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Lot 484: 1981 Cotton-Rotax 250cc Racing Motorcycle

Collectors' Motorcycles, Bonhams (16 October 2005)

Gloucester-based Cotton established its reputation with a string of high profile racing successes in the 1920s. Post-war production used Villiers two-stroke engines, and as well as road models, the company built trials, scrambles and road-race machines. In the 1970s the firm came into the ownership of Terry Wilson. Wilson wanted to go racing and commissioned the Austrian Rotax company to build a 250cc v-twin two-stoke race engine. The resulting machine was raced by Ron Haslam at the 1978 Isle of Man TT, and although only one of its type was ever made, proved sufficiently promising for Rotax to undertake volume production of a 250cc race motor. The v-twin layout however, was abandoned in favour of a tandem twin – the Type 256 – which was taken up by an entire ‘cottage industry’ of independent race-bike manufacturers. One of these was, not surprisingly, Cotton, whose new tandem twin arrived in 1980. Cotton’s new racer featured a frame designed by Mike Eatough and proved an immediate race winner, highlights of its debut season including Steve Cull’s win at the North West 200 ahead of three other Cottons, and Steve Tonkin’s 3rd place in the Isle of Man Junior TT. The following year Graham Cannell won the Manx Grand Prix Lightweight race on one of the Cotton twins.

The history of this Cotton-Rotax - number ‘18’ of 21 made - is not known, other than it was raced by the late Geoff Sawyer at the Manx GP. (The MGP Database records that Sawyer raced a ‘Rotax’ in the Lightweight Race in 1988 and 1990, presumably the machine offered here). The vendor has raced the bike on short circuits and reports that it was fully rebuilt earlier this year. Its engine incorporates the latest cylinder heads and porting, and produces approximately 80bhp at the rear wheel. The machine is offered with engine rebuild receipts and comes with its original exhausts, De Carbon rear suspension unit and other parts. Eligible for the FRC Classic Grand Prix series, this machine represents an opportunity to own one of the last British 250s competitive at international level.

Lot Details
Auction Collectors' Motorcycles
Bonhams, Classic & Motorcycle Mechanics Show, Stafford
TypeMotorcycle
Lot Number484
Estimate£5500-£6000
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£4200
Hammer Price (inc premium)£4830
Year1981
Condition rating
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis number
Engine number160868
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors