If the Invincible JAP was the most recognisable Australian-built motorcycle of the vintage years, Saville Whiting's marvelous V-four motorcycle was clearly the most technichally interesting. Perhaps "Australian-built" needs some qualification in this case. Certainly the machine was conceived and built by Mr Whiting from Melbourne Australia, but at the time he was residing in the UK in an attempt to commercialise his designs.
With the worst of timing, Mr Whiting arrived in the UK shortly after the outbreak of war, but never-the-less did well with his publicity. In March 1915, Motor Cycling devoted a double-page spread to the Douglas-engined prototype that Whiting had constructed in Australia and brought over with him. Having made some contacts, a second machine was made, this time powered by a 4-5 hp JAP twin. This machine was duly promoted in November 1915 by The Motor Cycle, who were keen to point out the fact that this machine "...is of entirely new design, and has not been previously described in any other journal". In truth, the two machines had much in common. Not to be outdone, Motor Cycling carried out a test of their own on the JAP-engined machine for the 18th January 1916 edition.
But the real gem was yet to appear. In the wings was a 685 cc V-four, entirely designed and built by Mr Whiting. Sadly, work on the machine - and indeed the whole project - was to stall, and in 1920 Mr Whiting and his machine came back to Australia to attempt to set up production here. It never happened.
Although Mr Whiting rode the machine for two years before laying it up, it's arguable that the motor was never fully "sorted" until after it was brought back to life by its restorer, who happened on the dismantled remains of the machine in a motorcyle wreckers in 1958. In fact Mr Whiting had been so disappointed with the bike's performance that when he parted with it in 1948 it was with strict instructions that it be broken up. After restoration, development (particularly of the inlet manifold) solved many of the problems that had frustrated Mr Whiting.
I was lucky enough to ride the Whiting recently. It was a gentle ride - probably in the vein Mr Whiting would have intended. The motor is smooth, and accelererates without fuss. The ride? I know that the word "wallow" is not the sort of word that should be used to describe the handling of a motorcycle, but I think it's fair to say that the Whiting wallows along, in the nicest possible way. Altogether, a remarkable Australian motorcycle.