Prestwich (JAP) Motorcycle History
JA Prestwich Industries Ltd, was
a British engineering company named after founder
John Alfred Prestwich, produced cinematographic
equipment, internal combustion engines (for
which the company was generally abbreviated
to "J.A.P"), and other examples of
J.A. Prestwich, an engineer, founded
the company in 1895, when he was in his early
twenties, initially behind his father's house.
By 1911 he had moved to a new plant at Northumberland
Park, Tottenham. Prestwich came to be known
as much for his creation of cinematography projectors
as his engines. He worked with S.Z. de Ferranti
and later the cinema pioneer William Friese-Greene.
The engines were used in many
famous motorcycle marques and other devices,
such as early aeroplanes, chainsaws, cultivators
such as those produced by Howard Rotovators
and light rail maintenance trucks. The motorcycle
engines were associated with racing success
and were still used in speedway bikes well into
the 1960s. During World War II Prestwich produced
around 240,000 industrial petrol engines in
support of the war effort, together with millions
of aircraft parts, fuses, etc.
After 1945 production was taken
over by Villiers Ltd. and the company was completely
absorbed by the Villiers Engineering Company
in 1964 just as Villiers itself was to be taken
over by Manganese Bronze Bearings.
The company's engineering works
in Northumberland Park closed in 1963.
From 1904 to 1908 complete motorcycles
were produced from the development of the first
Overhead Valve motorcycle engine to be produced
in the UK. After that the factory concentrated
on supplying its engines to other manufacturers,
including Brough Superior, Triumph Motorcycles
and HRD Motorcycles, the forerunner of Vincent
Motorcycles. JAP exported significant numbers
of engines to foreign motorcycle manufacturers
including Dresch and Terrot in France, and Ardie,
Hecker and Tornax in Germany.
Latterly, JAP engines (under Villiers
control) were used in motorcycle racing, and
most commonly speedway or dirt track
J.A. Preswich also made stationary
engines under the JAP name for a variety of
uses. They ranged in size from the smallest
1a type engine to the much larger type 6 engine,
and were used on such things as rotovators,
generating sets, milking sets, water pumps,
hay elevators and other agricultural machines.
They were usually 4-stroke and were usually
reliable, and examples can still be seen at
vintage rallies around the country.
The project was inspired by Lord Hesketh, who
planned to revive the failing British motorcycle
industry and at the time had a background of
F1 racing being the last private team to win
a F1 Grand Prix, with James Hunt at the wheel.
Lord Hesketh wanted to use the skills and facilities
built up in that pursuit to greater effect and
production of a quality motorcycle was born.
The Hesketh motorcycle was developed on the
Easton Neston estate, with the prototype running
in the spring of 1980 using a special Weslake
engine. The V-twin V1000 (based loosely on the
marketing panache of the Vincent Motorcycle),
offered all sorts of advances; for example,
it was the first British bike with four valves
per cylinder and twin camshafts (although commonplace
in Japanese machines).