Williamson 1912-20 UK
Family links tied in early Williamson production with the Douglas family who ran the famous Bristol maker of flat twin motorcycles, Douglas. Built in Coventry, the Williamson used either air-cooled or water-cooled fore and aft 962cc flat twin engines built for them by Douglas. Although designed with the sidecar driver in mind some were used solo. The Williamson was exported to a number of countries including Republic of South Africa and Australia.
After WWI the Williamson briefly reappeared with JAP side-valve V-twin power. A modest number of veteran and early vintage Williamsons are known to survive and odd examples continue to surface overseas.
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Wimmer 1921-39 Germany
Respected cycle maker who began building ohv 134cc cycle attachments and then up to 172cc ohv lightweight motorcycles, all with water cooling. By the mid-Twenties Wimmers were prepared for racing and in 1928 a range of new models appeared including air-cooled 198-497cc singles.
Again models were prepared for national and Continental racing and in the Thirties trials versions joined the range. Although Wimmer had built their own engines in the mid-Thirties they started to employ proprietary engines including Bark units.
A rare find for the pre-WWII German motorcycle enthusiast. After WWII Wimmer built proprietary engines but no more compete motorcycles.
Windoff 1924-33 Germany
A car and aircraft radiator manufacturing company established by Hans Windoff who built their first motorcycles in 1924 using Bekamo water-cooled, two-stroke engines mounted in straight tube frames of a similar concept to the 'built like a bridge' Francis-Barnett. Of advanced design, the Bekamo utilised a pumping piston design, in effect a form of supercharging used to good effect by a number of makers including DKW for their famous racers and by the Austrian firm Puch for many roadster and sporting models.
In 1927 Windoff launched a stunning in-line ohc four-cylinder motorcycle designed by Ing. Dauben, who came from a car background and later moved to Mercedes-Benz. The engine was the rolling chassis' main stress member and although finned, the unit was oil cooled with the cylinder block and crankcase cast as a single complex aluminium structure. The Windoff four was a splendid sophisticated super smooth motorcycle, but expensive. Due to the hard pressed times of the late 1920s, even in Germany, sales were slow and a 996cc version got no further than prototype stage.
Next, Windoff tried a 1000cc side-valve transverse flat twin with shaft drive. Again sales were slow despite the machine's recognised quality. Finally, Hans Windoff tried two-stroke lightweights, using Villiers-type engines built under licence in Berlin, before turning his back on motorcycles for good.
Wittall 1919-23 UK
Assembler of lightweights at The Wittall Garage, Lucas Street, Deptford, London using proprietary frame parts and Villiers two-stroke engines. Early models used the 269cc unit, later replaced by 247cc engine, with two-speed gearbox and chain cum belt transmission.
Wittler 1924-53 Germany
Limited manufacture of 249cc two-stroke motorcycles by Wittler with in-house engines. Production later slowed but after WWII Wittler returned with a moped and then lightweight motorcycles using Sachs and Zundapp proprietary engines. Final model was a 124cc Sachs powered two-stroke single.
Wolf 1901-39 UK
Early history is detailed in this guide under Wearwell. Selected sources claim some Wearwell machines were also sold under Wolf brand during 1901-06 but no firm evidence concurs with this. However, during mid to late veteran period, Wolf machines were listed with Moto-Reve and other proprietary engines. At this time the parent company was detailed as the Wolfruna Engineering Company of Brick-Kiln Street, Wolverhampton. As well as the Wearwell name being still employed for some markets, the Wolfruna brand was also used for selected models and markets.
During the stated 1901-39 production period, Wolf motorcycles weren't continuously in production and company restructuring took place on occasions. For example, in 1928, the parent business became The Wearwell Cycle Co (1928) Ltd, again of Wolverhampton. By 1914 Wolf listed an extensive range of two-stroke single cylinder models coded A or B depending on make of proprietary engine with a range of transmission options from clutchless direct drive to full three-speed gearboxes and clutch. Four-strokes included a 500cc side-valve single coded C and options of 770 to 1000cc V-twins all under the code letter D.
Although their model range was reduced, Wolf listed models right through WWI despite UK civilian production being suspended in 1916. After the war they concentrated on single cylinder two and four-stroke models, often with Blackburne, JAP and Villiers engines. Early vintage models used belt final drive but by 1924 all chain transmission was available for some models. Along with many rivals, Wolf struggled for sales and by 1927 their once extensive range had reduced to just two lightweight models, then production was suspended. In addition to the engines already mentioned, Wolf (Wulfruna) also used TDC, Union and other units, claiming to build their own inlet over exhaust valve single cylinder units, but it’s likely these were built on their behalf by another maker or even more than one engine manufacturer.
Following restructuring, low level production may have restarted in the late 1920s but the marque wasn't again listed in trade buyers’ guides until 1931. From then on until the end of Wolf production, the company used Villiers engines and in many cases the code letter model identification system was replaced by names, although confusingly, some letter model coding was also used intermittently.
Aimed at the economy market, first into production was the 147cc Minor and 196cc Utility, rapidly followed by the 98cc Cub. The Minor, also variously coded the W3 and WA4 remained in production until 1939 with a break in 1934/35, while the Utility (W7) lasted into 1933 and the Cub (W1 and WA2) production ended in 1936.
New models for 1932 included the 148cc Vixen series with the long-stroke Villiers 12C engine, which was offered in a number of finish and detail specifications. Other Vixen models were coded W5, W6, WA5 and WA6. The series remained listed until the 1940 season although not all versions were listed each year, but if a customer wanted a specific model or variants of that model, the firm often obliged. Further variations of the 196cc Utility were offered including a smart twin-port W8 Silver Wolf, but all 196cc models were dropped during 1933.
Other than detail changes to chassis, gearbox and other parts, Wolf jogged along until 1936 with a range constructed around 98, 147 and 148cc engines when they launched two completely new model ranges, the 122cc Unit or WA10 with twin port engine and 249cc Super Sports (WA9). The WA10 was listed until the 1940 season while the Super Sports and its more basic sibling, the WA11 unveiled in 1938, were dropped just as WWII began.
The onset of WWII saw Wolf reduce their range to just three models, the 122cc Unit (WA10) and two variants of the 148cc machine. EarlyWWII mutterings suggested Wolf would resume production after the war, but the company never did. Although Wolf didn't produce huge numbers of motorcycles like BSA, Triumph and Royal Enfield they, or at least their parent company, built a wide variety of models over almost four decades. As a result a fair number of machines survive from 98cc economy models to lusty veteran and early vintage big singles and V-twins.
Wooler 1911-54 UK
Although many motorcycle designers, manufacturers and engineers were and still are original thinkers, few were/are more so than Wooler founder John and his son Ron. Yet throughout the entire 43 year (with gaps) production run, Wooler didn't actually make motorcycles! Certainly they were involved in the assembly of their prototypes and also production set-up, but actual manufacture wasn't for them other than for a brief period when John Wooler owned the P & P marque. Despite this they traded from London addresses including as Wooler Motorcycles 1919 Ltd, Alperton, Middlesex and their service and spares depot was for a time at Chatsworth Avenue, Wembley Hill, London. But their motorcycles, nicknamed 'the flying banana,' made a sizeable impact on motorcycle enthusiasts and pundits.
There is no doubting John Wooler's brilliance but one is left to wonder at times if some of his designs were created simply to be different or because he could. But that difference makes our passion for old motorcycles all the more fascinating. Some of John's ideals would be worth a second look by today's makers: accessibility, comfort, lightness and for selected models, only two nut sizes and no screw heads. Imagine being able to strip your entire machine with just one double-ended spanner (supplied in the Wooler toolbox along with a box spanner to suit).
Wooler unleashed his genius to the public at the 1911 London show to display an incomplete single cylinder 230cc two-stroke machine with forward facing horizontal engine sporting a double-ended piston and many other novelties, plunger suspension to both wheels and a fuel tank which protruded forwards of the steering head to carry extra petrol.
With no manufacturing facilities, John Wooler couldn't put his machine into production until late summer 1912, and then thanks only to the Wilkinson Sword Company by which time it had many new features and the engine had grown to 344cc.
As WWI approached, Wilkinson Sword dropped motorcycle manufacture and nothing more was heard of the Wooler until 1919 when a 348cc inlet over side exhaust valve fore and aft flat twin was unveiled. Complete with plunger suspension, the machine clocked in at just 161lb and its tank colour had changed from green to yellow with black panels and the front fuel tank extension was even larger. The flying banana was born.
For 1923 the Wooler had undergone a complete redesign to be offered with options of 350 or 500cc flat twin engines with semi ohc valve operation, the flying banana fuel tank had given way to a more conventional fitment.
In 1926 came a 511cc single with Wooler's take on a shaft driven ohc design, housed in a rigid frame, with Wooler girder front fork. But few were made before he'd bought the troubled P & P business from surviving partner Erling Poppe. P & P production was restarted and Mr Wooler plus a handful of employees, built a variety of machines developed from designs by Messers Packman and Poppe.
The motorcycle world heard nothing more from John Wooler until 1943 but behind the scenes he'd been busy, aided and abetted by son Ron, developing a 500cc transverse flat four with pistons connected by beams and links to a single conrod. To save weight the lower frame tubes doubled as exhaust pipes and suspension was again of plunger design to both wheels, but with four plungers per wheel, two either side. The model was a huge attraction at the 1948 London Show. Factions of the motorcycle press were smitten, some describing it as 'the machine of the future' but tests proved the engine links wore quickly.
Next came a more conventional, by Wooler's standards, flat four with many innovative concepts. The new Wooler attracted much favourable comment and press coverage after the display at the year's London Show. Deliveries were promised soon, but in truth the Woolers couldn't find a firm who was willing to underwrite the costs of pre-production tooling up. Sadly this was the last we heard of the Woolers, except, surviving examples are eagerly sought by enthusiasts who want to sample something different.
WSK 1947-95 Poland
Production began with a 123cc two-stroke lightweight developed like so many other models by rival makers from the Hermann Weber designed DKW RT125. Built as the Polish state owned company's only model it waited almost a decade before it was joined by a 175cc version, which in effect was an enlarged 125cc model. These motorcycles joined much later by off-road variants and the like were sold thoughout many of the then communist states with odd batches occasionally escaping to the west.
During the late Seventies Barron Eurotrade, Hornchurch, Essex contracted WSK to build the cycle parts for 125cc Minerelli powered models and the Polish company even supplied a few complete 175cc WSK machines. Sold as the Barron, sales were slower than Roy Cary of Barron hoped and the contract was terminated. Although no new models were developed during the Eighties and Nineties WSK production continued until 1995.
Wurring 1921-59 Germany
Machines with superb frames and proprietary engines designed by August Wurring who was also involved with the AWD brand.
Wurttembergia 1925-33 Germany
Agricultural machinery manufacturer who built motorcycles, usually with Blackburne engines from 198-596cc.
XL 1921-23 UK
Small scale assembly by the Norfolk Engineering Works, Chapel Road, Worthing, Sussex of up to 545cc Blackburne and a few 500cc JAP powered singles. An unheard of marque today but the letter X couldn't pass without a couple of entries!
Xtra 1920-24 UK
In effect a three wheel car with many motorcycle components built by Xtra Cars Ltd, 41 London Street, Chertsey, Surrey which looked like a period single or tandem twin seat sidecar body with two wheels at the front and one to the rear. Power was by Villiers 269cc and later 343cc two-stroke single cylinder engines and luckily gearbox and clutch for most examples.
But spare a thought for the few whose budget stretched only to the clutchless, gearless direct drive model. The instruction books states: 'it’s simplicity itself to set the controls, run alongside and jump aboard once the engine starts'. Steering for some models was by handlebar to just one of the front wheels. Luckily (a relative term in the case of Xtra) others had wire and bobbin steering to both front wheels in common with rival cyclecars.
Yale 1902-15 USA
Manufacture began with a basic primitive model comprising single cylinder engine mounted within the main diamond of a strengthened heavyweight cycle-type frame. The company, which only sold motorcycles to the American market, went on to build V-twins including all chain drive models. Yale machines are highly sought after by collectors round the world.
Yamaguchi c1952/53-1963 Japan
Some historical works suggest Yamaguchi began motorcycle manufacture as early as 1941 but after research we cannot confirm such an early production start date.
Production centred round a range of 49cc two-stroke mopeds, mofas and lightweight motorcycles such as the AP10 moped. Additionally they built a range of up to 150cc two-stroke motorcycles including a 125cc twin and the four-stroke T92. Two-strokes included the 60cc Super 100, 83cc Super 200, 125cc Super 350 and 147cc Super 600.
During the late Fifties and early Sixties Yamaguchi developed a range of neat, worthy lightweight off-road-type motorcycles, but in the early Sixties they began to slip into financial difficulties. In 1962 they started fitting proprietary engines built by Hodaka. The following year Yamaguchi collapsed financially and production ended. Within a year engine makers Hodaka started building motorcycles with design, some sources claim, loosely based on Yamaguchi off-road models.Enjoy more The Classic MotorCycle reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.