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1922 Martinsyde Quick Six
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You don’t see many of these around. There may be just 30 Martinsyde motorcycles left, and a sole surviving Quick Six model...

A very unusual V-Twin, a 1922 Martinsyde Quick Six, will be going under the hammer at the Bonhams auction in April 2008. Only 100 were built and the Quick Six is believed to be the last remaining example of its type.

Martin and Handasyde built aircraft before and during WWI and switched to manufacturing motorcycles from 1919 when the company was ranked as Britain’s third largest aircraft manufacturer, with sites at Brooklands and Woking. Using their aeronautical engineering expertise to identify a good idea when they saw one, Martinsyde bought the rights to sophisticated engine designs by Howard Newman. These included a 350cc single and a 677cc V-twin with an unusual exhaust-over-inlet layout. The idea of this was that this would aid cool running, with the hot exhaust port positioned up top in the breeze. This bit of clever thinking gave Martinsyde a significant advantage over the competition, especially bikes like Norton’s Big Four, but not one they were able to develop into a commercial success.

Photo looks odd because perspective hadn't been invented in the 1920's 1920 Martinsyde 680

The initial 680 engine was slotted into a diamond-type frame and equipped with Brampton forks. Martinsyde had to overcome a few problems with unsatisfactory frame components before their new range could be launched, initially under the unwieldy banner of Martinsyde-Newman until Newman bailed out.

The 70mm by 88mm big twin utilised drip-feed lubrication and a hand-change, three-speed gearbox (built under licence from AJS; an arrangement which cost Martinsyde £1000), with Amac carbs and chain drive. Apparently, the two-into-one exhaust pipe made a ‘fruity burble’ that Titch Allen found ‘heart-warming’, which became ‘a delightful gobbling noise like an angry turkey’ at 25mph or so.

The Martinsyde’s 28-inch seat height and moderate wheelbase of 56-inches made it easy to handle. Although poor clutch action could affect gear changing, the engine was very flexible and would happily pull from 15mph in top with judicious use of the ignition lever. It soon became a favourite for off-road trials where it and the singles quickly gained a solid reputation for reliability in events at Brooklands, where they won the team award in 1922, and the Scottish Six Days Trial.

Martinsyde machines were generally considered to be ‘of good design and quality’ and were normally offered with sidecars as well as in solo trim. Titch Allen reckoned the 680 V-twin was ‘quiet, with none of the usual clackety-clack. Comfort is reasonable on good roads at moderate speeds; forks are virtually solid.’

By 1922 perspective had been corrected but shadows were still under development.. 1922 Martinsyde Quick Six

Martinsyde followed the first 680 with a 500cc version for 1920, with a sports offshoot of that arriving in 1921. Then for 1922 they introduced a 738cc sports development of the V-twin, named the Quick Six. This produced 22hp from its 50-degree Vee engine which was good enough to take its 320lb mass up to 80mph. Considering the brake technology of the period (the belt-rim types which Titch Allen described as ‘temperamental’), and the road conditions, it must have appealed to those of a strong constitution... Indeed, as one of these photos show it is possible and preferable to fit later wheels and brakes if you want to ride a bike like this in modern traffic.

1922 Martinsyde Quick Six engine close-up

Martinsyde were experimenting with new designs, including valve gear which was controlled by leaf springs until a disastrous fire in 1922 destroyed the factory. Martinsyde then went into liquidation having built around 2000 machines. The company name and manufacturing rights were purchased by the Bat Motor Co who produced some twins in 1924 and 1925 before the marque disappeared completely.

1922 Martinsyde Quick Six fuel tank close-up

Some 30 or so Martinsyde motorcycles are believed to survive in total and only one Quick Six is known to exist today*. Rumour has it that an extensively modified Quick Six was timed at over 100mph back in the 1970s, but we rather doubt that it’s the same bike!

The Quick Six seen here will be sold at auction by Bonhams in April 2008, where it is expected to command around £30,000. It was restored in the late 1980s and has since won concours awards at the VMCC’s Banbury Run and Bristol Classic Bike Show.

An earlier, 1920 680 Martinsyde-Newman has changed hands a couple of times recently, and was last sold for £9000 in 2006. It was purchased by a charitable trust which has since loaned it to the Brooklands Museum for display.

If you look at the photos they give an excellent overview of how fast motorcycle development was moving 85 years ago. The 1920 model has massive, pull-back handlebars and a boxy petrol tank slung under its frame tube.

Just two years later the bars had assumed their modern position and style, while the combined petrol/oil tanks had changed to a cylindrical shape, hugging the top frame rail. All that change in just two years…

"Vintage" bits on


The Bonhams auction will be held on Sunday April 27th 2008 at Stafford. See


*If you have one in your shed, then do let us know!

A 1922 678cc Martinsyde Quick Six, yesterday... 1922 678cc Martinsyde Quick Six


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