Panther motorcycles were manufactured in Cleckheaton Yorkshire from 1900 to 1966.
The concept of using the engine as a sloping stressed member of the frame was patented in 1900 by Joah (John) Carver Phelon and his nephew Harry Rayner. His first motorcycle incorporating this idea was produced in 1900 and so the long running ‘sloper’ Panther design was born, probably the longest running British motorcycle design ever.
After Harry Rayner died in a car accident, (reputedly the first car accident in Yorkshire), Joah Phelon formed a partnership with Richard Moore in late 1903 to establish P&M Motorcycles (Phelon & Moore). Their motorcycles used Joah Phelon’s 499cc sloper single cylinder design, and Moore’s own two speed gear system (also used by local rival Alfred Angus Scott). From 1914-1916 a 770cc V Twin briefly joined the range, but the heavyweight Panthers were generally big singles best suited to sidecar use.
During the First World War P&M Motorcycles produced sidecar machines for the Royal Flying Corps, and later from 1922 for the RAC.
In 1924 the first badged Panther appeared. This again was a 500cc OHV sloper design, and was later enlarged to 598cc in 1927. In 1932 the improved Redwing Panther 100 was launched. This was a 600cc OHV single, and was produced for the next 30 years (including an enlargement to 650cc in 1959 to create the Panther 120) until the company ceased production in 1966.
P&M also produced a range of cheaper lightweight motorcycles. These initially used their own 250cc or 350 cc four stroke engines from the thirties onwards , but later in the fifties and sixties generally had twin cylinder 250 or 350cc Villiers two stroke engines.
Phelon & Moore/Panther serve to illustrate the philosophy: “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Their machines remained essentially the same for around fifty years, and so the Panther sloper motorcycle is almost instantly recognisable regardless of its era.
These machines were primarily built for sidecars and are famed for firing ‘once every lamp post’. Sometimes referred to as ‘the biggest aspidistra in the world’, or simply ‘the big pussy’, these machines have an individual charm all their own and a devoted following.