Australian Whiting: The last word in motorcycle luxury

 

The Whiting motorcycle was conceived in Melbourne in 1912 when engineer Saville Whiting (1889-1973) designed and built an innovative spring-frame cycle with semi-elliptic leaf sprinting on both the front and rear wheels. The four-cylinder V-engine was one of the most technically advanced designs created in Australia.

Whiting was dissatisfied with the handling and comfort afforded by pre-World War One motorcycle design and believed they could be improved to cope with the rough roads of Melbourne with the addition of front and rear suspension.

See the 1914 Whiting and experience a whole new view of the motorcycle at ‘The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire’ showcasing 100 designs — only in Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) until 26 April 2021.

Whiting 1914 / Lowe Family Collection / Photograph: Penelope Clay

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Whiting 1914

The Whiting spring-frame motorcycle was designed in Melbourne in 1914. Its most unusual feature is the semi-elliptical leaf suspension at both ends; the rear using a swinging arm system which Saville Whiting patented. The motorcycle was designed to withstand poor-quality roads and the first motorcycle consisted of a Douglas engine, he produced a second machine powered by a John A Prestwich (JAP) V-twin engine.

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Whiting 1914 / Lowe Family Collection / Photographs: Penelope Clay

Specifications

Country: Australia
Power:
4 hp

Engine: 494 cc James A. Prestwich (JAP) side-valve V-twin
Designer: Saville Whiting
Production: 1914

Interesting facts

  • In 1913 the Whiting was put to the test on Mount Misery, near Diggers Rest in Victoria, on a road known for its rugged terrain of rocks, rabbit holes and tree roots.

    Saville Whiting and the prototype Douglas-engined machine in front of Mount Misery / Courtesy: Lowe Family Collection
  • Saville Whiting journeyed to London in 1914 with the hope of commercialising his design; however, the outbreak of World War One that same year dashed his dreams. Returning to Melbourne in 1919, he pursued his ambition of manufacturing the motorcycle and purchased a disused factory in Richmond. Funds soon ran out, however, following the production of a single example of a third variation of the design, incorporating a V4 engine designed by Whiting himself.
  • In 1915 Motor Cycling magazine UK proclaimed the Whiting ‘the last word in luxury’ for its front and rear leaf suspension.
  • In 2018, the 1919 Whiting V4 was featured on one of four vintage motorcycles stamps produced by Australia Post.

    Australia Post Vintage Motorcycles: 1919 Whiting V4 / Issue date: 4 September 2018 / The stamp issue featured four motorcycles that were constructed or conceived in Australia prior to World War II including the 1904 Kelecom, 1912 The Precision and the 1923 Invincible J.A.P. / Courtesy: Australia Post

Watch: Motorcycles on Screen

In association with ‘The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire’, the Australian Cinémathèque at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) presents the free program ‘Motorcycles on Screen’, which explores the rich history of the vehicle in cinema, from the silent era to today. ‘Motorcycles on Screen’ runs until 25 April 2021.

Buy: ‘The Motorcycle’ publication

With over 320 pages and 400 colour illustrations, The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire showcases 100 superb examples of motorcycle design from the late 19th century to the present day and beyond to the technological innovations of the future. Beautifully illustrated with newly commissioned photography and archival ephemera, this visually arresting survey of the motorcycle’s influence in realms as diverse as film, fashion, sport, advertising, and technology will prove compulsive reading to design lovers and motorcycle fans alike. Available at the QAGOMA Store and online

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