16. 1923 Burney Motorcycle with Blackburne engine

The 1923/1924 Burney Motorcycle

Cecil and Alec Burney founded Blackburne motorcycles in 1913 at Tongham near Farnham, Surrey. They were also a major supplier of engines to other motor cycle and light car makers and continued to make these until 1937. They ceased production of their own machines in 1922, and set up Burney motorcycles in 1923. According to Tragasch, the Burney machines featured external flywheel 497cc sidevalve engines.

I believed I’d completed my research on John Warrick. And then I re-read Mr. L. Mathews’ article in the 1959 Veteran Car Gazette. There, previously overlooked but now staring me in the face, was mention of the 1923 Burney motorcycle:

“…And what has become of the 50 Burney motor cycles built in 1923/4 and exhibited at the 1923 Olympia Show?”

Hardly able to contain my excitement, I emailed the VMCC marque specialist for Blackburne motorcycles. He replied asking if I’d received the detailed Blackburne and Burney motorcycle history he’d spent an hour writing. I had not. Next day, he emailed again saying that hotmail had lost the email he wrote, and a further email a few days later explained that his computer had a virus and he could not access any information until after he’d learned how to re-install the operating system.

The suspense was killing me. I didn’t know why Mr. Mathews mentioned Burney in the article, and what connection there was between the Burneys and John Warrick. Farnham is not far from Reading and it was common in the early days for vehicle manufacturers to have parts made locally by other engineering workshops.

Often bicycle manufacturers would adapt one of their bicycle frames as a motorcycle, and fit a locally-sourced engine. (Sometimes the engine manufacturers would reciprocate so that the same motorcycle might be sold under two different names, eg Sun and Precision).

So it made sense that these companies might have done business together. Did John Warrick make components for either the Blackburne or Burney motorcycles? Or even, after the Burney brothers stopped making Blackburnes in 1922, did Warrick have a hand in making the new Burney motorcycles?

I could not wait any longer to find out if this was, indeed, another John Warrick enterprise. Thank goodness for Michelle at the Vintage Motorcycle Club library. Ten minutes after phoning them to see what they had on the Burney, I received a scan of the brochure reproduced here and, as you can see below, it clearly states that it was manufactured in the works of John Warrick & Co Ltd, Reading.

The Burney featured a 495cc engine with EXTERNAL FLYWHEEL, chain drive and 3-speed Sturmey Archer gearbox.

The price quoted was £78 10/-


In introducing the BURNEY motorcycle at the 1923 Olympia Show, we would ask those interested to consider carefully the following facts:-

1. That this machine has been designed by E.A. Burney, M.I.A.E., who is well-known as the designer of the original Blackburne Motor Cycles and engines.

2. That the Burney Motor Cycle is the result of 20 years’ experience of the designer, including over four years as Officer-in-charge of Motor Cycle Repair Shops during the War.

3. That the designer has ridden his own make and design of motor cycle for more than 200,000 miles.

4. That the specification and materials embodied in the Burney have been chosen irrespective of cost, to give long service, cheap maintenance and superb comfort to the rider.

5. That accessibility has been very carefully studied in the design to assist the owner in maintaining his machine at minimum cost.

6. That the wonderful controlability, steering and smooth running are remarked upon by all who have ridden the Burney.

7. And that it is described in the Motor Cycling Press in January, 1923, as: “A really high-class machine, well finished, carefully thought out in every detail and …likely to make a name for itself in competition at no distant date.” This has been proved by the following successes during 1923.

All that remains now is to discover why only 50 Burneys were made…

Published on March 7, 2009 at 4:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

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