1928 Douglas DT

Did you know that many current Mercedes cars have no dipsticks? And if you buy a new car today, you probably won’t see much of the engine when you pop the hood: it’ll be covered by a giant plastic shroud. I was reminded of that when I first clapped eyes on this lovely picture, which is from the Newcastle Speedway History website. It’s a Douglas from 1928, possibly a DT6 (meaning ‘Dirt Track’) model. And for me, it sums up the appeal of vintage and custom motorcycles: you can see the parts that are doing the work. The ‘Dougie’ was hugely popular with English and Australian speedway racers, and even Steve McQueen: it had a low-set 500 cc flat twin engine that gave an exceptionally low center of gravity, plus a long wheelbase. Put the two together and you have the perfect recipe for ‘leg-trailing’, the predominant style of riding on the cinder tracks in the late 1920s. To modern eyes, over eighty years later, the Douglas might look a little squashed and inelegant. But it has a sense of purpose. There’s not a bracket or weld out of place, and the only aesthetics are related to function. You could say it’s the original ‘naked’. [Thanks to Alejandro Chavetta.]

  • corey


  • Man I love old speedway bikes. Great find Chris. I bet it still goes great too and I like the fact you can tell it’s a speedway bike. It has a single purpose, to go fast on an oval track.

  • Love the front suspension damper attached to the handlebars.

  • twitchel

    I would put the minimum lighting on it and ride it everywhere it
    freaking awesome!!!!!!

  • My Grandfather had a bike very similar looking to this, from what my childhood brain can remember anyway, it used to catch fire occasionally and burn his upper thighs. He loved it regardless though and kept it long after he couldn’t ride it anymore. Beautiful looking thing.

  • Pedro Fuerte

    I knew we were doomed when I saw a BMW (3-series) without a dipstick. Long live functional beauty.