The first Scott motorcycles were manufactured under contract by the Jowett Motor Manufacturing Company of Back Burlington Street, Bradford in 1908. Although only 6 of such machines were built, the design included characteristics which remained common to virtually all Scott machines: a triangulated frame; a two cylinder two-stroke engine; water-cooling. The design also included many cutting-edge features such as front suspension, all chain drive and a foot operated two-speed gear. The engine capacity was a mere 333 cc.
In 1909 The Scott Engineering Company Limited was formed and production commenced at rented factory premises at Mornington Works, Grosvenor Street, Manningham, Bradford with manufacture of forks and frames contracted out to Royal Enfield. The 1909 machines differed little from those produced by Jowett although the engine capacity was increased to 450cc and another innovation, a kick-starter set on the rear wheel spindle, was added.
In November 1909 Scott exhibited for the first time at the Stanley Cycle Show held at the Agricultural Hall, Islington. Successful competition in hill climbs, trials and races had prompted the Auto-cycle Union to apply a controversial handicap to water-cooled two-stroke machines and associated publicity meant that the Scott was reported to be “without doubt the most talked of motor bicycle on the market at the present time, for its specification is well near perfect on paper.”
The models produced for 1911 included further design changes including a re-designed 486 cc engine with water-cooled cylinder barrels and a larger capacity honeycomb radiator. Further improvements followed in 1912 with the increase in engine size to 532cc and modifications to the Scott carburettor which had been a feature of all the previous machines and remained in use until 1914.
All Scott machines up to 1912 were produced with a cylindrical petrol tank painted in a distinctive purple, reputed to be derived from the colour of Alfred Scott’s sister-in-law’s favourite dress. Two parallel silver bands were added to symbolise the two-stroke, two-cylinder, two-speed characteristics. This feature was discontinued from 1913 when tanks were covered in purple Rexine leather-cloth.
1920’s TWO SPEED MODELS
Understandably little development to the design of the Scott Motorcycle was possible during the Great War and the 1919 model was almost identical to that produced in 1914, apart from the adoption of a Binks carburettor and mudguards with heavier valances. The engine capacity of all machines remained 532 cc and Sports or Touring models were available, the only real difference being in the style of the handlebars.
In 1921 the company began producing its first proper sports model named the Squirrel. A 486cc engine with aluminium alloy pistons was used with footrests and lighter mudguards replacing the footboards and heavy mudguards of the earlier standard models, which nevertheless continued in production. The Squirrel was guaranteed to achieve 60 mph.
Expanding internal hub brakes were introduced to the front wheel of all models in 1922 and to rear wheels a year later. Also in 1923, a separate oil tank was fitted to the front down-tube to supply oil to the engine by separate drippers with sight feeds. This arrangement replaced the oil-in-frame system which had been a feature of all Scott motorcycles since 1908.
A 596cc engine based on a design used in the 1923 Isle of Man TT sidecar machines was introduced at an additional price for the 1924 models and later the same year further-improved engines were introduced at 596 cc and 498 cc to a new model named the Super Squirrel. The new engines benefited from cylinder head water cooling provided by means of a polished aluminium dome.
In 1926 the company introduced a new series of three speed models of a more conventional and modern design, originally based on the 1925 TT works entry. The two speeders remained popular and continued in production although many believed that the two-speed gear was out-of-date. In 1928 the Squirrel models were dropped and in 1929 the prices were reduced by as much as 20 guineas, although a 596cc Super Squirrel was still relatively expensive at £55 10s.
Later in 1929 the Sports Squirrel was introduced to further extend the model’s lifespan. This featured a shortened frame to give a lower riding position, a full frame petrol and oil tank and adjustable handlebars. It was the lightest production Scott sold.
The two speed Scott was originally listed as available for the 1931 season in the catalogue issued at the end of 1930. However, not for the first time, the Company was then in serious financial trouble and was placed in Liquidation early in 1931. The rescued company was necessarily a rationalised operation and the two speed Scott was consequently dropped from the Scott range when a revised catalogue was issued during 1931.
1920’s & 1930’s FLYING SQUIRRELS
The first three speed Scott motorcycles were exhibited at the Olympia Cycle and Motorcycle Show in autumn 1922. These machines were similar to the two speed models but the gearbox and clutch were of a more orthodox design, mounted in the the frame on a long aluminium undertray and gear selection was by way of a long lever which came to be known as the “wobbly walking-stick.”
The design of the early three speed models progressed over the following years in line with the development of the two speeders so that a three-speed Super Squirrel was offered alongside the two speed in 1924. The three speed Super Squirrel developed a reputation as a dependable trials machine and so became a favourite with many of the competition riders.
An entirely new design of models was introduced at the Olympia Show in October 1926 based on the that year’s Isle of Man TT racing models. The altogether heavier machines looked more conventional than their predecessors. They were built in a triangulated duplex frame, with a slim combined oil and petrol tank, wider radiator, hand-operated gear change, bulkier brakes and braced “kite” front forks. Catalogued as the Flying Squirrel ( a name used in the previous year for a sports model available in two or three speed) they were sold with a 498 cc or 596 cc engine at £93 9s and £96 12s respectively.
The Flying Squirrel models underwent minor improvements over the next two years. When Tommy Hatch rode a Scott to third place In the 1928 Isle of Man senior TT, the company rushed out a road-going copy of the machine, the TT Replica Scott. This benefited from a long-stroke engine of either 498 cc or 596cc, a new design of oil and petrol tank with racing filler caps, a separate chain oiler, deflectors to each brake plate, a two-into-one left hand exhaust system of 2 inch diameter, cylinder-wall auxiliary oiling and racing type “petroflex” oil and fuel lines. The TT Replica was joined by a budget model (the Flying Squirrel Tourer) and the Flying Squirrel De Luxe and the frames of all of the models were 1 inch shorter than their predecessors.
During the 1930s , following the economic depression, the Flying Squirrel became the only Scott model (limited numbers of special designs were produced ) and although it was updated each year, the 1939 model was noticeably similar to its late 1920s predecessors. New Power Plus engines with detachable cylinder heads were introduced in 1933 and other optional extras such as a foot-operated gear change became standard as did the more modern tank design and a two-into-one left hand exhaust system. The 498 cc engine was dropped in 1938.
The last pre-war Fling Squirrel model of note was the Clubman’s Special of 1939 which is considered the peak of the models’ development. The Clubman boasted a race-prepared engine lubricated by dual oil pumps, larger 19 inch wheels, substantial Webb heavyweight forks and optional rear spring suspension. All this resulted in a weight of more than 220 Kilograms. Limited numbers were produced prior to the commencement of the Second World War.
Scott motorcycle sales peaked in 1928 but stalled due to the the effects of The Depression which began the following year. Scott motorcycles were expensive to make and sold at correspondingly high prices and this meant that their sales were more likely to suffer than those of other makers. Many motorcycle manufacturers produced lightweight models using bought-in Villiers engines to comply with tax concessions which applied to motorcycles weighing less than two hundredweight. However, when the decision was made to produce a Scott lightweight machine it seems that nothing but a Scott engine would do!
The model was announced in June 1929 and featured a 300 cc single cylinder, air cooled, two-stroke engine of rudimentary design developed from a Scott industrial diesel starter engine. The engine was mounted in a modified two-speeder frame with standard two-speeder front forks and a Flyweight Sturmey Archer three-speed gear box. The combined petrol and oil tank fitted around the top tube in two halves and was a copy of a design used previously by Raleigh.
The basic price of the Scott Squirrel Lightweight was £39 and an electric lighting set cost an extra £5 10s. and although this was similar to the price of other manufacturer’s lightweight offerings, performance was another thing. The machine proved to be slow (estimated to be capable of only 50 mph), heavy and thirsty – owners reported many engine seizures and the BTH magnetos fitted immediately behind the barrel were prone to melting into failure. Sales were terrible even after the following year’s model was redesigned with lightweight Webb front forks. The model was dropped when the Scott company went into liquidation in 1931 and very few examples have survived.
THE REYNOLDS SPECIAL
A.E Reynolds ran Scott dealerships from Berry Street Liverpool and Deansgate Manchester supplying new machines, servicing and a range of accessories for “Better Scotting.”
In May 1931 Reynolds introduced the Reynolds Special Scott, initially named the Aero Special, a “Super Scott” to meet the requirements of the connoisseur. The 1932 catalogue described the specification as incorporating all that was best in the motorcycle industry, a specialist’s job built under the personal supervision of Harry Langman at the Scott factory.
The Reynolds Special was available as a Standard Model (price 100 Guineas) or the De-Luxe with rear sprung suspension ( 110 Guineas). All machines were supplied with a Scott Sprint Special type frame with a single down-tube and Brampton Monarch front forks. Twin Lucas headlamps, Bosch electric horn, T T style two-into-one exhaust, a Smiths Jaeger 100 mph speedometer, Terry Dominion saddle, a specially-designed petrol tank with snap opening filler caps and incorporating a control binnacle, and a new design of radiator complete with a Boyceometer temperature gauge were all added to differentiate the model from a standard Scott. Chromium plating ( a relatively new invention at the time) was used extensively and the petrol tank, separate chain-oiler tank and heavily-valanced mudguards were painted with “Scott purple” panels. The specially selected engine was available in 498 cc 0r 596 cc and tuned by the works competition department.
To complete the dazzling ensemble the connoisseur buyer could add a Noxal sidecar in the style of a naval launch, the whole outfit protected by full-width chromium plated bumpers.
When the average annual wage in 1932 was around £165 and the economy was in crisis, the Reynolds Special was only ever likely to be sold in small numbers. Around 30 examples were produced but many of the refinements used were later adopted as standard for Scott machines.
POST WAR & BIRMINGHAM MODELS
During the second world war the Scott factory was engaged manufacturing munitions, but production of motorcycles resumed in 1946. The first motorcycles produced were an up-dated version of the pre-war rigid-framed models with Webb or Brampton girder forks. Newly-designed full-width aluminium hubs were used, the front fitted with twin brakes operated through a compensator box mounted on the front mudguard. In early 1947 the girder forks were replaced by Dowty “Oleomatic” air-damped forks which were inflated via valves at the top of each fork leg.
For 1948 the Scott was further up-dated by the adoption of Lucas coil ignition, a separate oil tank mounted on the right-hand side and a roll-on-roll-off centre stand. The price was a considerable £247 0s 3d including Purchase Tax. The price of the following year’s models was increased to over £250 and very few were sold before the company entered Liquidation on 1 March 1950.
The assets of the Scott Motorcycle Company were acquired from the liquidator by the Aerco Jig and Tool Company Limited, but production of a new model did not begin until 1956 although a few machines were produced from the remaining parts in the meantime.
What came to be known as the Birmingham Scott was built in a new duplex tube frame with swinging-arm rear suspension. The front forks looked like the Dowty forks but in fact contained springs instead of pneumatics. Whilst the 596cc engines remained virtually unchanged there were a new front hub with twin-brakes operated via a simple lever rather than the clumsy compensator, a dual seat as standard, and a restyled petrol tank all of which produced a more modern appearance.
Limited numbers of the Birmingham Scott were built throughout the late 1950s and 1960s with later machines being built to order only.
George Silk was apprenticed to Derbyshire Scott specialist Tom Ward who had worked with A. A. Scott at Shipley prior to the Great War. In the late 1960s after completing his apprenticeship George Silk formed a partnership with another Scott enthusiast, Maurice Patey and they worked from premises at Boars Head Mill, Derby repairing Scott motorcycles, reconditioning and improving engines, and supplying spares.
In 1970 George Silk commissioned a specially designed lightweight racing frame from the renowned manufacturer of rolling chassis, Spondon Engineering Limited, which had a factory in Moor Street, not far from Silk’s works. Using the chassis, he built a Silk Special racing machine using a tuned Scott engine and a four-speed Velocette gearbox. When the racer proved successful Silk exhibited at the Racing and Sporting Motorcycle Show at Royal Horticultural Hall, London in 1971 and received many orders for a road-going version. This led to Silk producing around 20 hand-built Silk-Scott Specials between 1971 and 1975.
The supply of Scott engines was limited and customers ordering a Silk Scott were asked to supply the engine themselves. To solve the problem George Silk took the brave decision to manufacture his own engine based on Scott principles. A new all aluminium two-stroke engine using fully supported crankshafts was designed with David Midgelow of Rolls Royce engineering and two-stroke expert Gordon Blair of Queen University, Belfast, who had access to specialist computer simulation programs which were also used for development of Yamaha’s racing engines. The new 653cc engine was paired with a unitary gear box with Velocette internals and fitted into a steel tubular frame produced by Spondon which also produced the forks and brakes. The new motorcycle was launched in 1975 as the Silk 700S.
Initially priced at £1,355 it was the most expensive motorcycle manufactured at the time, a result of being hand-built in small numbers – only two a week. Production of the Silk 700S continued in 1976 when the Silk was taken over by Furmanite and in 1977 the model was upgraded by the introduction of finned cylinder barrels and more modern designs of seat, instruments and lights. The new model was marketed as the Silk 700S Mk2, the Silk Sabre.
Although the Silk 700S Mk 2 continued in production virtually unaltered until December 1979 the sale price underwent regular increases and had reached £2,482 when production ceased. Customers could temper the price by opting for a lower specification such as wire wheels instead of Campagnolo alloys and a single front brake in place of the twin offered as standard. In all about 150 Silk motorcycles were built, the last being a 500cc machine based on a prototype which was specially built for a competition in Classic Bike Magazine in 1987.