As peace returned to Europe and the production of civilian motorcycles in Britain resumed, many manufacturers offered what were essentially late ’30s designs, often updated with telescopic forks. Not so Douglas, whose first post-war design was totally new – and radically different.
1947 – T35 The T35 looked – and was – a modern motorcycle. A transverse-mounted, unit construction 350cc twin with torsion bar rear and ‘Radiadraulic’ front suspension, the T35 (or Mark I) was refined and comfortable. For a public grown used to khaki paintwork, the T35 was striking in its black, blue and chrome finish. Note ‘Douglas’ cast into the rocker covers, used only on the T35 model, and the cast alloy ‘woffle box’ silencer beneath the gearbox.
1949 – Mark III Sports The designation ‘Mark II’ was never used; the T35 was superseded by the Mark III in 1948, and the new machine was offered in both Mark III De Luxe and Sports versions. Visible on this 1949 Sports model are the redesigned cylinder heads with re-positioned spark plugs and correspondingly cut-away rocker covers. Small trials-style toolboxes are fitted on each side of the rear mudguard.
1949 – Competition Model This ‘Comp’ features the rigid (ie: unsprung) style of frame still favoured by many trials riders of the time. The high seat, generous ground clearance, high-level exhausts and ‘knobbly’ tyres create a purposeful-looking trials machine.
1950 – Mark IV In late 1949, the range was updated to become the Mark IV and was expanded to five models; the De Luxe and Sports models were joined by a Competition model and two fast road versions. Visually, the road-going models were distinguished by teardrop-shaped rear toolboxes, while the front mudguard was now attached to the front brake plate and rose and fell with wheel movement. Although black paintwork was still offered, the no-cost option of polychromatic blue proved more popular.
1951 – 80 Plus Included in the 1950 range were two high-performance road models – the 80 Plus and 90 Plus, with names which referred to their claimed top speeds. Both had specially tuned engines which were bench-tested for power and torque; those which achieved in excess of 25 bhp were designated 90 Plus while those developing up to 25 bhp were termed 80 Plus. The maroon paintwork was unique to the 80 Plus, shown above.
1951 – 90 Plus The 90 Plus, in its distinctive polychromatic gold finish, was aimed at ‘the most discriminating sporting rider’ in Douglas’ sales material. At £165, it cost £5 more than an 80 Plus but was offered with a ‘race kit’ comprising a rev counter, racing magneto, racing seat and road racing tyres and lightweight mudguards, at no extra cost. The opposed-twin configuration, with high compression pistons, a stronger clutch and extensive use of needle roller bearings, enabled ‘Plus’ engines to rev to unusually high speeds for a 1950s motorcycle. Note the purposeful-looking front brake, unique to the ‘Plus’ models.
1952 – Mark V For the 1951 season, the Mark IV was superseded by the Mark V. This model differed only in detail from the Mark IV – the front mudguard gained a rib, and pillion footrests and tubular silencers became standard, although the ‘woffle box’ remained an option. The single saddle also remained a standard fitting, although many buyers chose the optional dual seat. Restrictions on the availability of chromium during 1952 also meant that, for one year, the petrol tank was silver painted between the colour panels, as shown on this polychromatic green example.
1956 – Dragonfly The Douglas Dragonfly shared its major mechanical components with the Mark series models, although the appearance was cleaner and an AC generator and single carburettor were fitted. The frame, forks and suspension however, were completely new. Fashionable streamlined bodywork sat atop a strong, light cradle frame with leading link front forks employing bonded rubber pivot bearings. Suspension units front and rear were conventional spring/damper units.
Although the press wrote favourably of the new model, the public, as so often, were more sceptical. A total of just 1570 Dragonflys were built between 1954 and 1957, before the Bristol factory was turned over exclusively to the production of Vespa scooters.
In the post-war years, demand for larger capacity machines, first of 500cc and then 600-650cc, left Douglas struggling. In the early 1950s, a 500cc prototype based on the Mark series was developed, some of whose engine styling features were later adopted for the Dragonfly. Ultimately, however, Douglas’ limited resources could not compete with industry giants like AMC, BSA and Triumph, and Douglas motorcycles ended almost as they had begun, making 350cc opposed-twin cylinder machines.