Reference: When was it that? Scott

Scott moves to Birmingham

Only 600 post war models had been made and even the construction of a prototype plunger rear suspension model had shown little promise. Fortunately, not all was lost. Matt Holder, a lifelong Scott enthusiast, came to the rescue before the end of the year was out. He acquired the company and transferred it from its home in Shipley, West Yorkshire, to his Aerco Jig and Tool Company premises in St Mary's Row, Birmingham.

During the years that followed, little more was heard about the Scott, now regarded as no longer in production. That is, until July 1954 when the silence was broken by the release of details about some new prototype designs. The most obvious difference was the use of an entirely new duplex tube frame, fitted with pivoted fork rear suspension. Gone too was the Dowty Oleomatic front fork, replaced by Scott's own design of telescopic fork, with hydraulic damping, still slim in profile like its predecessor. The petrol tank had been restyled to suit the new frame, but not quite so obvious was the use of a diecast cylinder head and crankcase, the former allegedly having better water passages to improve cooling. In all other respects, the engine remained identical to its original design concepts.

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Scott motorcycle headlamp unitThe new model was to be available with the option of either 498cc or 596cc capacity, even though the 498cc engine had not been available since the war. The prototype tested by Motor Cycling's man in the Midlands, Bernal Osborne, had one of these engines fitted. No performance data was available, let alone any indication of price.

Indeed, the only statement made was to the effect that the 596cc model was capable of over 80mph. Perhaps of more importance was the announcement that Harry Langman, had joined the staff of the new company, to continue in his former capacity as development engineer. It is doubtful if anyone knew more about the Scott engine than Harry in view of his very long association with the old company.

Scott enthusiast
The news every Scott enthusiast had awaited came during June 1956, when it was officially announced the Scott motorcycle was back in production again. Only the 596cc model was to be made, priced at £298 inclusive of purchase tax. It was also possible to purchase a rigid frame version for £23 less, inclusive of tax. Surprisingly, it was claimed the rigid frame version was the heavier of the two. It weighed 406Ib against the 395Ib of the spring frame model. One further modification was noted, the substitution of a front brake lever with two cables, to give an even pull on the double-sided front brake in place of the old balance box.

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In September 1957 the Scott programme for 1958 was formally announced. Further changes in specification had taken place which included the use of a new large diameter crankshaft-mounted alternator in place of the old Lucas MC45 pancake dynamo used previously. Furthermore, a Miller Nacelle-type headlamp unit graced the top of the front fork. A very small price increase raised the price of the spring frame model to £299.8s inclusive of purchase tax, and there was some doubt whether the rigid frame model would continue in production. The name Flying Squirrel was retained but because an alternative to the all-black finish was available with maroon petrol and oil tanks, and mudguards, the name Red Squirrel also seems to have crept into unofficial use.

Scott motorcycle engineDuring May 1958 news was released about development work that was continuing behind the scenes in Birmingham. An entirely new design of engine was under test, similar to the original design in many respects but having flat top pistons and a three port loop scavenging system. It also employed side transfer ports, reminiscent of Alfred Scott's original 1904 patent. Of 498cc capacity, the new engine, known as the Swift, had bore and stroke dimensions of 66.5 x 71mm. The most noticeable external difference was the finning around the mouth of each crankcase compartment.

Prototype engine
Test details were scant as the prototype engine had covered only 250 miles and was still being run in. It was claimed 91 mpg could be obtained under favourable conditions, no doubt aided by raising the compression ratio to 8:1 and having more efficient combustion chambers. By reducing the diameter of the central flywheel from 9-7", it would appear acceleration had been improved too. The only thing missing was the familiar Scott 'yowl', the exhaust note of the Swift engine being much deeper and quieter.

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It was not until late 1961 that the Scott motorcycle made a welcome re-appearance at the annual Earls Court Show. It was now priced at £291.5s, a price established for some years. Only the spring frame model was available and there were not signs of the Swift-engined version, which never got beyond the prototype stage. There was, however, talk of a unit-construction model, although this too failed to materialise. As in the past, there was two official Scott Depots, one in Leeds run by Geoff Milnes (now aided by Harry Langman) and the other in Sutton, Surrey, run by Ted Murphy. It is believed a number of models were made at both premises.

A diversion into racing occurred during 1964 with a machine that broke entirely new ground – an air-cooled twin of 344cc capacity. It had the right power-to-weight ratio in line with Alfred Scott's original objective, weighing only 242Ib. Initially, it seemed to show promise, but after many disappointments the project was ultimately abandoned.

Scott motorcycle logoThe demolition of the factory premises at St Mary's Row led to production of the standard road-going model being transferred to Carver Street, Hockley, and then to Bromford Lane, Stretchford, still in the Birmingham area. Exactly when production ceased for good is not clear, but it is a sad fact of life that one of Britain's most unique motorcycles is with us no more. It had its own band of devoted followers, with a deep-rooted enthusiasm that undoubtedly encouraged the formation of the Scott Owners Club in May 1958. Their annual rally at Stanford Hall must rank as one of the major events of the year in motorcycling's calendar of events.

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Any discourse on the Scott would be incomplete with mention of the Silk, a quite separate development that stemmed from the fertile mind of yet another Scott enthusiast, George Silk. It began when George became inspired to build a lightweight version of the Scott, in the knowledge that the greatest handicap of the later pre-war and the post war Flying Squirrel models was their overall weight. One thing led to another and eventually George found himself manufacturing a motorcycle built along somewhat similar lines, with his own name on the tank and later, his own engine. That's yet another story… bike

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