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Prior Autocycle

Derek Scott

Prior autocycle

The owner of this Prior Autocycle, Mr Rod Williams, kindly invited me round to his house to photograph it and also cajoled me into a short ride.  I tried to explain I had not brought any motor cycle gear with me!  "You're not going to fall off are you?"  "Er, No".  How could I argue such irrefutable logic, so off I wobbled.  I should have explained that I knew Rod in the 1960s when we both worked for the same bus company but had not seen him for 30 odd years and had forgotten he's a bit of a joker.

When I climbed aboard the little beast I informed Rod I had never ridden anything with hand gear change!  "That's ok, pull in the clutch on the right and put it in gear!"  "But the gear lever is on the right" says I.  "Yes, well, just reach across the tank with your left hand".  "Gulp".  I do this.  The bike gives a little leap and stalls.  Rod's in hysterics on the pavement.  "I forgot", he says, "the clutch is on the left".  Anyhow after these shenanigans a cup of tea is in order.

I ask him a bit about the bike.  He tells me the bike was sent by the German Hercules Company to JAP for evaluation as they were to be sole agents for the marque but fitted with British engines, then some argument over the name Hercules ensued and it was decided to call the marque Prior as we already had our own Hercules company.  The bike languished in the factory from 1935 to 1939 approximately, when it was acquired by Alexander Fenner who wrote technical articles for JAP and ridden by him during the war.  Rod was told the round engine side plate with large 'S' denoting 'Sachs engine' was taken off during the war because Mr Fenner did not want to be seen riding a bike with a German engine.

I did look up Prior in Tragatsch's Encyclopaedia and it says "German make unknown in Germany" and a date 1904.  It seems remarkable that a marque that should have been available for over three and a half decades would be almost unknown in Britain was well.  Perhaps some knowledgeable historian will let us know.

First published, August 2003

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