Unlikely Twins By John Wood.

I have a very interesting pair of old British Motorcycles, which on first sight, may appear very similar; Both built in Birmingham in 1938; affordably priced, for the new mobile workforce to get to work on; Both are 250cc. OHV. Single cylinder Four-strokes; both built within a mile of the Tyseley railway sidings; both hand gear change, Girder-fork Rigids and predominantly black and green:

Now; that may seem a good list of reasons why, these two machines would, if parked side by side; not deserve a second glance; After all, the British Motorcycle industry had fallen into a groove of making similar frame, suspension and engine layouts, with the same suppliers making the ancillary equipment and many having the same proprietary engines and gear boxes; But not these two:

The one which I have owned the longest, is a New Imperial. 36.L. Which was built in Spring Road, Hall Green; and a close neighbour of the Velocette factory. The other, is a BSA. B21. Built at Armoury road, Small Heath. These two makers, it would seem; had very little in common; The New Imperial enterprise, was family run; always had far too many models in its ever changing catalogue, with very advanced designs and little funds to develop them fully and as a result, seemed to be always running into financial difficulty; especially after the great depression of the early 1930’s

The B21. Was built by the largest, volume Motorcycle factory in the land; who had much experience of mass production and as a rule tended to shy away from risky and radical designs, by letting their models kind of evolve, year by year and as a result gave the reassurance of dependability for the customer. However the B21 though was the first of a new and modern line of motorcycles; designed by BSA’s latest recruit, Valentine Page in 1936.

When restoring these Machines; I try to make them as original as possible “doing all the work myself” whilst making them very reliable and usable “because I do lots of miles” also, resistance to the elements is important: Thus I tend to make all my own stainless fasteners; “because they don’t rust; and paint the bikes in cellulose with Two pack lacquer to give scratch resistance for luggage “tank bags” etc. It would have been nice to have them in “Oily Rag” state; but the found condition of both was outside of that remit, unfortunately.

f Jonathan and Woody at Dovestone Reservoir with the Pre War Singles



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