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* Updated * The North London Garage Motorcycle, hits 90 M.P.H. at Brooklands in 1909

* Update * Thanks to reader Martin Shelly of the UK for providing many of the details about both machines and the riders. Check his comment below for the details.

“The North London Garage, of Corsica Street, Highbury, London, North, is now specializing in the tuning up of motorcycles for hill climbs and club competitions”  That quote came from the The Motor-Car Journal, Saturday, June 13th. 1908, issue and from the looks of the machines seen here, they must have known what they were doing.

Little is known of the machine shown below other than they seem to have featured the same monster J.A.P. engine. The photos are courtesy of Czech expert motorcycle restorer Pavel Malanik. He has information which states that this first machine constructed was un-rideable probably because of the lightweight single loop frame. C.R. Collier is seen posing on it in the photos.


The second version of the machine seen at the very (top and bottom), featured a much stronger rigid frame style frame (note the single bicycle type brake on the front wheel). With it W.E. Cook set a speed record of 90 m.p.h. or 144 km/h on the Brooklands track in England.

In studying the details of the engine it will be noted that it appears to have two exhaust ports per cylinder. It also appears to have auxiliary exhaust ports at the bottom of the piston stroke. The cuffs half way do each cylinder and the tubes pointing downward from them seem to indicate it is so equipped.

The John Alfred Prestwich  80 degree engine, is stated to have a square bore and stroke and a massive 2714 cc volume of displacement, which works out to 165.62 c.i., a huge engine for a motorcycle. Early on in the speed game of all types, one of the ways to success was with a large engine, as the science of making power was still being developed.

If any of our readers can add more to the story of this incredible machine and its rider please send us a comment. Top photo from Motor Cycle magazine. Photo (above) sent courtesy of Martin Shelly.

17 responses to “* Updated * The North London Garage Motorcycle, hits 90 M.P.H. at Brooklands in 1909

  1. Three examples of the 16/20 HP JAP engine were built in 1908, the first for Harry Bashall to ride in the 1908 TT in a BAT motorcycle, and one was fitted by Matchless into the single loop frame shown in the article. This was not strong enough for the job and the bike was not used, and neither was the Bashall TT mount used in the race, a smaller bike being substituted on which Harry came 2nd in the twin cylinder class, setting the fastest lap of 42.25 mph in the process.

    On 11 November 1909, W E Cook made an unsuccessful record attempt at Brooklands with the Bashall bike, now reworked by North London Garages and entered as the NLG-BAT, In order to start the giant engine, a 2714cc 90 degree V twin (not 80 degree) and 120mm bore and stroke, with about 1.5 to 1 gearing, he rode the bike down the test hill at Brooklands and made his way along the start/finish straight in the opposite direction to normal before riding round the banked circuit.

    The small crowd of onlookers were amazed that he rode the bike very fast and occasionally with only one hand on the bars, but his attempt at the half mile, kilometre and mile records was frustrated by the failure of the electronic timing device at Brooklands so no time was recorded. None of the contemporary press reports I have found to date suggest a speed so I presume the 90 mph quoted must be a guess.

    Cook had enjoyed success at Brooklands on a smaller, Peugeot-engined NLG which miraculously survives (although it was damaged in the National Motorcycle Museum fire in Birmingham some years ago), the smaller bike being far more manageable than the 16/20HP engined bike which was unwieldy at best and unrideable at worst.

    It is likely that the third engine was acquired for the Collier brothers’ early aircraft venture, the Matchless (or Collier) Monoplane, but when this finally flew in 1910 it was fitted with a more powerful V4 engine. The NLG-BAT was ridden by Cook at a few events in 1910 and then it was ridden by notable rider S T Tessier who was principal of the BAT company that had made it in the first place.

    Most of these photos were also included in a landmark book called Historic Racing Motorcycles written by John Griffith and published in 1963 by the Temple Press who published the early motorcycle paper Motorcycling (The Green ‘Un) at the time the machines were current. This book has a chapter on these machines.

  2. Martin, Thank you for all of the details. As to the speed set either Pavel Malanik or Isabelle Bracquemond appear to have found a reference to it somewhere. I will see if I can find the source.

    I also questioned the 80 degree angle but after studying the photos for quite sometime it appears that it was built to that angle.

  3. From Martin Shelly, I have now scanned the sideview of the NLG-BAT from Historic Racing Motorcycles. It seems you and Pavel are correct about the 80 degree V twin angle, as from the full side view you can see its less than 90. Whether its exactly 80 degrees is another matter but the contemporary mention of a 90 degree V angle is clearly wrong.

  4. Hello David,
    I’m happy you write about this motorcycle but there is not enough information about this. Most info I have is from JAP: THE VINTAGE YEARS book. There was 2 kinds of engines 80 and 90 degrees Only photo of 80-degrees engine was preserved. It was used in simple frame motorcycle but it was uncontrollable. This is why they build stronger double frame, which was used by W.E.Cook in attempt to achieve world speed record. Thanks to timer failure was this record unofficial. I’m building replica of this motorcycle and still searching for more information, which I’m going to reveal after I will finish this project.
    Best Regards, Pavel

  5. David,
    I was flicking through the 1910 supplement of ‘Motorcycling Magazine’ and saw a small mention regarding the ‘record’ set by W.E.Cook. It reads..

    ‘At a recent meeting of the A.C.U. the follwing Brooklands Class record was passed: One kilometer flying start – W.E.Cook. 20 h.p. N.L.G. 25.553 secs, 84.247 miles per hour. June 6th 1909.’

    I have a strong feeling this was achieved with the machine in the photos. Interestingly, the time was still slower than that of the frenchman Henri Cissac who established an International as well as British 1 kilo f/s record in 25 3/5 secs. at Blackpool way back in 1905. Cissac rode a 16 h.p. Peugeot machine also of the freakish nature that we all love. Unfortunately i couldn’t find anything else regarding the engine or the bike and only small ads for the North London Garage.

  6. In the 15th November 1909 issue of “Motorcycling” the whole story is told.
    This is a 90 degree vee twin. bore and stroke square at 120mm. record set at Brooklands by W.E.Cook.

  7. My understanding is that 3 such engines were built starting in 1907.
    The first person to try and ride the monster was a Mr Will Cook who built it into an NLG frame and took it to Brooklands in 1909 and was clocked at over 84 mph on his first run. The track timing gear failed on his next run which spectators said was faster and was estimated at 90mph. He is in the pictures above wearing a helmet. The frame looks quite substantial compared to the more flimsy looking Matchless version. The beast was exhibited on the NLG stand at the 1909 Stanley Show. On subsequent attempts the engine failed.
    The other two engines went one to Matchless and one to Harry Bashall who was a well known rider of BAT-JAPs. The Matchless engined monster appeared later in 1909 with Charlie Collier at the helm, but found it “unmanageable” and the engine was fitted to a Matchless monoplane that was built to try and take the Daily Mail’s £10,000 prize for the first circuit of Britain by a flying machine. The MotorCycle of December 6th 1909 refers to a “well known racing motorcyclist” building a light monoplane at Bromley, Kent and using two JAP 20hp engines fitted in tandem. The plane was later reported crashed. I have also read that one of the engine was fitted into a light car that ran at Brooklands prior to WW1. After WW1 I have not seen any mention of these machines/engines.
    Henri Cissacs 1905 record was set at Brighton Speed Trials.
    I too eagerly await Pavels pictures of his replica.
    best regards, Paul.

  8. I have been fascinated by these beasts for some time. The earliest reference is The MotorCycle December 11th 1907 page 990 where they have a picture of the Matchless version. I can email the picture if Pavel would like it?
    On November 11th 1909 Will Cook was back at Brooklands with the monster and was unofficially timed at over 90mph. The electronic timing equipment failed and when he had another run with the timing equipment ready to record his speed, the valve timing pinion sheared and the bike retired wounded, probably much to the relief of the rider. Early in 1910 he was back for another crack at the record, but it snapped its drive belt and that was the final straw and Will sold it on to a lucky new owner. What I believe to be Harry’s motor appeared again briefly in 1912 powering a cyclecar where it proved too much for the chassis and then seems to have vanished.
    best regards Paul.

  9. “What I believe to be Harry’s motor appeared again briefly in 1912 powering a cyclecar where it proved too much for the chassis and then seems to have vanished.
    best regards Paul.”

    There is a set of photos in the JAP archive at Bruce Castle Museum Harringey, London of ‘J Armangue, Barcelona, 90 JAP’ which shows a belt drive cyclecar with tranverse front mounted engine and variable speed belt drive. Armangue and friends started a company that built David cyclecars. He was killed 1919 in a flying accident and a cyclecar race named in his honour was held 1921-3 at Tarragone. This could be the car mentioned above. Why though are these engines referred to as 90 deg? Measuring the photos clearly gives 80deg!

  10. “Why though are these engines referred to as 90 deg? Measuring the photos clearly gives 80deg!”

    Looking more at my incomplete copies of the JAP archive photos there is one of the big engine only labelled ’16 H.P. 120 m/m x 120 m/m’ which seems to be 80deg and one of an engine in a motorycycle which is labelled ‘5 H.P. 85 x 60 m/m stroke’ which is 680cc and seems to be 90deg.

    I would suspect the engine in the David cyclecar is 680cc.

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