British motorcycle manufacturers - B
Last update June 6, 2003
|BAC||Bond Aircraft and Engineering Co, later taken over by Ellis of Leeds. Made small-scale scooters from 1951 using 99 and 122cc Villiers engines. Stopped production in 1953.|
|Baker||1926 (27?) -30. Frank Baker was founder of Precision Motorcycles. When it folded in 1912, he joined with industrial giant Beardmore to start Beardmore-Precision. Beardmore pulled out in 1924 and the company closed, so Baker went on to start his own company in 1926. His three firms made a range of Villiers-powered motorcycles, from 172 to 343cc (147cc-247cc?) machines, from the turn of the century to 1930, when Frank Baker finally sold out to James.|
|Banshee||1921-24. Made by George Bell, who later worked for Triumph.|
|Bantamoto||1951-53. Cycle motor attachment made by Cyc-Auto.|
|Barnes||1904. Motorcycles, tricars and forecars.|
|Barron||1977. Used Polish and Italian cycle components.|
|Barter||1902-05. J. Barter later designed the flat twin for Fee (Scott).|
|BAT Motor Company||Started making motorcycles in 1902. Named after founder S. R. Batson. Taken over by the Tessier family in 1904 after Batson failed to find a good market. Nicknamed 'Best After Tests,' the reliable bikes used small de Dion engines and no pedal power. They entered two machines in the 1907 TT races, although without success. That came with later races, albeit nothing spectacular. Made the first sprung frame in 1906. In 1908 they offered a sidecar outfit, with two powered wheels on the removable sidecar. They concentrated on twins for 1912 and managed to come in seventh in the Senior TT of 1913. Production ceased for WW1, and resumed in 1919. They took over another manufacturer, Martinsyde, in 1923, but financial problems closed the Bat-Martinsyde company in 1926.|
|Baughan||Founded by trials rider H. P. Baughan in the 1920s, first started building motorcycles in 1930 using 300cc side-valve to 500cc ohv machines (engines from Blackburne, JAP or Sturmey-Archer). Later added 250 and 350cc machines. Small production, closed in 1936.|
|Beardmore Precision||1921-24. See Baker. Baker became involved with Beardmore in 1915, and began to develop a motorcycle for them in 1919. Beardmore pulled out after the 1924 TT race and closed production.|
|Beeston Cycle Company||1898-1905. Founded by Harry Lawson. Made their first motorized vehicle, a tricycle in 1896 and first motorized bicycle in 1897 before going into production. Also called Humber-Beeston and Beeston-Humber.|
|Berwick||Made a prototype shaft-drive motorcycle with 247 or 343cc Villiers engine in 1929-1930. Never produced.|
|Bikotor||1951, 47cc two-stroke cycle motor attachment.|
|Binks||1903-06. Produced the world's first traverse-four motorcycle, a 385cc machine.|
|Birch||1902-05. John Birch made the Perks & Birch motorwheel, later sold to Singer. In 1909, he went on to design a new engine for Bradbury.|
|Blackburne||1913-21. Bought the rights to the original de Havilland engine, then sold its own rights to OEC in 1919. Motorcycle production continued until 1922.|
|Black Prince||1919-20. 500cc flat twin.|
|Blumfield||1908-14. Engines and some complete motorcycles.|
|Bond||1949-53. Founded by Lawrence Bond who first made three-wheel cars, but started making motorcycles in 1950. Unusual 99cc scooter design used a Villiers engine and heavily-enclosed frame. 125cc model included telescopic forks by 1951. Ceased production in 1953, but returned in 1958 and continued until 1962.|
|Booth||1901-03. Sold as Humber-Branly after 1903.|
|Bowden||1902-05. Frank Bowden, founder of Raleigh.|
|Bown||1922-24. Originally built Aberdale autocycles, but produced some under its own name 1950-58. Made Aeolus motorcyles pre-WW1. Made own bikes 1922-24, Aberdales 1946-49 and Levis 1950-58.|
|1901-25. Oldham. Introduced one of the earliest forms of variable gearing, using manually adjustable pulleys, in 1912. Original bikes badged 'Peerless.'|
|Britax||1954-56. Scooters. Began by selling Ducati clip-on engines for bicycles in 1949. Brief production of complete motorcycles including 50cc racers.|
|British-Radial||1920-22. Three-cylinder radial engine.|
|Brockhouse||1948-55, scooters (folding Corgi scooter). Became major shareholder in Indian in ealry 1950s. Made a 250cc sidevalve sold as Indian brave, but was poorly designed and commercially unsuccessful.|
George Brough's machines were advertised as the "Rolls Royce" of motorcycles. Expensive, and powerful, they were mostly handmade, many powered by JAP (J. A. Prestwich) engines, some by Matchless engines.
The company was started by father William Brough, who built a car in 1899, using a Dion engine. He then put together a motorized tricycle and finally a motorcycle in 1902. His flat-twin bikes were very successful in sprints and hill climbs. He began making production motorcycles in 1908. George and William were initially partners in the company.
George left his father's business in 1919 after an argument to begin his own company in the same city of Nottingham. He was joined by Ike Webb, who became works manager. Brough showed his first bike, a V-twin, at the Olympia show in late 1920 and began production in 1921. His SS80 sv model was available in 1923, the SS100 from 1925. His production was mostly custom and special bikes designed for specific customer wants or needs.
Brough senior continued to make motorcycles after George left, with 496cc ABC engines, later using his own flat twin Brough engines up to 810cc. He ceased production in 1926 (25?).
George's high-quality machines used JAP, MAG and Matchless engines, Sturmey-Archer gearboxes and Brampton forks. Most famous of all were his SS models (the SS100 had an OHV 990cc engine, the SS80 a 998cc side-valve). The Pendine model SS100 was guaranteed to exceed 110 mph!
Undoubtedly Brough's strangest bike was a 1932 four-cylinder three-wheeler powered by a modified 796cc Austin Seven automobile engine! It also had shaft drive and was intended for sidecar use. Shortly after this, William died and George returned home to continue his production.
T.E. Lawrence owned eight Broughs, all called George. He was killed on May 13, 1935, while riding George VII, an SS100. Only around 400 SS100s were ever made; about 300 powered by a JAP engine, the last 100 by a Matchless V-twin.
Brough announced a new bike in 1938, the Dream, with a 900cc flat-four engine. With numerous technological advances, it promised to be an even better machine, but production was halted in 1940, just after war broke out. However, the bike wasn't forgotten in 1949 Noel Pope used an enclosed, streamlined Brough with an 8/80 JAP engine to try for a speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats. He crashed at 150mph, ending his attempt. Pope had already achieved a world record on a Brough at Brooklands, where he reached 124 mph in a solo and 106mph in a sidecar machine. But the record went to Eric Fernihough in 1938, who managed to reach 180mph on a Brough in Budapest, but was killed in the return lap.
In 1940, Brough stopped making motorcycles to make aircraft components for the Allied war effort, but never started again after war ended.
|Brown||1902-19 (1901-15?) Accessory supplier, also made some of its own, small-medium-sized bikes.|
|Brown-Bicar||1907-13. Fully-enclosed engines. Also called Midget Bicar.|
|BSA (Birmingham Small Arms)||
One of the great marques, BSA actually began as a gun trades union in 1854, when 14 Birmingham gunsmiths grouped to sell arms for the Crimean War effort. In 1861 they decided to form a public company, signed the papers in 1862, and found a site on Small Heath for their factory, opening in 1863.
BSA started building bicycles in the 1880s and bicycle components, and followed with motorized bicycles in 1903. In 1907, BSA acquired parts maker Eadie Manufacturing (created by Albert Eadie, general manager of Royal Enfield). They made their first own real motorcycle in 1910, a 499cc side-valve. Model H and Model K were their pre-war singles.
Production ceased during WW1 while they pursued their traditional manufacturing, making guns, but returned quickly after the war, making their first V-twins in 1919. In the early 1920s, they acquired an engineer and designer from Daimler called Harold Briggs who designed new sporting machines for them, including their popular 493cc ohv Sloper of 1928. They made their first and only two-stroke, a 175cc unit construction bike, for only one season, in 1928. BSA's famous Star series started in the 1930s with the Blue Star singles in 250, 350 and 500cc versions. The Empire Stars followed. Val Page, formerly of Ariel, then Triumph, joined BSA to make their M-range in the late 1930s.
Reliable rather than innovative, BSA sold 126,334 military M20 sv bikes to the Allied war effort, as well as munitions, shell fuses and a folding bicycle, and soon owned 67 factories. German bombs destroyed most of their original 1863 and 1915 premises, killed 53 workers and destroyed 1,600 machine tools. In the 1930s, the company boasted that one in four motorcycles on the roads in the UK was a BSA.
BSA became the largest motorcycle company in the world between the wars. In 1939, the company owned 67 factories across the UK. During the war, they made 126,000 M20 motorcycles - among their other war production! They were so large that they bought Triumph in 1951. They also took over Sunbeam from AMC in 1936 (1943?) and Ariel in 1944. BSA also acquired New Hudson. In 1946 they announced a new competition model, the 350cc B31.
BSA's most famous single, the 499cc ohv DBD34 Gold Star, started production in 1931 as the Blue Star. This became the Empire Star in 1937. It was renamed after Walter Handley won a Gold Star at Brooklands that year and Val Page took over the re-design. Production of the new Gold Star began in 1938 and continued until 1963. In that time the Goldie dominated many races including the Isle of Man Clubmans TT. It was replaced with smaller singles, the 250cc C15, which later grew to 500cc.
A popular BSA staple was the vertical twin. It began as the 500cc A7 in 1946, followed by the Bert Hopwood-engineered 650cc A10 in 1950 and a re-designed 500 called the Star Twin, which won the Maudes Trophy in 1952 for exceptional endurance . These twins were replaced by the unit-construction 500cc A50 and 650cc A65 twins in 1962. The A50 had several names, including the Royal Star. The rare Rocket Gold Star of 1962 was a specially-tuned A10 with Gold Star forks, brakes and wheels. The 1965 Spitfire 650cc was a sports twin (built until 1968), followed by the A65L Lightning dual-carb version. 650cc twins stopped production in 1971, the 500cc was retained until 1972.
Another popular BSA was the diminutive Bantam, based on a German DKW RT125 design.
During the 1960s, the company was slow to innovate, and made several failures, including the Dandy and Beagle commuter bikes and the Ariel-3 tricycle. Profits were falling from their 1960 high of 9 million pds. In 1962, BSA followed Triumph to make unit construction twins, the A50 and A65. In 1968 they adopted triumph's twin-leading-shoe drum brakes. The Rocket Three was BSA's triple, which appeared at the same time as Triumph's Trident, in 1969. The engine was basically a Trident, sloped at 15 degrees, but the frame was BSA's. It offered a glimmer of hope for BSA's future, but production on the Fury/Triumph Bandit broke them.
Although an industrial giant, the company proved unable to compete well against the Japanese, and by 1970 they hit financial hardships. The 1971 lineup saw major makeovers, including oil-in-frame 650 twins. BSA was bought by Norton (owned by Manganese Bronze) and absorbed into the Norton-Villiers-Triumph group in 1971, which managed to design an uncomfortably high A65 Lightning at Umberslade Hall before BSA collapsed. The name was finally abandoned and production ended in 1973.
The UK rights to the BSA name was acquired by the Canadian Aquilini family. BSA Co. was sold and a US company (Bill Colquhuon's BSA Co.) used the name for Rotax-engined military bikes and Yamaha-based Bushman machines for developing nations. In 1991, Andover Norton and BSA Co. merged to create BSA Group, which was taken over in 1994 to form BSA Regal. They announced a new Gold SR using a Yamaha SR400 engine in a Gold Star styled chassis. See www.bsa-regal.co.uk.
|Bulldog||1920. Birmingham, made horizontally-opposed engine.|
|Burney||1923-25. Founded by former Blackburne employees.|