Williamson 1913 8HP 964cc 2 cyl sv 3404



Williamson 1913 8HP 964cc horizontally opposed water cooled side valve twin with Bramble sidecar frame # 376 engine # 496

William (“Billy”) Williamson and his brother Harold had been employed by the Rex factory from the early years of the company’s existence. Rex was the biggest and most successful British motorcycle factory in the early years of the 20th century. Billy rose to the post of managing director, Harold was sales manager. In 1911 they left the company after a dispute with the Pilkington brothers who founded Rex in 1902. Harold went to the Singer car works to become sales manager, Billy set up shop as a motorcycle manufacturer; he founded the Williamson Motor Company Ltd that operated from premises in Moore Street, Earlsdon, only yards away from the Rex works. Billy designed a sturdy sidecar machine that was to be powered by a 964 cc Douglas engine that had recently been developed by the Bristol firm. As to its planned application there are different theories: one says it was for stationary purposes: the power plants were delivered to the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company for use in coastal radio telegraphic stations. This stationary-engine connection makes sense because of the massive construction and initial water cooling of the Williamson power unit and the fact that is has a hand starting crank system that is often seen on such engines. The other theory however is that the engine was developed for use in the Douglas cyclecar that was launched in 1913. William Douglas and the Williamson brothers were cousins and William Douglas might have been one of the financers of the new company which might explain his willingness to supply the engines.
The 8HP engine had bore x stroke dimensions of 85 x 85 mm and was available in air cooled or water cooled form. The machine had a two-speed gearbox with foot-controlled cone clutch that was also of Douglas manufacture. Shortly before the war brought the production to a standstill a three-speed gearbox became available as an option. After the war the 8 HP engine wasn’t available anymore and Williamson fitted a JAP V-twin but that was no success and production ended in 1920.
In the 1980s a Mr Leonard Parsons shared his memories of his employment with the Williamson firm, where he worked during 1912 and 1913 as an apprentice in the trimming shop. His recollections show the small scale of the company: four or five machinists in the machine shop, approximately six workers who filed and brazed the frames, three men in the paint shop and about six in the fitting shop. One of these men, a Mr Blower, road tested all finished machines and the general foreman and chief mechanic were also part of the fitting shop team. The company made their own sidecars and this meant the employment of four men in the body shop and three in the trimming shop. Then there was one boy in the stores and in the office we found a chief typist, a clerk and an office girl. And of course Mr. Williamson himself… All in all about thirty people kept the Williamson firm going in those early years.
This rare survivor of a little known make was a prominent combination in the British vintage motorcycle world from the early 1960s on, when it was extensively ridden by then-owner Felix Burke, mostly accompanied by his wife as a passenger in the Bramble chair. They covered more than 10,000 miles, always riding to and from the various rallies and not being trailered. The combination even successfully competed in the 500-mile Durban-Johannesburg rally in South Africa. In the early 80s Titch Allen road tested this impressive combination for “The Fifth Vintage Road Test Journal”. A copy of this informative 5-page article is available. Our Williamson is a matured restoration and comes with current road registration. An incomplete spare engine (engine # 267) in parts plus extra crank case (engine # 115) comes with this Williamson.