A motorcycle built by Europe’s first sewing machine manufacturer more than 100 years ago is up for auction by Bonhams in Stafford next month.
The 1915 Bradbury 749CC 6 HP V-Twin was built by Bradbury & Co of Oldham in Lancashire. Bradbury built sewing machines before diversifying into bicycles and then motorbikes at the turn of the century.
Their first motorcycles were simply bicycles with clip-on Minerva engines, but in 1903 they began producing the Peerless motorcycle with a two horsepower engine. The company subsequently claimed to be the first manufacturer to build an all-British motorcycle and sidecar.
In 1904 Bradbury launched a 2.5 horsepower machine with a new frame design and in 1905 the Peerless won a 1,000-mile (1,600 km) reliability trial.
In 1909, the Bradbury 3.5 horsepower motorcycle was launched and advertised as “the finest hill climber (power for power) ever made”.
Within a year Bradbury bikes had won more than 300 first prizes including 18 gold medals in hill climbing competitions.
Although destined not to survive beyond 1925, Bradbury had amassed an impressive tally of awards and records prior to WWI.
According to Bonhams’ auction notes, speed and reliability were claimed as the Bradbury’s special qualities and any machine which simultaneously held the English and Irish “End to End” Sidecar Records – at record speed and without a single mechanical stoppage – must have had a lot going for it.
Of advanced specification, Bradbury’s six horsepower model employed a twin-cylinder sidevalve engine of 750cc, which drove via a three-speed countershaft gearbox and chain final drive.
The auction motorcycle was given a “frame upwards” restoration during the 1990s, in the course of which the cycle parts were refurbished and repainted, wheels professionally rebuilt and forks re-tubed and re-spindled by Elk Engineering.
The cylinder heads and barrels were lifted, but the engine was found to be in very good condition, retaining its original pistons. The brakes and transmission were all overhauled.
A Bonhams spokesman said: “We are advised that after the rebuild the machine was an easy ‘second-kick starter’ and a good runner, although it has not been ridden in recent years and so re-commissioning will be necessary before returning it to the road.
“The improved (non-original) front brake, effective rear drum brake, powerful engine, advanced three-speed gearbox, and all-chain drive combine to make this an exceptionally safe and usable motorcycle of the very early vintage era.”
The original stirrup front brake and fittings are included in the sale. The machine also comes with some original tool kit items, original owner’s instruction book and parts list.
The pre-auction estimate is £16,000-£20,000.
The Bradbury is going under the hammer during Bonhams’ Spring Sale of Pioneer, Vintage & Collectors’ Motorcycles and Related Spares at 10am on Sunday, April 23, at Staffordshire County Showground.