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British Industrial History

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Hobart Bird and Co

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1892
April 1899.
July 1903.
1915. Hobart Bird 6 h.P Sidecar Combo.

Hobart Bird and Co of Wolverhampton, and later of Hobart Works, Coventry.

Hobart motorcycles produced from 1901 to 1904 by Hobart Bird and Co of Coventry, who were also suppliers to many other firms.

General

Company formed by William Hobart Bird

1892 Advert. 'Hobart' cycles made by Hobart Bird and Co of Victoria Cycle Works, Wolverhampton. [1]

1896 May. Listed as of Wolverhampton [2]

1897 By this date they were operating from St Patrick's Road, Cheylesmore, Coventry

1901 The company started producing a primitive motorcycle with an inclined engine.

1901 Legal action against Jack Jones. '...To Jack Jones, late of 16, Llewellyn-street, Pentre. Take notice, that a Bankruptcy Petition has been presented against you to this Court by Stephen Evans, of Queen's-road, Coventry, in the county of Warwick, the Secretary to Hobart Bird and Company imited, a company duly incorporated under the Companies Acts, and having its registered office at Cheylesnore, Coventry...'[3]

1903 Added a model with a vertical engine in a loop frame fitted with braced forks.

1903 Hobart Cycle Co of Hobart Works, Coventry, manufactured and sold bicycles.

1904-1905 This range continued, with little change.

1906-1909 The firm was just a supplier.

1908 Legal action against James Alexander Boggis. '...To James Alexander Boggis, of 590, Fulham-road, in the county of London, carrying on business 'there under the style or name of "The Gas Stove and Fittings Company," Ironmonger. TakeE notice, that a Bankruptcy Petition has been presented against you to this Court by Hobart Bird and Company Limited, and whose registered office is situate at Cheylesmore, Coventry...'[4]

1910 The company returned to complete machine and produced the new Hobart. This had a 2.5hp engine inclined in the frame over the down-tube, gear-driven Bosch magneto, an adjustable pulley for the belt drive and Druid forks.

1911 A 3.5hp twin and a ladies' model were produced. This had a revised open frame and the engine mounted lower with the cylinder horizontal, and all the works fully enclosed.

1912 Listed in Spennell's directory of Coventry as Cycle Manufacturers. [5]

1913 By now they were using JAP engines as well as their own.

1914 A 225cc two-stroke version was added that year.

1915 Company bankrupt.[6]

1915 Engine changed to a 269cc Villiers, along with a 6hp V-twin with a JAP engine and three speeds.

Post-War: the two-stroke, including a spring-frame model, was listed.

1920 That year they also listed a 292cc JAP four-stroke.

1921 More versions of both were listed, including the spring frame for both sizes.

1921 George McKenzie marketed an "ultralight motor cycle" made by the Hobart Cycle Co Ltd of Coventry. The early model had an open, lady's frame and looked very much like a 1940s autocycle with solid rear end and spring front forks.

1922 There were new machines with 348cc Blackburne and 346cc JAP engines. Both of these were listed in solo and sidecar forms.

1922 McKenzie Hobart 70 motorcycle exhibit. [7]

1923 The 269cc Villiers was replaced by a 170cc Hobart two-stroke engine driving a two-speed gearbox, and the 292cc JAP by a 249cc sv Blackburne. All the four-strokes had a good range of transmission options, with two or three speeds and final drive by belt or chain.

1923 The company was taken over by Rex-Acme and became Hobart-Acme Motors

1924 The range was cut to the 170cc two-stroke and 346cc JAP, plus the 292cc JAP. It was the last year of listing.


  • Note: Although they were no longer listed, Hobart engines continued to be supplied to other firms for several years.

Hobart Bird and Co of Wolverhampton shown at the National Cycle Collection


The McKenzie by John McVey

Following World War One, George McKenzie marketed an "ultralight motor cycle" as the type was then known. From an engineering point of view, there does not appear to have been anything new about the McKenzie design, the pre-first world war Lady's Humber in the Coventry Museum of Transport being virtually identical. McKenzie planned to sell his bikes through franchised cycle shops, and bring cheap motorised transport to the masses. To quote Andy Barber "He saw himself as the Henry Ford of the motorcycle."

The bike itself was made by the Hobart Cycle Co Ltd of Coventry. The early model had an open, lady's frame and looked very much like a 1940s autocycle with solid rear end and spring front forks.

The engine is also of Hobart make. Bore and stroke, unusually for that time, are both 60mm, giving a capacity of 170cc. With the whole machine weighing only 75lbs you might expect a lively performance but a road test of 1923 mentions "the maximum being about 28mph. At the legal limit, the McKenzie is very comfortable and can be ridden 'hands off'."

The deflector type piston is cast iron with three rings in two grooves: two in one groove at the top. It has plain bronze bushes for small end, big end and mains. The crankshaft is most unusual, being in two parts. The left hand part drives a large flywheel with integral belt pulley, which, by means of a leather belt, drives the back wheel. The right hand bob weight has an oblong slot that engages with flats on the end of the crank-pin, thus drive is taken to a 3 gear train that operates the 'Baby Fellows' magneto that is mounted behind the engine.

This is the first engine I've come across that was actually made with a broken crank, but of course many engines have a cantilever crank with only one flywheel, such as the Power Pak and the Piatti scooter, but at least on those engines some attempt is made to provide support by having a long shaft with bearings as far apart as possible. Not so the McKenzie, which has only a bronze bush about 2.5 inches long. My engine has worn out main bearings while the barrel and piston seem near perfect. The carburettor is a 'Wex' lightweight but I do not have any data on this instrument.


Development

Andrew Barber's McKenzie is the early type with fully open frame as introduced in 1921. These seem to have had a weakness in the frame as it was redesigned and strengthened by 1923. The engine was lowered and an extra horizontal strut was inserted. Also in 1923, a counter-shaft clutch was offered and a two-speed gearbox for £5 15s and £7 15s respectively. These extras were fitted between the engine and the front wheel, with a chain primary drive and a belt to the rear wheel as before. Most of these components were also used in the McKenzie Roadster, which had a conventional motorcycle frame with a round tank. The weight had crept up to 120lbs by this time, so the performance couldn't have been too frightening.


Hobart

When the McKenzie Popular was introduced in 1921, Hobart was said to have 38 years of experience of making cycles.

What exactly became of the alliance of Mr McKenzie and the Hobart Cycle Co? I do not know, but I have here an advertisement for a Hobart Universal light motorcycle at £21, which is virtually identical to a (26 guinea) McKenzie. Let's face it; it is a McKenzie. I'm told that both firms ceased trading at about this time but have no written source.


Wee McGregor

This was probably the last incarnation of the same old 60 × 60 two-stroke engine. This time in a motor cycle frame it was known as a Wee MacGregor or Wee Mac.

It was made at the Coventry Motor Cycle Co of Wellington Street, Coventry by Barbury and Downes, former employees of the Hobart Motor Cycle Co.

McKenzie's last design appears to have been intended for the 1924 season. This was a 147cc lightweight described by 'Motor Cycle' magazine as a "thoroughly practical miniature" in October 1923. This was clearly an all new design with a new engine and it looks very neat and 'late vintage' with a large wedge shaped tank. A loop frame lady's model is mentioned but not illustrated and I wonder if any were actually made.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1892 Kelly's Directory of Worcestershire
  2. The Times, Tuesday, May 19, 1896
  3. [1] Gazette Issue 27357 published on the 20 September 1901. Page 32 of 60
  4. [2] Gazette Issue 28099 published on the 14 January 1908. Page 62 of 104
  5. 1912-13 Spennell's Annual Directory of Coventry and District
  6. [3] Gazette Issue 29094 published on the 9 March 1915. Page 66 of 98
  7. Museum of Country Life at Exmouth
  • The British Motorcycle Directory - Over 1,100 Marques from 1888 - by Roy Bacon and Ken Hallworth. Pub: The Crowood Press 2004 ISBN 1 86126 674 X
  • [4] Moped Archive
  • The Encyclopedia of the Motorcycle by Peter Henshaw. Published 2007. ISBN 978 1 8401 3967 9