Make: Panther
Model: Model 100
Engine: 598 cc (87 x 100 mm bore and stroke) overhead-valve single
Tyres: 3.50 x 19 in front and rear, wired edge
Frame: Brazed-lug tubular, with engine replacing front down tube. No rear suspension
Front forks: Centre-spring girders
Brakes: Drums, 7 in diameter front, 8 in diameter rear
Weight: 406 lb
Wheelbase: 55.5 in
Manufacturer: Phelon & More Ltd., Horncastle Street, Cleckheaton, Nr Bradford, Yorks

People used to speak of the big-single Panther as 'the biggest aspidistra in the world— and all in one pot'; to others, it was 'Big Pussy'. But whatever terms were used, they were always affectionate, for nobody had an unkind word for the Panther. No sportster, it was almost inevitably hitched to a family saloon sidecar, which it hauled without complaint while sipping fuel in a surprisingly abstemious fashion.

Strictly speaking, the Panther name did not come into use until the 1923 season to describe a sports version of the 555 cc side-valve, but the principle of the engine serving in place of the frame down tube went back long before that—to the turn of the century, when Joah Phelon took out patents on the idea. Phelon was in partnership with his nephew Harry Rayner in a small precision wire-drawing business at Cleckheaton near Bradford.

All-chain drive was employed from the start, the first Phelon & Rayner motorcycle being manufactured in March 1901, but the facilities at Cleckheaton allowed for little more than token production, and in December of the same year Phelon allowed the Humber company to build the design under licence, the Coventry-based firm paying a royalty of 7s 6c on each motorcycle produced.

The Humber licence lasted until 1905. Meanwhile, Harry Rayner had been killed in what was reputedly the first car accident in Yorkshire, and from late 1903 Phelon had taken a new partner, Richard Moore. From then on, the Cleckheaton-built machines adopted the P & M trade mark. Moore had himself designed a two-speed gear system involving two primary chains at different ratios, either of which could be chosen through expanding clutches, and this was to be a feature of P & M machines right through to 1922. That included First World War service, where the 499 cc P & M sloper was chosen as the standard wartime mount of the Royal Flying Corps (later, the RAF).

The 598 cc Model 100 Redwing Panther entered the company's range in 1932, and with minimal seasonal modifications it remained in production until as late as 1963. Its 649 cc trig sister, the Model 120, outlived it by only three more years. In the 1954 example pictured, we see the Model 100 at its classic best - still Magdyno-equipped, still a twin-port single (a single-port cylinder head could be provided), but with totally-enclosed valve gear and featuring the new P & M designed telescopic front fork adopted from that year onward. The rigid frame model was available, and many sidecar owners still preferred it, but a swinging-arm rear suspension system was listed for those with more up-to-date ideas.

Indeed, so far round had opinion swung, that after 1957 only the rear-sprung model was manufactured. A P & M sidecar chassis came along in 1957, with non-adjustable arms and intended to be bolted straight on to the Panther's frame, but apart from a few improvements such as full-width wheel hubs and a cush-drive rear hub, development of the Model 100 stagnated during its final few years. The demand for sidecar-hauling motorcycles was dwindling anyway, hit by the advent of the small car, and P & M were running out of cash. Moreover, Burman Ithe gearbox makers) wanted to concentrate instead on car steering mechanisms for British Leyland, while Lucas gave notice that they were stopping production of the Magdyno. A prototype machine was made with alternator electrics, and an AMC gearbox was tried. But it was too late and the big Panther died in 1966.
Out of: 'Classic British Motorcycles Of Over 500cc' by Bob Currie 


© by manuk lee  since 4/16/96