cc two stroke and ship them minus any identification. Royal Enfield was slow to act and the first machine, sold as the Cottman ‘Colt’, did not arrive until late 1939 as WW2 was breaking out. Cottmans were stuck with the shipment of cheap but underpowered bikes, yet all were sold during the war years. A sales pamphlet for the Cottman Colt describes the machine as ‘The Pride of England – An Entirely New Motorcycle – Designed for Australian Conditions – Built to the order of W. T. Cottman Pty Ltd by world famed motorcycle engineers’, yet shows a machine looking very like a 1939 Royal Enfield. At least one Cottman Colt survives, in restored condition.


In answer to your questions:
All/most sold in Victoria, so far as I know.
The only 'Colts' I know of are the REs.

Of course the reality may be different!

The earliest reference I have to the Cottman Colt is at the Albury Show in September 1939. I'd love to know the first registration date! There was a suggestion - possibly originating from Ralph Alridge - that there were "several hundred" Cottman Colts. I didn't put this in the draft entry because it seemed excessive. The rego record of 50+ sounds more realistic, as there is not much period advertising, and there are few survivors.

Leon

Offline 33d6

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Re: Cottman Colt
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2021, 03:08:24 PM »
I have just sorted through the seventeen record cards additional to the fifty odd microfilm entries and found the card details more or less confirm the Ralph Aldridge story.
Of the seventeen cards the two earliest registrations date from June 1939 and the rest were all registered for the first time after WWII had started. These first registrations stretched over years with the final one in 1943.
Possibly the early two registrations were sample bikes that Cottman got to try out before they committed themselves. Those two machines were registered two days apart.
Of the other cards one was a stolen bike report from Qld and another an ex-WA bike now returned to Victoria. Both these bore post war dates so no idea of the machines provenance. When/how did they get interstate?
That makes a total of some sixty five or so Cottman Colts. Is the card detail enough to let the draft entry stand?

Offline cardan

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Re: Cottman Colt
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2021, 04:00:10 PM »
Brilliant - very interesting stuff. I had never dreamed that such detail would be available, having grown up with the idea that there were no rego records.

I have the typing machine, and can incorporate new info into the draft with ease, but I think you see the problem I am finding all the time: in a book outlining 550 or so Australian motorcycle brands, how much detail does one put in for each entry? By the time you start saying "two CCs arrived first, followed by a gap, then the rest..." and making it sound good, the word count grows quickly, but does the reader get that much more?

Being able to search the scanned newspapers is an extraordinary advantage over the old days. An Australia-wide search for "Cottman Colt" would likely show up repeated adverts in an interstate newspaper, so not finding anything much gives confidence to say that the Cottman Colt was not retailed actively interstate. Add to that a "feel" for the local industry. Cottman & Co were a Melbourne retail business, with bike and car agencies, who just wanted to sell more bikes than the guy next door - they weren't trying to take over the country with the Cottman Colt! Other cities around the country had their own equivalents - the Acmes, Waratahs, Utilities...

The thing I fear most is "losing" information. In this case in the draft I deliberately left out "stories" that could have been put in. For example that there were "several hundred" Cottman Colts, that the bikes were ordered from RE with modifications that were subsequently incorporated into the 1939 models. I'm sure these stories were told in good faith, but sometimes they don't quite stand up to scrutiny. If there were "hundreds" of CCs to get rid of, there would be big adverts and low prices (didn't happen), and of course the 1939 RE models were finalised about August 1938...

Anyway, we'll add the 65-ish bikes, the bulk of which arrived towards the end of 1939. Great stuff!

Thanks

Leon

Offline 33d6

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Re: Cottman Colt
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2021, 02:25:47 AM »
Good stuff, Leon.
These AOMC records are both a blessing and a curse. There are some 5,000,000 cards involved plus microfilms and in one way or another cover from pre First World War up to early 1980’s when the computerisation was completed. Information is there but it involves physically hauling out a tray of cards then counting and note taking or rolling through microfilm, counting and note taking.This is simultaneously both fascinating and bloody boring, the sort of job that’s very interesting as long as someone else does it.
Anyway, we seem to have the Cottman Colt covered. My next thought is clarifying the last sentence in the Barb entry. Did or did not Finlay’s sell Barb auto cycles. Just a simple one.

Offline cardan

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Re: Cottman Colt
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2021, 04:21:48 AM »
My next thought is clarifying the last sentence in the Barb entry. Did or did not Finlay’s sell Barb auto cycles. Just a simple one.

Yes, they did. http://classicmotorcycleforum.com/index.php?topic=6172.msg30338#msg30338

Wow - I didn't realise the records potentially go back to pre WW1. What a goldmine! Having done my share of trawling though original documents and microfilm, I appreciate how hard it is. That's why the digitisation of newspapers has been such a revolution.

As I mentioned above, I get most uneasy when I change an existing story. I've done this in the Utility story, where I think that the first date for a Utility motorcycle sold to the public in Melbourne was 1934-ish, rather than 1931 as previously stated. http://classicmotorcycleforum.com/index.php?topic=6172.msg30363#msg30363 - despite the company being in existence since 1931. The date of the first Utilty being registered would be of interest.

Is there anything on the cards that is not listed in the Victorian registration lists that were published in the early days? I have a copies of a couple of the early ones, up to 1915.

As an example, I know that 13774 was issued to Bertrand Firth (of Firth bros), 372 Toorak Rd, South Yarra,  for a v-twin motorcycle of which there is a photo. The engine is overhead valve, and was said to be built at the Firth Bros factory, and on the tank is an "FF" monogram (the Fs are overlapped) presumably to denote Firth Bros. Do the cards list anything like the hp of the engine, maker, or the name given to the motorcycle?

Cheers

Leon


Offline 33d6

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Re: Cottman Colt
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2021, 05:48:00 AM »
Whoa there, Leon. The AOMC has records going way back, not the card system. The card system started in the early 30’s.
I suggest you have a good browse through the AOMC website which explains all. It is www.aomc.asn.au Once you read what is offered on the website you’ll have more idea.
The card system is physically large and unwieldy. 5000,000 cards each roughly post card size fill up a helluva lot of filing cabinets. There are so many they are stacked two high so as to fit in the space available. I’m just a newbie volunteer sorting and checking the cards to ensure they are in order. It’s a small price to pay for the chance to look up obscure motorcycle stuff.
I suspect you already have the same information on the FF Firth that they have. Possibly our State Library would have further info on the FF Firth. It would be a matter of searching trade journals of the day.
Anyway, if not the Barb, I’ll see what Utility cards have to offer.
Cheers,