A Brief History Of The Marque
Reproduced without alteration from the P & M entry in Eric E. Thompson’s 1974 book “Motorcycles in colour”
published by Blandford Press ltd and reproduced here without permission as the company no longer trades.
In 1900 Joah Carver Phelon set to work on the construction of a motorcycle. While others were finding great difficulty in deciding where to put
the engine, he made up his mind right away. He removed the front down-tube from a cycle frame and inserted an engine in its place
with direct chain-drive to the rear wheel – a far sighted decision in those days of almost universal belt-drive.
Harry Raynor was joint patentee of the frame design and his influence was considerable in the machine’s development until his untimely death in 1903.
A few machines were made but, since resources were limited, the design was offered to Humber who were well established at that time with a vast
output of pedal cycles. An arrangement to pay a royalty of 7s 6d to Mr Phelon weas made.
The sloping engine ‘Humber’ was a popular machine during 1902-03 after which time a fresh model was planned.
An associate of Phelon’s named Moore realised the potential of the design with a new two-speed gear and persuaded him to retrieve the license.
With this fresh venture the Phelon and Moore partnership came into being in May 1904. Their machine had the same sloping engine mounting
and two-speed gear and ‘free’ engine (obtained by two primary chains from the engine sprockets with expanding clutches).
This placed the model well ahead of rivals with fixed belt-drive which necessitated a run-and-bump start after every stop.
A basic change to the mechanical inlet valves was made in 1910, all previous machines having automatic inlet valves. Certain other detail improvements were also made,
but the two-speed gear was retained. This enabled the firm to take an interest in competitions, chiefly in reliability trials where these well made machines excelled.
Many successes were also obtained in long-distance events and the A. C. U.* Quarterly Trials. The smartness of the models and their riders was a special feature of this period.
Attention to appearance was noted by the onlookers, a custom not observed by the majority of riders whose bikes showed the stain of travel on dusty roads.
When war broke out and the Royal Flying Corps was formed the P and M was adopted as the official despatch riders’ machine of the Corps and gave excellent service.
During the twenties racing interests culminated in a creditable 4th place in the Senior T. T. of 1925 with rider T. F. Bullus.
Subsequent appearances in the T. T. gave them 10th place in the Senior of 1927 and 9th the following year.
In 1927 a totally different model was introduced into the range having an engine and gearbox designed by Granville Bradshaw.
This little machine, the Panthette, had a 250cc o. h. v. V-twin engine set across the frame. Its unusual construction included a forged channel-type frame and
four-speed gearbox which transmitted power to the ear wheel by chain. The small engine was not a success and production was dropped after two years.
In this period the 500cc models had been developed with over-head valves and four speed gearboxes, again ahead of most rivals, while in 1928 the first of the
famous 600s was offered for sidecar work. With modifications this machine was produced until the close-down of the factory.
The depression in 1930 caused much concern with manufacturers and many dropped prices to maintain sales, offering inferior products.
P and M continued to offer a quality machine but the notorious Red Panther, a healthy 250, sold readily at £29 17s 6d under the banner of Pride and Clarke, the South London dealers.
Many models were offered from time to time – even a two-stroke powered by a 250 Villiers engine – but the mainstay was the 600cc model.
It’s a tribute to Phelon’s design that his first machine of 1900 should have the engine replacing the front down-tube and that the last one,
manufactured sixty-six years later, maintained this basic feature.
*Auto Cycle Union