Scott Flying Squirrel
Grand Prix motorcycle racing is dominated by four-strokes, but it wasn’t always so. Until 2011 the 125cc World Championship was a two-stroke affair, and before 2002 even the premier racing class was for 500cc two-strokes.
Between 1975 and 2001, every Grand Prix was won by a liquid-cooled two-stroke and this would have continued if it hadn’t been for their impact on the environment.
The big advantage two-strokes had over their four-stroke counterparts was the double-bang engine cycle, and one of the few who realised this back in the early 20th century was Alfred Angas Scott.
The Scott advertising slogan proclaimed it produced “the different motorcycle” and not only was the Scott different, it was also surprisingly advanced. In 1908, Scott patented two designs: a frame that relied on an arrangement of straight, triangulated tubes and a two-stroke engine with water-cooled cylinder heads.
All Scotts featured a distinctive honeycomb radiator and soon the water-cooling was extended to the barrels. By 1911, Alfred Scott had introduced rotary induction valves, and the final redesign came in 1914, with drip-lubrication, geared rotary valves and unit construction. It was all very advanced stuff and Scott decided his design for a motorcycle had gone as far as it could.
He then turned his attention to a peculiar three-wheeler called the ‘Scott Sociable’. This turned out to be misguided but, although Scott was no longer interested, the Scott Squirrel was released in 1922. This evolved into the Super Squirrel in 1925 and the Flying Squirrel in 1926.
The Scott was available as a 500 or a 600 as shown here and the ‘Flyer’ featured a three-speed gearbox with conventional, multi-plate clutch (with asbestos insert) instead of the earlier two-speed transmission with dual primary-drive sprockets and chains. Engine dimensions of 73 x 71.4mm provided 595cc, with two individual cylinders, separate crankcase chambers, and a central flywheel and chain primary drive.
Automatic oiling was still in the future so lubrication was mechanical, with the pump mounted on the magneto platform. This provided individual adjustment for each crankcase along with auxiliary cylinder wall oiling to each cylinder, with the plunger mounted on the left handlebar. The 600cc Flyer produced 34 horsepower, but the performance was blunted by continual weight increases in the 1930s.
The frame design caused a stir in 1908 but the triangulated layout, along with the location of the engine well down in the frame, was key to the Scott’s admirable handling.
Not only did it provide a low centre of gravity, but the crankcase was braced in three places. Until 1933 the Flying Squirrel retained a single-downtube frame, but from 1934 featured a heavier duplex frame.
While Scott claimed to be the originator of the telescopic fork, the Flyer used Scott, Webb and Brampton girder forks along with Bentley and Draper shock absorbers.
There was no rear suspension at this time. By the end of the 1930s the Scott weighed 185kg and was considerably removed from the original 90kg 500cc two-speeder of 1911. But the Scott was not about outright performance. Built to a very high standard to appeal to the individualist – if not the traditionalist – quality was evident from the nickel-plated honeycomb radiator to the squirrel mascot radiator cap.
Over the years Scotts have achieved a dedicated following. Owners have been accused of being a clan, with ownership of a four-stroke considered a heresy. Scott owners have earned a reputation for blind allegiance and exceptional enthusiasm.
Owning a Scott was once said to require a three-year apprenticeship. While the engine was efficient, the Scott had an appetite for sparkplugs and ancillaries such as magnetos and oil pumps were temperamental.
Because of continual financial difficulties, Scotts were always built in small numbers and they were expensive and sought after. Not only was it different, the Scott was also unquestionably one of the most exceptional pre-war motorcycles.
Many thanks to John Gee of Antique Motorcycles, Cheltenham, Vic, for the use of the 1938 600cc Scott Flying Squirrel featured.
THE VALUE PROPOSITION
– New $245 (1936)
– Fair $15,000
– Perfect $25,000
Scott Flying Squirrel
- In 1912 and 1913, a Scott won the Senior TT at the Isle of Man, the most prestigious race of the time. It also set the fastest lap for four years running. In 1912, Frank Applebee was the first rider to win a TT leading from start to finish, and the first to win on a two-stroke. His race average on the unsealed road was 48.69 mph (78.4 km/h).
- Alfred Scott died in 1923 at the age of 48, and the Squirrel debuted at the TT in the same year. Harry Langmans managed third, followed by second in 1924, but they still desperately needed another TT victory.
- From 1925 Scotts were relegated to the Amateur TT, but in 1928 Tommy Hatch finished third in the Senior. To celebrate this result, the TT Replica was released in 1929, but it still wasn’t enough to save the company.
- Scott relaunched the Flying Squirrel in 1946. This was even heavier and more expensive than its pre-war ancestor. The company limped on for a few more years until voluntary liquidation in 1950.
- It was a testimony to Scott’s genius that the same basic frame and engine design continued in a close relative, the Silk, until late 1979. The Scott must be the only motorcycle engine to have continued in production virtually unchanged for 70 years.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
The Scott Owners’ Club: www.ScottOwnersClub.org
A Flying Squirrel blog: FlyingSquirrel.nl
Check out Jay Leno riding the Flyer: http://goo.gl/zw2iT4
Moss Engineering, which specialises in Scotts: www.MossEngineering.co.uk