A Brief History of Excelsior Motorcycles
Bayliss, Thomas & Co. were bicycle manufacturers in Lower Ford Street, Coventry.
The company chose ‘Excelsior’ as their trademark in 1874.
In 1896, the first Excelsior motorcycle was built featuring a single cylinder Minerva engine from Belgium fitted into one their own bicycles.
It is claimed that this was the first motorcycle sold in Britain.
From around 1900, Bayliss, Thomas & Co. were well known for their involvement in motorcycle racing.
In 1910, the company became known as The Excelsior Motor Company Co Ltd.
Shortly after World War I, the company was taken over by R.Walker & Son. Motorcycle production was transferred to the Walker’s site at Kings Road, Tyseley, Birmingham.
In the depression years of the early 1930s, Excelsior responded to their customers by providing small machines that had low running costs, often powered by Villiers engines.
In 1934, Excelsior introduced the Manxman, probably their most famous model.
Designed by Eric Walker and H.J. Hatch, it was initially a single cylinder overhead camshaft machine of 249cc.
The Manxman was later available with either a 348cc or 498cc engine and was produced up until the breakout of World War II.
Just before the war, Excelsior had been producing a low cost 98cc autocycle known as the Auto-byk.
From 1940, Excelsior produced the ‘Welbike’ which was a small collapsible motorcycle used by paratroopers in the war.
The production of civilian motorcycles resumed in 1946, but this was limited to small lightweight machines such as the 125cc Universal.
The Auto-byk was also re-introduced in 1946.
There had been plans to reintroduce the Manxman after the war, however these plans did not come to fruition.
Excelsior only produced two strokes after the war, although it is understood that, in the mid 1950s, there was an experimental 250cc two cylinder four stroke that never went further than the development stage.
A popular post war model was the Talisman, which used Excelsior’s own 243cc two cylinder two stroke engine and four speed gearbox.
A low cost 98cc commuter known as the Consort was also a popular machine.
In 1957, Excelsior introduced the ‘Skutabyke’, which was basically a Consort motorcycle with body panels.
Eric Walker died in the late 1950s.
Shortly after Eric’s death, the company manufactured a range of small outboard engines and marine gearboxes.
In the early 1960s, the 147cc Monarch scooter was introduced. However, this could not compete with the Italian scooters available at that time.
This model was withdrawn soon after.
In 1962, there was a 500cc three cylinder two stroke engine that had been developed for the Berkeley sidecar outfit. This engine was not produced for long.
By 1964, Excelsior was only producing two models, the 98cc Consort and the 150cc Universal.
These could be bought in kit form to save paying purchase tax.
By 1965, Excelsior was in financial difficulty and they were taken over by Britax, the motor car accessory company.
Motorcycle production stopped and Britax continued making car accessories at the original Excelsior factory in Tyseley.