Author Topic: “Star” motorcycles  (Read 637 times)

Offline 33d6

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“Star” motorcycles
« on: August 13, 2021, 02:36:47 PM »
I’ve just come across an entry for “Star” motorcycles in Vic Police records. Another of those series of Villiers powered mystery bikes from the 1930’s. It looks like one batch came in the early 30’s and then another in 1938. That’s allI know at this stage.
I see there is an entry for a single Star in Robs A-Z but nothing about this lot.
Do you know anything about these Leon?
I’ll see what the AOMC engine records show when the current lockdown lifts but can’t do much until then.
Finally, does anyone know what was going on? Why bring in machines under your own brand name on the tank? It’s not as if they’re upmarket sporting machinery. They’re all just bottom of the market ride to work stuff.

Offline mini-me

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Re: “Star” motorcycles
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2021, 04:46:29 PM »
Quite a few  utility machines bought in /assembled sold under own names here in UK  the 1930s, James Grose did, so did the Co-Op. If I get really really bored I'll see if I can find more.

Its like other consumable commodities, buy enough, stick what name you like on the tank. No one was fooled, just wanted cheap transport.

Offline 33d6

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Re: “Star” motorcycles
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2021, 03:37:32 AM »
You’re right about UK history mini-me but James Grose and the Co-Op were just buying a local product made down the road. Dead easy. This is a bit different. These are bikes imported halfway round the world with all the freight charges, taxes, duties and suchlike on top and then sold under obscure names by firms nowhere near the size of James Grose or the Co-Op.
There had to be a profit in it or why do it?
There seems a distinct pattern emerging. The majority are Villiers powered bottom of the market stuff. It seems that various second tier British firms, Montgomery, Diamond, Wolf and the like were happy to oblige and rebrand their goods to suit, but why?
Why were all parties happy to disguise what they were making and selling and making no more than a token attempt at the disguise?
I’d love to know.

Offline john.k

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Re: “Star” motorcycles
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2021, 08:01:03 AM »
First thing I notice is when a bike hit the sales floor here,it was twice the price it was in England...the Australian pound was the same value as Sterling...The difference was a very high tariff rate ,(unless some substantial portion was made here).,and very high dealer markups.

Offline cardan

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Re: “Star” motorcycles
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2021, 08:42:09 AM »
One thing I have learned is that business ideas and practice in the early days of the motor industry were no different to those of the present day. Profit was key, and to get there you needed customer satisfaction and return customers, and to get those you needed good product and good advertising. I can see reason offering a range of machines in your store, and trying to make your cheapest lines different from the others.
Presumably there was also some way to minimise tariffs? Perhaps there was more "knocked down" importation than we know about, and maybe an Australian "brand" for the built up product somehow helped? I don't know.
Re Star in the 1930s - no idea! There are two Star motorcycles on the Australian list at the moment, both pre-1920 with no possible link to the 1930s. Also Imperial Star, Malvern Star, Red Star, Seven Star, Silver Star, and Western Star, but of these only Malvern Star would be 1930s. Could Malvern Stars have been registered as Star?
I'll have a look for other Star possibilities when I get a chance.
Cheers
Leon

Offline Rex

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Re: “Star” motorcycles
« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2021, 08:58:37 AM »
The majority are Villiers powered bottom of the market stuff. It seems that various second tier British firms, Montgomery, Diamond, Wolf and the like were happy to oblige and rebrand their goods to suit, but why?

I should imagine that in the hard-times of the 1920s/30s if you went to one of those "economy" firms with an order for multiple bikes they'd welcome you with open arms. Probably paint them any colour or stick any name on that you wanted them to at no extra cost too.
Then if you could arrange cheap shipping on some tramp steamer you're good to go.
As you say, a profit must have been made or it wouldn't have happened, and presumably the rebadging was done to give a local connection with a possible/hopeful increase in sales?

Offline mini-me

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Re: “Star” motorcycles
« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2021, 09:56:05 AM »
Own name selling still goes on although it baffles me why supermarkets sell it under their own name.

I used to sell a lot of Comma oils back in the 1980s, some people wouldn't touch it saying it was inferior. I once had occasion to go to their depot to collect an order of monogrades. Discussing this with the guy there he simply said 'look over there' ...marked tankers from 'high end' suppliers were unloading into Comma storage tanks. he said they hear a lot of BS about their oil, such as its all reclaimed, he said aircraft oils are all reclaimed oil as it was re-refined to a higher spec than the stuff in vehicles.

It all starts off from a hole in some  sandy shiiiit country.

He also said if you buy enough of the stuff we'll supply it  branded as mini-me's grumpy oil. Theres a thought, guaranteed to shut up squeakers.

afterthought, 1980, ancient history for wearers of man bobs and tattoo, day before yesterday for anyone over 65.

Offline R

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Re: “Star” motorcycles
« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2021, 10:50:32 PM »
and presumably the rebadging was done to give a local connection with a possible/hopeful increase in sales?

I'd suspect that the rebadging was done so that the local distributer didn't get his nose out of joint by another retailer selling the same brand as he was
- and for which he had the EXCLUSIVE franchise !

We mentioned Tom Byrne in Sydney selling Excelsiors just postwar, and down the road 100 yards were Waratahs, identical except for paint and decals.
And a quid less expensive ...

Offline cardan

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Re: “Star” motorcycles
« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2021, 11:45:14 AM »
So there was a Star motorcycle, in 1938, 148cc Villiers engine. Finlay Bros? Not sure yet, but I have added it to the "Ss", and will tackle it when/if I get there. Got to finish the Ls first. M, N, O... aghhh.

Many thanks, 33d6.

Leon

Offline cardan

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Re: “Star” motorcycles
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2021, 01:26:10 PM »
And yet another Villiers: "The Essex-Villiers, 2 strokes, The New Man-size Lightweight", sold by The Melbourne Motor Cycle Co., 395-397 Elizabeth St, Melbourne, during 1930. These were "just arrived" in May 1930, so they were probably another of the rebadged British imports.

Leon

Offline mini-me

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Re: “Star” motorcycles
« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2021, 02:17:14 PM »
Without taking the pee, was there much heavy industry in Oz 1920/30s ? did they gear up for the war effort?

Seem to me it would be logical to import a shipload of mixed Villiers engines and frame lugs rather than rely on developing home grown stuff.

Oz being such a vast bit of real estate reliability would be top of the list for any transport, and Villiers engines were proven reliable kit.

Offline 33d6

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Re: “Star” motorcycles
« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2021, 03:22:41 PM »
The population of Australia in the 1930’s was 6.5-7million. This spread over an area some 32 times the size of the UK. Finding labour for any sort of job was always difficult. Skilled trade labour even harder. Most of these Australian bikes we talk of were made exactly as you suggest. Imported bundles of tube and lugs plus engine but were assembled by small bicycle shops and small firms with few employees. These firms were more or less confined to local sales within a few hundred miles of their shop as it took as much effort to ship a bike across Australia as it did to ship one from the UK. It takes as much effort to prepare goods for shipment 100 miles as it does for 10,000 miles and the same amount of effort to prepare it for sale at the receiving end. The moving bit in the middle is the easy bit. It just takes time.
It’s only in the last 50 years or so that things have got better.

Offline R

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Re: “Star” motorcycles
« Reply #12 on: August 16, 2021, 02:10:55 AM »
was there much heavy industry in Oz 1920/30s ? did they gear up for the war effort?

I'm not sure that motorcycle manufacture would be 'heavy industry', they'd be light industrial ?

There was a thriving industry in the teens and 20s for taking JAP engines and slotting them into locally made frames and cycleparts.
Probably a dozen brands or more that made quite a number - well more than a mere one or 2.
And lots of engine types/gearboxes/frame lugs/cycleparts were involved in this sort  of manufacture also.
There are pages and pages devoted to this in Rob Sawards A-Z of Ausatralian made motorcycles.


Much Australian industry was involved in the WW2 effort.
Many a car maker and other industries were making guns and tanks and trucks and ammo etc etc.
At the end of the war, Oz had the 4th largest airforce in the world.
Mostly spits and and mustangs and B17s etc as lend/lease imports, but many an engine was made/rebuilt locally.
We diverge ..

There's little evidence that Villiers engines were built into locally made frames though.
Photos of any such assembly are in very short supply - even from makers who were reputed to be doing this ???
Full imports seems to have become the norm in the 1930s and postwar ?




Offline cardan

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Re: “Star” motorcycles
« Reply #13 on: August 16, 2021, 04:22:26 AM »
There's little evidence that Villiers engines were built into locally made frames though.
Photos of any such assembly are in very short supply - even from makers who were reputed to be doing this ???
Full imports seems to have become the norm in the 1930s and postwar ?

Yes I agree. Mind you, in the 1930s very few Australian firms claimed to be building their own Villiers lightweights. Perhaps only Acme (Bennett & Wood), and I suppose I believe them. The others - Star, Essex, Simplex, Utility, Waratah, B&W Wasp, B&W Hornet, Utility, Cottman Colt (RE), and probably more - were very likely just rebranded imports, although I have an open mind if more info comes to light. It's not very glamorous, but it is part of the story.

Leon

Offline 33d6

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Re: “Star” motorcycles
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2021, 06:23:25 AM »
Looked up 'Essex' in my Vic Police book and yes, there they are. Two models, a 147 powered by the MkVIII-C and a 196 powered by the 1E. This is near the last gasp of the Mk VIII-C as it was superseded by the Mk XII-C in 1931 while the 1E was the first of the new class of 200cc engines introduced in 1929. It was the cooking version with cast iron piston and fixed head. The hot stuff 196cc Super Sport was still a couple of years off.
Note 196cc, not 197 as were the post war engines.
Yet another make awaiting exploration in the AOMC records when lockdown finally lifts. As well as Utility, I now have Simplex, Star, and Essex to explore. Makes a little Villiers heart beat all a'quiver this does.
I think I shall take up a new nom de plume and sign my scribblings G.P.G. Otherwise known as the Grey Porridge Guru.
You may shudder mini-me but no one ever looks at my Villiers stuff and tells me it's the wrong colour for the year, or it has a cadmium plated thrumblestick when that year it was polished or some other such rubbish. They're just fun bikes for old farts.