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Douglas Dragonfly

Douglas Dragonfly 1956 Douglas Dragonfly Douglas Dragonfly 1957 Douglas Dragonfly

Against a background of financial uncertainty, the Douglas factory was always willing to rise to the challenge, pioneering innovative designs and styling. In 1954 they launched a sophisticated and original looking design at the Earls Court show.

Developed during 1953, the model was intended to supersede their rather dated range and take the company into a new era. Many of its features foreshadowed those of the slightly later BMW, which went on to achieve considerable success.

Douglas' new engine design was a 350 based on their previous engine - although it also borrowed heavily from an interesting 500cc prototype shown in 1951. The engine had been strengthened internally and cleaned up externally, with a streamlined appearance and a crankcase that housed the electrics and other ancillaries, while the gearbox was attached to the rear. A single Amal Monobloc carburettor fed both cylinders. Coil ignition and alternator electrics were among the model's advanced features. Most of the cycle parts were bought in. The frame was completely new, made by the Reynolds Tube Company. A swinging arm with twin dampers looked after the rear suspension, while the front suspension used a design patented by Midlands engineer Ernie Earles and built by Reynolds. This used a long swinging arm, controlled by twin dampers. A similar design was used by BMW on their production bikesm while MV Agusta, among others, tried it for racing.

The other main styling feature was the petrol tank and light unit. Containing a massive 52 gallons, the tank pressing continued forward of the steering head to house the headlamp and instrument panel, which did not turn with the steering. Originally called the Dart, by the time of the show the model was called the Dragonfly. Finished in a cream shade called light stone with toning green panels or black and gold, it was an attractive if unconventional machine.

Unfortunately, after its much-vaunted show launch, Douglas was unable to offer quantity production for another nine months. Despite a favourable road test in April 1955, the price had gone up by almost 10% by August and a less favourable road test followed.

Its handling could not be faulted, although the brakes were rather poor. But ultimately the problem of the Dragonfly came down to a mismatch of its capacity and its presentation. With the styling and fittings of a tourer, it has an engine that was pushed to top 75mph and cruised at considerably less. It found few customers - only around 1500 were made - and Douglas' shaky finances restricted both manufacturing and marketing. Towards the end of 1956, the company was taken over by the Westinghouse electrical group and motorcycle production ended in March 1957.

Douglas Dragonfly

  • Years in production - 1953-56
  • Engine type - horizontally-opposed twin-cylinder four stroke.
  • Bore and Stroke - 60.8 x 60mm
  • Capacity - 348cc
  • Ignition - Coil with Miller alternator
  • Carburettor - Amal Monobloc
  • Weight - 365lb
  • Top Speed - 75mph