With a name like Sopwith, there can be little doubt that this motorcycle has some connection to early aviation.

With a name like Sopwith, there can be little doubt that this motorcycle has some connection to early aviation. Just how deeply rooted its aircraft heritage is may come as a bit of a surprise. The ABC – All British (Engine) Company – was so named in 1910, when England was offering prizes for the creation of an all-British aircraft.

Despite ABC’s successful collaboration with the Sopwith Aviation Company, the British War Department was not interested in the engines. The road to motorcycles was paved by racer S.L. Bailey, who requested ABC to fabricate upgraded parts for his machines. By 1914, ABC was manufacturing their own, complete motorcycles.

This example features a 498 cc, horizontally opposed engine with hemispheric cylinders and overhead valves; leaf-spring suspension front and rear; a four-speed, gated shift transmission; and carburetor heat.

Following the war, the need for aircraft declined dramatically. As Sopwith had a production facility and workforce with no product to manufacture, the company purchased rights to make ABC motorcycles, as did French aircraft engine manufacturer Gnome et Rhône. ABC would go on to offer scooters, aircraft engines and even light cars before being absorbed by Vickers Ltd., another aircraft company, in 1951.

Donated by Harvey and Pam Geiger

Accession no. 2016.002

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