Historic Motorcycle Brands
Waratah motorcycles were manufactured in Sydney, from around 1911 until the late 1940s, although Waratah-badged motorcycles were sold into the 1950s.
By 1911, Waratah motorcycles were being manufactured by the Canada Cycle & Motor Agency, Ltd, on George Street, Sydney, who built from standard parts, or rebadged BSA bicycles as Waratah bicycles.
W A Williams had managed the Sydney branch of this business and bought it in 1905. In 1913 the bicycle and motorcycle part of the business was taken over by his sons, Perce and Reg, and the name was changed to Williams Bros , then later P&R Williams. This business was the manufacturer of Waratah motorcycles from 1914 to 1948.
1923 Waratah – National Motor Museum SA
Initially, they made small machines assembled from predominantly British components, including Villiers and VTS (Valveless Two Stroke) engines, Sun frames, and Druid and Brampton forks. Also, German-made, 4.5hp Fafnir engines were used in the early years.
Despite being Australia’s longest-lived motorcycle maker, Waratah didn’t keep detailed records, but it seems that in the between-wars period Waratahs were powered by Villiers and VTS two-stroke engines, with capacities of 200cc and 350cc, and Villiers 125cc, 150cc and 250cc engines.
1924 Villiers MarkVIII – Bauple58
In the 1920s, Waratah motorcycles competed in many races and reliability trials, with some successes.
A press-worthy mention was made of the efforts of one GH Davidson, who came fourth in the under-650cc class of the 1926 six-day trial, run by the Motorcycle Club of NSW. The course was 950 miles in length:
“The smallest of all was a Waratah being ridden by G Davidson in the ‘trade class’, which is rated as only 1.5hp (147cc).
“Davidson expressed himself quite satisfied with his little machine’s performance, although there is no doubt he had a strenuous time on some parts of the course in keeping to schedule time.
“The officials, who followed the contest in Mr S Stuart’s Rolls Royce car, expressed their admiration for Davidson’s courage and determination, as he negotiated some very mountainous country under adverse conditions.”
Villiers two stroke engine and gearlever – Bauple58
In 1927, the Waratah could boast a three-speed, hand-change gearbox, electric light and horn. The 1928 lineup was a lightweight 1.5hp model, with single upper tube Sun frame and lightweight Druid forks, and a 2.5hp machine with saddle-tank frame and Brampton forks.
The two-port sports-version of the 2.5hp Waratah had twin exhaust pipes and an aluminium cylinder head and was capable of 55mph (88km/h). By 1933, the sports model was developing 10bhp and boasted a saddle fuel tank.
Although the sports models garnered most attention, Waratah’s adverting stressed economy and claims between 90mpg and 140mpg were made for different models.
In 1938, an optional gearbox foot-change was offered.
1948 Waratah – PowerhouseMuseum – D O’Neil
After World War II, production seems to have involved badge-engineering Excelsior and maybe Norman machines, with capacities of 125cc and 200cc. The Excelsior Goblin 125cc engine was offered on one model.
1945 Waratah employees in Sydney – Waratah Motorcycles