The Ex-Dave Knowles 350cc OHV Works TT Model
1926 Cotton-Blackburne 348cc Model 29 TT
Registration no. ON 6980
Frame no. 1887
Engine no. CK2376
Genuine works-prepared TT machine
Bought directly from the factory
Three owners from new
Gloucester-based Cotton established its reputation with a string of racing successes in the 1920s thanks to an innovative frame patented by its founder, Frank Willoughby Cotton. Cotton's design featured four straight tubes running from the steering head to the rear wheel spindle, augmented by further straight stays supporting the gearbox and engine. The result was a stiff, lightweight chassis far in advance of the bicycle-derived diamond-type frame used by the majority of manufacturers. Like other small independent firms Cotton relied on proprietary engines, but such was the advantage conferred by its frame that the Cotton had little trouble seeing off similarly powered rivals. The legendary Stanley Woods made his Isle of Man TT debut on a Cotton in 1922, going on to win the Junior event at record speed the following year. Countless wins and podium places were achieved in international events throughout the 1920s, Cotton's finest TT achievement occurring in 1926 when its entries finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd in the 250 Lightweight race, won by C W 'Paddy' Johnson.
This rare, Vintage-era Cotton-Blackburne is one of six 350s prepared for the 1926 Isle of Man TT though it did not make it to the race, being retained at the Gloucester factory as a 'spare'. Of the six, three fitted with high-compression engines were taken to the TT while the others, with lower compression units, were left behind. Unfortunately, Cotton was not able to repeat its Lightweight success in the Junior race, as all its entries retired.
After the TT was over, this machine was purchased directly from the factory by Mr Dave Knowles, who had travelled from his Birmingham home to collect it. The machine was then registered in Birmingham as 'ON 6980'. Dave owned the Cotton until 1989, using it continuously, apart from the war years, to attend events, as general transport, and for many trips to the Isle of Man TT races. Dave was a mechanic for Les Dear for five years and then served as pit attendant and mechanic for Bill Maddrick for nine years. He also raced in grass-track events, having the Cotton's seat tube modified by the works in 1927/28 to give him better control.
In 1989, Dave sold the Cotton to a friend, Mr Geoffrey Edwin Bennett, who sold it on that same year to the current vendor. The latter has made several trips to the Isle of Man TT and Manx Grand Prix on the Cotton, which has been ridden by several stars of its day including Stanley Woods and H G Tyrell Smith, bringing back many happy memories.
Being a racing machine, the Cotton has always been bump-started, though it does come with a kick-start mechanism should the next owner wish to adopt this more convenient starting method. Maintenance carried out has included replacing the clutch inserts (done recently); repairing a fuel tank leak at the rear mounting boss; temporarily repairing a cracked union thread on the oil pump (using metal compound); and overhauling the magneto. Accompanying documentation consists of the original buff and continuation logbooks; signed provenance from the original owner; a V5C registration document; assorted photographs and paperwork; and a (copy) 1926 Cotton catalogue. A wonderful opportunity to acquire a genuine, factory-built, Vintage-era TT machine with only three owners from new.