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Lot 398: c.1914 Wolf 2.5hp Model B

Collectors' Motorcycles, Bonhams (16 October 2005)

One of countless marques originating in Wolverhampton, Wolf is closely linked with Wulfruna, Wearwell and Stevens. The Wearwell Cycle Company was founded by the Clarke brothers in Darlington Street, Wolverhampton in 1889 and produced its first motorised vehicle (as the Wearwell Motor Carriage Company) around ten years later. Existing links with the Stevens Motor Manufacturing Company (later to become AJS) led to the supply of Stevens engines for a range of powered bicycles, the first of which appeared in 1901 as the ‘Wearwell-Stevens’. The ‘Wolf’ name first appeared on a Wearwell motorcycle in 1905. At this time the Stevens company was a supplier of components only (the first AJS motorcycle was some years away) so Joe and Jack Stevens began competing in reliability trials and speed events on Wolf machines, gaining many gold and silver awards during 1909/’10.

In 1910, the successful collaboration between Wearwell and Stevens was abruptly terminated by the former’s collapse after an accountancy fraud was revealed. Nevertheless, Managing Director William Clarke was determined to resume production and purchased Wulfruna Cycles in 1911. New premises were acquired in Brickkiln Street and Wolf motorcycles reintroduced alongside ‘Wulfruna’-badged models. The company concentrated on its ‘Wolf’ brand name from the early 1920s onwards, changing ownership and relocating to Colliery Road in 1928, and continued in production until 1939.

‘Britain’s Lightest, Best & Cheapest Motorcycles’, Wolf relied exclusively on proprietary engines and the example offered here is powered by a 292cc 2.5hp JAP motor. This machine was originally purchased by the village blacksmith of Haddenham, Bucks who was also the local motor engineer, a not unusual combination of professions at the time. The Wolf was placed in storage at the forge during WWI, remaining there until, under the requirements of the 1920 Roads Act, it was recorded on 20th May 1921 as weighing under 200lbs, thus qualifying for a lower taxation level. Not until 14th January 1925 was an actual licence issued by Buckinghamshire County Council to G R Green Esq, of Haddenham, who was the blacksmith there, though whether or not he was the original purchaser is not known. Subsequently the machine was dismantled and stored at the forge, gradually disappearing under a growing pile of scrap over the next 30-or-so years.

In 1955 the forge was completely cleared out and one G R Stevens, of Prestwood, Bucks acquired the frame and logbook from the blacksmith’s family. On 25th July 1955 Mr Stevens registered the motorcycle in his name and soon after passed it on to a keen motorcycling acquaintance, I H D ‘Norman’ Gibbon, of Tring, Herts who then spent many weeks scouring the forge site in order to locate the rest of the machine. Mr Gibbon duly registered ‘BH 7664’ in his name on 16th November 1955 and eventually completed its rebuild to running order in July 1959. Although most of the original Armstrong three-speed hub gear’s internals had been found, it was deemed easier to complete the machine with direct belt drive, and Mr Gibbon rode it a few times before selling it to the current owner, who had already ridden it on several occasions, on 17th June 1960. The Wolf has successfully completed the Banbury Run more than once with its owner aboard, but was last taxed for the road in 1964 and has remained in storage since then.

This machine’s precise date of manufacture has yet to be established; the VMCC’s Register of Machines (3rd Edition) lists 12 Wolfs with manufacturing dates ranging from 1910 to 1936, only one of which is a 2.5hp JAP-engined Model B. It is of 1914 with a frame number ‘13368’, which is a mere 16 earlier than this example’s, so there is a strong probability that ‘BH 7664’ does date from 1914 and thus qualifies for the prestigious Pioneer Run. The machine is offered with original (1925) old-style logbook, 1959 and 1964 tax discs, Swansea V5 registration document and a small quantity of spares including hub gear internals. An opportunity to acquire an ultra-rare piece of Wolverhampton’s motorcycling heritage possessing a most interesting history and impeccable provenance.

Lot Details
Auction Collectors' Motorcycles
Bonhams, Classic & Motorcycle Mechanics Show, Stafford
Lot Number398
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£3600
Hammer Price (inc premium)£4140
Condition rating
Registration number
Chassis number
Engine number3839
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors