Ivan Rhodes and I have discussed this on several occasions and looking at his stock of ex-works front wheels , and many of the photos I have…1936 then was the consensus, and likely for the IOM TT.
But my view has now changed.
I’ve been closely looking at photos in “The Keig Collection” and there are examples on Norton and Moto Guzzi in the 1935 IOM TT.
In the 1936 Junior IOM TT Veloce introduced their new DOHC 350 and I am assembling an interesting blog article for this now with many photographs….looking at the front wheels, a quick glance, they are black and steel rims you say…wrong, they are the “W” pattern alloy rim we know today.
Why black….the story goes it was an attempt to “fool” Norton, but seems Norton had got hold of some too, in fact they had black painted ones in the 1935 IOM TT….!!
Who else used alloy rims in 1935?
Seems Rudge, Moto Guzzi, Norton had all acquired them.
But Rudge-Whitworth made motorcycle and car wheel rims and supplied many manufacturers.
On 22 April 1922, the Italian company "Rudge Whitworth Milano" was established in Milan, with a share capital of 1,200,000 lire. The owner was Carlo Borrani. The company was located at Via Ugo Bassi 9, and its activity was the production and commercialisation of "wheels for cars, motorcycles, cycles and "equivalent" as per notary act at the Chamber of Commerce.
This was the official beginning of the remarkable Borrani wire wheels story.
Production started with a licence of Rudge-Whitworth from Coventry, Great Britain, which had registered a patent for mounting a wheel on a hub
1935 Lwt IOM TT, Omobono Tenni (pictured above) on his factory Moto Guzzi with alloy front rim.
by an unique splined drum, fixed by one central lock nut. This enabled an easier and faster mounting and dismounting of the wheel.
This also aroused interest from the most important racing car constructors. Just 12 months after Rudge Whitworth Milano commenced business, Alfa Romeo, Auto Union, Bianchi and Lancia started to equip their racing and deluxe cars with Borrani wheels.
Later in the 1930s, the company changed its name to "Carlo Borrani SpA". During this same period, Borrani started to experiment with light, rigid aluminium rims to replace the usual steel wheels.
The 1936 photo of Freddie Frith's factory Norton wheel, (pictured below) has a black alloy front rim.
Who was fooling who….
Those first rims were welded together in a butt joint and a side plate welded beside it for strength. Alloy welding was likely in it’s infancy and the thought of a rim collapsing because of the weld breaking and pitching the rider up the road was a nightmare.
The rim illustrated is owned by Ivan Rhodes from ex works stock and I’ve perused many photos, not with all that much success, for the black rims make it difficult to determine if they were fitted with a welded side plate or whether it came later, perhaps after some weld cracking…
Tyrell-Smith (pictured above)aboard his factory 1935 Lwt IOM TT Rudge, with alloy front rim.
Dunlop alloy rims came later.
Opens more questions than it answers I suggest…
Left click on images to enlarge.
Prewar works Velocette alloy front rim (pictured above) from Ivan Rhodes collection...note welded side plate at the butt joint.
Interesting 1939 IOM TT shot...Jimmy Little (pictured above)on his new Mk.8 KTT Velocette production racer of which all those I've seen pictured had steel front and rear rims, has an alloy front rim...h'mmm ( likely some factory help, or JL got a rim from Rudge-Whitworth...)
Ted Mellors (pictured above) with his 250cc Lwt IOM TT winning Benelli, 1939, alloy front rim.