PAGE 9. Hercules Grey Wolf; Her-cu-Motor & Hercules History

The 1955 Hercules Grey Wolf …Subsequently renamed ‘Her-cu-motor’

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The Grey Wolf was launched with some fanfare at the Earl’s Court Show in November, 1955. It appeared on Stand 100 and was described in the motorcycling press as a ‘pleasing and practical design.’

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It was a totally British machine when every other model (except the disappointing 32cc Norman Cyclemate) was either imported or used foreign components. Its JAP engine was a unique design. The Hercules name was an established marque famous for well-built bicycles. It was priced very competitively.

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I am unashamedly biased because I own one, but don’t you think that the Her-cu-Motor was the best of the new ‘mo-peds’ that appeared at the show? (See the Show review below)

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The engine was British-made too, a JAP 49cc 2-stroke. The engine is interesting, with the crankshaft running fore and aft; a pair of bevel gears turn the drive through 90° and then via a chain to the rear wheel.

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‘Power and Pedal’ magazine published a short road test of the Her-cu-Motor in their August, 1956 edition.

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Miller supplied the flywheel magneto, lights and horn, and the front suspension was a bottom leading link type.

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The toolbox of the first Grey Wolf was as you see here, but was very soon replaced with a triangular style toolbox.

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As you can see below, the Her-cu-Motor sports an unusual front suspension set-up, with a bottom leading link.

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In 1958 Villiers pulled the plug on the supply of JAP engines. No other engine could be fitted to replace the shaft-drive and in-line arrangement, so the Her-cu-Motor ceased.

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Although initially announced as the Hercules Grey Wolf, the marque and model was promptly renamed ‘Her-cu-Motor.’ I assume this was because a key part of its advertising strategy was that it was an all-British machine – which would fall rather flat if confused with the well-established German Hercules. (See Page 48 of the Cyclemaster Museum for a brief history of the German Hercules company).

It has been mentioned elsewhere that the name change was because after the initial launch, a wider colour choice was offered for the Grey Wolf than the original grey. However, though German Hercules mopeds and scooters were officially re-badged in Great Britain to avoid confusion over the identical name, it would be likely that in due course some German Hercules models would arrive in Great Britain with their German Hercules name intact.

The review below, in ‘Power & Pedal’ of December 1956, shows the autocycle-style version of the Her-cu-Motor that was also offered

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History of The Hercules Cycle & Motor Company Ltd

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The Hercules Cycle & Motor Company Ltd was set up by Harry and Ted (Edmund) Crane in 1910, and production started the following year. They eventually became the largest bicycle manufacturers in the world.

They had learned their trade in their father’s bicycle business: Jack Crane had purchased a small business called the Petros Cycle Company, but by 1906 there was too much competition (both from other manufacturers and from those new-fangled motor vehicles) and Jack was declared bankrupt.

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The family devised a way to continue in business. As Jack was bankrupt, new cycles were bought in the mother’s name then sold to the sons, who sold them at auctions around the country. This was a very successful venture, but in due course it was deemed illegal and the family were summonsed to appear at Birmingham Assizes in March, 1911.

They were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud, but luckily escaped prison after a subsequent successful appeal based on a legal technicality. With £25 saved between them, Harry and Ted rented a derelict house in Coventry St, Birmingham for assembling bicycles. Harry ran the factory and Ted located the necessary components.

Their court case initially caused problems, but in due course dealers bought their cycles because the bikes were cheaper and better than other bicycle manufacturers. In 1912 they started marketing motorcycles too, fitted with Precision single cylinder engines. Precision engines were built by Frank E. Baker Ltd, whose factory was in nearby Moorsom St.

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Frank Baker had a reciprocal arrangement with Sun: as well as supplying Sun with Precision engines, he bought Sun frames to mount Precision engines so they could also sell motorcycles themselves.

Hercules motorcycles were re-badged Sun machines. The Sun factory was close by in Aston Brook St. Sun and Hercules both offered a 211cc Villiers powered machine in 1913.

At the beginning production was 25 a week; after 6 months it was 70 a week, so they moved to larger premises, which they named Britannia Works. They now (in 1913) employed 10 staff. Their next move was to a former Dunlop factory in Aston, where they employed 250 workers. They now made 10,000 cycles a year.

Hercules (as well as Sun, Precision and many other manufacturers) stopped motorcycle manufacture and sales when the Great War started, and did not resume production after (until 1955). Hercules factories made armament shells during the war.

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By 1921, they were making 20,000 cycles. One of their bikes could be purchased for £3 19/- 9d. Their slogan was ‘The best that money can buy.’ In 1927 production had increased to 250,000. The following year Hercules exported 26% of all British cycles, up to 40% by 1935. They made their 6 millionth bike in February 1939.

The company was sold to Tube Investments in 1947; TI later took over Raleigh too and became Raleigh Industries. Hercules did not make another motorcycle after 1914 – until 1955 when, as Raleigh Industries, the Hercules Grey Wolf moped was launched.

That model was instantly renamed the Her-cu-Motor, or HCM, so it did not really carry the Hercules name. So the only other motorcycle after 1914 to bear the (British) Hercules name was its final model, the Hercules Corvette.

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1960 Hercules Corvette

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