The following three related books were published by Panther Publishing Ltd. 'The Panther story' greatly expands on and supersedes 'The story of Panther motorcycles' published by PSL.


The Panther story

Joah Phelon had a small wire-drawing die business, associated with the local Yorkshire wool industry, in partnership with his nephew, Harry Rayner. Though a keen cyclist, Joah soon experimented with motor-assistance replacing the front down tube with an encased engine but unlike other pioneering motor-assisted bicycles, used all-chain drive. It was a sensation and soon caught the attention of Humber who from 1901 license built the Phelon & Rayner design as a motorcycle, tricycle and forecar later adding a water-cooled engine and a 2-speed gear train. This allowed Joah to return to his core business... and there the story may well have ended were it not for a young engineer and keen P&R rider, Richard Moore.

Richard developed a unique expanding wedge-clutch 2-speed all-chain drive, transforming the P&R into a truly successful motorcycle. Their new Phelon & Moore of late 1904 was a sensation and was soon regularly winning Gold awards in motorcycle trials and winning many firm friends, especially in sidecar work with its immensely strong engine-cum-frame design.

The 3-1/2hp P&M was adopted exclusively by the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service in WW.I; its in-service durability added to is appeal post-war. The P&M remained the standard RAF motorcycle until 1928 when military procurement passed to the army.

The 1920s saw many improvements. Upgraded to 4-1/2hp the war-time V-twin 6hp side-car hauling prototype was now abandoned; a 4-speed gear system was added and in 1923 an ambitious move into sports tourers came with the new 'Panther' side-valve - it too found many friends in sporting events, but P&M's mainstay remained with top of the range tourers and sidecar machines.

In 1923 P&M thought the unthinkable; a new motorcycle. The 'clean sheet' approach was entrusted to Granville Bradshaw who had earlier designed the transverse-twin ABC. He unhesitatingly retained the robust engine-cum-frame design and merely developed an over-head-valve version of the reliable 4-1/2hp sv engine. P&M were soon offering a range of models from heavyweight sidecar mounts to sleek TT racers!

In 1927 P&M reintroduced a lightweight model into the range. This was Bradshaw's unique 246cc V-twin Panthette but truly innovative though it was, many factors combined against it from over-advanced engineering to revised road tax rates; a 2-stroke Villiers version sold better but the Panthette was abandoned in favour of a conventional 250/350cc lightweight, developed in 1932, which by happenstance coincided with the recession saving P&M from certain closure thanks to the cut-price 'Red Panther' sold by Pride & Clarke, which sold in its thousands.

In the late-1930s, again with Bradshaw's assistance, P&M launched a conventional 500cc version and developed an in-line twin, but the war intervened and this time P&M turned to general engineering returning to 250/350cc models and the famous 600cc Model 100 in 1946. However, these post-war years were less prosperous: the Suez crisis era's 'mini-cars' hastened the end of sidecars and the venerable Model 100; the 250/350cc models sold well but it was a new range of Villiers lightweights that kept P&M alive, while their venture into scooters proved disastrous and in late 1961 P&M entered receivership. They finally ended motorcycle production in 1966 with the 650cc Model 120 which still had a direct lineage to Joah Phelon's design of 1900.


Granville Bradshaw - a flawed genius?

Born in 1886, Granville Bradshaw was a British pioneer of aviation, motorcycling and motorcars. He first flew in 1910 in an aeroplane he built, powered by an engine of his own design which led in 1912 to the formation of ABC Ltd with Walter Adams, a fellow pioneering motorcyclist and engine designer (the book has his brief biography).

Being based at Brooklands, Bradshaw soon became involved in motor-racing and flat-twin motorcycles and in 1913 developed a flat-twin auxiliary engine which proved useful as a light aero-engine. In 1917 he developed a 6-cyl radial aero-engine from which evolved a 7-cyl Wasp and an extremely powerful 9-cyl Dragonfly.

So impressed were the Government officials by the hand-made prototype Dragonfly's performance, and so desperate were they to win the war, that they ordered its immediate production in late-spring 1918 by 13 disparate engineering companies (few of whom had ever built an engine!), foregoing the normal pre-production testing. Such extreme government foolhardiness proved disastrous (yet Bradshaw was wrongly blamed). The Dragonfly's problems were however solved after the war but this promising engine was made redundant by new designs which had been allowed their proper, peace-time, pre-production development. Bradshaw left ABC in 1920 but his flat-twin aero-engine design remained in production into the 1970s.

After the war Granville became a consultant engineer developing and patenting a host of inventions from amusement machines to vandal proof screws (and after the war, colour-TV), but is best remembered for his flat-twin ABC motorcycle of 1919; ABC Skootamota; ABC Cyclecar, his revolutionary oil-cooled engines, Belsize-Bradshaw oil-cooled car, the Panther ohv engine, V-twin Panthette, and in-line twin. He long proposed many advanced, but contentious ideas - far too advanced for his audience and contemporary technologies - hence "a flawed genius?" in the title - the chief of which came during the war for a novel incredibly compact, reciprocating piston toroidal rotary engine - a project which dominated his life until his death in 1969.







The Rugged Road

by Theresa Wallach; biographies by Barry M Jones


The Rugged Road contains Theresa Wallach's posthumous account of her and Florence Blenkiron's London to Cape Town adventure, crossing the Sahara desert unaided, by Panther motorcycle, sidecar and tented-trailer in 1934-36. Both girls were keen motorcycle racers; in 1933 Florence (a secretary) became the first woman to break the coveted 100mph record (Theresa, an engineer, was the third in 1939). The girls first met in 1933 and became firm friends. When Florence was determined to see friends and relatives in South Africa, Theresa suggested they went together... by motorcycle.

The Motorcycle manufacturers' Trades Union had strict rules about their members sponsoring such ventures, but as P&M were already in their bad books for supplying discounted 'Red Panthers' to Pride & Clark, they offered the girls a ruggedised 600cc Panther. The French authorities however did everything in their powers to dissuade the girls but eventually relented, and the girls left in December 1934 armed with rudimentary Foreign Legion maps... but no compass. Needless to say they conquered desert and jungle - read the book! - and reached Cape Town in July 1935. Now in ill-health, Theresa briefly remained in Cape Town while Florence returned alone with a new Panther and sidecar reaching Kano in January 1936 (her account is brief) but was strictly refused permission to attempt the Sahara alone, so she and her Panther combination crossed by desert bus.

Florence thereafter lived a quite life. Both girls served in WW.II.  Theresa then emigrated to America, exploring the continent by Norton motorcycle before setting up a motorcycle agency and motorcycle riding school.
I had got to know Theresa through earlier researching the Panther story; she died in April 1999 but I succeeded in tracking down her unedited, unpublished account of the crossing (kept verbatim) and wrote the accompanying biographies.


... and all because I had fallen in love with my Panther 120 combination (sssh! - I later rode MotoGuzzis - sssh!)

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