Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

New Imperial Motors

From Graces Guide
1925. New Imperial NDI Sports. Reg No: NT 5969.
1927. Model 2. 350cc.


Oct 1927.


Oct 1927.
December 1929.
January 1930.
June 1930.


July 1931.
Aug 1932


October 1933.
1935. Model 23. 150cc.

of Loveday Street, Birmingham.

of Spring Road, Hall Green, Birmingham

1887 Imperial Cycle Co Ltd (or its precursor) was established as manufacturer of pedal cycles.

1901 First motorcycle shown with the engine mounted in front of the handlebars above the front wheel, and the transmission consisted of a leather belt which drove the front wheel but it was not successful and the company went back to making cycles.

1907 "New Imperial" Motor Cycles commenced production on a small scale.

1911 New Imperial Cycle Co was put into voluntary liquidation[1]

1912 New Imperial Motors Ltd was established by Norman Tuckwood Downs to make motorcycles in Loveday Street, Birmingham; they offered a range of three models all using JAP engines.

At this time another new company seems to have been established by Downs as New Imperial Cycles Co Ltd, presumably as a subsidiary.

1913 A New Imperial, ridden by A. S. Jones in the 1913 Senior TT race, was one of the 63 that failed to finish that year. (24 competitors finished.)

1913 March. Advertisement mentions New Imperial Motor Cycles and Sidecars.[2]

1913-1917 For a list of the models and prices of motorcycles see the 1917 Red Book

1913 A 6hp V-twin model was added to the range, which continued until 1916. The firm first raced in the TT.

1913-1917 For a list of the models and prices of cars see the 1917 Red Book

WWI Supplied motorcycles to the Russian, American and British Armies, also manufactured Mills' Bombs, and other armaments.

Post WWI: The company moved to Hall Green, Birmingham, and added more models to their range.

1921 That year brought success in the TT when Doug Prentice won the 250cc Junior race. Using that to advertise the make, they increased the range still further.

Mid-1920s The firm was now making its own engines and the JAP motors became an option before being dropped.

1922 Directors: N. T. Downs (Managing), and A. J. Williams. Specialities - Cycles, motor cycles and cycle-cars.

1927 New Imperial Motors (1927) Ltd was incorporated as a public company, which continued the business.

1928 Bankruptcy. '...a Meeting of the creditors of the New Imperial Motors Company Ltd will be held at 26, Corporation-street, Birmingham, on the first day of February, 1928, at 12 o'clock mid-day...'[3]

1930 The range had been so extensive that the firm decided to cut back and concentrate on six-cylinder models.

1932 Major advancements were made with the first appearance of the company's unit-construction models with the engine and gearbox built as one unit, wet-sump lubrication and pivoted-fork rear suspension.

Throughout the early 1930s developments were made on the sporting side and there were many successes.

c.1933 A subsidiary company (presumably New Imperial Cycles Ltd) was set up to manufacture pedal cycles; by the end of the 33/34 reporting period it was making a small profit[4]

1936 A 250cc New Imperial ridden by Bob Foster won the Lightweight TT, the last British four-stroke to win the event. Norman Downs died, which eventually resulted in financial difficulties.

1939 Clifford Motor Components Ltd purchased the works and equipment at Birmingham[5] and sold on the motorcycle part of the business[6]

1939 The business was bought by Jack Sangster, of Ariel, who planned to move it to the Triumph factory in Coventry, but production remained at Hall Green until the end of the decade.

1940 The planned move to Triumph took place, but the factory was bombed. Edward Turner's 3TU model was supposed to carry New Imperial badges, but never saw production. Proposals to use the name after the war did not materialise, so the name was never resurrected.


Further information can be found at the New Imperial Owners' Association web site. [1]

National Motorcycle Museum exhibits:

  • 1936 New Imperial 492cc V-twin Works Racing Machine.

Speed King-JAP was a motorcycle produced between 1913 and 1914, by New Imperial and sold by J. G. Graves of Sheffield, as their own marque.

This model was the Light Tourist with a different tank transfer. It had the 293cc JAP sv engine, two-speed gearbox and belt final drive. The rigid frame had Druid forks and foot-boards, and Bowden brakes were fitted.

The intention had been to sell the machine by mail order and with interest-free credit, but the New Imperial was cheaper and the arrival of the first World War brought the idea to an end.

Graves was a motorcycle produced from 1914 to 1915 and sold by a Sheffield store.

This firm had the machines built for them by New Imperial. It was listed as the Speed King and fitted with a 2.5hp JAP engine that drove a two-speed gearbox, belt final-drive and Druid forks.

Wartime was not a good period for the trade and the make was soon gone from the market.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The London Gazette 6 October 1911
  2. Daily Telegraph, 22 March 1913
  3. The London Gazette Publication date:20 January 1928 Issue:33349 Page:476
  4. The Times, Oct 02, 1934
  5. The Times, Feb 06, 1939
  6. The Times, Sep 13, 1939
  • Coventry’s Motorcycle heritage by Damien Kimberley ISBN 978 0 7509 5125 9
  • The Encyclopedia of the Motorcycle by Peter Henshaw. Published 2007. ISBN 978 1 8401 3967 9
  • The British Motorcycle Directory - Over 1,100 Marques from 1888 - by Roy Bacon and Ken Hallworth. Pub: The Crowood Press 2004 ISBN 1 86126 674 X
  • [2] Ian Chadwick's motorcycle web site
  • [3] Wikipedia
  • [4] Yesterday's Antique Motorcycles web site
  • [5] Cyber Motor Cycles web site
  • [6] The 'Webshots' web site
  • [7] Made in Birmingham web site
  • Miller’s Price Guide to Classic Motorcycles