A Rare Engine


It is, I suspect, a rare enough occasion nowadays to put on record the existence of an engine unit which has long since been out of production, and which to my knowledge has been little, if at all, documented.

My own club - the Vintage Motor Cycle Club - appears to have the only information on the engine which I turned up almost a year ago. It is because there is vague reference to the unit possibly having been incorporated into a motor car that I write to your journal for assistance.

The unit to which I refer is the "Union Unit" produced by the Staffordshire lock and hardware firm of Josiah Parkes & Sons, of Willenhall. Original records of the conception and development are sparse, but to date I have built up a history of this little-known engine, which begins almost immediately after the end of the 'Great War,

The Motor Cycle of March 13, 1919 announced that an old established firm were developing a two-stroke engine based on patents registered by Mr. R. S. Whaley, of Edgbaston, Birmingham, and who had been connected with Midland motorcycle firms for many years.

l'he nominal 2¾h.p. engine had a bore of 69 mm, with a stroke of 78 mm, giving a capacity of 292 CC. (The bench-model in the Science Museum, however, claims that the measurements are 70 mm by 76 mm). Equipped with an AMAC carburettor, a Runbaken magneto, and a Union gearbox, the assemblage was marketed as the proprietary "Union Unit". Not until August 1919 was the model offered to the general public, after the engine had been very successfully trialled in the Camarthen Hill Climb on August 4th, 1919. For two years or so the unit was adapted to various now-defunct marques, including the Birmingham built O.K., the Chester built Edmund, the Hoskison, Pearson & Sopwith, the Autoglider Scooter, and several others.

About 1921/22 Parkes' decided - tor reasons I do not know - to cease production, and Alfred Wiseinan's of Birmingham continued the enterprise, fitting the unit to their own marques of Venus and Sirrah. This lasted until about 1926, after which it appears that production ceased altogether. WIsernan's have since been incorporated into Roston Gas Turbines Ltd., of Lincoln.

At one stage there was talk of a pair of these engines being modified to fit into a light car; one which may never have been marketed. The firm which experimented with this idea was Black Prince Motors of Askern, near Doncaster, and who attempted to fit the engines side by side into an Ashwood chassis.

Both myself-and the firm of Josiah Parkes are keen to know if any of your readers can throw any light on this event. Not long ago, incidentally, the firm rediscovered some seven dozen original drawings of the engine parts, and I have copies of these which I am willing to loan to anyone who is genuinely interested, providing they return them to me intact after perusal.

Mowsbury Park MIKE KNIGHT.