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Bike Profile - Posted 5th March 2010

Grindlay-Peerless Tiger / Tiger Cub
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It's widely understood that Triumph created the Tiger range of classic bikes which lives on to this day. Not so; Grindlay-Peerless first used the name in the early 1930s...

Grindlay-Peerless enjoyed considerable racing success in the 1920s, when Bill Lacey claimed several Brooklands speed records for the marque. The company had been building motorcycles since 1923 and sidecars prior to then, and were known for producing high quality machines - although perhaps not quite as 'peerless' as their swanky name suggests!

Like many manufacturers of the era they used JAP and Villiers engines of side- and overhead valve, two- and four-stroke, single and twin cylinders of continually changing capacities for some time. By the 1930s the Depression had reduced their model range to just three machines, however.

Grindlay Peerless Tiger. It's Grrrrrrreat.. Grindlay Peerless Tiger

For 1932 the firm offered three standard models with various offshoots, all overhead valve; one 250 and two 500s. 'In these machines' said the brochure without a hint of a blush; 'the very pinnacle of performance combined with value is reached. No motorcycle is better made than Grindlay-Peerless. Nothing but the very best materials and products are selected.'

To underline the quality of the product, G-P made a real distinction about their bikes being built by craftsmen in Coventry. They weren't seduced by the lure of modern manufacturing methods, oh no. 'Every machine is individually produced, as distinct from mass produced. The specifications are complete and include refinements that are extras on many other motorcycles.' To be fair, the Peerless machines did come with a comprehensive specification for their time.

All were equipped with dry-sump lubrication systems that fed oil under pressure by a duplex pump to the big end bearings and cylinder wall, with an auto scavenge system; an Amal carb apiece; internal-expanding brakes (six-inch for the 250 and seven-inch diameter for the 500s); multi-plate clutches operated by hand with the lever on the bars; heavy duty chains for primary and final drive; black enamel bodywork with chrome-plate on the welded steel petrol tank and fittings, plus rust-proofed bolts and nuts. The result is a collection of extremely handsome machines, chunky and capable-looking.

Grindlay Peerless Tiger Cub... Grindlay Peerless Tiger Cub

The 250cc machine was the Tiger Cub; nothing at all to do with the later model of the same name from Triumph, but an 'outstanding lightweight, a snappy, lively 250' with 'fine acceleration' and a top speed of 60 to 65mph. The Tiger Cub was fitted with a 249cc Python engine from the Rudge concern, so like Rudge machines of the time it boasted four overhead radial valves, aluminium piston, roller bearing big end and roller bearing support for the crank, and a four-speed Python gearbox with hand-change. The Cub weighed in at just under 225lb and came with electric lighting, switchgear and ammeter in the tank, separate oil and petrol tanks, adjustable handlebars, footrests, steering damper and springing on the girder forks.

The Tiger Cub could be bought for under 45 with Miller coil ignition, while the Lucas Maglita ignition option cost an extra 2. A competition version was offered for 48 with upswept exhaust, steel bash-plate, sports rear tyre and a front stand. Or the clubman competitor could opt for a ready-to-race TT replica, complete with TT-specification tuned engine, which cost a monster 78.

Grindlay Peerless Tiger, with Ridge's four-valve-head Python engine... Grindlay Peerless Tiger - Close Up

The mid-range machine was Grindlay's 499cc Tiger, also equipped with Ridge's four-valve-head Python engine this time of 85mm by 88mm. It offered separate dynamo lighting, a fully enclosed primary chain and 'well protected' final drive chain, plus an adjustable-by-hand, four-point shock absorber in the front suspension.

This hand-change three-speeder promised to 'stand up to the most arduous service' and 'equal the performance of any other similar motorcycle' yet 'at a considerable saving of cost.' With magneto ignition and full electric lighting, the Tiger cost 59 new. It's probably the least visually appealing of the range, carrying its engine upright while the other two models have their motor sloped forward, giving them an impression of being eager to hit the road.

The top-notch machine in the Grindlay range was their Tiger Chief, a handsome beast indeed with the latest four-speed gearbox operated by foot. The Chief used a slightly different chassis with a full cradle under the engine to 'handle better, give greater comfort and feel safer than you have ever before experienced.' The acceleration was supposed to be 'exceptional' with 'smooth running' thanks to 'the perfect weight distribution, careful design and workmanship'.

Veteran bike stuff on :
Grindlay Peerless Tiger Chief... Grindlay Peerless Tiger Chief

'The steering, balance and comfort are outstanding features of this fine motorcycle' preened G-P, who were asking 62 for the Chief as standard, or 67 if it was fitted with the Ulster spec engine with radial valves, increased compression and tweaked top end, and an accompanying uplift in top speed. The ultimate machine in the G-P range for 1932 was the Tiger Chief TT Replica with no lighting, upswept exhausts for increased ground clearance and a tuned competition engine, which retailed for 85

The G-P range expanded again for 1933 but this proved to be a false dawn and the company subsequently stopped manufacturing motorcycles. It is extremely rare to find any Grindlay-Peerless machines for sale, and the majority of the bikes which are left will usually be found in museums - there's a Bill Lacey replica in the Brooklands Museum, for example. Very few of the Rudge-powered models are known to have survived. Yet in 1932, Grindlay-Peerless were proudly convinced that 'you cannot buy a better motorcycle'

Grindlay Peerless...


Thanks to Dave Holloway, RC Club member, for his very kind donation of the gorgeous brochure used to compile this article


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