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Omega 350cc 2-stroke - around 1923

One of my veteran motorcycles is an Omega built around 1923, which makes it one of my oldest motorcycles. It is an English motorcycle, built in Coventry. One of the former owners has started the restauration, but most of it has not been done as it should have been. However, the advantage is that the material is preserved now, to prevent further decay.
But enough talking for now, the big question off course is how it looks:

Omega - linkerzijde

Omega - rechterzijde

The motorcycle is equipped with a 350cc Omega 2-stroke engine. It has a 2-speed Burman gearbox. I had serious doubts whether this gearbox was an original part of this motorcycle, because it is mounted in a strange way:

Gearbox under 1923 Omega

As you can see, it looks like the gearbox does not really fit into the frame. To overcome this, a thick piece of metal has been used to lower the gearbox compared to the mounting points on the frame.
In that time Omega still sold motorcycles without gearbox, even with the same engine, as the following image from the 1923 catalogue shows:

Omega Sports 350cc, 1923

Therefore it appeared likely that my Omega had left the factory without gearbox, and that the Burman had been built in later to modernise the bike. Probably someone just had the Burman gearbox lying in his shed, and fitted it into the Omega.
But later I saw more Omega's with exactly the same gearbox, and also there some filling parts are used between the frame and the gearbox. This is illustrated in the following picture of a 1920 Omega with JAP sidevalve engine:

2-speed Burmann gearbox under Omega with JAP engine

Perhaps this strange way of mounting is caused by the modular system that Omega used to build its motorcycles. The same frame design has been used for many years, but with different engines and with single speed (means no gearbox and clutch), double speed or even 3-speed gearbox.
So overall it seems very well possible that the gearbox in my Omega is original, but that the original filling plates to bring it in the right position have been exchanged by the present block of metal.

After I bought my Omega, I started looking in books and on internet to find out how the motorcycle originally looked and to determine the exact year of construction. Unfortunately this search for information was very disappointing! I did not find much information on the Omega brand in general, and I found completely no images of any Omega motorcycle comparable to mine!
The only image with some resemblance is of the 1923 350cc sports shown above. This motorcycle seems to have the same frame and engine, and some small more general parts that are similar, like the stand and the luggage rack. But because it is a sports bike and mine is more a touring bike, there are a lot of differences too.
From an Omega brand history in the magazine Old Bike Quarterly (no. 32 from 1999) I learned that the type of front forks in my Omega was an own development of Omega, and introduced in 1923. Therefore I think that my motorcycle is built in 1923, but the same engine has also been used in 1924.

In an attempt to learn more about my motorcycle I contacted the Omega brand specialist of the English VMCC. He sent me a few very interesting pictures from his own collection:

Omega 1923

Omega 1923

Omega 350cc 1923

Omega 350cc 1923

Omega 350cc 1923

First I was very enthousiastic to see pictures of an Omega looking so much like mine. But after carefully comparing small details on all the photo's, we could only conclude that all these pictures are of my Omega! The first 2 (with the motorcycle painted red/brown) have been sent to him in 1996 by the (English) owner at that time. The 3rd (also in red/brown) comes from the next owner and is dated 1997.
On the last 2 pictures (with the motorcycle in gray) it is clear that someone has been working on this machine. Also the present seat (looking to be of the original Omega model) and the rear wheel brake have been mounted. The stand and luggage rack are not yet of the right type, so these must have been replaced later (when I bought the motorcycle the right ones were already on). Unfortunately the lovely carbid lamp on the handlebars have been removed in mean time.

Thanks to various contacts it was possible to determine with great probability that the motorcycle originates from 1923, or eventually 1924. Main clues are the engine (sold from 1922 until 1924) and the front forks (sold from 1923 onwards).
The motorcycle would then be the model '3': with a traditional chassis (and not the special Omega Duplex chassis), the own Omega 348cc 2-stroke engine, a Burman 2-speed gearbox with kickstarter and 'chain-cum-belt' drive.
In 1923 the same motorcycle has also been sold as model '2' in a single speed version, thus without gearbox. It is very well possible that my motorcycle originally was a single speed model that has been equipped afterwards with a gear box.
In 1924 the same motorcycle has been sold as model '1', with 2 or 3 speeds and 'chain-cum-belt' drive, and as model '2' with 3 speeds and full chain drive.

In the mean time I have also obtained another original part, with special thanks to the same English Omega specialst:

Omega 350cc 1923

He had an original Omega magneto chainguard, waiting for a new destination. Not directly a part you can find on every corner.....

My intention is to do a full restauration of the Omega. Some missing parts will have to be made completely new, like the exhaust, foot rests, brake pedal, front brake, gear lever etcetera. So this will be a time consuming job.
Unfortunately I have a lot of other projects that I want to finish first, so the Omega has to wait. But it is a very rare bike, and when finished it will be a pearl in my collection!



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