Author Topic: Utility motorcycles  (Read 3105 times)

Offline 33d6

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #15 on: December 09, 2021, 10:20:53 AM »
Sorry Leon, no frame numbers.
 
For some mysterious reason although chassis numbers were required on the car engine record cards and a space allotted for their inclusion frame numbers were not included on the motorcycle card. Just one of those mysterious bureaucratic decisions I suppose. So mostly they aren't there but sometimes they are and we don't know why they were added. Just as sometimes the name and address of the owner is included so for example I know that 84 odd years ago Colin Christie of The Sisters via Terang first registered his new 148cc Utility on 29/1/1937 and that the engine number was GY7503. (No frame number). I've no idea why all that was written down on his card but it was.  Mostly though only the minimal clerical details are given.

Getting precise dates of first registration is equally frustrating.

Remember that registration of your vehicle is payable annually. The month and day of the month it is due was important to the authorities but the actual year wasn't because it was an annual fee. They didn't care what year it was, you had to put your hand in your pocket every year and pay up regardless. Consequently I am just as liable to find that instead of the whole date such as 9/12/2021 being recorded that the card just has 9/12 without the year. 

Essentially when looking at cards en masse  one can easily get a grasp of the overall trend but as far as giving precise information sometimes it's just down to pot luck. Yes, the Police book gives 1931 as the date of the first Utility. From the engine number records I can't go back much before 1935. I don't know why the difference.


Offline 33d6

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #16 on: December 14, 2021, 12:16:05 AM »
Well, slowly going through the digitised microfilm and slowly making sense of it all. It is in alphabetical order......sort of. As far as I can make out the microfilm was divided in two so as to both make it quicker to find stuff on the back half and to reduce the wear and tear on the film as you could start from either end. Anyway, all boring stuff but I'm getting the hang of it. Just don't rush me.

So, I've just steamed through Scott, Simplex, Speed, Star, Stevens, Sun and am on to Sunbeam.
Simplex I found 16 records. Earliest registration December 1936 and on up to mid 1939. All Villiers engines. One solitary 250, a couple of 196 cc 2E's and the rest 148cc Mk 12C powered.
I only found two Star, both  first registered 1938. Both initially powered by the ever popular Villiers 148cc Mk12C but one, engine number GY8739 had its engine replaced by an earlier Mk 8C engine number W46133 so if anyone thinks they have found a much earlier Star as the engine is so much earlier, they haven't.
The Speed is a curiousity. I wasn't that much interested as it's only a cyclemotor attached to a pushbike but it's faintly possible it may be a local production. Engine numbers start 49/ and the highest I've found to date is 49/14. Sometimes I've found it listed as "pedal cycle with engine attachment(Speed)" and sometimes as just a 'Speed". I haven't really looked carefully as cyclemotors don't exactly get me in a lather of excitement but there's enough there for me to wonder if some local firm made them. It's just an itch I'll have to scratch some time.

An exciting summer lies ahead (not) as I keep trying to make sense of this stuff. The aim is to try and get the lot in some semblance of order so I know what makes are listed, on what microfilm and where I can find them. The current one I'm working on contains some 6000 records so knowing for example, that Rex Acme starts at 2097 and runs to 2147 makes it much easier to find. I need to do this with the lot of it. Idiots are easily amused aren't they.

Cheers,
 

Offline cardan

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #17 on: December 14, 2021, 01:37:15 AM »
Excellent! Having "finished" the Ss, I'm pleased that the entries for Simplex and Star seem to fit in with the rego data:

SIMPLEX
In 1936, 1937, and possibly 1938, Turner Bros, 291 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, Victoria, advertised Simplex Villiers motorcycles with 125 c.c., 148 c.c., 196 c.c., and 250 c.c. engines. The Simplex used a Burman gearbox and was said to be ‘built to suit Australian conditions.’ Although British made, the Simplex name was likely used only for export. [OK]

STAR (3)
In 1938, Finlay Bros, 322 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, Victoria, advertised Star Villiers motorcycles using the 148 c.c. Super Sports engine. The Star was likely British made, with the Star name used only for export. [OK]

If you give me some likely dates for "Speed" I will have a look in the newspapers. "Speed" is one of those words that is difficult to search for as it is everywhere - better to look for things that are easier to find like T is for Trescowthick or Treblig. Maybe the 49/ Speed engine numbers means that it's post WW2.

Cheers

Leon

Offline 33d6

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #18 on: December 14, 2021, 04:17:29 AM »
About the only thing I’d comment on is Finlay’s bragging about the 148cc “Super Sports” engine.  It was most pointedly not a “Super Sport” a term Villiers did use with certain engines but was instead their bottom of the range cooking model. It was of the fixed head and cast iron piston variety whereas the “Super Sport” variants had both alloy head and piston and held a remarkable number of World Records in the 175cc class.
I wouldn’t care about Finlay’s advertising puffery if it weren’t for the number of dreamers I get who think any Villiers engine with two exhaust ports is a “racing” engine. They don’t need encouragement.
I’ll go back over the Speed stuff a bit more carefully.
Finally, the Rego branch did register the odd bike as a Villiers or Sports Villiers. As far as I can see they were just bikes where the name on the tank was gone. Another mystery to poke and prod in due course.

Offline cardan

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #19 on: December 14, 2021, 07:18:09 AM »
I blame Finlay Bros for the "Super Sport" thing!! See attached. Interesting what insight the rego records bring.

Re Villiers as a name: There were certainly "Australian-made" bikes that carried the name. I've recently done "T is for Torpedo", where Charles Hay in Launceston Tasmania built and sold Torpedo Villiers motorcycles. But for 18 months preceding this he built and sold Villiers motorcycles. The bikes were the Spark motor set, with (from 1924) the 247cc Villiers (what was this engine called?) and 3-speed Sturmey Archer. So not very exciting - in fact not exciting at all - but it certainly was an example of an Australian-made motorcycle sold as Villiers. That said, I suppose it looked identical to the Coventry-built Spark/Sparkbrook.

Cheers

Leon

« Last Edit: December 14, 2021, 07:26:52 AM by cardan »

Offline 33d6

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #20 on: December 15, 2021, 04:15:11 AM »
That Tassie Torpedo Villiers would have had one of Villers first 250cc engines, either the 6A, (1922-23) engine number prefix J, or a 7A, (1924-25) engine number prefix S. It all depends on how long it took for the order to travel to and the engines to come from the UK. All sea mail and sea freight in those days. Possibly they could have speeded things up by sending the order via electric telegraph, (cutting edge technology back then). Often it's the back story to all these things that fascinates me. As you say, the bike is not that exciting in itself but the story on how it came to be erected in Tasmania is a story in itself.
On other things that Finlay ad just confirms what I wrote earlier. The Simplex and Star had identical engines. Finlays adding on 'Super Sport' to their version was just advertising puffery. Nothing different to today is it.

The 'SPEED' engines. All told I found eleven cards listing the Speed engine but with duplicate cards and the things being recorded under two headings, both as pedal cycles with engine and by engine alone it finally boiled down to three engines. These were numbered 49/1, first registered 2/6/49. 49/2, first registered 5/9/49, and 49/14, first registered 7/11/49. They must have been pure cyclemotors as each was installed on a pushbike frame, one Myer, one Albion and the other un named. Cycle motors enjoyed a fad at that time along with various bods selling sets of castings for owners to build their own. I still have the plans to build the 'Busy Bee' version offered by the Model Engineer in 1951. Perhaps it was something along these lines. A nice little mystery to chew on when things are quiet.

Finally, when ploughing through the Speed stuff I chanced on an odd PASCOE. Engine number 18/68642 and first registered 5/6/1937. That engine number smacks of AMC, the old Matchless/AJS firm. They sold engines separately to various low volume builders back then, usually using the AJS engine prefix to identify the capacity. The 18 prefix would identify this engine as a 500 ohv single. Is this of any interest?

Cheers,



   

Offline 33d6

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #21 on: December 18, 2021, 11:18:15 PM »
I found another cache of Utility engine cards. Nothing changes except the number of Utility sold doubles to around 250 machines. The percentage of each type of engine stays roughly the same so as before the majority sold were 148cc bikes with the Mk12C engine. I did find a handful of 250cc machines having a 250cc Villiers rather than the 250cc ohv J.A.P.but they seem to be an addition to the range and not replacing the J.A.P. 250’s.

I’ve also found a solitary “Swift” motorcycle. Any idea of provenance Leon?

I keep ploughing on.

Offline cardan

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #22 on: December 19, 2021, 06:35:33 AM »
Wow - 250 Utilities is quite few!

Re the Utility: The 148cc Mk12C Utility ran right through to the end of the 1930s? And where does the 250 Villiers fit in - post 1935?

Re the Pascoe: The man was Stan Pascoe, the bikes were Pasco, and the last Pasco motorcycle (in my opinion) was made around 1922. Pascoe sold Paco bicycles until 1934. So, unless 'your' Pasco is something weird and 1930s, I'm guessing it was a JAP twin, in which case "18/68642" as an engine number is no good but 8/68642 would be perfect for a 1920-build Australian-made JAP. If you had a decent 770cc JAP twin/3-speed Sturmey Archer chain/belt transmission Pasco in 1937 it could still serve a purpose on the road - worth re-registering.

Re the Swift: The British Ariel-linked Swift seemed to run out of puff around 1915, but some of them did have gearboxes, so, like the Pasco, putting one back on the road in the depression is not out of the question?

Re the Speed: I had a quick look but came up with nothing at all. As I said, "speed" is a rotten name to search for since the word appears everywhere. Luckily (!) we're stopping at WW2, but I'll be interested if anyone knows what a "Speed" is.

Cheers

Leon

Offline 33d6

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #23 on: December 19, 2021, 10:57:21 AM »
Yes, the last Mk 12C powered Utility were sold in late 1939 with the final one I found first registered in April 1940. Those powered by a 250cc Villers were all post 1935. 
It’s the Mk8C powered ones I’m curious about. The Mk8C was made 1923-47 but in theory was no longer available for motorcycles once the Mk12C came on stream in 1931. Obviously this didn’t seem to matter if they were in bikes built for far distant overseas markets.
The Pascoe and Swift will just have to remain mysteries I suppose.
I shall keep nibbling away at the Speed. Possibly a browse around the State Library catalogues may be useful.

Offline 33d6

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #24 on: January 24, 2022, 05:34:58 AM »
Gaaahhh! Bloody microfilm records. I think making sense of these microfilmed records is the modern equivalent of a mediaeval torture dungeon. From what I've ploughed through to date it appears that VicRoads microfilmed what they thought were redundant records in bursts from about 1970 to 1983. It seems every now and then they'd do another batch. All roughly in alphabetical order but not necessarily bothering to blend them in correct alphabetical order with earlier batches. Sometimes they did, sometimes not. Cataloguing this stuff has turned from a slow plodding slog to something that would give a zombie a brain melt. Quiveringly dull but with so many bizarre mistakes and confused identities I can't afford to relax. Dippy things like when looking up Benelli records remember to look up the separate BOnelli records as well. Nor can I list how many ways VicRoads could spell Bombardier plus remember they included Bombardier snowmobiles in the motorcycle records (but not all snowmobiles).
Anyway, nothing of interest to note except the surviving Balmain Precision (already in the A-Z) popped up as re-registered in 1960. Reg no 036. I suspect this was an early red plate club permit concession. I hadn't appreciated how long our club permit scheme has been around.
The other thing of minor interest is the Barb. I've found records of four Barb autocycles so far, all immediately pre WWII, double what was previously thought. Each fitted with the up to 1939 Villiers Junior engine, not the later and much better Junior de Luxe. Each survived wartime usage and stayed on the road well into the 1950's. So far I've found no hint that Villiers sent any wartime motorcycle engines out here but appear to have supplied the home market only. Perhaps that stopped the Barb in it's tracks.

   

Offline cardan

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #25 on: January 24, 2022, 11:12:27 AM »
So is the Barb autocycle in this post a Junior, or Junior de Luxe? http://classicmotorcycleforum.com/index.php?topic=6172.msg30338#msg30338

Leon

Offline 33d6

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #26 on: January 25, 2022, 12:16:03 AM »
A poor photo, Leon but I’m confident it’s a Junior.
The two can be differentiated at a glance. The later Junior deLuxe sports a detachable alloy head whereas the earlier Junior had a single unit, cast iron, fixed head and barrel.
There are multiple other minor differences but the alloy head is the most obvious, even to the most casual observer.
That photo shows the top end of the engine as a single dark coloured lump. I think an alloy head would have shown as a light coloured blob even if not clear enough to be recognisable as the cylinder head.

As an aside I’ve been surprised at the sheer number of auto cycles, cycle motors, mopeds and scooters in these records. Not of great interest to us and most disappeared when car ownership became more accessible but an interesting social phenomena all the same. It shows how much people value their mobility and will travel on anything if that’s all they can afford.

Offline 33d6

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #27 on: February 18, 2022, 03:38:25 AM »
I have the 'ESSEX' rego cards. You mentioned you were trying to pin down the lost make 'ESSEX' sometime back Leo. I seem to have gained some degree of confidence with the Keeper of the Cards and am now allowed to sort motorcycle cards in addition to the interminable Ford stuff. As I have a couple of Excelsior I asked if I could start with them and what make do you think was sitings right in front of Excelsior? 
I have no knowledge of the ESSEX. I'd never heard of it until Leon told us of it. Was it a local Victorian confection or did it originate in another State? As it is there were eight ESSEX registered here in Victoria. All Villiers powered. Three with the 196cc 1E engine and five with the 147cc Mk VIIIC. As usual for the era only the day and month of registration was recorded. The actual year was not included but I compared the engine numbers with other known dated engines and they all seem to be very early thirties 1931-32 or thereabouts.
What is the ESSEX story Leon?

Cheers,

Offline cardan

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #28 on: February 18, 2022, 05:19:58 AM »
Brilliant, as usual - thanks.

Eight Essexes would tie in with what we know from the advertising: only a small number of adverts in the Melbourne papers between May and October 1930. Perhaps one or two shipments? They were sold by the Melbourne Motor Cycle Co., 395-397 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, Victoria.

In May 1930 the advert ran: "Just Arrived, Essex (Villiers) 2-stroke. A new, sturdy, man-sized job, offering value beyond all. From £30 10/ and £10 deposit."

I've not come across Essex outside of Victoria.

And that's all we know. The name Essex is not listed amongst the British makes, so it was either a very small maker, or a name used for export only, or, less likely, a name added to the bikes when they arrived. It would be fun to understand better how the wholesale trade worked at the time.

Anyway it's worth listing in case someone in Melbourne unearths an Essex, or even a photo of grandpa on his Essex. But with only 8 bikes in total, we may never know. Without a photo it's hard to begin to guess what the "man-sized" beast may have begun life as.

Cheers

Leon