100 Years, Four Owners …

Owning a historic machine and being interested in its history are two sides of the same coin for many of us, so I particularly enjoyed the following story from a member who has recently acquired a Douglas with a remarkable history. To the new owner – thank you for sharing this story!

I recently acquired a 2 ¾ HP and, after a fair bit of research, I have been able to trace the name of the original owner – John Elias Dakin, born 1891 in Llanidloes, Wales. The bike was registered to him on the 8th January 1921 having been purchased from S P Davies Motorcycles in Llanidloes. They were mainly an ironmongers in 1920 but had ventured into motorcycles. It is an ex-WD model and although it has 1916 on the timing case, the engine and frame numbers suggest that it was manufactured in 1918. John joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in 1914 and served in the 1st World War at Gallipoli. His family think he may have been a dispatch rider, but if not he probably saw a good number of Douglas bikes, which may have sparked his interest. He was discharged in 1920 and purchased the bike soon after. For some reason he only used the bike up until September 1928 and for the next 34 years it was sadly left stored in a garage until he died in 1962. The bike was then sold to the second owner who was a friend of the family. He didn’t have a motorcycle licence and never made any attempt to get one, so the bike was never used on the road. He mentions in a letter to me that when he bought the bike he merely cleaned the plugs and put in some petrol and it started first time, so why it was not used after 1928 remains a mystery as clearly there was no mechanical damage. The petrol tank after all this time was apparently corroded and leaking, but as he was a teacher of sheet metal work he made a new tank in sheet brass. He regularly transported the bike to various shows around Hereford and Wales, which gave him the opportunity to ride the bike around the show arena. In 2002 the bike was sold to the third owner, but yet again it was never used on the road and again left stored until I bought it back in August 2020, so hopefully, apart from the tank, most of it is as it was after being refurbished by Douglas for civilian use, a century earlier.

Douglas 2.3/4 HP 1916
Douglas 2.3/4 HP

Douglas 2.3/4 hp Parts

Owners of 2.3/4 hp models will be interested to learn that a range of parts for these models is available from the RacingNorton website https://racingnorton.co.uk/

Do not be deterred by the name of the site – the proprietor, Paul Norman, is the owner of a Douglas 2.3/4 hp machine and has developed these parts in the course of restoring his own machine.

The RacingNorton site also features many other parts useful to Douglas owners, including magneto and carburettor spares.

Douglas Machines Under The Hammer

Bonhams motorcycle auction at the Bicester Heritage Centre on the 14th and 15th of August includes a pair of machines to tempt the Douglas enthusiast! The first is described as a 1925 Douglas 596cc RA Model OB, while the second is a 1928 Douglas 500cc RA/DT Racing Special, fitted with Douglas’ innovative disc brake. Both machines appear to be in excellent order. More information about the machines is available on Bonhams website www.bonhams.com and viewing is possible from Wednesday 12th, by appointment.

The Strange Case of Austin Douglas

People have always built ‘specials’. Sometimes in a bid to create superbikes, like the Tritons and Norvins of the 1960s, or for sheer quirkiness, like the friend who removed the front downtubes of a featherbed frame and replaced them with a 600 Panther engine, complete with home-made megaphone! In earlier times, it was often a case of ‘needs must’ – rebuilding an engine could be more expensive than finding something else that could be made to fit and would do the job.

For lovers of mechanical ingenuity, however, the appeal of specials often trumps elegance, practicality – and usually, cost! If you want to join the ranks of special owners, with much of the hard work already done, this Austin Seven-engined Douglas S6, currently for sale on the ‘Car and Classic’ website, could be the answer. The future owner can be sure of two things – no-one will have one like it, and the words “What is it?” will follow them everywhere!

Douglas S6 Special with Austin 7 Engine
The Ultimate ‘Special’? Douglas S6 with Austin 7 Engine

New Gear Sets for Douglas DT Models

Dirt Track Dougies were fast bikes in their day, and are still impressive performers 90 years later. The gear ratios offered by the factory, however, were never well suited to road use; over-geared or under-geared, they either went like a rocket up to 50mph or had such a tall first gear that they were hard to get off the line. Club member Roger Harrison rharrison135@btinternet.com believes there are DT models around today that are not getting the use they should because of this, so he is producing new gear sets offering more practical ratios. The new gear sets will be available later this year – more details in the next issue of New Conrod magazine, which should be hitting your door mats shortly.

Douglas Model DT5 motorcycle, c.1928
Douglas DT5 – surely one of the best looking machines of the late ’20s