• Delivered new to Australia
• Minerva engine
• Offered for restoration
Of more than 300 makers of motorcycles that had come and gone in Australia by the 1920s, only Lewis of South Australia and Healing of Melbourne achieved volume production. As in other parts of the world, motorcycle manufacture in Australia grew out of the bicycle industry. Again, as elsewhere, the small Minerva clip-on engine found favour, as did those produced by De Dion and MMC. However, in 1904 the similarities with overseas developments ceased abruptly with a patent design for water cooling. Why a colonial manufacturer adopted the complexities of water cooling can only be a matter of speculation. Perhaps the hot climate of southern Australia was the reason, or the knowledge that more power is obtained from the same sized engine when water cooled. Whatever the reason, the Lewis certainly stands apart amongst Veterans.
By 1905 the first water-cooled Lewis models were to be seen the streets of Adelaide, along with an air-cooled model of the same 2¾hp rating. Lewis operated a well-equipped foundry and machine shop, and produced stationary engines and even a car, so producing water-cooled cylinders presented little difficulty. Longuemare carburettors and Eisemann magnetos were standard while the cycle parts were generally Chater Lea.
The Precision 500cc engine was adopted in 1910 in its air-cooled form, but Lewis continued to fit water-cooled cylinders to keep their now famous model in production. Roc and Sturmey Archer geared hubs were available. Precision v-twin engines were used, replacing the Minerva twin of some years earlier, and as time moved on, JAP and AKD engines were adopted. Lewis's motorcycle business did not flourish after the 1918 Armistice, as European peacetime production flooded the Australian motorcycle market, and cars became cheaper.
This Lewis was discovered in March 1963 at Monarto, close to Sevenhills in South Australia where it was first registered in 1907 to one J M Wyman, who had purchased it from the agent W Lawson of Blyth, a firm that also assembled Clipper bicycles. Registration was first required in South Australia in 1907, so it would have spent its first years unregistered.
Offered for restoration, the machine appears original and is substantially complete. Noteworthy features include a Chater Lea No. 5C frame, 30mph Jones speedometer, P&H headlamp, and a Brooks leather saddle. The machine is offered with a Lewis brochure (distressed) and a letter regarding the aforementioned W Lawson, a Swede who arrived in Blyth around 1899. There is a spare Minerva motor and Eisemann low-tension magneto available as a separate lot.