British motorcycle manufacturers
Last update Mar 24, 2001. Sources listed on first page (A-J). Links below.
Kempton 1921-22 Kenilworth 1919-24. Scooter. Kieft 1955-57. Rebadged Hercules scooters. King 1901-07 Kingsbury 1919-23. Scooters and lightweights. Kumfurt 1914-16 Kynoch 1912-13
Ladies' Pacer 1914, build on Isle of Guernsey. Lagonda 1902-05 L&C 1904 Lea-Francis 1911-26. Bicycle and early motorcycle manufacturer, founded by Graham Francis and R. H. Lea (Graham's son, Gordon, would go on to co-found Francis-Barnett). Leonard 1903-06 Lethbridge 1922-23 Le Vack 1923 Levis Made two-stroke machines from 1911 to 1931, when it added a line of four-strokes. First Levis was made in the Norton works, by Bob Newey, but turned down by James Norton. Newey joined with brothers Arthur and Billy Butterfield, and their sister Daisy (whom he later married) to set up their own company. Their first model was a 211cc machine. They achieved their first racing success at the 1920 TT with a 247cc machine. Several models were made up to a 600cc single. Continued until 1941 when war ended production. LGC Small Birmingham company that used Villiers and JAP engines. Founded by Len Grundle in 1926. Closed in 1931. Lily 1906-14 Lincoln-Elk 1902-24 Little Giant 1913-15 Lloyd 1903-26. Heavy sidevalves; 499cc singles and 842cc V-twins. London 1903 Lugton 1912-14
Mabon 1905 Majestic A subsidiary of OK Supreme started in 1931 using equipment purchased from the recently sold AJS. Made bikes only in 1933. Closed in 35. Marloe 1920-22 Marlow 1920-22 Mars 1905-08 and 1923-26 Marseel 1920-21 Martin 1911-22 Martinshaw 1923-24 Martinsyde 1919-25. Bought by BAT. Mason & Brown 1904-08 Massey 1920-31 Matador German firm, designed by Bert Houlding, used Blackburne or Bradshaw engines. Matchless
See also AJS. Founded in 1899 by the Collier family father H. H. and brothers Charlie and Harry. Started with a tricycle in 1904, moved to a JAP-powered V-twin in 1905. It also boasted a swing-arm rear suspension and leading-links forks.
Charlie won the inaugural TT race in 1907, Harry won in 1909 and Charlie again in 1910. Singles were their main bike, but they also made V-twins from 496 to 998cc.They decided to make their own engines from 1912 on. Matchless engines were considered excellent, and were supplied to Brough Superior, Morgan cars, Coventry Eagle and others.
Matchless did not receive a contract to make motorcycles during WW!, and production started up with civilian machines in 1919, concentrating on V-twins for sidecar use, leaving singles until 1923. The company went public in 1926. In 1930 they launched a narrow-angle 400cc V-twin called the Silver Arrow, with many new features and design ideas, and in 1931 they launched a revolutionary 593cc V-four called the Silver Hawk.
In 1931 they bought AJS from the Stevens brothers, and Sunbeam in 1936 (1938? selling it to BSA shortly after). This merger became Associated Motor Cycles - AMC - in 1938 which later absorbed Francis-Barnett, James and Norton. In 1941 the made motorcycles with telescopic front forks called "Teledraulic" forks, the first major innovation in front suspension in 25 years.
During WW2, Matchless made 80,000 G3 and G3L models for the armed forces. By 1956 they had eight models in their lineup, but it dwindled in 1965.
AMC collapsed in 1967, although the last matchless machine was the 748cc G15 (AJS Model 33) which used the Norton Atlas engine, and was made until 1969.
Maxim 1919-21 MCC 1903-10
1926-29. McKechnie 1922 McKenzie 1921-25 Mead 1911-16 Mercury Started in 1937 using 596cc Scott engines, but only built five bikes before it closed in the war. The name was revived by another company after WW2 to make a moped and scooter. In 1957 they added three small motorcycles, but closed in 1958. Metro 1912-19 Millionmobile 1902. M&M 1914 Mohawk 1903-25 Monarch 1919-21 Monopole 1911-28 Montgomery Founded in 1902, it continued until WW2 making a series of well-made but expensive bikes ranging from 150cc to 1,000cc. They used Villiers and JAP engines. Their 1930s Greyhound was a JAP-powered 500cc bike capable of 75mph. Morris 1902-05 and another company 1913-22 Morris-Warne 1922 Morton-Adam 1923-24 Mountaineer 1902-26. Only one model after WWI. Moveo 1907 MPH 1920-24
Neall 1904-14 Ner-A-Car: The product of American Carl Neracher in 1921, it was also made under licence in the UK by Sheffield Simplex from 1922, using a stronger 285cc two-stroke of Simplex's design (compared to the original 221cc). plus a few other enhancements. In 1924, Ner-A-Car went out of business in the USA, but continued in the UK. In 1925 they upgraded to a 350cc sv Blackburne engine. But production stopped abruptly in 1926 when the division ran out of money. Nestor 1913-24 New Comet 1905-32. Ceased production in 24, but attempted revival in 31. New Coulson 1922-24. Leaf-sprung suspension at both ends. New Era 1920-22 New Gerrard Founded ?1922 in Scotland by ex-racer Jock Porter. Made a single 346cc ohv JAP-engined machine throughout the 1930s, closed in 1940. New Henley 1920-29 New Hudson Started as Hudson Bicycles in 1890, it restructured as New Hudson Cycle Company after a financial failure a few years later (1903). They made their first motorcycle in 1910, using JAP engines until 1911, when they designed their own (although still using JAPs in some models). Post war production saw the company making several changes and improvements although it wasn't until 1927 when Bert Le Vack on a New Hudson was the first to break 100 mph at Brooklands on a 500cc machine, that they achieved much success at the races. They continued with slumping sales until 1933 when they closed. In 1941 an autocycle was launched using a 98cc Villiers engine, but they company sold the rights to BSA and disappeared by 1958. New Imperial
Based in Birmingham, founded by Norman Downs who bought the ailing bicycle business of Hearl and Tonks (founded 1892). He created New Imperial in 1901, and made the first motorcycles, but didn't enter production until 1910 when he used a 293cc JAP engine. After a mediocre performance at the 1913 TT race, he retired until 1921, and continued until 1939 when the company was deep in debt. This company was known for pioneering innovations in unit construction on motorcycles starting in 1932. They made the Unit Minor 150 and Unit Super 250 in this manner and by 1938 all of their machines were unit construction. They also made a 500cc V-twin from 1933-35. New Imperial was a force in the racing world and used 246-996cc engines from precision (later Beardmore-Precision). The company was bought by Ariel's Jack Sangster in 1939, after he bought Triumph, and did not continue production past WW2. Edward Turner's 3TU model was supposed to carry New Imperial badges, but never saw production.
A 250cc New Imperial ridden by Bob Foster won the 1936 Lightweight TT, the last British four-stroke to win the event.
New Knight 1923-27 New Paragon 1919-23 New Scale 1909-25 Newmount 1929-33. Rebadged Zundapp. Newton 1921-22 Nicholas ??? Pre WWI Nickson 1920-24 NLG 1905-12 Noble 1901-06 Norbreck 1921-24 Norman Small manufacturer in Kent. Founded as a bicycle manufacturer by bothers Charles and Fred Norman in 1935 (Charles had created the Kent Plating and Enameling Company before WW1). Started making motorcycles in 1935, but didn't show them until 1938. Known for their 98cc autocycle made from 1938-39. Took over Rudge autocycles in 1939 for a short while until war ended production until 1948. In the 1950s they made a range of Villiers- and Anzani-based small-capacity two-strokes and mopeds with only modest performance. Taken over by Raleigh, closed in 1962. Norton
One of the great marques, Norton was founded as a bicycle components company in 1898 by James Landsdowne Norton, who first manufactured a powered bike in 1901 (1902?) using his own frame and a French Clement engine. Norton's reputation as a superior machine was gained through its early successes on the race track. A Norton powered by a V-twin Peugot engine won the very first TT race in 1907. In 1908, Norton started making its own engines (a 4bhp 633c side-valve single called the Big Four) and made its first ohv singles in 1922, starting with the Model 18 which proved a successful race winner. Norton made its first parallel twin in 1948.
James Norton raced in the TT himself, unsuccessfully on his new 494cc model, in 1909, 10 and 11. Norton went into liquidation in 1913 while its owner recovered from an illness contracted on the Isle of Man, but a new company, Norton Motors Ltd. was formed shortly after with Norton and Bob Shelley, using the services of Dan "Wizard" O'Donovan, racer and master tuner. They soon built the world's first production racing bike, the BRS, or Brooklands Racing Special, as well as a slightly slower BS, Brooklands Special. Not large enough for wartime production levels, Norton managed to obtain a small contract to provides bikes for the Russian army in WW1.
After WW1, the company returned to civilian production, and Norton developed a number of innovations, including a desmodromic valve system, although he opted for another design using overhead valves for production. Norton bikes were entered in several TT races in this time, with some successes in 1923, 24. Norton died in 1925 at only 56 years old. By then he had built a reputation for fast, reliable bikes.
The 1930s were the glory days, when Norton was winning many races, including all but two Senior and Junior TT races between 1931 and 1938. The most successful Norton racer was the 499cc single Model 30 International, first released in 1932 and made until 1958. Prototype telescopic forks were introduced in 1939, but were not brought into production until 1948. During WW2, the company produced bikes for the Allies.
From 1949 to 51, Norton won at Daytona, but the company withdrew official support for racing in 1955.
Norton released its first parallel twin in 1949, the Dominator, designed by Bert Hopwood. They would later put the engine in a featherbed frame (1951) and release it as the Dominator 88, in 1952. In 1955, a 600cc Dominator 99 was added. But the really fine version was the 1962 Dominator 650SS with its upgraded engine, and a challenge to Triumph's sports models. In 1963, production was moved to AMC's factory in south London.
The most famous and most popular Norton was the parallel-twin 750cc Commando, released in 1968 designed by a team led by Dr. Stefan Bauer. It was upgraded with electric start and 850cc in 1974. The last Commandos were the Mk3 built in 1977. The last production Norton was a 50cc moped using Italian-made components offered in 1977.
After World War 2, Norton was controlled by several companies. The company faced financial problems when smaller models failed to sell, and was bought by Associated Motor Cycles (AMC, a combination of Matchless and AJS) in 1962. Then after AMC collapsed in 1966, Manganese Bronze Holdings took over AMC in 1966-67 and promoted Norton's name under Norton-Villiers. Finally, the company became part of the Norton-Villiers-Triumph group, which went bankrupt in 1977.
A small number of Nortons using Wankel rotary engines were made from 1977 to 1987. In 1998, a new group offered motorcycles under the Norton name emerged with promises of big, powerful and heavy V-eight bikes, but so far only sketches have emerged.
NUT Newcastle-Upon Tyne. Founded by machine shop employee Hugh Mason in 1906 who joined with cycle dealer Jock Hall to make motorcycles. First machines in 1912 had handle starting and Mason's 'HM' monogram. Later he built bikes under the names Jesmond and Bercley until he used NUT in 1912. A JAP-powered V-twin NUT machine won the 1913 Junior TT. Other racing successes followed and the company moved to larger premises in 1914. After the war the company went bankrupt when partners pulled out their capital, but the firm was bought by Robert Ellis who restarted it in 1921 under the name of Hugh Mason and Company but it closed again in 1922. It re-organized again in 1923 under NUT and built a 698cc engine of its own design. They continued making 698cc and 750cc V-twins, plus a 172cc single Villiers two-stroke and 350cc Blackburne model. In 1933 the company finally closed. NVT Norton-Villiers-Triumph, the final incarnation of the famous British motorcycle marques, created in 1972 out of Norton, AMC, BSA, Triumph and Villiers, but also including James, AJS, Ariel, Matchless and other names under their control.
Osborn Engineering Company. Founded by Frederick Osborn who began building bicycles, then turned to motorcycles in 1901. OEC made motorcycles under contract with Blackburne until 1914. The company gained status when his son John took over around 1920 and started making their own first bikes. Took over the manufacture of Blackburne engines in 1921 as OEC-Blackburne. But used V-twin JAP engines in some of their own machines. Introduced a patented duplex steering system in 1927 and numerous innovations during its time. Company ran into financial trouble in 1930, and production halted, but restarted with fresh capital shortly after.
Best known for its strange 1936 Atlanta Duo roadsters using a heavy but very stable duplex steering system designed by Fred Wood. Also offered a 998cc sidecar outfit with a steering wheel. In 1926 Claude Temple rode an OEC-Temple to the world speed record of 121.3 mph, and in 1930 Joe Wright rode a JAP-engined OEC at 150.736 mph. Also made a Whitwood Monocar, a two-wheel car with outrigger wheels and engines from 250 to 1000cc from 1934 to 36. Production ended in WW2 when the factory was bombed, but returned after the war with rear-sprung lightweights. The company's fortunes dimmed and production ceased in 1954.
Ogston Made bikes 1911-13, name adopted by Wilkinson-TMC. OK-Supreme
Founded as bicycle manufacturer Ernie Humphries and Charles Dawes in 1882, they dabbled with powered bicycles as early as 1899 and again in 1906. OK started manufacturing Precision-powered two-stroke motorcycles in Birmingham in 1911. OK-Precision won third place in the 1913 Lightweight TT. After WW1 they made several models using their own and Blackburne engines. Several OK machines were ridden to TT wins in this decade. Dawes broke away to form Dawes Cycles in 1926.
Changed to OK-Supreme Motors in 1927. HRD designer Alec Bennett and E. J. Massey joined them in 1928. Humphries purchased the stock and tools of HRD in 1928, later selling the trademark to Phil Vincent.
Made several models, including a 250cc Flying Cloud and the 1930 250cc Lighthouse (later 350cc, engines by Williams and James, later JAP) - named for a glass inspection plate in the camshaft tower and their finest model. It was also their final model. After WW2 they produced a few 346cc grass-track bikes with JAP engines before closing in 1946.
Olivos Used a 496cc Blackburne engine in an Olivos sprung-frame. Olympic Made two-stroke motorcycles with MMC engines 1903-19, then Verus and Orbit engines until 1923. Also sold the inexpensive New Courier line. Omega 1909, used 1.5 hp horizontally-mounted engine. Another company of that name 1919-27. Onaway 1904-08. Used a Kelecom 5 hp engine in a low-slung frame. Orbit 1913-24. Used own 260cc two-stroke and bought larger four-stroke engines for own frame. Ormonde 1900-06. Used small Kelecom and Antoine engines in own frame. Ortona 1904-06. Made one 3.5 hp model. Oscar Dennis Poore launched this Villiers-powered scooter, 1953-55. Osmond 1911-24. Made small (102-110cc) two-stroke engines, and used a 485cc precision for a larger single after 1918. Overdale 1921-22. Used a small 169cc Villiers engine. Overseas 1909-15. Export only, made an 842cc V-twin.
Pacer 1914 Packman and Poppe
Founded by Erling Poppe and Gilmour Packman, Poppe was also a partner in a Coventry-based engine manufacturer, White & Poppe. Made first motorcycle in 1922 using a 250cc White and Poppe two-stroke engine and a duplex loop frame and a rear axle with a double row of ball bearings mounded in the fork ends. Built a 976cc side-valve machine with a JAP V-twin engine in 1923 and the Silent Three using a 350cc Barr and Stroud sleeve-valve engine. Entered three machines into 1925 TT. Stopping off at the office on his way, Packman was killed by in an argument with a salesman. Later that year the company's factory burned down. In 1926, the company was sold to John Wooler, who kept up production until the Depression, in 1930. Pallion 1905-14. Scooters. Panther
Originally called Phelon and Moore (P&M) Limited, the company was started in Cleckheaton, Yorkshire, by Joah Phelon and Harry Rayner in 1900. Unable to produce the machine himself, his first design was sold to Humber for royalty payments. After Rayner died in a car accident, Phelon was joined by Richard Moore in 1904 to form P&M. They built big, angled singles called "slopers," initially 500cc. They also built Villiers-engined two strokes until the 1930s. In 1906 they offered a bike with a two-speed transmission and clutch. They experimented with V-twins before WW1 and in 1923 made a side-valve four-speed 555cc bike. This was followed by an OHV 500cc which was called the Panther. A 250cc V-twin Panthette was made in 1927.
Panther manufactured big 600cc bikes (646cc by 1964) that were among their most famous. Promoted as the "Perfected Motorcycle," they were known for innovative designs. Despite this, they were fairly simple and robust machines. Their low torque made them ideal for pulling sidecars along. But when sidecars lost popularity in the 1960s, so did Panthers. P&M also made several other bikes of various sizes, reverting to smaller engines in the 1930s when sales slumped and not returning to bigger engines until the latter part of the decade.
A 250cc Red Panther won the Maudes Trophy in 1934. A 250 and 350cc single were produced from the late 1940s. The company lasted long enough to build motorcycles in 1967, its final Panther the 645cc Model 120. The company had a short-lived concession to sell French Terrot scooters in 1968.
Paragon 1919-23 PAX 1920-22 PDC 1920-22 Pearson 1903-04 Pearson & Sopwith 1919-21 Pebok 1903-09 Peco 1913-15 Peerless 1902-08 and 1913-14. Later company used telescopic fork and shaft drive. Perks & Birch 1899-1901 Phasar early 1980s. Motorcycle with roof, based on the Quasar, but using motorcycle engines instead of car engines. Phillips 1954-64. Mopeds. Phoenix 1900-08, and later another company 1955-64 making scooters. Pilot 1903-15 Planet 1919-20 PMC 1908-15 Portland 1910-11 Pouncy 1930-38 Powell 1921-26 Powerful 1903-06 P&P 1922-30. See Packman and Poppe. Precision Two companies. First 1902-1906. Second founded by as F.E. Baker Ltd. Frank Baker in 1906 to build bicycle fittings under the Precision name after he left Eadie (Royal Enfield) and Premier Cycles. Started building 499cc sv single engines in 1910 and quickly developed a following. By 1911, 96 machines at the Olympia Show in London used Precision engines 293, 499 and 599 singles, or 760cc V-twins. By 1918 the company employed 800. Engineer Tom Biggs joined as chief designer in 1913. After WW1 they released a complete motorcycle, designed by Biggs, using their own 350cc two-stroke engine, in 1919. At this time they were calling themselves Beardmore-Precision after Scottish industrial giant William Beardmore & Co. injected new capital into the company. Their engines were featured in numerous trials and race winners in the 1920s. But sales were sliding and an attempt to introduce a new 250cc engine failed when the leaf-spring valves caused excess guide wear. Beardmore withdrew its capital and Baker pulled out, to make two-strokes under his own name. The company closed. Premier Founded as bicycle manufacturer Hillman, Herbert and Cooper, the name changed to Premier Cycle Co. in 1891. Announced its first motorcycle in late 1908 using a White & Poppe sv engine and Chater-Lea front fork. Made its first engine, a V-twin, in 1909 and a 499cc single in 1910. The company made several models, up to a massive 998cc V-twin until WW1 started, when they were known as Coventry-Premier Ltd. They decided not to return to motorcycles after the war, and in 1921 the company was acquired by Singer. A branch in Czechoslovakia got its independence then and continued making machines into the 1930s under the British name. Premo 1908-15 Prim 1906-07 Pride & Clarke 1938-40 Princeps 1903-07 Priory 1919-26 Progress 1902-08 P&S 1919-21. Rebadged Pearson. Pullin Started by TT race winner Oscar Pullin after WW1. Made the Ascot-Pullin model in 1928, but despite its advanced design, it didn't sell and the company went into liquidation. Offered 496cc ohv horizontal engine, interconnected hydraulic brakes (the first hydraulic brakes ever made), leg shields, mirror, windscreen with windshield wiper. Sadly the bike was sold off in job-lots by the liquidator in 1930. The name was revived in 1951 by Tube Investments to make a Powerwheel clip-on engine and in 1955 a small scooter, but it didn't attract interest, so the name vanished. PV 1910-25
Quadrant Started by Walter and William Lloyd in 1883 to manufacture bicycles and tricycles. Started making motorcycles in 1901 and motorized banking tricycles in 1902. Walter patented a unique all-in-one control lever in 1902 to raise the exhaust valve, control ignition switch, operate the throttle and the ignition advance. Started using their own engine design in 1903. Used a spray carburetor in 1904 and magneto ignition in 1907. Company collapsed from internal disputes in 1907, and Thomas Silver left to form Silver Motors, offering the Quadrant under a different name. The original company and premises were acquired by Walter Lloyd, but after legal action, Silver was back as Quadrant Motor Company Ltd. in 1909, selling new models. After an argument with his new backers, Silver was again making motorcycles under his own name, while Quadrant made them under a new name Quadrant Cycle Co. They re-united for 1911, making several models including a massive V-twin of 1129cc and a 600cc single. After the war they made a 654 and 780cc singles, experimented with a 292c scooter, as well as developing some outdated sv and ohv models. The company tried to modernize its lineup in 1927 with a 490cc ohv, but the company closed in 1928. Quasar 1977-82. Designed by Malcolm Newell, this feet-forward motorcycle had a car-type roof and body, without doors. Used a 750cc, four-cylinder engine and four-speed gear box. QUB