British Anzani - a company history
(page 3)
Charles Harrison

...and his Unitwin

Harrison and chief engineer 'Jock' Edwards
The company had been slowly failing and in 1938 Charles Henry Harrison A.M.I.Mech.E., an ex-J.A.P apprentice and keen motorcycle and powerboat racer, took over as their Chief Designer and Managing Director and moved the company to their next home in Hampton Hill, Middlesex.

He was previously the technical director of the British Motor Boat Manufacturing Co. and held two Outboard World Speed records set in 1930 and 1931 when he was works driver for Elto and Evinrude. He was also Chairman of the British Outboard Racing Club, owner of Bedfont Lake (a well known racing venue) and whilst at BMBM had designed the successful Britannia outboard motor. BMBM were also known for producing funfair equipment (dodgem cars and roundabouts) which Harrison now brought to British Anzani also. When the Second World War began British Anzani started development work on a stationary industrial engine which driving through a flexible underwater unit was used to propel landing craft and they also did contract work for the Air Ministry. Meanwhile they designed the Super Single outboard motor and from 1940 supplied 50-60 a month to the Admiralty throughout the war. This successful design was later sold to the public and was still in production into the late 1970’s.

Charles Harrison's last World Speed record was set on the Medina at Cowes. In 1931 he drove his Elto Quad 460cc powered hydro 'Non Sequitur' to a speed of 56.37mph over the Admiralty half-mile.

Over the years they built outboard motors that ranged from ½ hp up to 40 hp models and included some of the most succesful racing engines of their era and by 1956 their 344cc Racing Unitwin was the only British built racing outboard left in production.

In 1939 British Anzani anticipated a trend when they produced a prototype clip-on engine attachment for a standard pedal cycle. Popular throughout post war Europe the velomoteur satisfied a need for cheap transport which was much in demand after the war. The Anzani design was a 44.5×39mm 61cc two stroke driving the rear wheel through a friction drum which was in contact with the rear tyre. It was mounted in parallel with the frame tube and was operated by a lever which raised and lowered the drum from the tyre. Unfortunately the War intervened and it didn't reach full production.

1940 Iron Horse

Iron Horse with ride-on

Planet Motor Hoe
The need for additional war time food production required innovative products and the extremely successful British Anzani Iron Horse two-wheeled tractor was introduced in 1940.

Advertised as ‘the agricultural machine built with aero engine accuracy’ it was fitted with a 4 stroke 6hp Anzani/JAP engine giving a top speed of 4 mph. A centrifugal clutch, three forward gears and reverse and with adjustable track from 24" to 36", a range of steel wheels, extension rims, pneumatic tyres or crawler track options meant it really was a machine to tackle any terrain. You could also purchase a ride-on carriage for the driver turning it into a normal tractor capable of pulling farm carts with up to a ton load.

A range of accessories increased its functionality with attachments for mowing, ploughing, spraying, hoeing, crop lifting and harrowing. It also had a multifunctional belt driven power take-off system which provided farmers with additional tools that were continually developed and added to over the years. Uses included saws, concrete mixers, pumps and generators.

These popular machines proved robust and reliable in use and sold in thousands all around the world. They cost £140 in 1940 or alternatively could be bought on hire purchase or even rented from the factory for £3.10s.0d. a week!

For lighter work the Planet Jnr. motor hoe could be had for £39.10s.0d. Introduced in 1948 it was powered by a 1hp Anzani/JAP engine and had a range of implements similar to the Iron Horse. The advertising brochure claimed it ‘made work a pleasure’ and the little hoe went into use in market gardens and smallholdings around the globe.

Production of agricultural tractors stopped in 1956.

Early customers for Anzani V-twin motorcycle engines included McEvoy, the Derby based motor cycle maker financed by Cecil Birkin who used the 1100cc Anzani engine between 1925 and 1929, and AJW who used the same engine from 1926 to 1931. This top of the range bike was latterly sold in racing spec only and had a four speed Jardine gearbox and interconnecting brakes among many advanced features. Another customer was Montgomery motorcycles of Bury St Edmunds, who used the engine from 1925.

Mass production of motorcycle engines had ceased the 1930’s but was restarted in 1953 with two new engines: the 242cc and 322cc twin cylinder models. They were based on the successful 1951 Unitwin outboard motor design and were very different from most British motorcycle engines made at the time. The crankcase was split horizontally and it breathed through a rotary inlet valve embodied in the middle journal of the crankshaft.

From 1954-58 the Norman TS motorcycle was fitted with the 242cc British Anzani 2 stroke twin engine. From 1955 to 1960 Cotton used the 242 and 322cc engines in their Cotanza models and Greeves had both variants in their Fleetwing and Fleetmaster models from 1953 to 1958. Tandon produced 242cc Twin Supreme and 322cc Viscount motorcycles in 1954 and 1955 and also in 1955 the 250 Scrambler competition bike.

1926 AJW

1953 Greeves
1953 Greeves

1955 Cotton
1953 Cotton

1956 Astra
1954 Anzani Astra

When motor cycle production slowed Anzani went into light car production and in 1954 a subsidiary division developed the Astra. This small utility vehicle had been designed and produced originally by JARC Motors of Isleworth and known then as the Little Horse but lack of funds meant the production rights were sold off. British Anzani immediately installed their 322cc motorcycle engine into the rear underfloor engine compartment, changed some of the design specifications, renamed it the Astra Utility and marketed it to 'tradesmen, travellers and service engineers'. It had a load carrying capacity of 37cu.ft or 3½cwt and it's 15bhp engine and three speed gearbox gave a claimed top speed of 55 mph with 60 mpg economy. It had independent suspension by swing axles, hydraulic brakes and it seated two in relative comfort all at an on the road price of £347.16s.0d including purchase tax Towards the end of it’s existence it was also sold in kit form with or without body parts for home assembly.

As sales slowed production was taken over by Gill Cars of Paddington who produced two new cars based on the Astra chassis and mechanical parts: a two seater coupe called the Getabout and a saloon. After a short and not very successful career production ceased in 1959 although there is evidence of sales into 1960.

1960 Gill Saloon

Among other cars that used the Anzani 322cc engine at that time was the Powerdrive. This sporty looking 3-wheeler made in Wood Green, north London made it’s debut in July 1955 and retailed for £330 plus purchase tax. The engine was mounted in the rear driving the rear wheel through a chain drive. It had a 3-speed gearbox and independent front suspension and could seat three across it’s bench seat. The Powerdrive’s 65mph/65mpg performance claim and it’s good looks and generous space and comfort made an immediate impact.

The very pretty Berkeley Sports of 1956 initially used an Anzani 322cc 15hp engine to produce it’s 70 mph/60 mpg performance while Fairthorpe also had an Anzani in their ‘Atom’ and Peel used the 250cc version in their 1955 ‘Manxcar’.

The 1956 Laurie Bond designed Unicar also had the ubiquitous 322cc Anzani onboard. Built by S.E. Opperman of Boreham Wood these small saloons provided family motoring for £399 10s 0d. Capable of 60mph/55mpg performance from its rear mounted Anzani the glass fibre bodied saloon was more of 2+2 than a genuine four seater. With it’s 6’ wheelbase the tiny saloon was another interesting development of the ultralight economy car trend of the 1950’s.
1956 Powerdrive


1956 Unicar

In 1954 Anzani supplied the engine (a 15hp Unitwin) for Alan Darby’s outboard world record set at Oulton Broad in the Canadian designed eight footer Silver Arrow setting an average speed of 40mph for the four runs.

At the Class B National Outboard Championships of 1954 Anzani took first, second and third places.

In 1950 Charles Harrison demonstrated his confidence in Anzani engines by fitting a ¾ hp outboard motor to a folding canoe and crossed the English Channel on a shilling’s worth (5p) of fuel. He made a second crossing the following year slinging a 4 hp Super Single between two pontoons for a makeshift catamaran!