Reinventing The Montgomery Motorcycle

Hell For Leather, HFL -

By

MontgomeryMotorcycleCo_01

A famous British motorcycle name from the past could be on its way back thanks to a southern California company, which has ambitious plans to begin making and selling Montgomery motorcycles again.

Photos: Anne Watson

Mark Williams and Blake Washington co-founded their business, the Montgomery Motorcycle Company, two years ago. They own the name, trademark and the rights to what was once considered a very exclusive British bike company. The pair hope that within the next 12 months to have a motorcycle on sale again bearing the Montgomery name after an absence of more than 60 years.

Montgomery Motorcycle Company opened its doors last November in San Clemente, in a former transmission shop. That shop was set up by former construction company owner Williams and Washington, who is a friend of Williams’ son, after they started building motorcycles together.

“I worked in the construction industry for many years for most of the well known studios up in Hollywood, building studios and film sets including the Baja California lot for the 1997 film ‘Titanic,’” explains Williams. “But I have always had a passion for motorcycles, particularly the old British bikes.”

“Blake and I decided about three years ago to build a bobber together and things just grew from there. We bought an old BSA 650, oil-in-frame, and started working on it and fabricating parts and were really pleased with the way it started to turn out. We thought, ‘hang on a minute we could start building and selling our own bikes’ so we began looking for premises.”

At the same time they looked to see what they could call their motorcycle and discovered that the Montgomery name was available and they bought the trademark and rights to this once famous British company.

Originally Montgomery was a manufacturing and engineering firm that was created in Hertfordshire, England, in 1913. It became known for being innovative and producing interesting, high quality motorcycles. Company founder William Montgomery is credited with creating the first motorcycle sidecar and also raced his own Montgomery sidecar combination in the 1923 Isle of Man TT.

A 1934 Montgomery De Luxe.

The company’s first bike in 1913 was a flat twin using a Morton & Weaver engine, but all other parts with a few exceptions were designed and made in-house. Montgomery specialized in developing its own frames and forks and earned an enviable reputation for the quality of its work even leading to Brough Motorcycles – makers of the iconic Brough Superior – using Montgomery frames on its bikes.

During the 1930s, Montgomery continued to make quality two-stroke and four-stroke motorcycles, culminating in the Montgomery Greyhound – a 680cc V-Twin. But, the outbreak of the Second World War brought production to a halt and the company ceased trading.

“When we were looking for the right name we specifically wanted something that reflected the nostalgia element. Something that was from the classic era of British motorcycles and Montgomery seemed to be the perfect fit. Like us, it was a company that used other people’s engines but developed its own frames and forks,” says Williams.

The first Montgomery motorcycle is still in prototype form and sits in the Montgomery Motorcycle Co. showroom, but Williams hope that this year they will start to build the first Montgomery production bike.

“We have used a 1970s BSA oil-in-frame as it’s easy to work with, readily available and we can alter it to suit our needs,” says Williams. “We have fabricated the tank and got a look we really like and created the bars similar to those you would expect on a vintage motorcycle and used a leaf spring front suspension with a hard tail rear end. The next stage is to get the bike up and running, but we have been somewhat distracted with getting Montgomery Motorcycle Company underway.”

Aside from wanting to build and sell their own motorcycles, Williams and Washington have opened a shop that specializes in buying, selling and servicing classic British and American bikes. They opened the doors to the Montgomery Motorcycle Co. store last year and it’s a place that has a really cool vintage environment selling retro gear and with a wide range of classic bikes for sale, from a 1924 Indian Scout, a 1950 Triumph 500 Trophy, to a1971 BSA Lightning.

“We kept a lot of features from the old transmission shop such as the old lifts that are now coffee tables in the customer area of the showroom, but basically it’s a new building with a classic feel. We specialize in selling older British and American motorcycles, but will consider any motorcycle if it’s interesting.”

“We got so busy selling and sourcing vintage bikes and inundated in the service department, where we’ll work on any bike up to 2013, that our plans to build a Montgomery motorcycle took a bit of a back seat,” explains Williams.
With the store now up and running Williams and Washington feel they are back on track and plan to start sorting and developing the rolling prototype of their first Montgomery motorcycle. They hope by the end of this year to have a production Montgomery model up and running.

“If someone came in today and wanted us to build them a Montgomery,” says Williams “We think we could do it within three to six months. Our aim is to make only a limited run of around 10 in total. All will use the BSA oil-in-frame set up, which we will develop, and there will be certain things on the bike that will be distinctly Montgomery like the front end leaf suspension and forks, bars and risers and the tank design.”

“Customers will get to choose either a BSA or Triumph 650cc engine but they are ostensibly the same motor. Thereafter we will fabricate anything the customer wants to make the Montgomery their bike.”

Montgomery Motorcycle Co has the capability and skills to fabricate everything in-house and will build all the Montgomery bikes at its San Clemente store.

Aside from the Montgomery, Williams and Washington also have plans to build a road legal ‘board racer’ style motorized bicycle similar to a 1910-1915 Indian. The engine would be a 2hp v-twin and could cost around $4,500.

“We’re serious about this project too,” added Williams. “We think there would be a lot of interest in having a road legal motorized bicycle that looks like something from the early 20th century. It could be a lot of fun.”

  • Davidabl2

    “Aside from the Montgomery, Williams and Washington also have plans to build a road legal ‘board racer’ style motorized bicycle similar to a 1910-1915 Indian. The engine would be a 2hp v-twin and could cost around $4,500.

    This will make at least two manufacturers of these things in California, albeit the Montgomery will be the only one having a replica antique engine.
    http://www.sportsmanflyer.com

  • di0genes

    Montgomery? That must have come from the dollar store side of dead motorcycle names

    http://everiman.blogspot.ca/2012/02/undead-zombie-motorcycles.html

    • Tim Watson

      That’s a little harsh. I think anyone that is prepared to invest their time, money and effort into something that they believe in deserves better. Is the bike finished yet? No. But let’s reserve judgement until it is.

  • grb

    Not commenting on the article, but it just got me thinking… this vintage motorcycle fad need to move on, shoo shoo, as if the crisis wasn’t bad enough for the industry people looking to buy older bikes is not working for progress and development. I mean I have always loved my vintage bikes, some are very special, and cafe racers have so much character, but as a trend it all sucks.

    Im sad to see how the superbike/sportbike and practically all bike evolution has slowed down. I know its not only the fault of the people that just care about how they look (which is pathetic, and is what led Harley D to what it is today, archaic) instead of being true bikers and feel fascinated about how a bike handles and performs, about its innovations and how superbly awesome modern bikes are, they are lightyears ahead of their vintage counterparts.

    I think modern bikes are cool, purposeful things are cool, and bikes that are built to offer you the ultimate in balance, performance, handling and rider experience are cool, certainly allot cooler then bikes that are only built for looks but don’t offer you any innovation, because then deep down your not a real bike, your a poser

    • Dane[ger]

      That seems like a pretty odd way to look at things. I prefer vintage bikes for their character and soul. The subtle nuances they all have, their attitudes, and the pleasure I get from working on them. I enjoy other vintage things as well, such as typewriters, classic music, and record players (gah they just sound so good if done right). I’m not a hipster or a poser. I just really enjoy the aesthetic and design of some older bikes. I am fully aware that new bikes have some amazing advantages over older bikes. I’ve ridden them. But I can’t work on most new bikes, and customization can be a bit more difficult on say a Honda 250cbr. I also don’t necessarily want to go fast on a bike, or race down a windy road at high speeds. Learning the limitations to older bikes is a blast and part of the fun.

      I think this closed minded attitude towards what people prefer is a bit silly. All motorcycles are cool and deserve a place on the road. I don’t love big ass Harley choppers, but I’m still happy to see another biker on the road. To say that innovation isn’t taking place in motorcycling isn’t innovating is also a bit silly. Look at the progress of electric bikes.

      Whatever the case, ride what makes you happy.

      • grb

        I agree with you, and please in no way take my comment as disrespectful, it wasnt intended to sound like that. Like I said, I also love vintage bikes, their character, their style, and as a designer I love their designs and how they were made. Im not trying to say one is better then the other, at all. Im just talking about the fad, when you turn something into a fashion, everybody wants to do it and you burn it, now its all about the vintage look, I think thats not cool anymore, its not original and it certainly isn’t progressive. If anything it will start to make vintage bikes look hipster(dumb) and not special. Again Im talking about the vintage as a fad, because there are and always will be special bikes that are meaningful and eternal. So investing time, money and development into into this fad is just closing the door on original new ideas and improvements.

        Im sad that the motorcycle industry is hurting, I really am… I loved seeing how fast it was evolving every year and how it got to where it is today, to the point that you can buy for such a low price a machine like the Panigale. I think forwards is the way to invest, without taking away the place for historic bikes.

  • Harry Paratestes

    These guys better watch out, I heard someone just spent $22 for the rights to Clyno and Ner-A-Car in an attempt to corner the pre-WWI era nostalgia market…

  • Mark Vizcarra

    No relation to what Montgomery Ward’s use to sell right?

  • Robert Horn

    Who ever designed that front fork should be taken out and shot.

  • Scott Pargett

    Oh boy, here comes the controversy.

    Different things make different people happy. These are skilled artisans building a product that appeals to certain people. It’s great to see these two guys following their passion and doing a proper job at it. To attack vintage bikes for any lack of development in modern sportbikes that one feels, sounds like a bit of witch hunt. Placing the blame where it doesn’t belong.

    All that being said, can’t we all get along? We’re so spoiled with two-wheeled machines these days, as this article illustrates. It should be a celebration. We can have just about anything we want at anytime! All that being said, I personally love just about all motorcycles. Each special in their own way.

  • Davidabl2

    Looking at the ’34 Montgomery shown I sure wish these guys were using S&S replica engines instead of killing vintage BSA’s&Triumphs to get their engines.

    C’mon guys:

    http://www.sscycle.com/product/Vintage-Flathead-Power/1936-1984-Big-Twin-Models/Engines-c172/

    Ideally special single cylinder “half-a-Harley” editions could be sourced from S&S. Tell’em you’ll talk to Kiwi

    if they can’t help you out.

    Realistically, though while it shouldn’t be hard to build and sell 10 of your customs I suspect your target demographic would prefer to have new engines in their new bikes. There’s a myriad number of reasons why those old brit engines actually have only got 10k-15k miles on them -or less- after all these years.