History of the Calthorpe Motor Cycle Company

By Steve Flores

As with a lot of early-era antique motorcycle companies, the Calthorpe Motor Cycle Company started out manufacturing bicycles. The Company started out in the 1890’s in the UK. Over the next couple of decades, there were a lot of name changes:
-The original company name was Hands and Cakes, named so after the founders, George Hands and Arthur Cakes.
-In 1897, the Company was renamed the Bard Cycle Manufacturing Company.
-In 1901, the name changed again to the Minstrel Cycle Company.
-In 1905, the name changed to the Minstrel & Rea Cycle Company.
-Eventually, the name was changed back to the Calthorpe Motor Cycle Company. The name remained the same until the company went under in 1938.

George Hands was the engineer and driving force behind all of these companies. In 1904, he also produced the Calthorpe car. In 1905, Hands had three brands he was using to sell his motorcycles: the Minstrel, Rea, and Fiscal. He also made a less expensive model to allow other companies to put their brand name on them.

In 1909, the Minstrel & Rea Cycle Company produced its first motorcycle. In the late 1920s, the Company started another brand called the Ivory Calthorpe, which became quite popular, selling about 2,000 of the models. The Company used its owned designed 348cc engine in the Ivory. In 1935, a larger, 498cc engine was introduced.

Although there was no success in racing, the bikes were known to be solid, introducing new parts and features to the Company’s motorcycles, and had a very good finish.

In 1938, the company went under for a number of reasons: low profit margin, lack of investment for development, not having bikes that could compete with other brands, comparatively low performance in their model of bikes sold to the public, and not finding success in motorcycle races even in their supped up versions customized just for racing. In 1939, Douglas brand motorcycles purchased much of the Calthorpe Motor Cycle Company.

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