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Douglas 2 3/4 hp

Douglas 2 3/4 hp

Douglas flat-twin motorcycles won undying fame and fortune, with their performance in World War I, when the company equipped army despatch riders with some 25,000 bikes. Technically advanced, they demonstrated the smoothness of an engine type that was adopted by numerous other manufacturers and used by Douglas themselves as late as 1957.

The Douglas Engineering Company was founded in Bristol in 1882 by Scottish brothers William and Edward Douglas, as a general engineeing company and foundry. But the Douglas motorcycle really grew out of the efforts of Joseph Barter, who founded a company called Light Motors Ltd in nearby Kingswood. Barter had developed a design called the Fairy - which used horizontally opposed engine of advanced design.

Despite its technical advantages, Barter failed to make enough money to enable the firm to survive and in 1907 Douglas took over manufacture of a model based on the Fairy, enlarging the engine size to 2 3/4 hp (340cc). In 1910 a new two-speed gearbox was fitted under the gearbox and operated by a handle on top of the tank. Belt drive was used and no clutch was fitted. The new model won an important reliability trial and set a record for the Lands End to John O'Groats run. In 1912 the engine gained new mechanically operated valves that gave a power output of 8bhp. As that year's Isle of Man TT, there were several Douglas entries which gained outstanding successes. By the end of 1914 Douglas had sold around 12,000 bikes and they soon became one of the most important makers of military machines.

For a small side-valve, the Douglas twin was quick, and being light, it was easy to manhandle. The front plug could short out in the wet but on the whole the bike was very reliable and smooth running. After the war a civilian version of the Douglas twin went into production in 1919, but many ex-WD examples were reconditioned and sold off, giving long and honourable service in peace just as they had in war-time.

Douglas 2 3/4hp (1919)

  • Years in production - 1912-22
  • Engine - horizontally opposed side-valve four-stroke twin
  • Bore and Stroke - 60.8 x 60mm
  • Capacity - 348cc
  • Power - 8bhp
  • Carburettor - Douglas two-lever
  • Tyres (front/rear) - 2.25in x 26in/2.25 x 26in
  • Weight - 170lb
  • Top speed - 40mph