Old Bike Australasia
The Tilbrook scooter that never was
Many historic motorcycle enthusiasts know about Tilbrook Motorcycles, the South Australian manufactured machines which enjoyed success on the race track and road in the ‘50s and early ‘60s. However, few know of Rex Tilbrook’s intention to develop a motor scooter. Having been inspired by the success and innovation of the Zundapp Bella scooter in the early 1950s, Rex floated the idea of making his own version of a scooter with his chief rider, designer and machinist, his friend Alan Wallis. The plan was to use a Villiers 200cc engine with a welded tubular frame and hand-formed metal bodywork, like the Tilbrook motorcycles.
Rex liked the idea that the Zundapp Bella had wheels that were able to be used on the front or rear, and that they were 12 inches in diameter, which provided a more comfortable ride than the usual smaller scooter wheel size. He and Alan decided to take the concept several steps further. They designed a 12 inch wheel that not only could be used on the front and rear of the scooter, but also on a sidecar, if opted for, and with a clutch-style disc brake plus an integrated suspension mechanism – a complete and efficient package. Another design innovation for the Tilbrook scooter was to make the chassis a single piece of tube bent into a horizontally orientated “S” shape, to which the ►
brackets for the wheels, engine seat and body work would be welded.
Concepts drawings were drafted by Alan and working plans were then drafted by him. His brother, Colin, made the patterns for the wheels, and hubs were cast. By this time in the late 1950s, Rex had a few other irons in his crowded fire, so to speak, and the popularity of scooters had begun to wane. Cheap and more comfortable automobiles were taking over the market, so the project “took a back seat” – probably in a VW Beetle, Fiat Topolino, or eventually a Morris Mini-Minor. The hubs stayed in their un-machined state and the project dwindled to nothing. Some concept sketches still exist, but the technical drawings met their demise in the Tilbrook factory office at Kensington (now The Rising Sun Hotel) several decades later. They had been stored in a suitcase (with many other “top secret” plans) and a possum decided it would be a good place for a toilet. Perhaps a fitting metaphor for the Tilbrook scooter that never was?
In his 91st year, Alan is still restoring motorbikes and helping other enthusiasts with his experience and skill. He and his son are on the look out for a Zundapp Bella to restore – if a reader has one for sale, please contact Rex on 0409 235 914 or email@example.com.