Dowty Motorcycle Oleo Shock Absorbers

Velocette Oleomatic Suspension - Dwg of rear oleo legs, Mk.8-1
Panther Oleo-matic Suspension - Dowty front forks, bottom of leg-1
Velocette Oleomatic Suspension - Mk.8 rear suspension
Velocette KTT
Velocette KTT
Air Suspension on all Velocette Motorcylces
J W Redfern
Post war Dowty Oleomatic strut for Mk.8 KTT.1
ID plate for prewar Dowty Oleo Strut

Dowty was happy to supply the experimental motorcycle-sized Oleo shock absorbers in 1936 for Veloce and the following year went into limited production for the rear units on the production Velocette MkVIII KTT.

Following WW2, they used the same principles to build ‘Oleomatic’ front forks for motorcycles, as used on Velocettes in 1948, as well as on Scotts and Panthers.

As the gas seals for the Oleomatic forks were prone to failure after tens of thousands of miles of hard use, all these factories designed hydraulically-damped telescopic ‘spring’ forks along the lines set down by BMW in 1935.

This became the industry standard, but ‘air forks’ and ‘air shocks’ are technically superior, and became the standard for performance motorcycles from the 1970s onwards.

All because of a brainwave by a rather eccentric genius in Birmingham named Harold Willis, and the willingness of an equally visionary George Dowty to try something new.

Comments about this page

  • Amazing to find the forks, on my just bought Velocette 248cc 1936 on your website. The clamps at the bottom of the forks, are like most Japanese bikes. The only Honda I know that as air front forks, is a CBX550; air shocks on a back of a Kawasaki GT550. A Velocette man said he did not know where the forks were from but it looks like you have provided a sketch of a Panther. Dowty was way ahead than most, so I would think Honda and all other Japanese bikes came from this design. I might be wrong but is it just me how good British thinking was, which was then not followed up, all to do with money. I wondered if he used a test bed like they do today for the forks? Thank from John in Carlisle.

    By John G Kidd (09/08/2022)

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