1912 Abingdon King Dick

The King of Birmingham

| January/February 2008

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    Forgotten as the marque is now, King Dick was once well known for its simple but elegant single-cylinder and V-twin motorcycles.
    Photo by Neale Bayly
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    Lighting the night the old-school way: the King Dick has an acetylene lamp with a handlebar-mounted reservoir.
    Photo by Neale Bayly
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    Owner Jack Wells with his 1912 AKD, which nabbed our Editor’s Choice award at the 2006 Barber Vintage Festival.
    Photo by Neale Bayly
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    The Watford speedometer of the King Dick.
    Photo by Neale Bayly
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    The King Dick’s telescoping shock absorber attaches to the bracket for the acetylene lamp, its motion guided by the hardened steel bolt extending from the lower steering yoke.
    Photo by Neale Bayly
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    The King Dick’s pushrod 500cc single, featured Abingdon’s own carburetor. The bike’s unique name was supposedly lifted from the company owner’s bulldog, King Dick, named after King Richard of England.
    Photo by Neale Bayly
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    Final drive is by a sectioned belt, which can be shortened when it stretches. The variable drive pulley on the engine changes the drive ratio by making the belt ride lower or higher in the pulley groove.
    Photo by Neale Bayly

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Abingdon King Dick
Claimed power:
3.5hp
Top speed: 35mph
Engine: 477cc side valve
Fuel capacity: 3gal
MPG: 50

Unless you’re a student of early motorcycle technology, it’s doubtful you’ve ever seen anything quite like the sliding spring fork on the Abingdon King Dick. A uniquely odd classic British motorcycle, it might just be the motorcycling world’s first telescoping shock absorber.

Chances are good you’ve never heard of Abingdon King Dick motorcycles, either. Founded in Birmingham, England, in 1856, the company got its start making tools, but branched out into motorcycles in 1903, when the industry was still in its infancy.

At the time, the move to motorcycles was logical. The nascent motorcycle industry was booming, and Birmingham, with its strong industrial base and equally strong work force, was on its way to becoming the epicenter of the British motorcycle industry. From 1894 to 1975, some 100 motorcycle manufacturers came and went in Birmingham, including the mostly-forgotten Abingdon King Dick.

Forgotten as the company is now, AKD (as it was later called) was once known for its simple but elegant single-cylinder and V-twin motorcycles. Production ended in 1933, when a weak economy convinced the company it was time to pull out of the motorcycle market and concentrate on its successful line of tools.



One of the bikes produced by AKD was this example, a 500cc, 3-1/2hp single referred to simply as the "3-1/2hp." Manufactured in 1912, it’s now owned by Florida-based classic bike enthusiast Jack Wells, who took his first motorcycle ride at the tender age of 12 on a Cushman trike. "It had been an ice cream scooter," Jack remembers, "probably a 1947 or 1948 machine, and it was missing the lid for the ice cream box. I’d ride it around Savannah Beach, [Ga.] and that’s where it all started."

"It" being a life-long love affair with motorcycles that finds Jack courting dozens of mistresses these days — mostly BMWs, and particularly single-cylinder examples of the Bavarian marque. But a few years back, Jack started looking for something different. "I felt I was missing something for myself, and that was a pioneer motorcycle, something from the teens or before," Jack says.



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