History of Silk Motorcycles

 

The story of the Silk marque begins in the late 1960s when George Silk, a lifelong Scott motorcycle enthusiast, built a racer with a tuned Scott engine. He achieved some success with this and following some chance remarks at a meet in 1969, decided to produce a road going version. The first prototype was completed in time to be displayed at the Racing and Sporting Motorcycle Show in London in 1971 and generated much interest.

 

Many orders were taken for similar machines, in fact there were more orders for bikes than would ever be built. There followed 21 more Silk-Scott Special motorcycles between 1971 & 1975, each of which was unique. Because of the hand built nature of this new motorcycle, new owners could specify the exact specification of their machine and so each is an amalgam of different instruments, brakes, wheel rims etc. One was even fitted with a strengthened frame for sidecar use !

The limited production was in part due to the supply of engines. Even in those days, few would break a complete Scott just to get the engine and the number of engines without frames was limited. Each new owner was requested to provide their own Scott crankcases, from which George and his partner Maurice Patey would build up an engine. In order to enable completely new engines to be made, George contacted Matt Holder, who owned the remains of Scott Motorcycles. There was plenty of stock of new crankcases  but Matt was reputedly annoyed that the Silk built machines carried a Scott transfer on the tank and refused to allow Silk access to the spares or to manufacture the Scott engines under licence. George therefore decided to design & make his own engine.

The engine was designed by David Midgelow and George Silk and was developed by Dr Gordon Blair of Queen’s University, Belfast, an acknowledged expert in two strokes. It was unusual in that it kept a deflector piston design that had almost entirely been replaced by Schnerle port / flat topped piston designs since 1945.

 

The 700S, as it was known, was launched in 1975 and cost a princely £1355. This was much more than any other production machine on the market at that time.

The 700S continued to be improved as early design & production problems were ironed out. In 1977 it was given a major facelift and the 700S Mk2, also known as the Sabre, was launched.

Changes from the Mk 1 included finned cylinder barrals, a new seat, instruments and rear light nacelle. The bike continued in this form largely unaltered until December 1979 when production ceased. By that time, the price of a SIlk had reached £2482 and,even at that price, Silk were losing £200 with every machine they sold.

The last bike to bear the Silk name was built in 1987 as a competition prize for Classic Bike magazine. It was assembled by Clive Worrell, who had worked at the factory since the introduction of the Silk Mk 1. Instead of building an additional 700S, it was decided to build a 500, based on a prototype that had not previously seen production.


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