Douglas…and the Dragonfly
The Bristol, England based Douglas brothers, William, Arthur and Edward began manufacturing motorcycles round about 1906 and raced with success on the Isle of Man. The Company favoured the flat twins for the low center of gravity, the consequent ease of handling, and for the cylinder cooling from being out in the clear air.
During the Great Wars, Douglas supplied the military with motorcycles, trucks, aircraft parts and generators.
Between the wars the innovative Douglas Company tried out disc braking on a motorcycle; this was limited by the paucity of available technology and know-how at the time.
Douglas Dragonfly production began June 1955 and the run of 1,457 bikes went on till 1957. The example on these pages is the 1955 model, registered in Ceylon just two days shy of Christmas of that year, making it one of the earliest of the Dragonfly production series.
The renowned motorcycle frame builders Reynolds Tube Company was hired to produce the Dragonfly frame, arc-welding and twin down tubes - modern concepts - together with Earles fork at the front and coil-over at the rear creating a sturdy base and comfortable ride; “equal to a car” as was said at the time.
The light alloy engine housing is cleanly finished and creates a streamlined whole, in line with the styling concept of smooth lines, notably the shrouded headlight nacelle and fuel tank. The headlight nacelle is fixed, not turning with the handlebars. Uncommonly, the speedometer drive is taken off the rear hub.
Kapila…and the Dragonfly
The owner of this 1955 Douglas Dragonfly EN3600 is Kapila Jayawardena. He has researched the history of this motorcycle, as he has done with the many bikes and cars in his care. “It is a rare bike and is one of only about 1500 ever produced. This bike was imported in 1955 by an Englishman, a senior executive at Liptons (tea company). It is highly unlikely that another Dragonfly was ever imported into the country.” If such is the case, this example housed in the safe hands of Kapila’s Car and Motorcycle Museum in Battaramulla, is unique in the motorcycling history of the country.
When the Dragonfly came to Kapila Jayawardena in 2011, from the collection of Riley Wanigasekera, it was a non-runner. The Car and Motorcycle Museum crew carried out a comprehensive restoration during 2011-2012. The Dragonfly has been up and running since then, the powerful beat emanating from the two silencers pointing at the quality of restoration.
“We opened up the engine and gearbox, and a number of parts had to be replaced,” Kapila says. “Also, footrest rubbers needed replacing, and the speedometer was sent to England for restoration. The ignition switch was on the bike, and the headlamp bezel and the tail lamp are original Miller brand and came with the bike.” Kapila underlines: “All components function.The bike is repainted in the original colour combination of ivory and British Racing Green,” emphasizes Kapila, “and the green painted rim centers are standard for the Dragonfly.”
The number plates are the original metal plates, of course repainted, and fitted as original. The handle-end rear view mirror is standard. The odometer, itself an advanced feature, has a zero reset control. This is a brass knurled knob suspended externally on a cable from the meter.
Kapila Jayawardena on his restoration philosophy: “I always restore to original spec, down to even the knobs, nuts and bolts.”
Douglas Dragonfly 1955 EN 3600
Engine : Air-cooled 4-stroke horizontally opposed overhead-valve twin-cylinder
Capacity : 348cc
Gears : 4-speed
Brakes : Front and Rear : Drum
Frame : Double downtube
Suspension : Front : Earles fork (Leading link); Rear : Shrouded coil and damper
Electrics : 6v; coil and rectifier
Final drive : Chain