Property of a deceased's estate
1926 Coventry Eagle 980cc Flying Eight
Registration no. SR 5477
Frame no. 37577
Engine no. KTOR/T49039 (see text)
'There is an undeniable fascination in owning a machine capable of seemingly illimitable speed. For ordinary running the engine is merely idling, 50mph seems like 30mph on most machines, 60mph is a comfortable touring speed, while when one of those very rare stretches of really safe road is encountered the speedometer needle will, when the throttle is opened wide, pass the 80mph before remaining steady.' Motor Cycling testing a Coventry Eagle Flying Eight, with sidecar attached, in 1925 (4th November edition).
Established in Victorian times as a bicycle manufacturer, Coventry-Eagle built a diverse range of motorcycles using proprietary (mainly JAP) engines from 1901 onwards, though machines only began to be produced in significant numbers after WWI. Six Coventry-Eagles were offered for 1923, all JAP-powered except for a Blackburne-engined 350, ranging from the formidable Flying Eight to the diminutive S14 Ultra-Lightweight. Most famous of these was the Flying Eight which, with its 1.0-litre JAP v-twin engine and muscular good looks, was a worthy rival for the Brough Superior and a formidable Brooklands racing machine. Introduced in 1923, the Flying Eight was not Coventry-Eagle's first v-twin but it was the first to establish a sporting reputation thanks to its special 976cc sidevalve engine that guaranteed a top speed of 80mph, an exceptional performance at the time. Motor Cycle's tester found that the Flying Eight was tractable, comfortable and handled well in town, while 'on the open road, as one would expect, it is possible to annihilate space on the merest whiff of gas...'
In 1926 the sidevalve version was joined by a new and even faster overhead-valve engined Flying Eight, again JAP powered. Motor Cycling concluded its test of the OHV Flying Eight thus: 'We have no hesitation in recommending the latest Coventry Eagle as a high-quality machine, capable of the most satisfactory road performance both as regards speed and flexibility.' And that, lest we forget, was with a sidecar attached.
Within a few years however, the onset of the Depression had forced Coventry-Eagle to change tack, the firm concentrating on bread-and-butter lightweights until it ceased motorcycle production in 1939. The last overhead-valve Flying Eight left the factory in 1930 and the final sidevalve model the following year. Compared with the rival Brough Superior, Flying Eight survivors are relatively few.
In the present ownership for the past 28-plus years and last taxed for the road to 28th February 2015, this overhead valve-engined Flying Eight represents a rare opportunity to acquire a good example of one of the Vintage period's most famous superbikes. The machine is offered with a most substantial history file containing an old-style continuation logbook (issued 1945), expired MoTs, an original Coventry Eagle instruction book and range brochure (1924), restoration and maintenance notes, sketches, photocopied literature, press cuttings, photographs, invoices, correspondence, etc and old/current V5/V5C registration documents. It should be noted that a different engine number is recorded both in the latter and the 1945 logbook, indicating that the engine has been changed at some time. Indeed, the engine currently fitted - number 'KTOR/T49039' - came with the sidevalve-engined Flying Eight restoration project in this sale (Lot 311). We are advised that the engine, which contains a new crankshaft, has been loosely assembled and will need to be removed, dismantled and rebuilt before further use.