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JA Prestwich (JAP) Motorcycle History

JAP motorcycles

JA Prestwich Industries Ltd, was a British engineering company named after founder John Alfred Prestwich, produced cinematographic equipment, internal combustion engines (for which the company was generally abbreviated to "J.A.P"), and other examples of precision engineering.


J.A. Prestwich, an engineer, founded the company in 1895, when he was in his early twenties, initially behind his father's house. By 1911 he had moved to a new plant at Northumberland Park, Tottenham. Prestwich came to be known as much for his creation of cinematography projectors as his engines. He worked with S.Z. de Ferranti and later the cinema pioneer William Friese-Greene.

The engines were used in many famous motorcycle marques and other devices, such as early aeroplanes, chainsaws, cultivators such as those produced by Howard Rotovators and light rail maintenance trucks. The motorcycle engines were associated with racing success and were still used in speedway bikes well into the 1960s. During World War II Prestwich produced around 240,000 industrial petrol engines in support of the war effort, together with millions of aircraft parts, fuses, etc.

After 1945 production was taken over by Villiers Ltd. and the company was completely absorbed by the Villiers Engineering Company in 1964 just as Villiers itself was to be taken over by Manganese Bronze Bearings.

The company's engineering works in Northumberland Park closed in 1963.

From 1904 to 1908 complete motorcycles were produced from the development of the first Overhead Valve motorcycle engine to be produced in the UK. After that the factory concentrated on supplying its engines to other manufacturers, including Brough Superior, Triumph Motorcycles and HRD Motorcycles, the forerunner of Vincent Motorcycles. JAP exported significant numbers of engines to foreign motorcycle manufacturers including Dresch and Terrot in France, and Ardie, Hecker and Tornax in Germany.

Latterly, JAP engines (under Villiers control) were used in motorcycle racing, and most commonly speedway or dirt track

Stationary Engines

J.A. Preswich also made stationary engines under the JAP name for a variety of uses. They ranged in size from the smallest 1a type engine to the much larger type 6 engine, and were used on such things as rotovators, generating sets, milking sets, water pumps, hay elevators and other agricultural machines. They were usually 4-stroke and were usually reliable, and examples can still be seen at vintage rallies around the country.


The project was inspired by Lord Hesketh, who planned to revive the failing British motorcycle industry and at the time had a background of F1 racing being the last private team to win a F1 Grand Prix, with James Hunt at the wheel. Lord Hesketh wanted to use the skills and facilities built up in that pursuit to greater effect and production of a quality motorcycle was born.

The Hesketh motorcycle was developed on the Easton Neston estate, with the prototype running in the spring of 1980 using a special Weslake engine. The V-twin V1000 (based loosely on the marketing panache of the Vincent Motorcycle), offered all sorts of advances; for example, it was the first British bike with four valves per cylinder and twin camshafts (although commonplace in Japanese machines).