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The Douglas

The Douglas Engineering Company founded in Bristol, England in 1882 by the Douglas brothers William and Edward, their business being blacksmiths which progressed to a foundry work and then with the acquisition of the defunct company of W. J. Barter called Light Motors Ltd., this company had a design for a flat twin and the ongoing production of a single cylinder motorcycle and a horizontal twin called Fair.

Douglas has their first badged machine on sale from 1907 and around 1915 a motorcycle with the engine turned to lay along the frame, this had a belt final drive at the same time they introduced electric lighting.

World War I produced a boost to the Douglas production, they produced 70,000 motorcycles for military use, the war ending in 1918 the company produced by 1920 a disk brake and received a Royal warrant to supply bikes to Princes Albert & Henry.

The popularity of the Douglas amongst the dirt track riders (with disk brakes)? was such that Douglas decided to make a machines that was aimed at the dirt track riders, the designs were gradually increased as was the engine size increasing in the DT5 to a 500cc and the DT6 was increased to 600cc this was during the late 1920’s and the 1930’s.

The engines fitter in these machines had, I am told a hemispherical combustion chamber and a short forged crankshaft, unlike many other producers of motorcycles the Douglas Company actually put the machine developed for the dirt track into production and they were rewarded by becoming the domination producers, selling in 1929  in the region of 1,200 dirt track machines.

With the first ACU event at High Beech in 1928 dirt track riding was became established in the UK, the riders were becoming more skilled and many were riding the Douglas including Jack Parker and Fay Taylor, a successful lady rider. Around this time the sports name was changed to Speedway.

Douglas also produced machines for other off road sports and were as successful on the grass track as on the speedway track but enviable other manufactures began to catch up and the Douglas started to lose its place as THE machine to have. Selling out to Bond Aircraft and Engineering Company in 1933 and then the Westinghouse Brake and Signal Company Ltd. Production of the Douglas continued after World War II but was finally stopped in 1957 when all production ceased.

There are still many Speedway Douglas around in varying stages of disrepair but there are also those in mint condition, they are still raced and can be seen at meeting run by the Men in Black who also have many other speedway machines on show and on the track so you can study them and see them in action.

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