Author Topic: Photo of Frank Meller - 1914 Australian Grand Prix competitor  (Read 7567 times)

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Offline Dave

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Many thanks to peter Shannon who kindly sent in this photo of Frank Meller and asks...

Quote from: Peter Shannon
Hello,
Is someone able to date this Douglas photo for me and identify any unusual features.
This is Frank Meller who competed in the first Australian Grand Prix  in 1914. (yes, next year is the Centenary of the Australian Grand Prix).
I am uncertain if this is the 2 3/4 Douglas he competed on.




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[change "Mellor" to "Meller".  25Nov13, Doug, Site Moderator]
« Last Edit: 26 Nov 2013 at 02:22 by Doug »

Offline PeterShannon

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Thanks Dave,
 His name is actually Frank MELLER. Sorry for my error.

Frank began competing in motorcycle events in August 1913 in Sydney on a 2 3/4 HP Douglas and continued into the 1920's, not always on a Douglas though.

 He competed along with his brothers, Edgar and James, in the first 'Grand Prix of Australia' on 5 October 1914 at the Yetholme/Sunny Corner /Meadow Lee circuit near Bathurst.
 
Frank's brother, Edgar Meller won that first Australian Grand Prix, also on a 2 3/4 Douglas.
 Douglas used that win to advertise Douglas throughout Australia as winning the Grand Prix of Australia.

I am not too certain now that the photo of Frank on his Douglas above, is the actual machine he used in that 1914 event. I see in the Model Identification section a 1913 TT model and it only has 4 or 5 fins on the head, whereas Frank's bike in this photo has many more fins up to the rockers.

I am hoping someone with intimate knowledge of these early Douglases may be able to accurately date this Douglas.

I have a photo of a cup that was presented to Frank by Douglas Motorcycles for his numerous wins and placings on a Douglas that I will put up later.

 I also have a photo of  Edgar Meller on his Grand Prix winning Douglas that I will put up in a separate posting, plus a photo of the winning Douglas team of the 1914-15 Sydney to Melbourne Reliability Trial.

Peter.

Offline PeterShannon

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This is a closeup of the Douglas motor:

Offline eddie

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Peter,
          Having had a look at the close up of the engine, I think this could either be a later engine or possibly an experimental job that was being evaluated. As you say there are more fins on the barrel than on other engines of the 1913 era. Also there are other detail differences regarding the crankcases. Firstly, the timing cover looks to be of the later one-piece type, and it looks to have an unusual type of decompressor that is bolted to it's front face (you can see the cable going to it, and there is no sign of the normal cable boss on the forward face of the timing chest).
    We know that the extra fins and the one piece timing cover were incorporated into the later production models, but I have never seen that type of decompressor before.

   Regards,
                Eddie.

Offline PeterShannon

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Thanks Eddie,
 It certainly could be an experimental engine as Frank's brother, Edgar Meller, who won the 1914 Australian Grand Prix, had only picked up his TT Douglas, which was practically new, from Williams Bros in Sydney 9 days before the race and he advertised that, from then on, he would only be racing Douglas bikes. He said this TT Douglas was just as fast as Frank's Douglas, so having said this about Frank's Douglas, it does give the impression it might have been special.

Frank's grandson was of the impression when I contacted him that Frank had raced for Douglas, but just recently his 93 year old mother who suffers dementia said, "No", he only raced Douglas motorcycles, however she was not born when Frank raced. So from all that Frank may or may not have raced for Douglas.

Peter

 




« Last Edit: 26 Nov 2013 at 09:16 by PeterShannon »

Offline cardan

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The photo below is said to show Harry Bashall after crashing out of the 1913 IOM TT. Comparing Frank's bike to Bashall's would suggest that it was a genuine TT job - if not a works racer then certainly a "TT Replica". Note the extra finning on the cylinders of these bikes compared with the usual scantily-finned cylinders on the production bikes, and the previously mentioned variations to the timing cover/exhaust lifter. I was expecting the "exhaust lifter" to be a mechanical oil pump, but it doesn't seem to be.

Sending genuine works bikes out here to Australia was a common occurrence, particularly when the new season racers became available in the UK.

Leon

Offline PeterShannon

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Well looking at the 1913 TT Douglas posted by eddie in the identification section and that of Frank Meller and Bashall's bike, the difference in finning is obvious. Certainly Frank Meller's bike is almost identical to Bashall's in the way of finning and also the lightening drill holes in the visible pulley.
Meller's bike could even be Bashall's bike as the October 1914 event was over 15 months after the 1913 IOMTT.
 I do agree that many ex-works bikes were sent to Australia after the competition season ended and newer works models were made.

S.L. Bailey, an Australian, who was a competition rider for Douglas in England for 12 years, said in 1925 that he sold the first three Douglas motorcycles in NSW after they "had been hawked from pillar to post and nobody would look at them." He also says that not long after the 1912 Brooklands race that he worked at the Kingswood factory and that he continued his overseas propaganda, and got Mr. Willian Douglas keenly interested in Australian trade. Mr Douglas "made concessions then to gain this particular, market that other manufacturers would not consider.  He could see my point of view; he could visualize the future.
 Also in February 1913 S. L. Bailey returned to Sydney and the press report says:
'My present trip is a business one, looking after the interests of the Douglas firm, which is to pay special attention to the Australasian trade in future. It is possible that I will only remain here a few months, and will then return to England, where I have to decide a match at Brooklands with G. E. Stanley.'
He was accompanied to Sydney by P. Weatherilt. another noted English motor-cyclist. They brought several Douglas machines with Ihem.

So it would appear that the sending of works Douglases to Australia was almost certain given this insight and perhaps it was Bailey who bought out the Meller machine.
« Last Edit: 26 Nov 2013 at 11:37 by PeterShannon »

Offline PeterShannon

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The motor of Bashall's 1913 IOM TT Douglas machine:

Offline eddie

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Hi All,
          The photo of Harry Bashall's bike throws up even more questions. This engine has the same attachment to the timing chest, but with a stouter cable running up to the handlebars - could this then be an early rev counter drive meshing with the underside of the cam gear? This would leave precious little room for the exhaust lifter but on Harry's bike, there appears to be the original exhaust lifter cable just visible below the front barrel (whereas there is no sign of it on Frank Meller's). Also, Harry's engine has angled fins around the spark plug - production engines had all the fins horizontal - were these barrels peculiar to the works racing machines?

  Eddie.

Offline cardan

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I'd say yes and yes.

I like the idea of rev counter drive even though it's hard to make out the instrument itself in the Bashall photo, or other 1913 TT Douglas photos (for example http://www.stilltimecollection.co.uk/detail/1994-starbike-tpt-transport-bike-douglas-racing-prix-motor-sport-raceway-race-tt-rider-wf-newsome-1913.html , http://www.stilltimecollection.co.uk/detail/1996-starbike-tpt-transport-bike-douglas-racing-prix-motor-sport-raceway-race-tt-rider-v-wilberforce-1913.html , http://www.stilltimecollection.co.uk/detail/1995-starbike-tpt-transport-bike-douglas-racing-prix-motor-sport-raceway-race-tt-rider-j-stewart-1913.html )

The only place I've seen the extra fins arranged like this around the inlet port is on the race bikes.

Also of interest is the swirl muffler - a 1914 production feature.

Leon

Offline PeterShannon

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Thanks Eddie and Leon,
 The Meller bike's fins around the spark plugs appear at a slight angle to the barrel fins,. I suppose the angle of the photo may be deceptive and maybe the same as the Bashall machine.

So it certainly is a 'works' machine and I am assuming it is 1913 vintage?

I want to report back to Frank Meller's grandson, as he has no idea of the importance of this photo/machine. He also supplied me with a photo of Frank Meller with a Big X if anyone is interested.

Peter

Offline PeterShannon

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The machines that S L Bailey and P Weatherbilt bought to Australia in Feb 1913 were intended for them to use in racing whilst here.
 
While in England in January 1913 S L Bailey says that he:  "has employed his spare time in having built a very remarkable c.c. horizontally - opposed- twin cylinder engine with steel pistons and cylinders, and overhead mechanically - operated : valves. This engine runs at over 4000 r.p.m. and develops 17 h.p. It has been taken up by a very famous rccord-breakihg motor-cyclist, and will probably be manufactured commercially. The design, Bailey stated, is clean and simple, the whole of the external part of the crankcase being machined.

Of his record breaking Douglas, he said : " that the machine was geared 5 to 1, so that the revolutions of the engine work out at the extraordinary rate of 4650 per minute. On the stand the machine will run at 6700 r.p.m. Specially light pistons were used, and the connecting rods
are set centrally, and not staggered as on the standard Douglas."

So it appears that S L Bailey was involved in the development of Douglas racers in England and that the machines that he bought out in February 1913 to use in Australia would have no doubt had many "works' features. It is not unreasonable to believe that these machines were left with Williams Bros, the sole NSW and Qld distributor for Douglas Cycles at the time, for favoured riders to use.

Frank Meller was riding a 2 3/4 Douglas by August 1913.

 Frank Meller's grandson informs me that Frank was selected in 1914 to represent Australia overseas in motorcycle racing but due to the war that it did not eventuate.

Another clue as to dating this photo would be the registration number '9514'. Certainly not a real early number but someone with more info than I have may be able to give some time scale when that number would have been first issued.

Peter.

Offline cardan

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Hi Peter,

The overhead valve job was an altogether more sophisticated job than the side valve 2 3/4, even in works TT trim. Yes I'd say that the Meller bike is a c1913 (Works?) TT Douglas - not clear if it was a real 1913 TT bike, or a replica built and distributed new to Douglas dealers for use by their local stars.

By the way, as well as the StillTime photo of W. F. Newsome in the 1913 TT, there's another on a thread in the Racing section of this forum: https://www.douglasmotorcycles.net/index.php?topic=3993.0

I wonder if a forum member has bits of one of these 1913 TT machines in their piles of 2 3/4 stuff? The cylinders and timing case would be easily recognisable.

Leon

Offline eddie

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Careful study of the photos also shows that the barrels/heads have been considerably reworked (probably larger ports) as the bikes have much larger exhausts than the standard 1"dia fitted to other models.

    Eddie.