Coventry Eagle Flying Eight
With a rounded and tapered fuel tank, and an exciting-looking 980 cc vee-twin JAP power unit, Coventry-Eagle's famous Flying Eight bears a striking resemblance to a Brough-Superior of the same period. That is not really surprising, for George Brough and Percy Mayo of the Coventry-Eagle company spent some time together towards the end of the First World War discussing the type of motorcycle they would like to manufacture when the hostilities were over, and they found their tastes were remarkably similar.
There had been a JAP-engined vee-twin in the Coventry-Eagle range for a couple of years before the announcement of the first Flying Eight in March 1923, but the new model was one, reported The Motor Cycle, 'which should make a special appeal to speedmen'. So it should, indeed, for it was powered by a special 976 cc side-valve engine which gave the machine a guaranteed 80 mph maximum speed - not at all bad for a side-valve.
The model was continued virtually unchanged until the 1926 season when a new overhead-valve version of the Flying Eight appeared in the catalog. This one again used a JAP power unit, but of 980 cc and driving through a Nottingham-built Jardine gearbox. Other features were heavy-duty Webb girder front forks, and 8 in diameter Royal Enfield brakes on both wheels. The improved side-valve model, meanwhile continued in production alongside.
Although the 1930s found Coventry-Eagle as producers of ride-to-work models by the thousand (in 1932, their total output even exceeded that of BSA, though that was somewhat exceptional), they did acquire quite a respectable racing record in the 1920s, notably with Bert Le Vack, Teddy Prestwich and Percy Brewster breaking records on JAP-engined singles of 250 and 350 cc. But the big Flying Eight was by no means overlooked, and in 1925 H. Harte and Stan Glanfield shared a 980 cc outfit to break a whole hatful of records from four to nine hours in Class G (1,000 cc sidecars) at speeds from 65 to 67 mph.
Even greater glory was to come in November of 1928 when, just before the Brooklands track closed for the winter, one-legged Harold Taylor took out a Flying Eight outfit for an all-out attack on the Class G 200 mile record Harold (in post-war years the manager of Britain's Grand Prix des Nations moto-cross team) did the job handsomely, setting up a speed of 80.79 mph. The outfit on which the record was made is now in the hands of a Vintage MCC enthusiast.
By 1928, the year of manufacture of the National Motorcycle Museum's Flying Eight, the machine had acquired Magdyno electric lighting, Ghost silencers, and a steering damper. By any standards it was a most imposing machine, but the Coventry-Eagle company was changing direction and from now on the main emphasis would be on the unusual pressed-steel frame lightweights rather than the big-twins. The last ohv Flying Eight was made in 1930, with the side-valve model surviving for only one season more before it, too was axed. Not even the fourcam side-valve Police model tempted many customers, it seemed.
As Britain recovered from the slump of the early 'thirties, so Coventry-Eagle reintroduced a 'Flying' range of sportsters, but this time they were singles, using Matchless engines, and the twins had gone.
|Engine:||980 cc (85,7 x 85 mm bore and stroke) JAP 50° overhear-valve vee-twin|
|Tyres:||3.25 x 19 in front and rear|
|Frame:||Brazed-lug tubular cradle, unsprung at rear|
|Front forks:||Webb girders|
|Brakes:||8 in diameter drums front and rear|
|Manufacturer:||Coventry Eagle Cycle and Motor Co. Ltd., Bishopsgate Green Works, Coventry|