Flat Tank – Barnstorming in Australia

Here’s a couple of photo’s of an awesome Chater Lea with a brief history from its ‘Barnstormer’ owner. Thanks FLAT TANK – Keep the faith… Knobby

This photo was taken during the recent National Veteran Motor Cycle Rally held in Albany Western Australia. The rally is a week long run with each days riding approaching 100kms with the longest run being 140kms.

The day after the rally I entered the local Poker Run and promptly did another 100kms, apart from an initial “nip-up” on the first day owing to the oiling system losing a packing gland (its a vacuum system) and a few problems with the local fuel, exhaust pipe fracturing etc it was a great rally….can’t wait for the next one in Queensland.
This machine was found back in the late 1950€™s by Ray Corlett one of the founders of the Vintage Motor Cycle Club of Australia (NSW). Ray was driving home after work and suddenly realised he was in traffic behind a small truck with what looked like a pair of handlebars protruding up above all the rubbish on the tray of the truck, Ray pulled the vehicle over and questioned the driver as to what he had on board, he had got the job of clearing out a deceased estate and was taking all the rubbish to the tip€¦the complete motorcycle was in the middle of all the rubbish€¦..Ray quickly did a deal and the bike became his. He kept the bike for some years before passing it on to his good friend Bill Sewart, Bill expertly restored the bike and rode it for many years in club events before selling it to me in July 1997. On advice from the Chater Lea expert in the UK the position of the magneto was changed to the front of the motor€¦.wrong advice I would have thought.

The bike has a JAP engine of 720cc with automatic inlet valves and goes very well indeed for such a contraption, it is aided by a Millenium 2 speed hub in the rear€¦.which makes it a very usable early veteran.

I have a photo of an almost identical machine with €œJAP€ on the tank. The bike is basically a Chater Lea frame & forks, Millenium rear hub with JAP engine.

I claim this machine to be the oldest V twin JAP in going order in the world€¦€¦I have heard of earlier bikes but never seen a photo€¦..until I do see some proof I say this is the oldest!”

I would be interested in contacting anyone with info or parts available for this bike, my email address is  flattankatbigponddotcom

My main interest is in veteran motorcycles….happy to talk to anyone about them.


The Chater Lea is circa 1909 and the Matchless is circa 1910.
The Matchless was owned by Thomas Green, Secretary of the Sydney Bicycle & Motor
Cycle Club and he was heavily involved with the running of the first Australian TT
race in 1914 at Goulburn NSW. The Sydney club were the organising body for the TT.
Thomas actually raced the Matchless in the TT and it stayed in the Green family for
decades, until a slight accident which made the bike unrideable. Not a great deal is
known as to the details of the accident but I think it was at that stage the later
steering head and forks (1914) were fitted to the bike.
It was repaired professionally and when finished the repairer told George Green
(Thomas's son....Thomas was long dead) to come and pick up the bike and pay the
bill. After a couple of reminders this did not happen and when a chap walked into
the repair shop and asked if the bike was for sale the answer was yes! He bought it.
The new owner took it to the next VMCC run only to be told "that belongs to George
Green"...he contacted George and everything was worked out and even though the bike
belonged to George it was left to the chap after George died.
For anyone who has a copy of "The James Flood Book of Motorcycling in Australia" it
is written up on pages 60,168 & 169.