Thursday, 6 December 2012

George Silk and his Silk Special motorcycle

George Silk, was a lifetime Scott motorcycle enthusiast who worked for Tom Ward's Scott motorcycle factory in Derbyshire in the 1960s. While working there he developed and built a new motorcycle with a tuned Scott engine in a Spondon frame. This is the story of Silk and his speedy, if pricey motorcycle as he went into production with it the 1970s.

Heading for the hills

Silk Scott Special (photo Bonhams)
When George Silk first developed his 'Silk Special' he decided to enter it in the 1970 Barbon Hill Climb event to test its mettle.  His new bike was very successful in the Hill Climb, which encouraged him to start work on a road version which he finished in time to display it at the 1971 Racing and Sporting Motorcycle Show in London.  Its appearance at the show generated a great deal of interest and many orders - not all of which Silk could fullfill! 

Twenty-one again

Twenty-one Scott-Silk motorcycles were built after that between the Show in 1971 and 1975 and every one was unique, built to the new owners' particular specifications.  Because each bike was individually hand built, they were all different with different instruments, brakes and even frames so that no two bikes were alike, so if you do stumble upon one now it will be a one-off! Silk had a major problem with production of his bike though  because they used a Scott engine in a new frame and the supply of Scott engines to use in the Scott-Silk was very limited as people were reluctant to break up a Scott to get the engine to make a Silk motorcycle.

Scott free

Eventually because of scarcity of supply, Silk asked the people ordering the bike to provide their own Scott crankcases and George and his engineering partner Maurice Patey would build up an engine. However there was also another problem, Matt Holder who had bought the rights to the Scott engine, did not want Silk to use the name Scott on his motorcycles and the name Scott was visible on the Scott engines used in Silk's motorcycles.  So eventually, in order to overcome these obstacles,  George Silk decided to design and make his own engine. Using the engineering expertise of David Midgelow and the two stroke expert Dr Gordon Blair, Silk began to manufacture the Silk 700S which was launched in 1975 retailing for a scary £1,355 - and that was in 1975! It was the most expensive production motorcycle out there by far. The motorcycle continued to improve as more were made, but the factory only managed two a week coming off the production line. They were again made to customers orders and could come in a range of colours, British racing green, metallic blue or green, black with gold coachlines or plain red. There was also a special Silk Cut cigarettes colour scheme version - times have changed now it would have to be a plain brown paper version! In 1977 the modified 700s Mk2 or Sabre was launched.  Unfortunately although production continued until 1979, when the price had reached a staggering £2,482, Silk was still losing £200 per bike sold - obviously they were not a viable business proposition - so sadly they had to stop production. 

Silk cut

One last lone Silk motorcycle was built in 1987 as a competition prize for Classic Bike Magazine. It was built by one of the engineers, Clive Worrell, who had worked at the factory since the introduction of the first Silk motorcycle. Instead of the typical 700s he built a 500 which had been designed but never built before, so the lucky prizewinner got a true original and a unique bike. 

The Scott motorcycle was a special beast much loved by owners and aficionados as was the Silk-Scott and the Silk Special which evolved from it - they were both sadly short lived but left a great legacy and are still ridden and appreciated by their current owners today. 

For more on the Scott and a Scott story from an enthusiast, check out our previous Wemoto news stories. 


  1. Great story. George (Silk) is still as keen on Scotts as ever,and ocassionally contributes to the Scott owners club magazine

    1. How cool and what a great engineer! Thanks for your comment