A Brief History of OK Supreme Motorcycles
OK was a company set up in 1882 in Lancaster Street, Birmingham by Ernie Humphries and Charles Dawes to manufacture bicycle components.
They also manufactured a Penny Farthing under the name of Criterion.
They first experimented with powered bicycles in 1899.
In 1906, they manufactured another bicycle using a Smith’s O’Saltley engine.
The SOS engine, as it was known, was actually manufactured by OK on Smith’s behalf.
In 1911, OK exhibited three machines at the Stanley Show in London.
These were powered by 350cc, 500cc and 600cc side valve engines. The engines were made by F.E. Baker’s recently established Precision Company in Birmingham.
OK’s first entry to the Isle of Man TT Races came in 1912 with a 346cc OK-Precision model fitted with a three speed Sturmey Archer hub gear.
The machine came in ninth position ridden by E.V. Pratt.
The following year, two 346cc water cooled ‘Green’ engined machines were entered into the TT Races as well as an ‘ABC’ engined machine.
One of the ‘Green’ machines failed to start and none of the other two finished the race.
In 1914, Humphries and Dawes had a new factory built in York Road, Hall Green.
This was to build their popular ‘NSU’ powered roadster machines, however with World War I fast approaching, the supplies of the German built NSU engines was cut off.
After the war, a flat twin machine had been planned for 1919 but did not go beyond the development stage.
Instead, a range of machines powered by two stroke Villiers or Union engines was introduced.
It was Ernie Humphries who gave Wal Handley his chance in the 1922 TT Races on a 250cc Blackburne powered OK, and although Wal did not finish the race, he did set the fastest lap at 51.00 mph.
Wal went on to win the Ulster Grand Prix for OK later that year.
Towards the mid 1920s, Ernie Humphries wanted to build more luxurious motorcycles, while Charles Dawes was more interested in the bicycle busines.
They parted company in 1926 and Charles went on to form Dawes Cycles Limited, a company which still exists today.
The York Road factory was sold to Velocette, who were experiencing a boom after Alec Bennett’s 1926 Junior TT win on their K series motorcycle.
Ernie Humphries formed OK-Supreme Motors Ltd. in 1927 and soon after, moved to his newly acquired premises in Bromley Street, Birmingham.
It was here that he produced his first OK-Supreme motorcycle which was a 350cc JAP engined motorcycle. However, more machines followed shortly after.
Early in 1928, Humphries bought the failing HRD company in order to acquire the factory at Fryer Street in Wolverhampton.
Humphries sold the remaining stocks of spares, tools, etc. Including the HRD name to Philip Vincent.
The Vincent HRD Company Ltd. was thus formed.
Also in 1928, OK-Supreme won the Isle of Man Lightweight TT Race on a JAP engined model ridden by Frank Longman.
This was the only TT win for OK-Supreme.
1928 was a very successful year in the TT for OK-Supreme.
Their machines ridden by G. Himing, C.T. Ashby and Vic Anstice came in 4th, 5th and 6th places respectively.
In 1930, a 250cc model, known as the ‘Lighthouse’ was introduced. It was so called because of the small inspection window at the top of the cam tower.
These engines were produced by Williams and James of Gloucester as OK-Supreme had no engine manufacturing facilities.
The ‘Lighthouse’ was available for several years and was also produced in 350cc form.
In 1934, production moved to Warwick Road in Birmingham. Again there were no engine manufacturing facilities and this time, engines were produced by Burman’s.
In 1939, with the approach of World War II, production ceased and the Warwick Road factory was closed down and sold.
After the war, 350cc JAP engined OK-Supreme grass track racing machines were still available through Ernie Humphries’ son, John.
John Humphries died in 1946 after an accident.