DOUGLAS DRAGONFLY Isle of Man’s Senior and Sidecar TTs, the latter with an innovative leaning outfit piloted by Freddie Dixon. But Douglas had later suffered a string of financial collapses, notably in 1937 following the deaths of founder members William Douglas and his son John. Despite that setback Douglas had a reasonably successful World War II, gaining work with trucks, aircraft parts, and generators. The firm had always been versatile, having built cars and tractors, among other things, in its early days. After the War, Douglas recommenced bike production with a new model, called the T35, whose 348-cc flat twin motor was based on the generator ― not the most promising heritage! The twin-downtube frame was developed from that of the Endeavour, which had been Douglas’ first flat twin with BMW-style transverse cylinders when launched in 1934. The T35 stood out when launched in 1947, because most rival British bikes were simple rigid-framed singles. By comparison, designer George Halliday’s machine seemed relatively sophisticated, despite its engine’s humble origins. As well as its twin-cylinder powerplant, it featured a patented torsion bar (twisting metal rods) suspension system at both ends. But the T35 suffered from a number of problems. Various minor design flaws, poor quality control, and use of sub-standard material combined to give Douglas a reputation for unreliability. The T35 was improved over the years, being produced in a series of updated versions, beginning with the MkII and ending with the MkV. But Douglas was in a worse financial position than ever by the time the MkIII model was launched in 1948 and the firm went into CRUISING ALONG WITH THE SPEEDOMETER IN ITS BIG nacelle reading about 80 km/h, the elderly Douglas felt so smooth and stable that I couldn’t help being impressed. For a bike that was built in the mid-1950s, the 350-cc flat twin seemed like a sophisticated and efficient machine that must surely have been an excellent all-rounder in its day. The Dragonfly was comfortable, too, thanks to a roomy riding position and reasonably good suspension. And I’m sure I can’t be the only one who finds its look rather attractive, especially the distinctive way in which the nacelle leads into the large, rounded fuel-tank. But if my impression of the Dragonfly was positive, that wasn’t how most motorcyclists regarded the bike back in 1955. Far from being a success, the Dragonfly sold so slowly following its introduction that Douglas ― which had built its first bike in 1907 and had won the Junior TT as long ago as 1912 ― was taken over in 1956 and ceased motorcycle production altogether a year later. Such a hasty demise doesn’t reflect well on the Dragonfly and, perhaps, the bike’s weakness was exposed when, shortly after my ride, I sat down to make some notes ― and had trouble remembering very much about the experience. Smoothness and efficiency are all very well in a motorbike, after all, but plenty of rival machines provided a lot more performance and excitement than the Dragonfly. It would be wrong to blame the Dragonfly for causing the end of Douglas, though, because the Bristol firm had been struggling for years. Its high point had arguably come in 1923, with victories in the 54 www.bikeindia.in June 2020 Bike India
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