Imagination pictures the Roaring Twenties as a
time of long summer days, a punt on the river, blazers and broad-bottomed
flannel bags and voh-de-oh-doh music from a wind-up portable phonograph; and
somewhere not far away, there would be a long lean-looking bike with a bulbous
tank and powerful 976cc vee-twin engine. A Brough Superior? Possibly, though not
necessarily, because there were plenty of other models in the Brough mould —like
AJW, fvlcEvoy, Coventry-B&D, Grindlay Peerless, and Croft Cameron. And there was
Coventry Eagle, the most Brough-like of them all.
Yet it would be a mistake to discount the
Coventry Eagle Flying Eight as just a slavish copy. It was more a case of 'great
minds think alike', because George Brough and Percy Mayo were student friends
who, as World War I came to a close, would often talk far into the night about
the dream bikes that each would build, once peace came again.
Percy unveiled his masterpiece in late 1922. It was, said the trade press,
'particularly handsome and symmetrical. As a fast touring machine, the new 976cc
twin suggests unlimited possibilities.'
They commented also that the finish was of the
very finest—and so it was, with the bullnosed saddle tank (used on smaller
Coventry Eagles for the past season, be it noted) decked out in black and
The engine was the JAP side-valve Super Sports, and though the new bike had no
model name when first announced, it soon gained the title of Flying Eight. The
'eight' was a reference to its nominal 8hp classification—not its power output,
of course, but
assessed from a Royal Automobile Club formula based on piston diameter.
From the start, it had all-chain drive and a
three-speed Sturmey Archer gearbox, and despite the daunting price of £145
(extremely high for the period) it attracted a discerning clientele.
For 1924 the model underwent a complete redesign adopting Best and Lloyd
mechanical lubrication, balloon tyres, large-diameter ball races in the steering
head, and a much heavier frame in which the lower tank rails and rear sub-frame
tubes were duplicated. Also, a very big step forward, Lucas Magdyno electric
lighting was standardized.
There were even better things to come from
Coventry Eagle, however. They enlisted the aid of Brooklands racing star Bert Le
Vack, and Bert's track experience led to the development of a whole family of
Flying Eights for the 1925 season, all making use of a lighter yet stronger
frame. Other details included a Webb centre-spring front fork, Sin-diameter
Royal Enfield brakes and, on the top-of-the-range model, a Jardine gearbox.
That top model employed for the first time an
overhead-valve 976cc twin —the same JAP power unit as that found in George
Brough's new SS100 Brough Superior. There was a standard two-cam side-valve at
£120, a four-cam side-valve (this was another new JAP motor, powering the Brough
SS80) at £ 135, and the overhead valve job at £ 165. Oddly enough, in each
instance these prices were just £5 under those of the equivalent Brough
Superior. Coincidence or collusion?
Apart from cosmetic changes such as a more
handsome headlamp, a better layout of the twin exhaust pipes, and the adoption
of Whispering Ghost silencers, there was little further change in the make-up of
the Flying Eight. One more version was added in 1927 only, a bargain-price
two-cam side valve offered without electric lighting and it could be that this
was an attempt to clear the decks, prior to a change of policy by the Mayo
That year there had been a significant addition
to the Coventry Eagle programme, in the form of a Villiers-powered two-stroke in
a new pressed-steel frame. The last Flying Eights were catalogued for I929, and
by then the teething troubles of the pressed-steel frame had been overcome. The
future, reckoned the Mayos, lay not so much in expensive vee-twins as in cheap
commuter models. Time was to prove them right.
(1922 model) engine
Air-cooled, four-stroke, twin-cylinder.
85-5 mm (3 36in) boreX 85 mm (3-34in) stroke = 976cc (59-80cu in). Maximum power
28 bhp. Compression ratio 6-5:1. Two valves per cylinder operated by pushrods
from single camshaft. Single carburettor transmission
Jardine three-speed gearbox Chain drive to rear wheel frame
Open tubular suspension
Front - Druid Girder fork Rear - Solid unsprung brakes
Front - Drum. Rear - Drum weight 385lb (175kg) performance
Maximum speed—not known
Source Super by Bikes Loure Caddell