|Chater-Lea began in Victorian times making bicycle parts for other
firms and in due course graduated to making complete motorcycles using
a wide range of proprietary engines.
1900 The first motorcycles appeared. They were built to order using
whatever engine the customer specified.
Chater-Lea made frames & fitting for many other makes of engines -
Advert is for a Minerva Romania engine in a Chater-Lea frame? with
As anyone could buy the frame kits, you can asume that Minerva motorcyles
were made in your shed/kitchen or workshop.... As far as I'm aware, Minerva
never made motorcycles... they made motors... or... dios this advert mean
that the Chater Lea frames were those "so called improvements"?... either
way a clip on is a clip on. & trying to find out which is which, is
not an easy task.
After a few years they had only one model, robust in construction, that
was meant for sidecar use. It had a 6hp JAP
engine, a two-speed gearbox, all-chain drive and leading-link front forks.
They then produced a 2.5hp solo with a JAP
engine and belt drive. (note... trying to varify this)
1909 By now they were using a three-speed gearbox and crankshaft-mounted
clutch on the sidecar outfit plus various solos.
The V-twin 1913
1916 They reverted to one model for a while - an 8hp twin sidecar. They
then added a 369cc two-stroke with two-speed gearbox and belt final-drive.
World War I. production stopped. For a list of the models and prices
of motorcycles see the 1917 Red Book
1920 The company returned to the market with only the two-stroke.
1921 A 976cc JAP
V-twin was added.
1922 They produced a 488cc sv single, of their own design.
1923 More models were added that year.
1924 Their own model was enlarged to 545cc and they produced other
models with sv and ohv Blackburne
engines. It was the last year for the big V-twin. They started fitting
saddle tanks to their models. They made a name at Brooklands when records
were broken by Dougal Marchant riding a machine with a modified Blackburne
engine. It helped sales, but the machines were expensive.
1925 Only three singles were listed.
1926 They unveiled a new 348cc ohc model of the face-cam type, with
vertical shaft drive. There were also two sports models with either Blackburne
or JAP engines. At 100mph
it was the world's fastest 350cc machine. Marchant set a World Record Flying
Kilometre for 350cc and 500cc motorcycles at 102.9mph for the firm, though
the engine was his special and not the later face-cam Chater-Lea engine
1927 The only models produced that year used their own Chater-Lea 348cc
and 545cc engines as well Blackbourne
engines (see you tube clip). The name changed to Chater Lea Ltd. when the
founder died in 1927. The business was then taken over by sons, John and
They exhibited at the 1927 Motor Cycle and Cycle Show at Olympia stand
1928 The company moved to Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire.
1929 They added a 247cc lightweight with a Villiers engine, and a Dirt
1930 Only three road models were in production and the two-stroke
1931 Their style now had a somewhat 'vintage' look and the only machines
built were the camshaft and sv models.
1935 The camshaft model ended.
1936 The sv model ended and the firm returned to general engineering.
Over the years a total of 1200 combinations were supplied, the
last one in July 1936
This machine had found favour with the AA as a good strong reliable
sidecar unit for patrol work
(WWII Manufactured parts for the De Havilland Mosquito)
edited by S. Dogdragon (a bit of extra info by myself too)