Britain’s forgotten four
After Wooler achieved fame with its ‘Flying Banana’ twin in the Twenties, little was heard from the small London marque until the 1948 London Show. One of the sensations of that event was a prototype 500cc Wooler shaft-drive tourer with an extraordinary four-cylinder engine. Horizontally-opposed pistons were connected to its crankshaft via a single main connecting rod and a complex rocking-beam mechanism.
Although John Wooler was reluctant to admit it, his innovative engine was impractical. To salvage the project, his son Ronald designed a more orthodox horizontally-opposed four-cylinder power unit. The redesigned four has a compact all-alloy power unit with one carburettor for each pair of cylinders and overhead valves operated by pushrods from camshafts in the lower engine. Drive to the rear wheel from the single-plate clutch and four-speed gearbox is by a shaft and bevel gears. Maintaining Wooler’s ‘Flying Banana’ tradition, the fuel tank unit extends forward ahead of the steering stem and forms the headlamp nacelle. A toolbox is built into the top of the gearbox and an oil pressure gauge is located just ahead of it.
Predating Honda’s Gold Wing flat-four shaft drive tourer by 20 years, the Wooler set out to offer the highest levels of comfort, silence and ease of use. But its maker lacked the finance needed to develop and make a competitive product. As few as five machines are thought to have been assembled before John Wooler died and his marque folded in 1956.
Engine: 498cc (50 x 63.5mm) overhead valve flat four, two 26mm Solex carburettors, coil ignition
Transmission: Single-plate clutch, four-speed gearbox, shaft final drive
Chassis: Tubular frame, telescopic fork front suspension, plunger rear suspension, drum brakes.
Wheels: 19in front and rear
Power 32bhp at 6,000rpm Weight 352lb (160kg) Top speed 85mph
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