2-18 Update: This Cotton is back up for sale with some better photos and bidding at the opening bid of $9,000 with the reserve not yet met
Editor’s Note: A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about a Parilla Trailmaster and had someone very knowledgeable correct me about a mistake that was made. That commenter was Jack Riley, and after I exchanged a few emails with him, it became clear that he had plenty of information to share and (more importantly) he was willing to share it. So, here’s the first of hopefully many pieces from Jack Riley. Enjoy!
This Cotton ‘Super’ carries Blackburne’s 500cc OHV single cylinder that is famous for carrying a lot of racers to the podium in the 1920s and 30s. Unless there are two same model Cottons that show the exact same wear and tear, it used to be part of a private collection of Cottons in California (link provided below) in which it was the oldest of eight. The collection, two pre-war and six post-war Cottons, was for sale three years ago for $60,000 and from what I can see in the photos (which isn’t much considering the quality of the shots and the seller’s refusal to move it out of the corner) nothing signiﬁcant has been done to it since that sale.
A Little (Pre-WWII) Cotton History:
The name Cotton carries with it an impressive pedigree, even if few still remember this British marque. Founder Frank Willoughby Cotton was a lawyer with a penchant for hill-climbing and speed trials when he recognized the limitations of using the bicycle frame (“diamond frame” if you prefer) pattern for motorized sports. As the engines being mounted to the frames became more powerful over the years, the standard bicycle frames weren’t cutting it when it came to stability and handling. Cue Frank W. Cotton devising the game-changing “triangulated frame” in 1913 and patenting the design soon after. However serious development was hindered by the First World War and it would not be until the war’s end in 1918 that Cotton Motorcycle Company would ﬁnally be established in Gloucester, England.
At ﬁrst glance there’s little that sets Cotton apart from the numerous other piecemeal British bikes of the 20s. Like them, Cotton motorcycles were made with an amalgamation of different parts from various manufacturers, though most of the parts used in production have been recorded reasonably well. F.W. Cotton’s triangulated frame is what really distinguishes the Cotton brand; four straight tubes connect the rear spindle to the top and bottom edges of the steering-head, another pair run from the rear spindle to the gearbox, while the spindle’s fourth and ﬁnal pair of tubes duck under the gearbox and connect it to the engine’s rear plates. This abundance of straight tubes with a double-front down-tube created an incredibly (by 1920s standards) stiff frame that kept the bike’s parts in line with the frame’s (multiple) spines and resisted troublesome warping. Cotton gained respect by performing solidly in almost all ranks of TTs and even winning the record-breaking 1923 Isle of Man TT, in no small part due to Blackburne providing most of their racing engines and quite a few of their earlier (1920s and early 30s) production engines as well.
You can find various Cotton ‘Super’/Blackburne Pictures and Diagrams here on Cyber Motorcycle.
Or check out Bring a Trailer for the first time the collection this bike is from was up for sale.
Find this Cotton Super for sale in Andover, Kansas with an opening bid of $14,000