In Search of ABC

Published on 15 October 2023 at 20:06

I have recently been documenting the rebuild of Brooklands Museum's ABC. The motorcycle is a 1921 398cc ABC designed by Granville Bradshaw. It is somewhat unique in its design having front and rear leaf springs and horizontally 0pposed cylinders, reputedly later copied by BMW.

Whilst the engine was on the bench several people remarked that it looked like an early aero engine; and they are not far wrong as ABC/Bradshaw were making aircraft engines for Sopwith during WW1. This engine owes much to its aero cousins in the form of lightweight castings and relative simplicity.

I had already crossed paths with Bradshaw during the Warbike research. ABC were originally based at Brooklands where Bradshaw came into contact with motorcycle racers and manufactures of the day. It is easy to imagine how the ever active engineering brain of Bradshaw was soon developing unsolicited ideas and suggestions for faster motorcycles. This was no doubt the seed that launched a lifelong friendship with Freddie Barnes of local manufacturer Zenith.  At the outbreak of war Bradshaw was forced to move from Brooklands which was being taken over by the Royal Flying Corps. ABC moved to nearby Hersham where they changed the name of the company to ABC Motors Ltd. Here they manufactured stationary engines for the military and a few bikes including a consignment for Egypt which ended up at the bottom of the Mediterranean.


After a bit of digging I discovered that the old ABC works still exists. However, just as I was preparing to take a visit, I was informed that the site was about to be demolished to make way for a supermarket. Wasting no time I took the next opportunity to photograph the site. It was an overcast day, but I managed to get all of the buildings documented before the bulldozers arrive. I am now on the trail of Bradshaw's close friend, Freddie Barnes of Zenith. More on this during 2016.


Barry Jones has just published an excellent revised edition of . This book written with access to the Bradshaw Family archives is well worth a read. Barry says that he became interested in Bradshaw whilst researching Phelon & Moore. Bradshaw really did have connections with so many developments.

As a postscript I even saw a Bradshaw oil cooled engine advertised on ebay in December 2015. If you are interested in what connects ABC to Suzuki, VW Beetles, 3D TV and Wankel rotary engines, I suggest you get a copy of the book. 

Granville Bradshaw a flawed Genius?

Author: Barry M Jones


Publisher: Panther

By Old Timer (originally published in December 2015)


Postscript Aug 2016: We are grateful to Mark Gardiner for informing us that sadly the bulldozers have now moved in and the new supermarket build is under way.

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