c1916 De Luxe

1916 Healing Deluxe tank (original paint)

When the First War reached its peak, supplies of components from Britain and Europe began to dry up and local manufacturers either looked elsewhere or made their own. The De Luxe motorcycle built by A.G. Healings in the 1916-1919 period is a good example of this philosophy. The De Luxe motor, built by the F.W. Spacke Machine Co., Indiana USA, was widely used in Australia in the 1916 - 1920 period, not just by Healings and the smaller "manufacturers" they supplied, but also by Hercules and others. Of course the motor was also used in a number of US makes, such as Dayton, Crawford, Eagle and De Luxe (no relation to the Healing machine).

My machine is a c1916 single speed, direct belt drive. At 1000cc (most Australian manufacturers seemed to fit the 7 HP 1000cc motor rather than the 9 HP 1200 cc job that was used on some US makes) there's a lot of motor in not much frame! The wheelbase is unusually short for an Australian machine, as evidenced by the small gap between the seat tube of the frame and the rear mudguard. Compare with the gearbox model shown below, or the frame of my Blue Bird, which is also a Healing direct drive bike. Restoration is underway, but while there are no major problems, I have to say that working on the De Luxe motor is not easy.

1916 Deluxe

Not all Healing De Luxe motorcycles were direct drive: many used the then-popular "chain-cum-belt" arrangement, which featured a chain for the primary drive from the engine to the clutch, then a belt from the gearbox pulley to the back wheel. Although the Sturmey Archer CS gearbox was a favourite among Australian manufacturers after its debut in 1914, during the later years of the war supplies became scarce. For the De Luxe, Healings fitted their own "AGH" gearbox, presumably to combat supply problems with the Sturmey Archer item.

1916 Healing De Luxe

The De Luxe motor is a wondrously complicated device, incorporating many "features" which can be best be described as bizarre. It is fascinating to compare it to the simple - but entirely adequate - engineering of the JAP twin of the period, which must have used around half the number of parts required for the De Luxe, and have been correspondingly cheaper to produce.

At the end of the First War, Healings gained the JAP agency and went on to build machines such as my 1920 Blue Bird and 1920 Peerless.

Copyright Leon Mitchell 1999-2007


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