Survival Of The Fittest - Ambassador & Panther Image
Motorbike History

Survival Of The Fittest - Ambassador & Panther

Ambassador Super/S 250cc 1959 model
If Darwin had studied machinery as well as living organisms, his theory of evolution could well have shown how the survival of the fittest applied to motorbikes as well as to plants and animals. The travel environment changes over time and transport changes with it. A fascinating day spent in the Norfolk Motorcycle Museum in Station Yard, North Walsham showed this very clearly. One great bike that we studied in detail there was an Ambassador.

Kaye Don

Kaye Don (1891 – 1981), an experienced racing driver and racing motorcyclist, won the Ards-Belfast circuit in 1928. At one time he also held world speed records for both land and water. He started what later became the Ambassador Company in 1946. It was first known as U.S. Concessionaires Ltd. and imported American cars. Don’s idea was to expand into bike manufacture, and he created a prototype with a J.A.P. engine. A year later, he changed this to a Villiers engine and these were still being fitted in 1964. The company was based in Ascot in Berkshire.

Change of Name

The company name became Ambassador in 1951 – when I was 16 and riding my first bike. The bikes they made began with Webb girder forks and were given different series numbers and specific names. Series five was the first to get telescopic front forks. Models called the Popular and the Courier were also around as early as 1951. The Embassy and the Supreme followed shortly after.


It was as far back as 1951 that the first fully sprung Ambassador, the Supreme, arrived: like the series 5, it was fitted with telescopic front forks, but it also had plunger-style suspension at the back. The firm kept the name Supreme until 1958 for their best-of-the-range models.
Panther 250 - 1960


Ambassadors were relatively expensive, and this did not help sales in the UK, but they were exported successfully to New Zealand and Australia.

Retirement and Marque Transfer

Kaye Don retired during the 1960s and the Ambassador marque was transferred to DMW in 1963. DMW had been founded in 1940 and based in Wolverhampton. They continued making Ambassadors until 1965. Although DMW stopped manufacturing motorcycles in 1971, their bikes always enjoyed a deservedly high reputation for trials and racing – and they still appear at some sporting events.


Another very interesting bike that we studied in the Norfolk Motorcycle Museum collection in North Walsham was the Panther. Phelon and Moore made motorcycles in Cleckheaton in Yorkshire, beginning in 1904 and finishing in 1967. They are remembered especially for their famous Panther marque which is best known for its 500cc and 645cc models.

40-degree Sloping Engine

There was just one characteristic design feature: the big sloping 40° single-cylinder engine which was a stressed front-frame unit. That design was patented by Harry Rayner and his uncle Joah (John) Carver Phelon as far back as 1900. They also created the first chain-driven bikes in 1900 and the Humber Company produced them for the next seven years. Tragically, Harry died in a car crash and his uncle took on Richard Moore as his new business partner. The company became Phelon and Moore in 1904, and this company name continued until 1929, although the first Panther appeared in 1924.

Once Every Lamp-Post

The Panthers had very low rpm but massive power and the popular saying among Panther riders was that they fired “once every lamp- post”. Panthers were ideal for sidecar work because of their big flywheels and high torque output. They are very robust, and many Panther enthusiasts are still more than happy riding them today. A good place to look for one would be among the huge range of excellent machines available from Webuyanybike.

This Month’s Charity

Service By Emergency Rider Volunteers known as SERV.

They are registered as Charity No. 284455. SERV delivers blood products to emergency and accident hospitals across Southern England free of charge -- whenever and wherever it's needed. Dedicated volunteer motorcyclists and drivers give their time and petrol to do their bit, using their bikes and cars to help those who need emergency supplies of life-saving blood.



4 Oct 2012

For any blog enquiries, please emailmarketing@webuyanybike.comView all posts by Helmut

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