1924 Montgomery-Anzani 8/38hp V-Twin
Registration no. XU9569
Frame no. H463
Engine no. MC8/628
These Montgomery machines are for the men who prefer a distinctive mount in appearance and performance. That extra degree of soundness those little touches which distinguish the super machine from the mere motor cycle, come naturally to the Montgomery and at a price that is amazingly low. Montgomery advertisement.
A rare example of one of the most famous British superbikes of the 1920s, this Anzani-engined Montgomery v-twin has been in the present owners hands for the past 30-or-so years, having previously been in the long-term ownership of an elderly gentleman in the Home Counties.
The Suffolk town of Bury St Edmunds is a long way from the British motorcycle industrys West Midlands heartland, yet this was where William J Montgomery chose to set up in business as a manufacturer in the early years of the 20th Century, although after WWI he relocated to Coventry. Like many of his contemporaries, including rivals Brough and McEvoy, Montgomery relied heavily on proprietary components, although the frame and forks were manufactured in-house. Indeed, Montgomery supplied frames and its own sprung fork to George Brough in the latters early days. In the v-twins case, its engine was a 57-degree, 8-valve, 997cc unit manufactured by British Anzani, the UK offshoot of the original French company established at Courbevoie, Paris in 1907 to manufacture aero engines.
An agent at first, British Anzani became a manufacturer in its own right during WWI, but after the conflicts end had little choice but to diversify or perish. Fortunately, during the war the company had secured the services of Belgian motorcycle racer and engineer Hubert Hagens, and it was he who designed the 8-valve v-twin, a versatile power unit that would find applications in motorcycles, light cars and aircraft right up to WW2. There were several versions of this engine, with different bore/stroke ratios and capacities of either 1,000 or 1,100cc. A Morgan fitted with one of these Anzani engines set two World Records in 1922, while Hagens overhead-camshaft v-twin was used by Claude Temple to set several motorcycle World Speed Records, the fastest at over 120mph. Indeed, Montgomerys twin was claimed to have been based on Temples record-breaker, and it was reported in the 1924 Motor Cycle Show edition of The Motor Cycle that it was one of the most striking big twins on offer.
The vendor acquired this Montgomery v-twin, which was in a near-complete but unrestored condition, approximately 30 years ago from a friend who had owned the machine for at least 10 years without doing anything to it. In the early 1990s the vendor corresponded with well-known motorcycling authority, the late Dr Joe Bayley, about his Montgomery. Dr Bayley had been acquainted with the bike in the late 1920s and 1930s, and recalled (in a letter dated 19th February 1991) that its owner used the bike daily, passing the Doctors house in Charlton, South East London, on his way to work. Regrettably, Dr Bayley could not recall the owners name, although he had befriended him. Indeed, Dr Bayley gave the man a pair of surplus Anzani cylinders and four-valve heads, removed from the Doctors own Croft Cameron, which may well be those fitted to the Montgomery today. Dr Bayleys letters confirming the above are available for inspection.
Badly worn due to the high mileage it had covered, the Montgomery was stripped down over the years and gradually rebuilt. Finally completed in January 2006, most of the work was carried out by the vendor, whose Conway Motors business is a world-famous supplier of parts and services for Vincents, with help from retired engineer friends where specialist machining was required. The frame and cycle parts were sound and in very good condition, requiring only stripping and repainting. However, upon checking it was found that the forks were bent. Their repair and restoration was entrusted to an experienced specialist who realigned the forks and rebuilt them with all new spindles. It was decided that it was impractical to remove the slight kink in the right lower tube, which is still there as testimony to the forks originality.
The wheels consist of Enfield hubs, drum brakes and wired-on rims, all of which were on the machine when purchased. It is believed that the original brakes (belt-rim at the rear) and beaded-edge rims, which would have been totally inadequate for the performance, were changed to superior drum brakes and more-modern rims as these became available from the late 1920s onwards - sensible upgrades to a fast machine kept in daily use over the course of several decades.
The engine was fitted with the two separate overlapping inlet manifolds for twin carburettors, as it is now. No carburettors came with the machine and no suitable matching pair of the correct type has, so far, been found. Two Amal Type 276 carburettors are currently fitted as these work well and look appropriate. The cast alloy exhaust manifolds are exact copies of the originals. The latter were unserviceable, being badly worn and brittle, but were retained for use as casting patterns. Fabricated by a specialist pipe-bender, the four 2-diameter exhaust pipes and Silent Ghost silencers are painstakingly executed exact copies of the original system, which is still in the vendors possession. Asked if they had been a challenge, the master pipe-smith replied, Put it this way, I dont want make another set!
The petrol/oil tank is new, based closely on the original design. It has been beautifully crafted by a highly skilled tank-maker and is fitted with the original filler caps. In assembling the machines ancillaries, the vendor has endeavoured to use period parts wherever possible. New, original, period cables of correct type (with fabric outers) have been used throughout, while the two brake cables are heavy duty Bowdenex double-wound type as used on contemporary racing machines. The handlebar controls and steering damper are those that came with the bike, since reconditioned. It is interesting to note the reinforcing of the valve-lifter lever, no doubt necessitated by its having to open two valves rather than just one.
In restoring this rare machine, the vendor advises us that he endeavoured to retain as much of the original as was practicable. On occasions when the use of new parts was unavoidable, sympathetic items for example: the Amal carburettors have been used as substitutes. All parts have been re-nickel plated or two-pack stove enamelled black as appropriate.
The history of this Montgomery before it came into the immediately preceding ownership approximately 40 years ago remains unknown, other than Dr Bayleys recollections in correspondence with the vendor. Precisely when the alterations and improvements were made - some of which suggest that the machine was intended for track or high-speed road work - remains a mystery, but the greater likelihood is that these were incorporated while it was in regular use, almost certainly prior to WW2.
Few machines are owned and maintained from new with an eye to posterity and the scrutiny of future generations; rather, they are repaired whenever necessary in the most cost-effective manner and updated to take advantage of technological progress. And there can be little doubt that the Montgomerys original owner(s) must have delighted in the improvements to its performance achieved by substituting components better than those fitted when it was new. A masterly and most wonderful restoration that is a credit to its owner, this superb machine is offered with current MoT/road fund licence and Swansea V5 registration document.
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