Icon 1000 Axys Collection

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.]