c.1925 Douglas 494cc Model RA
Engine no. EL361 Gearbox no. MG105
Douglas had built racing and experimental overhead-valve motorcycles prior to WWI but the first production OHV models did not emerge until after the war's end. In September 1921 at Brooklands an overhead-valve Douglas set new 350cc records at 200, 300 and 400 miles. The first production models appeared at that year's Motor Cycle Show and soon demonstrated an enviable combination of speed and reliability. Sales were boosted considerably when in March 1922 Cyril Pullin became the first man to exceed 100mph on a '500' riding one of the new OHV Douglases. Having made a successful start, Douglas improved upon the concept with the successor 'RA' model, which took its name from the British Research Association, designers of the novel disc brakes fitted front and rear. There was a new frame and the gearbox was relocated above the rear cylinder, enabling the engine to be mounted lower down. Instead of a separate oil tank, engine lubricant was contained within a large aluminium sump. Another novel feature was the use of a twist grip for throttle control instead of the customary lever. Extensive use of aluminium kept the weight down to an admirable 275lb.
Douglas pulled out all the stops for the 1923 Isle of Man Senior TT, fielding no fewer than nine works RAs which were ridden by some of the finest riders of the day including Pullin, Rex Judd, Jack Emerson and Vic Anstice together with the previous year's Junior/Senior winners Tommy Sheard and Alec Bennett. Mastering the foul weather conditions, Manxman Sheard won while another Douglas ridden by Jim Whalley set fastest lap. Sheard also enjoyed the distinction of being the first man to lap the Mountain Course at over 60mph. Douglas had already secured an historic victory earlier in the week when Freddie Dixon and Walter Denny had won the inaugural Sidecar TT using Dixon's revolutionary banking sidecar chassis.
Capitalising on the RA's success, Douglas marketed it as the 'IOM Model', claiming that it was 'identical with the "TT" winning Douglas, which broke the record in all the big 1923 classics.' This last was a reference to Whalley's record-breaking wins in the 1923 French Grand Prix and Spanish 12 Hours race.
The machine offered here consists of an RA frame dating from circa 1925/26 and a 1928 DT-type dirt-track engine. The frame has the gearbox support lug typical of the RA while the gearbox, 'MG105', is a correct 'IOM Model' unit. Correspondence on file states that Mike Milner-Smyth acquired the RA as a 'basket case' that showed signs of a hard racing life, as evidenced by various modifications including the modern front brake. Offered for restoration and sold strictly as viewed, this rare overhead-valve Douglas sports roadster is offered with the aforementioned correspondence and assorted photocopied literature. The machine also comes with a spare fuel tank and a genuine but incomplete RA engine ('FF18') minus its cylinder heads.