Engineer Rex Tilbrook (1915-77) first built an all-Australian motorcycle in 1947, and from his Adelaide factory from 1950, the first production roadsters were sold, identified by oversized fuel tanks to cover the distances typically travelled in Australia, after originally producing a range of motorcycle components and accessories, as well as the Tilbrook classic sidecar to suit a range of motorcycles, including his own.
The 1956 Tilbrook prototype — the last Tilbrook to be built — departed significantly from the models that preceded it, with the most striking feature the all-enclosing bodywork which covered the petrol tank and carried the seat.
‘The Motorcycle’ exhibition was in Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) from 28 November 2020 until 26 April 2021.
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Tilbrook prototype 1956
The 1956 Tilbrook prototype was the last road motorcycle Australian engineer Rex Tilbrook made, and was presented at the Royal Adelaide Show of that year. It is distinguishable from other Tilbrooks due to its striking bodywork covering the fuel tank and hidden toolbox compartment. Unfortunately, by the 1950s the Australian motorcycle trade had significantly declined, so the 1956 prototype never made it to production. This is the only surviving example of this groundbreaking Australian design.
AUSTRALIAN DESIGNED: READ ABOUT OUR LOCAL MOTORCYCLE HISTORY
Power: 8 hp
Engine: 197 cc two-stroke Villiers single
Designer: Rex Tilbrook
- The first Tilbrook motorcycle was built live, in front of an audience, at the 1947 Royal Adelaide Show over the course of 54 days.
- The 1956 prototype on display is the last of 55 complete road machines built.
- Due to Australia’s geographic isolation, motorcycle design and manufacturing has been particularly innovative with more than 200 motorcycle brands in Australia since the late 1800s. Many of these companies began with a founder looking to create their own ‘ideal’ bike, meaning that few ever saw significant production numbers and were often made with a mix of imported parts.
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