Author Topic: Excelsior - or even Waratah - around 1924  (Read 377 times)

Offline cardan

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Excelsior - or even Waratah - around 1924
« on: January 05, 2023, 11:56:15 PM »
Recently I was asked to identify a couple of loose frames. I'm pretty certain that one of them, with frame number L343 stamped on the head lug along the left side of the frame top tube, is a chain-drive Excelsior Villiers lightweight c1924 (or a bit later). Yes? I couldn't come up with a good illustration of the model, as it seems most were belt drive, but I did find photos of a chain-drive Ladies which had most of the details that differ from the belt drive.

So what does the "L" in the frame number mean? Best guess at date?

The frame is in Australia, which always brings up the spectre of "rebranding". The attached photo shows Herb Beecher on his motorcycle which is said to be a Waratah (Williams Bros, Sydney). The very-forward-leaning saddle tube looks just like the Excelsior, and not-at-all like the Sun frame that was the usual for Waratah in the 1920s. You can just make out that Beecher's bike is belt drive. Maybe some Waratahs of the 1920s were rebadged Excelsiors, even if most photos and survivors are Sun. The description of a lightweight Sun and a lightweight Excelsior of the mid 1920s is identical.

Cheers

Leon

Offline 33d6

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Re: Excelsior - or even Waratah - around 1924
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2023, 11:51:30 AM »
Okay Leon, youíve got me sucked in. Iíve spent the evening dredging through ancient magazines and Iíve been interested in the number of ultralightweight modelís Excelsior made. Excelsior Junior, Excelsior Minor, and with a multitude of optional extras.
Iíll put up what I have shortly.
Cheers,

Offline cardan

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Re: Excelsior - or even Waratah - around 1924
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2023, 11:15:01 PM »
Excellent - I look forward to the treatise. Here is the belt-drive version, and the chain-drive version, albeit on a ladies' model.

https://www.handh.co.uk/auction/lot/lot-126---1923-excelsior-lightweight/?lot=20273

https://www.handh.co.uk/auction/lot/164-1923-excelsior-ladies-model/?lot=51364

Leon
« Last Edit: January 06, 2023, 11:24:02 PM by cardan »

Offline 33d6

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Re: Excelsior - or even Waratah - around 1924
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2023, 01:48:16 AM »
Well, this was fun--not. Trying to pin down the first 150cc Villiers powered Excelsior Junior stuff is a very slippery job. Making sense of their 1920's frame numbers is so far eluding me. Kidding yourself that anyone has made anything more than a casual guess at any of it is a road to disaster.
Vintage period Excelsior frame dates are all over the place. The VMCC Register (both editions) is no help as it doen't even get the engine capacity right in some cases. I have tried to contact both the VMCC Marque Specialist and the BTSC Excelsior Specialist in the past but neither have even acxknowledged me let alone be of help. Excelsior got their act together in 1931 and started an easy to follow frame and model numbering system so all prr war models from 1931 to 1940 can be identified at a glance. I have what I think is a 1930 Model 1 (Their then equivalent of the earlier Junior) which has no frame number at all. I have three spare frames for it. Another with no number and two with numbers commencing LX which I believe to be 1929. None of this of course of any use in identifying early 20's frames.
I think but am not positive that Excelsior frames of the 1921-24 period would have numbers between 7 to 9000,
So, what have I found out so far?
1. The first Excelsior Junior appeared in their 1923 catalogue. Chain cum Belt transmission. 2 speed box either push or optional kick start. Only 150cc model offered.
2, 150cc range expanded for 1924. Excelsior Junior now offered in Standard, De luxe and Lady's Model.

Excelsior advertising around this time was pretty sparse. There's not much in the magazines of the day. I've found one full page advert in 1924 and have attached that. I will attach other ads of the period as well. Not the continual change of front forks.

I do have an interest in the early 20's Ultra Lightweight TT races where Excelsior had entries. That has relevant frame stuff. I can put that up too if you wish.

One final thing, Excelsior did make open frame (ladies) models before 1924 but they were all 250cc powered.




 

Offline cardan

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Re: Excelsior - or even Waratah - around 1924
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2023, 09:47:59 AM »
Sorry to cause you fun - not! I had guessed that all was known about 1920s Excelsiors, but clearly there is a little way to go.

Now I don't need to know any more, but it was hot today and I made a spreadsheet while I watched the cricket.  I think there is some sense emerging...

You're certainly correct about the beginnings of the Excelsior junior/miniature with the 147cc Villiers engine for the 1923 model year. The model was announced in October 1922 - see below, and from the VMCC frame and engine numbers, plus those from the web the frame numbers were, as you say, 4 digits with no prefix, at least on the lightweight. MkVI-C, then VII-C, then VIII-C engines over the next few years, and frame numbers with prefixes K, L, then D over the years (say) 1924, 1925 and 1926?? There are c1926 frames with D prefixes for lightweights (std and ladies'), 300cc JAP, 350 ohv JAP, 550 Blackburne, ao it seems a range-wide code? Of course it's hard to be certain with mixed bits during restorations, etc.

Anyway, great to get a pic of the chain-drive "de luxe" lightweight in Nov 1924, so a 1925 model. Matches the frame in question perfectly. At least the caption to the pic says it's a 1 1/2 h.p., but the carburettor is on the left side of the cylinder. I'd expect it to be out the front on the right for a 147??

Leon


Offline 33d6

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Re: Excelsior - or even Waratah - around 1924
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2023, 01:11:48 AM »
Frustrating isn't it. That picture claiming to be a 1.5hp Excelsior but engine with left side carb turns up in several places. The engine is actually the 172cc 'Sport'. The base model of the Villiers vintage years 175cc range. Sport, Super Sport TT, Brooklands engines.
The VMCC Register does show one Excelsior with a low number frame similar to yours -L709- and dates it as 1925 but the machine is also listed as a having a 125cc engine even though the engine number shows it to be a 150cc Mk VIIIC. In short the entry is a mess so what do you believe.
As mentioned before I'm fascinated by the 1924 and 1925 Ultra Light Weight TT's each of which had Villiers powered Excelsior entries. These were the progenitors of the Super Sports TT engine so very interesting to me. Attached is some info on the Excelsior entry. I've combined the blurb from both the Green'un and the Blue'un so as to get pictures of both sides of the bikes plus other info. Read what they have to say about the racers frame.
I've also attached stuff on the prototype Super Sport. It was raced in the form shown but altered for production. Note the placing of the decompression valve and spark plug. Not good.

Cheers,

   

Offline cardan

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Re: Excelsior - or even Waratah - around 1924
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2023, 02:54:48 AM »
I love "cylinder man" wearing his Oxford bags!!

Seriously, the 1925 Ultra-Lightweight TT Excelsior is a very interesting bit of kit. It must have been a very small machine, with 24" wheels and the belly so close to the ground that they had to make a special gearbox with the shafts offset to reduce its height. Not sure who rode the Excelsiors in the race, but I bet they were recruiting smaller riders.

The comments re the new frame for the Junior seem to be backed up with other info, like your October 1925 advert. It seems that the sloped top tube frame (with a kink in front of the saddle, rather than the straight sloping tube used on some models earlier in the 1920s) came in during 1925 - certainly a survivor has a D-prefix frame which reckons to be (maybe) 1926.

So it looks like the horizontal-top-tube frames were built from late 1922 (1923 models), through 1923 and 1924 and into 1925. A good guess would be that the first lot of bikes built (for 1923) had 4-digit frame numbers and Villiers MkVI-C, then K and L prefix frames with VII-C engines in 1924-25, then the D frames (sloping top tube and ladies semi-step-through) for 1926 with XIII-C engines. L343, being chain drive, is likely from the 1925 model year.

With no-one (including the VMCC and BTSC specialists) to challenge, let's imagine we know what we're talking about!

Cheers

Leon

Offline 33d6

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Re: Excelsior - or even Waratah - around 1924
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2023, 06:00:53 AM »
If you find some photos of Super Sport TT powered Monet Goyon racers youíll see they did an exhaust very similar to that drawn in the prototype illustration whereas Excelsior committed the standard mistake when making their 1925 effort. Excelsior made the tailpipes much too long and the same diameter as the exhaust port. Monet Goyon made their tailpipe between 1/2 to 2/3rds the diameter and much shorter.
Itís interesting to see that two-stroke engineers were even then beginning to understand that two-strokes had their own special needs in exhaust design. They just had to wait for MZ to get serious about the subject 30 years later.

Whatever the case I have slowly accumulated the makings of a Clubmanís entry for the 1929 Ultra Lightweight Manx TT.  A 1929 Model 1 Excelsior with Super Sport TT engine and a 4 speed Albion hand change gear box. I have still to find the right back wheel and sort the gear box  properly before starting on it. We all have our dreamís.

Cheerís

Offline cardan

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Re: Excelsior - or even Waratah - around 1924
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2023, 10:19:11 PM »
The Ultra Lightweight Manx GP, eh? Not some old bloke fantasies going on there? Sounds fantastic.

Speaking of which, the Show edition of the Motor Cycle 6 November 1924 announces the all-chain version of the ultra-lightweight version of the Excelsior, and goes on to say, "Somewhat similar also is a 172cc twin port Villiers model listed at 37 pounds". So the illustration discussed above - labelled 150cc but actually 172cc - was a real Excelsior model for 1925. The 172 two-port might be a nice engine to put in the loose frame, rather than the more pedestrian VIIIC.

I'm not going to comment on how gorgeous the 1925 249-ohv-Blackburne T.T. Excelsior looked.

Cheers

Leon

Offline 33d6

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Re: Excelsior - or even Waratah - around 1924
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2023, 03:43:58 AM »
Yes, Excelsior cheerfully offered various options down at the bottom of their range. You could upgrade your engine or gearbox or do both if you wanted. Their brochures are vague as to exactly which 175 engine they were offering but I suspect it would have been just the Sport as that was available with petroil lubrication as per the standard Mk VIIC whereas a Super Sport TT demanded a separate oil tank and associated oil lines.
I'm just contemplating going a step further to a Super Sport TT and a four speed instead of three speed box. In fact the four speed box rates higher than the engine upgrade as the major handicap in most vintage two-strokes is the hopelessly wide gaps between gearbox ratios back in those days.  Hill climbing is a slow business not because of insufficient power but because the engine is revving its head off once you drop down a single gear. Unfortunately the Albion three speed gear box offers no advantage as it sports exactly the same ratios as the standard two speed but with the extra gear being an ultra low first gear below them, so even worse with the screaming revs. The equivalent Sturmey Archer box is worse still with even wider ratios. I put the blame on those English trials with their steep hills and thick mud for encouraging this style of gearbox. They work well in those circumstances but are deficient in ordinary road use.
I agree on how pretty the Lightweight TT Excelsior are. They finally won it in 1929 and continued as major players in the class up to the outbreak of WWII. I could happily live with a 250cc Manxman. They're something like the 1930's equivalent of the later Goldstar.
Cheers,