Monkey See, Monkey Do!

Monkey Fixing a Douglas S6

Wikipedia definition: The saying refers to the learning of a process without an understanding of why it works. Another definition implies the act of mimicry, usually with limited knowledge and/or concern for the consequences.

That’s us….I’m Monkey #1 and Paul Miles is Monkey #2 and we’re both following the monkey in the photo above.  This is the story of how we got hold of three 1930 Douglas S6/T6 motorcycles and what we’ve done with them so far…

The Lead

I’ve a friend Alan, in the Surrey/Sussex Section, who I’ve known for the last 30 years and he’s always had an interest in Douglas motorcycles, having owned all sorts of pre-war models.  For the past 15 years, he’s owned a 1930 Douglas S6, so I’m fairly familiar with this model and I’ve always viewed them as rather ‘quirky’ motorcycles (more on this later); the S6 has all those pre-war features that Douglas is known for: external flywheel, fore and aft twin cylinder engine, etc.

About a month ago, I had a phone call from Alan informing me that the widow (and sons) of a well-known Douglas Club member was selling off her late husband’s Douglases.  Alan had already visited her to buy a few spares but told me that there were at least three complete bikes under tarpaulins, and that nothing had been advertised. Quite sensibly, her sons did not wants hoards of oily bikers visiting their elderly mother, so initial contact was made via Bert, a Douglas Club member who was a friend of the family.  At this point, I told Monkey #2 (Paul Miles), that I was off to see some Douglases and did he fancy coming along…which he did. So off we travelled to Bert’s house near Guildford, where we were blindfolded and bundled into the back of his car and taken to the secret location.  OK, the last bit was not quite true, but it felt a bit like that.

When we got there, we were greeted by one of the sons who opened the garage door and rolled out three Douglas motorcycles:

The Purchase

Before arriving, we had no idea what to expect as no one had taken any photographs and we had no idea of the age of the bikes but as S6/T6 models were made from 1930 to 1935, I had assumed early 1930s, but a quick check of their V5’s revealed that all three were 1930, a big bonus as they’re all eligible for V&V events.

Paul and I decided pretty quickly that we’d like one each and as we couldn’t possibly leave the third one by itself, we each decided to take a half share in it.  As for price, the son had already had valuations from the Douglas Club, so we made an offer for all three, headed home and waited for him to check with his brother. Later that evening, we each had a phone call confirming that our offer had been accepted. Result!

So what have we bought?

  • Duggie #1: As the lead was mine, I had first choice and chose PL2257, an S6, which had the best overall cosmetic appearance*.  It has a conventional foot kick start.  Douglas 4 speed box fitted — they usually have a 3 speed box.
  • Duggie #2: Paul chose the other S6, GH6846* which has a very rare hand start lever.  Douglas 3 speed box fitted.
  • Duggie #3: Half share in the T6, GF5656. It has a conventional foot kick start.  Douglas 4 speed box fitted — they usually have a 3 speed box.

S6 (sports) and T6 (touring) are very similar: same engine, frame, gearbox etc.  T6 has foot boards rather than foot rests, has a carrier and has different girder forks with side springs.  Handlebars are fixed (non-adjustable) on the T6.

None of these bikes have been ridden / started for at least 10-15 years.  The T6 looks the most neglected and has a tax disc dated 1984, which maybe when it was last used.

*On our recent Spring Run, in which Duggie #1 and #2 were ridden, to Paul Miles’s great amusement, it soon became clear that Chrome Doesn’t Get You Home but In Rust, We Trust.  It is possible that, mechanically, Duggie #2 might be marginally better than Duggie #1….or maybe I just need to lose some weight! 🙂

Duggie #1

As neither of us have a double trailer, it took several trips to fetch the bikes. Plus, we subsequently bought all the spares that were in the garage and outside workshop.  Duggie #1 was the first to arrive in Dorset:

As Monkey #1, I set about Duggie #1 immediately.  No intention of cosmetically restoring it; my first oily rag bike and I love it.  Did the following to get it up-and-running: new tyres and checked wheel bearings, checked out magneto on the bench, cleaned carb of old sticky fuel, new clutch springs fitted, new clutch cable and work on clutch thrust bearing, new chains front and back, drained old oil and cleaned all gauze filters, checked tappet clearances and ignition timing, semi-fluid grease added to gearbox.

Having done the above, it didn’t take much to start it.  Although initially quite smokey, that soon cleared and after 5 miles on the road, it is smoke-free and the plug colour perfect.

Duggie #2

Duggie #2 and #3 were fetched together about a week after Duggie #1:

And in true Monkey #2 fashion, and with In Rust, I Trust ringing in his ears, Paul got Duggie #2 up-and-running, and on the road, in record time.  But I guess if you only do an oil change, things are quicker 🙂

Duggie #3

Monkey #1 is still working on Duggie #3, the T6.  It is up-and-running but it is not running very smoothly at the moment.  As both compression and magneto spark are good, I’m hoping this is just a carburetion issue.  In addition, the clutch thrust bearing needed quite a bit of work:

As per Duggie #1, lots of old oil to burn off, but it really needs a blast on the road to do that and I’m not quite ready for that:

On The Road

Monkey #1 and #2 have met up several times on their respective S6 Duggies.  Initially, a short run to Thyme after Time Café at Spire Hill near Stalbridge and then, in at the deep end, on Bernard Jones’s Spring Run where I covered 80 miles before I got home and during those gruelling 80 miles, I realised that Duggie #1 needed a little more work 🙁 :

Duggie #2 Hand Starting. Remember, In Rust, We Trust

Duggie #1 Kick Starting. Remember,  Chrome Won’t Get You Home

The Quirky Douglas

Douglas S6 Oil Pump / Sump Drain Plug
Douglas S6 Oil Pump / Sump Drain Plug

I mentioned at the beginning that these S6 Douglases were ‘quirky’ and maybe the list below applies to all pre-war Douglases, and some other makes as well, but here are some of my observations that have amused / confused me:

  • You adjust the primary chain by sliding the engine back and forward.  It’s very easy: you just loosen the two large clamp nuts under the sump and use the pull/push adjuster at the front of the engine.  And unlike conventional adjustment of the primary chain, this one doesn’t affect the rear chain.
  • The oil pump is also the sump drain plug.  It must also be one of the longest motorcycle oil pumps out there.
  • The clutch is inside the flywheel and when you operate the clutch, it not only moves the clutch plate but also the engine sprocket and primary chain.
  • The Amal carb (5/116/S) is an updraft one and is position over the hot exhaust pipe.  It is a type 5 (75, 275) carb but has many unique parts such as the float chamber, needle jet, jet needle and main body…only the slide is interchangeable with other type 5 carbs. Amal / Burlen in Salisbury have all the technical drawings but not the parts.
  • It has an external flywheel as did many bikes in the 1920s and earlier, but Douglas stuck with them well into the late 1930s.
  • The hub brakes do not use two shoes as normal bikes, but an expanding band.  They don’t work very well!
  • Wheel nuts on these S6 Douglases are left handed.  Why?
  • They use the infamous pancake dynamos.  No field coils but permanent magnets instead; if the latter have lost any of their magnetism over the last 90 years, you’ll get no charge.

Some people paint silly spirals on their flywheels…

The Future?

Initially, I thought I might like to own both an S6 and a T6, but they really are so similar, it makes no sense.  I’ve owned near identical Ariels in the past and there really is no need for it — one gets used and the other doesn’t.  Monkey #2 has already made it clear that his half of the Duggie #3 T6 is up for sale once we’ve got it running nicely.  And before we sell it, we’d like to have all three taking part in some Dorset Section run.  That would be cool.

As for Duggie #1 and #2, the S6s, I guess only time will tell….

Monkey #1 signing off.






Author: Paul Wirdnam

Strangely addicted to Ariel motorcycles from the '20s, 30s and 40s.

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