The Motorcycles

1923 Douglas RA Model 598cc Fore and Aft Twin Cylinder - Disc Brakes

The Freddie Dixon Banking Sidecar - Winner of the first Sidecar TT in 1923

This bike is of course not the original Freddie Dixon one, but it is a 1923 R.A. - Frame no CF 20 Eng No FE 20 and as near as is possible to identical. Bob Thomas was in touch with Mr E L Denney (brother of Walter the passenger in 1923) who both built the side-car and did most of the work on the bike.

Fred had several modifications, one of which was to the oiling, which originally was "Total Loss" by means of a hand pump (lever on right handlebar) contained in the castali oil tank below the engine. This could easily flood the engine with oil, so Fred cut a large hole about 1" diameter in both crankcase and tank, sealed the gap with a rubber ring, and let the oil drain back to the tank. Large breathers were added to cope with crankcase compression.

It is not generally known that there was an ingenious telltale metering valve for the oil supply. This is in the petrol tank near the front. When the spring loaded pump is delivering, the telltale knob lifts. Rotating the knob brings succession of different size holes into line with the outlet, ranging from almost nil to full-bore.

The attention to detail is worth note, as no bolt is used where a tube and split pin can serve, all bolts where it was permissible are hollow, all frame lugs are scarfed and tapered to the limit. Mudguards were of aluminium, wheel rims of special alloy and very light, and extensive use of special steel alloys even permitted the rear wheel spindle to be "waisted" down to 3/8" between threaded portions.

1921/2 Vauxhall 950cc Motorcycle - 8718 MN

This is a completely unique motorcycle, one of two experimental machines built by the then Vauxhall Motors at Luton. This machine is Number Two, the Number One is known to have been broken up for scrap by car breakers West's of Denmark Street of Oxford sometime in 1935/6.

It was given to Bob Thomas in pieces in 1952 by one Stan Sherwood of Wembley, he had bought it about 1936 complete, but dismantled it. He in turn gave it to a friend, he recovered it, still in pieces, then the war started. Whilst he was making it ready to be brought indoors some over enthusiastic salvage collectors took away the frame, part of the front forks, the petrol tank and several other pieces for scrap! Fortunately he kept what was left! Bob was put in touch with the then Chief Designer at Vauxhalls, they still had prints of the original drawings of which they gave him copies. The machine had been designed for Vauxhall by Frank Halford of Ricardo Engineering of Shoreham by Sea. Using these drawings over some seven years Bob was able to make the missing parts, the Vauxhall Apprentices School made the new petrol tank and were generally very helpful. It first ran after rebuilding in 1957. Many parts had to be fabricated by hand, for example the rear blades for the front forks were made from a 2×1" flat steel bar, the induction/exhaust maniford is fabricated from water fittings etc

There are no instruction, but it is all straightforward, the engine takes normal straight engine oil Castrol GTX or similar, the final worm drive must have Castor based oil. Other parts are just oiled as required. Tappet Clearances are nil cold, there are oilers in each rocker box, these feed by wicks to the rockers themselves.

1949 Douglas 348cc Motorcycle

This is a standard Mk 111 machine bought new by Bob Thomas in 1949. Bob sold it to his friend George Heywood about 1954 and got it back in 1970.

1921 A.B.C 398cc Motorcycle

A standard A.B.C with full weathershields. Apart from having a proprietary set of valve rockers (by Jarvis) it is in standard trim.

1932/3 Douglas 600cc Motorcycle Model T6

A very popular model in its day, the engine designed by Freddie Dixon is almost unburstable, heavy, but trouble free. This is the "touring" version, which used the earlier front forks with two side springs, the sportier models had a centre spring and a degree of damping.

No special instruction are needed, obvious lubrication and the engine oil is contained in the sump beneath the engine. Flywheel clutch is cork lined, but takes quite a bit of abuse.

1913 A.B.C. Motorcycle

This is the oldest known A.B.C motorcycle. It was made as a prototype for the 1913 model. Designed by Granville Bradshaw, it is said to have been used by him as his personal machine. It was bought in 1916 by R.C. Meeson of London and used by him until 1926, with a sidecar for which Mr Meeson made his own chassis of flat spring steel, which he claimed was copied by the Rudge Whitworth Concern for their own sidecars. The bike was bought by Bob Thomas in 1946 from Mr Maclachlan of the RAC, who had not managed to obtain the necessary spares. Bob later got to know Mr Meeson who lived only three miles away. He told Bob that he had covered over 70,000 miles on the bike with only one breakdown, he travelled from London to North Wales regularly. After laying up the bike he used the engine to drive a generator for lighting his bungalow until 1939. The engine was rather worn.

By one of those coincidence, it was at a Vintage Club committee meeting that Bob was told about the bike by Reg Ashton. Stan Johnson said he knew where he could get a brand new engine for it. After rebuilding it Bob was asked to take it to Mr R E "Bob" Dicker at Addlestone, who had worked for ABC at Brooklands. He was very surprised, to quote he actual words he said "Christ Almighty, where the hell did you dig that up - I made that!" He recalled many pieces of information that were to prove useful. It is interesting that after World War 1 Bob was the Vickers mechanic sent out to Newfoundland to assemble the Vickers Wimy plane in which Allcock and Brown made the first non-stop trans-Atlantic flight. At the time Bob met him he had just restored a 1924 2 3/4 Douglas for his brother, Bob subsequently bought it.

This A.B.C is fitted with "leaf" rear suspension, an Armstrong three-speed hub gearbox used as a countershaft gearbox, on the mainshaft of which the rear suspension pivots, giving constant chain tension. It has a 500cc engine with steel cylinders, exhausted-over-inlet valve arrangement, all ball or roller bearing except the little ends. A Claudel-Hobson carburettor and Best and Lloyd oil pump. The magneto is by Rudhart.

Other Motorcycles in the Collection

  • 1924 Douglas 348cc
  • 1921 A.B.C. 398cc
  • 1922 498cc Scott "Squirrel" Two Speed
  • 1919 A.B.C. Skootamota
  • 1926 P&M 250cc Panthette
  • 1931/32 348cc Velocette
  • 1934/35 Douglas 494cc Endeavour
  • 1952 Sunbeam S8 486cc
  • 1921 A.B.C. 398cc
  • 1934 Douglas 596cc SV and Sidecar
  • 1932 Douglas 348cc OHV