Author Topic: "1939 Chell Sport", or just an Australian-made Acme  (Read 1105 times)

Offline cardan

  • Advanced Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1041
  • Karma: +18/-5
    • View Profile
    • earlymotor.com
    • Email
"1939 Chell Sport", or just an Australian-made Acme
« on: October 25, 2022, 07:24:53 AM »
The folks doing the catalogue for Shannons Spring Auction have gone into overdrive on lot 58: https://www.shannons.com.au/auctions/2022-shannons-spring-timed-online-auction/B5TX191B2Q4F6VBD/

With engine number 351/42256 (Villiers 9D, presumably) and frame number C1268, isn't the bike likely to be a Acme built by Bennett & Wood in Sydney rather than a product of the Chell Motor Company Limited of Moorfield Road, Wolverhampton?

I think we decided that 351 was the Villiers code for their 9D Acme motors - is there a date? I think some Acmes had frame prefix B and others C, but I'm not an Acme expert.

"The only Chell with an Australian history, the bike must be one of the rarest and most unusual British lightweights in the country and a great addition to any collector."

A story explaining how the owner spent $16,000 on the restoration 12 years ago would be fascinating.

Chell, or Acme?

[Edit: I wonder if the "42" at the start of the engine number means 1942? I've seen a later Acme with engine number 351/1287...]

Leon
« Last Edit: October 25, 2022, 07:36:20 AM by cardan »

Offline Rex

  • Advanced Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1461
  • Karma: +11/-68
  • I love YaBB 1G - SP1!
    • View Profile
Re: "1939 Chell Sport", or just an Australian-made Acme
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2022, 08:59:57 AM »
I know nothing about these bikes, but would it likely that the engine was manufactured in 1942?
I reckon Villiers might have had other priorities around that time..

Offline cardan

  • Advanced Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1041
  • Karma: +18/-5
    • View Profile
    • earlymotor.com
    • Email
Re: "1939 Chell Sport", or just an Australian-made Acme
« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2022, 11:31:55 AM »
Yes I'm not sure, but Acmes were produced in Sydney up until 1942, then followed a gap until manufacture recommenced in 1947. So in the classifieds there are many "1942" Acmes, but just what engines were used I don't know. One of the customers for Acme was the Postmaster General, so maybe there was some special arrangement...

Despite being built on opposite sides of the world, the Chell and the Acme were essentially identical to look at, no doubt built from the same "set". http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/Museum/Transport/Motorcycles/Chell.htm

Leon

Offline R

  • Advanced Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1365
  • Karma: +26/-10
    • View Profile
Re: "1939 Chell Sport", or just an Australian-made Acme
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2022, 10:29:15 PM »
A story explaining how the owner spent $16,000 on the restoration 12 years ago would be fascinating.

Indeed !
Perhaps it was cramming all those "pistons and rings" in there - for a single cylinder.

You'd also wonder how the chassis number was thusly, if only a few were built.
As you rightly note ...

Wonder if B&W had a big stockpile of engines ?
« Last Edit: October 25, 2022, 10:33:35 PM by R »

Offline R

  • Advanced Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1365
  • Karma: +26/-10
    • View Profile
Re: "1939 Chell Sport", or just an Australian-made Acme
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2022, 10:40:32 PM »
P.S. Note that the factory Chell pic has tubular silencers.

And your memory is good on the number details.
Previous discussion on ACMEs
https://www.classicmotorcycleforum.com/index.php?topic=3602.5;wap2

(don't know why the archive stuff has lost its format style)

So 351/ and C frame prefix is clearly postwar Acme.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2022, 11:03:08 PM by R »

Offline 33d6

  • Advanced Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1031
  • Karma: +26/-4
  • I love YaBB 1G - SP1!
    • View Profile
Re: "1939 Chell Sport", or just an Australian-made Acme
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2022, 04:06:36 AM »
That description is sheer romance isn't it. It's not as if you have to go far in Sydney to see an Acme. The Powerhouse Museum has had one on display for years although it is a proper prewar example with  the 1939 B frame prefix and 1938-39 AAA prefix Villiers engine, not the postwar version with postwar numbers as listed by Shannons.
My personal favourite in the description is the bit about most Chell being scrapped for their aluminium content!! What aluminium content? The only aluminium content is in the Villiers engine  and as production of the 9D engine continued throughout the the war, (James ML military lightweight anyone?), why bother melting one 9D engine down to make another?
One could go on but essentially it's the same old blurb served up yet again without any thought given to it. For example, by 1939 speedometers were a legal requirement for all motorcycles over 100cc yet you'll notice that makers invariably advertised and sold them as an extra accessory as reported here. Current day writers just repeat the old guff without thought. It makes you realise that todays consumer protection laws arose out of some very dodgy practices.
Finally, just for Leon, were Acme produced in Sydney up until 1942 or did it just take until 1942 to sell off the initial 1939 batch? The last Cottman Colt was first registered in 1943 but Cottman only received the one batch of machines late in 1939 shortly after war had been declared. It took years to clear them all. There were many wartime controls on both purchase and operating civilian vehicles back then. Even if you could buy, one registration each year was on an 'as needed' basis plus you had to get ration tickets for petrol. Every obstacle was put in the way of any civilian having a set of wheels for private and casual use. If you weren't aiding the war effort you were off the road.
I wonder if Shannons have had any feedback?
Cheers,
 

Offline cardan

  • Advanced Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1041
  • Karma: +18/-5
    • View Profile
    • earlymotor.com
    • Email
Re: "1939 Chell Sport", or just an Australian-made Acme
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2022, 08:08:06 AM »
It's hard to be perfect on this old stuff, but we could do better than the Shannon's guff.

Certainly new Acmes were being sold up until 1942, but you're right they could have been just built from the initial batch of motors and frame parts.

Not sure exactly how the numbers work: is 351/42256 just a very late 9D number?

Ditto with Acme frame numbers! I don't imagine that C1268 is the 1268th Acme built, but if I had a list of numbers I'm sure something sensible would fall into place.

So the Chell is very much post-war Acme - maybe 1948 or so - fitted with early pattern fishtail mufflers (expect "rayguns" for the 1947-on models), and of course the Webb pressed-steel fork rather than the earlier Sackville. What a pity its history has got so mixed up - it's always nice to know just what it is that you're restoring when you start restoring it.

I suppose I'll drop a note to Shannons, even though I hate doing it. Not much old-motorcycle expertise around these days.

Cheers

Leon

Offline cardan

  • Advanced Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1041
  • Karma: +18/-5
    • View Profile
    • earlymotor.com
    • Email
Re: "1939 Chell Sport", or just an Australian-made Acme
« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2022, 08:21:01 AM »
I dropped a note to Shannons.

They have added more to their description assuring us that the bike is a Chell, and a "before restoration" photo.

I was a pretty good thing: interesting that the fishtail mufflers were on the bike when found - maybe B&W had a few left up in the rafters from the pre-war bikes.

Leon

Offline R

  • Advanced Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1365
  • Karma: +26/-10
    • View Profile
Re: "1939 Chell Sport", or just an Australian-made Acme
« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2022, 08:27:22 AM »
We wonder how much that 'transport museum in Wolverhampton' knew about B&W ACME motorcycles ??
Or indeed some of the previous owners....

That before pic needs a better view of the Chell tank logos to be at all convincing !

« Last Edit: October 26, 2022, 08:29:49 AM by R »


Offline cardan

  • Advanced Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1041
  • Karma: +18/-5
    • View Profile
    • earlymotor.com
    • Email
Re: "1939 Chell Sport", or just an Australian-made Acme
« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2022, 10:37:12 AM »
I love that B&W transfer!

To be fair, the 1939 Acme and the 1939 Chell were more-or-less identical (someone tell me who supplied the frame kit - I'm too tired to figure it out), and so a UK expert could easily conclude that the bike was a Chell. In fact it would be a fair bet if the bike were found near Wolverhampton. But in Australia Acme would be a more reasonable first guess. What is pretty ordinary is giving a 1939 date to a bike with a 9D Villiers which doesn't have an AA or AAA engine prefix.  Oh well. Anyway, there's a nice Acme at an upcoming auction, but what we don't know is what fraction of his $16,000 spend the owner wants back!

Leon

Offline 33d6

  • Advanced Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1031
  • Karma: +26/-4
  • I love YaBB 1G - SP1!
    • View Profile
Re: "1939 Chell Sport", or just an Australian-made Acme
« Reply #11 on: October 26, 2022, 02:45:39 PM »
I strongly suspect those fishtail mufflers are Coventry Eagle mufflers mounted upside down. Probably locally made replicas so nice and cheap.
We had a thriving local trade making all sorts of vehicle spares so no great drama to use some of it but arranged in a slightly different manner so it looks unique.
Iím not surprised Shannonís are reluctant to change their blurb. If the seller claims the bike is a Chell theyíre rather stuck with his claim arenít they. They canít really say that the owner doesnít know what he is talking about and the bike is an entirely different marque.
Itís easy to pin the engine number down. Villiers changed their engine numbering system when they restarted civilian production after WWII. On the 9D they also changed where they stamped the number on the engine. In fact they used three different engine number positions on the 9D. Pre-war, wartime and post-war, so even without knowing the subtleties itís easy to place the engine within a particular timeframe. I can explain the full hoo ha if you want but suffice it to say there is absolutely no doubt that the engine is post-war Acme.
Cheers

Offline john.k

  • Advanced Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 510
  • Karma: +4/-0
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: "1939 Chell Sport", or just an Australian-made Acme
« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2022, 12:20:07 AM »
With what some Oz restorers charge ,Id say its quite possible to spend $16k on a lawnmower restoration.

Offline Rex

  • Advanced Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1461
  • Karma: +11/-68
  • I love YaBB 1G - SP1!
    • View Profile
Re: "1939 Chell Sport", or just an Australian-made Acme
« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2022, 06:10:12 PM »
Probably the same everywhere. Us amateurs doing it for the love of getting greasy can spend a whole morning on the bike and have nothing worthwhile to show for it at the end, but if you're doing it as a way of earning a crust someone has to be billed for that time whether it's productive or not.
Quickest way to cure yourself of a bike addiction....get a job working on them and dealing with their tight-arse owners. :-X

Offline cardan

  • Advanced Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1041
  • Karma: +18/-5
    • View Profile
    • earlymotor.com
    • Email
Re: "1939 Chell Sport", or just an Australian-made Acme
« Reply #14 on: October 28, 2022, 01:08:18 AM »
Yes I agree Rex - professional restoration is an expensive business. However have a close look at the Chell/Acme (see below) and it's way far from concours - those fork spindles look awfully like the original probably-worn-out parts.

I'm wondering whether the Chell identification is a red herring. On this page http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/Museum/Transport/Motorcycles/Chell.htm there are images of two Chell motorcycles. The top image, from the late motor historian Jim Boulton who was usually very reliable, is "exactly" the same as the Acme. A key feature of the Chell/Acme frame is the almost-vertical seat post which joins the frame loop vertically at a lug, where the chain stays head off from a "Y" lug. All Acmes seem to have this frame feature, as does Bouton's image of the "Chell".

Most Chell info seems to come from the one article in 'The Motor Cycle and Cycle Trader', 21st April, 1939, as quoted on the website. But note that the image in this article, while similar to Boulton's Chell and the Acme, is quite different in the frame details around the junction of the frame loop/seat tube/chain stays. This Chell seems to have a continuous tube forming the frame loop under the engine and the seat tube, and the rear stays seem to join this loop somewhere well forward of where this happens on the Boulton Chell/Acme.

The two Chells are similar, but different. I wonder if Jim Boulton's Chell is something else, mis-identified.

So who made the lug set for the "Boulton Chell" and the Acme. Both pre-war (1939-1942) and post war (1947-1949) Acmes seem to use the same lugs in the frame (albeit with Webb rather than Sackville forks), so it could be that Bennett and Wood were still using prewar inventory. B&W was a big company.

Prior to the Acme, B&W's small bike were essentially Wolfs, from the Wearwell Cycle Co. in Wolverhampton (the home of Chell) http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/Museum/Transport/Motorcycles/Wearwell.htm . However the only 8D/9D Villiers WOlfs that I can see have no lower tank rail in the frame, and the detail around the junction of the seat tube/frame loop/chain stays is quite different.

Any ideas who made the Acme kit?

Cheers

Leon


« Last Edit: October 28, 2022, 01:10:30 AM by cardan »