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Lot 456: 1917 Rover 3.5hp

Collectors' Motorcycles, Bonhams (16 October 2005)

Designed by J K Starley, the Rover safety bicycle represented a breakthrough in bicycle design at the end of the 19th Century. In November 1903 the Rover Cycle Company presented its first motorcycle, an advanced design that featured a well-designed sidevalve engine, spray carburettor, robust diamond-type frame with twin front down-tubes, and excellent quality of finish. It created a lot of interest and more than 1,200 were sold in 1904. Not all of Rover’s rivals could match its reliability though, and public confidence in motorcycles waned as a result, causing a downturn in sales. Rather than jeopardise its reputation, Rover stopped motorcycle production
entirely, concentrating on its bicycle business and the development of a Rover car.

In 1910 the motorcycle’s future seemed more assured, and designer John Greenwood (later of Sunbeam fame) was commissioned to draw up a new engine. A 499cc sidevalve, the new motor incorporated spring-loaded tappets and positioned its Bosch magneto, driven by a ‘silent’ inverted-tooth chain, high and dry behind the cylinder. The carburettor was by Brown & Barlow and the forks by Druid. At the end of 1914 a three-speed countershaft gearbox was added, and from then until its production ceased in 1924, few changes were made to the sidevalve single. Before the finish, unit-construction overhead-valve 250cc and 350cc models were introduced, but by this time the company had decided there was more future in car production and the final Rover motorcycles were sold in 1926.

This Edwardian Rover has been in the current owner’s possession for 50-or-so years, taking part in several vintage events in that time, but has not been used for the past 20 years. Described as in generally sound condition, it is offered with original (1921) logbook and Swansea V5.

Lot Details
Auction Collectors' Motorcycles
Bonhams, Classic & Motorcycle Mechanics Show, Stafford
Lot Number456
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£4000
Hammer Price (inc premium)£4600
Condition rating
Registration number
Chassis number
Engine number7146
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors