Page 134. 1939 New Imperial Model 23 150cc ohv SOLD

1939 New Imperial Model 23 150cc ohv

This is a historic machine, as it was one of the last machines to leave the factory, after New Imperial had gone into liquidation.

New Imperial ceased trading in 1938, and the company was sold to Jack Sangster, who then owned both the Ariel & Triumph motorcycle companies. Solomon Clifford Joseph, who had been director of New Imperial, subsequently bought the company and turned the factory over to war production. New Imperial Ltd are shown in Board of Trade records as having changed their name to Clifford Aero & Auto Ltd on the 6th October 1939.

Clifford Aero and Auto produced small parts for the Lancaster bomber, and engine valves for the Rolls Royce Merlin engine which was used in both the Spitfire and Lancaster. They later made Clifford Cultivators and, in 1950, the Cymota clip-on.

The precise history of this particular motorcycle is not known, as there are no early registration details. Nevertheless, New Imperial frame numbers show the exact month and year of manufacture, so we know that the frame is from April 1939 and engine is from May 1939.


This delightful – and quite rare- 1930’s motorcycle was restored in the 1990’s, and finished off by a friend of mine, who bought it last year.

We exchanged a few bikes from our collections recently, which is how I ended up with it. I don’t really need another road-bike – I already have one in the workshop on which I’ve spent a lot of time and effort (and will hopefully be on the road at last in the next few weeks). So it is that this New Imp finds its way onto the hallowed pages of ebay.

It is still MOT’d, although it expires on 24th August. I can’t see anything to stop it passing another test. It’s taxed for a year. There is, of course, a V5C registration document. Its reg is age-related (it was first put onto the DVLA computer in the 1990’s, and there’s a dating certificate from the VMCC).

The frame number is 49/37475/23 and the engine number is 59/45349/23.

This makes the bike an April 1939 model, and therefore one of the last ones assembled by the factory. It was not known for sure if and how they continued making and selling motorcycles after the company was liquidated in 1938. Though the existence of this particular machine confirms that they did. Presumably they built up unused motorcycle stock.

I think you can see what you need to from the photos. But to sum it up, it’s in good original running order; the battery is a proper lead acid one; the chrome has worn off the exhaust front pipe; there’s pitting on the brightwork; and the tank transfer on the offside has been put on upside down!

There’s a spare restored cylinder head; though the engine in the bike has had a top-end rebuild, so it’s not needed.

Included in the auction is the Pitmans ‘Book of the New Imperial’

A copy of Bruce Main-Smith’s ‘Illustrated New Imperial Hints and Tips Booklet.’

A photocopy of the 1937 New Imperial Model Range brochure

I hope the new owner joins the owners club (£11 pa).




The history of New Imperial goes back to the early days of the bicycle industry in Birmingham. Starting in a very small way, the Company made bicycle fittings and, later, complete bicycles.

New Imperial’s first motorcycle appeared in 1901; it had the engine mounted in front of the handlebars above the front wheel, and the transmission consisted of a leather belt which drove the front wheel. Unfortunately, this machine was not a commercial success, and New Imperial went back to bicycle manufacture.

In 1912 a range of three motorcycles were offered, and two years later, in 1914, New Imperial produced their famous Light Tourist model; this was only 300 cc capacity, but its light weight, allied with strong construction, enabled it to out-perform many 500 cc heavyweights of the day. The Light Tourist was an immediate success and set New Imperial on the road to fame and fortune.

New Imperial’s win in the 250 cc class of the 1921 TT (rider Doug Prentice) was certain to bring in big sales orders in pre-war days. This was the first of six TT wins by New Imperial; the wins were all in the Lightweight class, except for one Junior victory.

By the mid-twenties, New Imperial were producing around 300 machines per month. The Company continued to prosper and grow until the depression years of the early 1930s. This left New Imperial financially weak, and they were struggling to survive for most of the thirties. Even Bob Foster’s magnificent win on a unit-construction model in the 1936 Lightweight TT could not bring in the sales that New Imperial desperately needed; this win was the last time that Great Britain ever won a Lightweight TT.

New Imperial were always a very innovative company, and their unit-construction machines, sometimes with Bentley & Draper sprung frames, were about twenty years ahead of their time.
In the end, this willingness to produce advanced designs may have contributed to New Imperial’s eventual demise in 1939.

from the owners club –

Here’s a New Imperial bicycle advert from the same period

This page is also very interesting – – It deals with the history of New Imperial from 1939 onwards: the company changed its name to Clifford, and it was this same company who built the Cymota clip-on engine in 1950.









ni10 copy.jpg




On Saturday, at Kempton Park autojumble, I managed to buy a photocopy of the original 1937 New Imperial Model Range brochure, and I’ve reproduced below some pages relevant to this model. I’ll include the brochure in the auction. (Tank transfers on this machine are different from 1937, but are correct for 1939)


The following New Imperial scans are from my tatty 1934 show issue of Motor Cycle magazine



OWNER: BuyVintage Online Auctions

LOCATION: Brighton, E.Sussex, United Kingdom

DELIVERY: is not included in this auction. Our website contains details of recommended delivery services.
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AFTER PURCHASE: Please email me your phone numbers; I prefer to speak to all purchasers personally.

FEEDBACK: I do everything I can to make your purchase a pleasurable experience. But I only leave feedback when someone has taken the trouble to leave it for me.

VEHICLE CONDITION: Vintage vehicles are wonderful beasts – but each has an individual personality and they sometimes have bad days just like you and me.
You will need basic mechanical skills (or a local mechanic) to use one on a regular basis.
2-Stroke engines – and cyclemotors in particular – are notoriously unreliable. Basic servicing is generally required if unused for even a few weeks.

These are rare vehicles whose values are not necessarily based on running order.
Unless an auction description specifically states that the vehicle is running, THE VEHICLE IS SOLD FOR RESTORATION.



If you have any questions about this (or any other vehicle in these BuyVintage Online Auctions),
you can contact Colin in our Customer Service Department between 9am and 7pm daily:

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Published on August 8, 2008 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

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