Author Topic: Spark, Bownian, Warrior, Torpedo... who made the frames?  (Read 8426 times)

Offline cardan

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Spark, Bownian, Warrior, Torpedo... who made the frames?
« on: April 19, 2023, 03:48:13 AM »
I thought Sparkbrook made the rather distinctive frame set that was used in lots of Villiers-engined bikes in the early 1920s, but I wonder if I'm wrong.

Bikes like Spark, Bownian, Warrior in the UK and Torpedo in Australia were all Villiers-engined bikes that are so similar I doubt they could be identified without a name on the tank. The front fork - very like early Triumphs - is called the "Gosport", and I would have called the whole thing "the Spark set" if I hadn't bumped into a c1922 Bownian (cheap bike made by Bown) catalogue page that says: "Frame set manufactured by Villiers Engineering Co. Ltd. All steel fittings."

Villiers made the frame set? True or false?

Has anyone seen an advert for the frame set?

Leon

Offline john.k

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Re: Spark, Bownian, Warrior, Torpedo... who made the frames?
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2023, 04:23:59 AM »
Id be very surprised if the fitting were steel ....traditionally ,malleable iron castings  were used for both bicycles and motorcycles .

Offline cardan

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Re: Spark, Bownian, Warrior, Torpedo... who made the frames?
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2023, 05:25:21 AM »
Not sure - these things were quite cheap and the lugs may have been steel pressings, as used on some bicycles? Not the "proper" way to do things, but cheap and light.

Both Sparkbrook and Bown had "proper" motorcycles with Villiers engines, different from the Spark and Bownian, and these probably had "proper" lugs.

Leon

Offline R

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Re: Spark, Bownian, Warrior, Torpedo... who made the frames?
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2023, 09:35:05 AM »
Nabiac has a Warrior

https://nationalmotorcyclemuseum.com.au/gallery/australian/Warrior-Ika-464.htm
https://nationalmotorcyclemuseum.com.au/gallery/australian/Warrior-PA043.htm

Someone could pedal over there and have a look ?
Steel fittings as such were quite uncommon in that era ??

What year(s) specifically are we dealing with here. ?

Offline cardan

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Re: Spark, Bownian, Warrior, Torpedo... who made the frames?
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2023, 12:05:03 PM »
Yes I think steel fittings would have been unusual. Don't forget this was around the time we were getting interesting frames like the "built like a bridge" Francis Barnett, made from tubes with squashed ends all bolted together. You could get away with a lot on a lightweight.

I think these things were built from about 1920-21 in the UK. In Australia we were late, so C.S. Hay in Tasmania started bringing them in in 1923 when he called them "Villiers motorcycles". From 1924 he branded them Torpedo, and began building them up locally. They ran into 1926.

The Nabiac "Warrior, Made in Australia" is interesting, because Warriors were built in the UK! (Newport Pagnell, Northamptonshire, apparently.) Warriors were sold by Hinton Bros in Sydney in 1923, so the Nabiac bike could indeed be a Warrior. Or a Spark, or a Bownian, or a Villiers, or a Torpedo...

Leon

Offline john.k

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Re: Spark, Bownian, Warrior, Torpedo... who made the frames?
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2023, 12:28:50 PM »
In fact steel in any form was way more expensive that an iron casting......One of the well known suppliers of cycle and motorcycle frame castings was Chater Lea,who supplied a vast variety of malleable castings.

Offline cardan

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Re: Spark, Bownian, Warrior, Torpedo... who made the frames?
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2023, 01:34:19 PM »
OK. The new frame is described in detail in the Motor Cycle 27 Oct 1921 in relation to the new "Spark" by Sparkbrook. Lots of steel pressings - very modern. But also at the show were identical machines by Monopole, New Courier, Dayton, Bownian, Mohawk, Wolf and Victoria.

So I'm back to the original question: did Sparkbrook make the frame set, or Villiers? Leaning towards Villiers...

Leon

Offline murdo

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Re: Spark, Bownian, Warrior, Torpedo... who made the frames?
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2023, 10:56:43 PM »
"Someone could pedal over there and have a look."
I plan to go there in the next month or so but I don't think I will 'pedal' over there. You do realise there are a couple of bumps between inland (Tamworth) and the coast?

Offline R

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Re: Spark, Bownian, Warrior, Torpedo... who made the frames?
« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2023, 12:31:12 AM »
In fact steel in any form was way more expensive that an iron casting......One of the well known suppliers of cycle and motorcycle frame castings was Chater Lea,who supplied a vast variety of malleable castings.

And by the time Chater Lea had conked out (?),  M&B frame lugs had taken over this market share ?
M&B being Mason & Burns Ltd Pleck Rd Walsal, malleable iron castings to the motorcycle industry, pre WW1 even.
Many a maker used them - Norton, AJS Matchless etc etc, and marked M&B.
(I think Triumph and BSA each had their own foundries)

Small sample novelty item, v common.

Offline R

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Re: Spark, Bownian, Warrior, Torpedo... who made the frames?
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2023, 12:45:00 AM »
"Someone could pedal over there and have a look."

I'm wondering what (stamped ?) steel frame fittings would look like ?
The beauty of castings is that things can be made circular, and bored for a frame tube.
Stampings would have to be one sided ?
Would this be visible to a mere inspection ?

My ~1946 Waratah has one of the 1st (?) part welded frames in the business. (??)
Things like lugs for the engine are arc welded to the steel tubes, ditto a number of other bits,
like lugs for the seat and the rear axle..

Phil Irving mentions this welding development in his book "Motorcycle Engineering",
and refers to it as coming out of manufacturing developments during WW2.

Villiers sound like they may have (briefly ?) jumped the gun ...

Offline john.k

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Re: Spark, Bownian, Warrior, Torpedo... who made the frames?
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2023, 01:26:13 AM »
There were some welded frames in the 1930s ,i have one ,an OEC Duplex ..its part oxy  welded ,part brazed castings......a strange beast ,to be sure...........From what Ive surmised from various sources the problem with welding was the available tube ......tube meant for brazing had a high enough carbon content to be hardenable ,this wasnt a problem ....but weld this tube ,and the weld is brittle ..........by the way,welding was oxy acetylene ,not arc ...manual arc was considered the work of the devil in the motorcycle industry until WW2,when it was extensively used for airframes ,and workers experienced in arc welding and the equiptment became available post war.

Offline Rex

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Re: Spark, Bownian, Warrior, Torpedo... who made the frames?
« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2023, 05:49:07 PM »
There's a good chance that the items marked "Gosport" were actually made in the OEC factory prior to OEC becoming a maker in it's own right.

Offline cardan

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Re: Spark, Bownian, Warrior, Torpedo... who made the frames?
« Reply #12 on: April 21, 2023, 07:41:42 AM »
That's an excellent observation Rex. I checked it out and came up empty, but I've since got to the bottom of the whole thing.

Just as it says in the Bownian description (in the Bown catalogue, but seemingly nowhere else) the frame set was made by Villiers Engineering Co., Ltd.

The patents for the various interesting design features were applied for and granted to VEC in 1921/22. Specifically named as applicants were VEC, Frank Farrer, and Frank Pourtney, but the "inventor" field was left empty, presumably because the inventors were Villiers employees and had no rights to the designs.

The fork was not a Villiers thing, but originated with an Australian: John Percy MacLean who lived in Newcastle, NSW. He held about 23 patents over the years, including the one for the double-spring arrangement in the Triumph-like MacLean fork. In late 1919 the design was taken over by the Gosford Engineering Co., Gosport, Hants. They manufactured the fork as the Gosford, and presumably sold it (or licensed it) to VEC for their motorcycle.

So who knew? Villiers made (or had made) a complete motorcycle in the early 1920s. It was sold under various brands in the UK and Australia, including:
Beaufort
Bownian
Dayton
Mohawk
Monopole
New Courier (cheaper model of Olympic)
Olympic
Spark
Torpedo (Tasmania, Australia)
Warrior
Wolf
Victoria
Villiers (Tasmania, Australia)

I went through "The British Motorcycle Directory" by Bacon and Hallworth, looking at the above brands. Fair to say that the authors didn't appear know that these makes used "the VEC frame set". I don't have Jack Sizer's book on Villiers, but in his various writings online I can't find any mention of the Villiers motorcycle. It looks like history has skipped it over, which is a pity because there are many modern, clever designs in the frame and fittings, particularly the extensive use of pressed steel for the lugs and fittings, including the petrol tank.

(Or course Villiers could have outsourced the manufacture, perhaps to Gosford, or Sparkbrook, or someone else. Some expertise in and equipment for pressing complex shapes in sheet metal would be needed.)

On the AUstralian front, I now understand why Charlie Hay in Tasmania was claiming in 1923: 'The Villiers is one of England's best light-weight motor cycles."

For the record they were landed originally as complete motorcycles and sold (and registered) as "Villiers", but later they were "built" in house, no doubt from a kit of parts, and sold with the name "Torpedo" on the tank.

Cheers

Leon


Offline R

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Re: Spark, Bownian, Warrior, Torpedo... who made the frames?
« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2023, 10:57:47 PM »
Nice detective work there Leon.
Look forward to seeing it in ye book ?

there are many modern, clever designs in the frame and fittings, particularly the extensive use of pressed steel for the lugs and fittings, including the petrol tank.

Can we find a picture of any of these pressed steel fittings.
They should be quite distinctive ?

I note the 1946 Waratah has steel bits welded to the frame as engine mounts and seat mount tabs etc.
Quite different to the cast lugs of ye olde school all lugged frames.

Offline cardan

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Re: Spark, Bownian, Warrior, Torpedo... who made the frames?
« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2023, 11:24:05 PM »
The funny thing is that the "Villiers" thing is such a tiny part of the Australian story, but the story of "frame sets" is key. So many of the 600 or so Australian makes used and imported engine in an imported "frame set". It's a curiosity that the Villiers frame set was used by Charles Hay in Tasmania, but in other cities the Villiers-engined bikes (Elliott in Adelaide, Waratah in Sydney, etc.) used other frames: usually Sun, Excelsior, Walker & Sons, etc.

I'm fascinated by the frame - I look forward to seeing on close up. Here are some "close ups".

Leon