Monday, December 29, 2014


'Patricia', the nickname Stanley Woods gave to his New Imperial Model 11 Super Sports with 976cc JAP four-cam engine.
Stanley Woods was a rising star in motorcycle racing by 1923, having most notably won the Isle of Man Junior TT that year on a Cotton-Blackburne 350cc.  At the end of the racing year, with a bit of prize money in his pocket, he decided to buy a big V-twin for daily use, hopefully a machine with enough sporting potential to race in the Unlimited classes at the Isle of Man and various beach events. So he went shopping at the big Olympia show in London, where all the manufacturers displayed next years' models.  Woods explained, "I actually went to the motorcycle show at Olympia in 1923 with the idea of purchasing a Brough Superior SS80.  This appeared to me, on paper, to be the most suitable motorcycle maker fitting the big JAP engine.  However, I was looking for a discount off the machine.  I had just won the Junior TT and had a big head.  George Brough was not interested."
Stanley Woods racing Patricia at Portmarnock beach in 1924...a machine of many duties!
"I ferreted around the rest of the show, and looked at Coventry Eagle and Zenith. I finally set my eye on a New Imperial.  Norman Downs, founder and managing director of New Imperial Motors, was a very keen supporter of the TT.  When I approached him he was prepared to co-operate on hundred percent. 'Go and see the JAP people, the gearbox, the carburetor, the magneto people, and whatever they will do for you, we will do the same.' I got a machine at about 40% off instead of the normal trade 20%. It turned out to be a fabulous machine."
Patricia at rest on a stone wall in Ireland, 1924.  Note the totally open primary chain and dropped handlebars; the Model 11 was New Imperial's fastest model, with the most powerful engine available at that date, the big JAP four-cam sidevalver, good enough for the 'ton' in the right hands.
Woods raced his New Imperial in local road races (the Temple and Cookstown Hundreds), but found it was too fast for small tracks, although he did find success in sand racing and sprints in Ireland.  The next year, having won virtually all the important Irish road races (but not the TT) he tried to convince George Brough once again to sell him the new overhead-valve SS100 model at a discount.  George said no!

[ Note: these photographs were scanned from Stanley Woods' personal photo albums, which were sold at Bonhams auctions several years ago.  The quotes from Woods are found in 'Stanley Woods: the World's First Motorcycle Superstar' (Crawford), to which I contributed a few photos.]

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Anonymous said...

good story - never seen this bike before! stefan

Grandpa Jimbo said...

Paul: Very interesting front fork on the New Imp..Looks like a tele tube with external spring/friction shock. I've never seen this set up before. Jim A.

Barry Brown said...

I am fortunate to have had some wonderful correspondences with Stanley Woods. He was a very nice man.
That is quite a revealing commentary on George Brough, possibly a tad too hard nosed a business man in this instance.