From simple powered bicycles at the end of the Victorian era to rugged and reliable machines proven on the battlefields of WW1, the first two decades of the 20th Century witnessed rapid advances in automotive development. The first Douglas, of 1907, was a single-speed clutchless design; seven years later, Douglas won the Scottish Six Days Trial with a machine fitted with a three-speed gearbox designed by chief engineer Walter Moore, later famous for his Norton and NSU overhead cam engines. By the end of the second decade, Douglas had won a reputation for machines which were reliable, fast and easy to handle.
1907 – Model A The Model A (later B), with high-mounted 2.3/4hp engine of 340cc, bicycle pedals and direct belt drive, was built between 1907 and 1910. This is a 1907 model with grey/green finish. Although equipped with rudimentary front suspension, its bicycle origins are evident. The combination of a rotating flywheel and exhausts positioned around the rider’s knees suggest that ‘Health and Safety’ was still in its infancy.
1910 – Model D A 2.3/4hp Model D of c.1910. Bicycle pedals were retained, but the frame and forks are of heavier construction than the Model A above. Note the single push rods operating only the exhaust valves; Douglas retained ‘automatic’ (or ‘atmospheric’) inlet valves until 1911. Douglas’ familiar silver and dark blue finish was used from 1908.
1912 – Model J A Model J ‘light tourer’ of 1912. Still 2.3/4hp but with improved performance achieved by mechanical operation of both inlet and exhaust valves. A two-speed countershaft gearbox is fitted although there is still no ‘free engine’ clutch. Footrests have replaced the earlier bicycle pedals. Note the cylindrical silencer/muffler below the engine.
1912 – Ladies’ Model L For 1911, Douglas introduced a 2.3/4hp Ladies’ Model with an open-section frame to accommodate the full clothing of the era. This machine is a 1912 model.
1913 – Model O The Model O of 1913 featured a 2.3/4hp side-valve engine, now enlarged to 348cc, with two-speed gearbox and footboards. High/low gears are selected via the tank-top lever with vertical shaft, visible here. Note also the front stand which pivots from the base of the front down tube, partially masked here by the footboard.
1913 – Model R Also from 1913, this Model R is similar to the Model O above but features a deeply valanced front mudguard for greater rider protection. The block-type rear brake of this beautifully restored example can be seen bearing on the belt rim.
1913 – TT Model For the sporting rider in 1913, Douglas produced the TT version of the 2.3/4hp, 348cc side-valve model, with footrests replacing the touring-style footboards. Note the spare drive belt tied to the rear rack!
1914 – Model B To meet the demands for greater power, Douglas introduced the 3.1/2hp Model A for 1914, with a 494cc side-valve engine and two-speed gearbox. The Model B shown here, with kick start, cone clutch and footboards, cost £4 more at £62. The production of civilian machines continued alongside machines for the armed forces until 1916, after which all output was taken by the British Army.
1916 – Model V The 2.3/4hp, 348cc ‘light touring’ Model V, with clutchless 2-speed gearbox, was manufactured between 1914 and 1919 and was supplied to the British Army in large numbers during WW1. This ex-Munitions Department WW1 specification machine has been restored using the optional touring handlebars and footboards instead of the normal dropped handlebars and foot pads as used in service.
1917 – Model V Similar to the 1916 model above but dating from the following year, this clutchless 2-speed Model V from 1917 was reconditioned in the factory workshops during 1919. Demand from the public for motorised transport was high in the early post-war years and ex-forces machines such as this, restored to civilian trim, found a ready market.