1922 ABC Motorcycle

The All British Engine Company (later ABC) was established in 1912 in Hersham, Surrey, by Preston, Lancashire, born Ronald Charteris with – also Preston born – Glanville Bradshaw as chief engineer. Previously, at the age of 19, Bradshaw had designed and flown the Star monoplane which featured an engine of his design.

During the First World War, ABC concentrated on the design and manufacture of (predominately radial) aero engines, including the Dragonfly which promised much but proved to be unreliable. Motorcycle production commenced in 1918, with a 398cc, flat-twin, the company handing over production to Sopwith Aviation, allowing ABC to concentrate on design work.

The Sopwith-built ABC was an advanced motorcycle – the flat-twin configuration pre-dating BMW by some years – with a four speed gearbox, chain drive, front and rear leaf-spring suspension, and wet sump lubrication, but lack of development, particularly with the overhead valve gear and automatic oiling system, proved to be troublesome, resulting in many warranty claims. Partly as a result, Sopwith went into liquidation in 1922.

Charteris and Bradshaw formed ABC Motors (1920) Ltd to make engines for aircraft, motorcycles and a light car, the V-twin Belsize. Bradshaw designed engines were used in Panther, Zenith-Bradshaw, OK-Supreme and Coventry Mascot machines. The Skootamotor was an intriguing, but unsuccessful, attempt at a light ‘shopper’ two-wheeler.

Bradshaw’s most lucrative design was for a gaming machine, but he lost most of his money on failed ventures and died in Hitchin in 1969.



Our 1922 ABC motorcycle exhibit was donated to the Collection by Mr John James in March 2015.

A twin-cylinder ABC engine of the same type used this motorcycle is also used in the Shuttleworth Collection’s English Electric Wren ‘powered glider’. Only three Wrens were made, the example at Old Warden being the last. Fittingly, the ABC motorcycle is usually shown alongside the Wren.



Manufacturer: Sopwith Aviation and Engineering, Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey, England

Model: 400

Engine: 398cc, overhead valve, horizontally-opposed twin cylinders, mounted transverse in the frame

Top Speed: 70mph


Video of the ABC motorcycle at one of our recent events.