Villiers Starmaker. 1963.


3. The Villiers Starmaker / 1963


The intent was to make available to motorcycle manufacturers an engine and transmission producing the performance level needed to compete at International level in the motorcycle sport called at the time, Scrambling. The engine had a capacity of 247cc with a targeted power output of 100 bhp per litre.

John E Favill

John E Favill

The engine and transmission unit that carried the name Starmaker was a departure from the traditional method of identification previously used by the company, 34A, etc.

For many years the company had resisted using names for company products, they had though in the early days, for example, produced the bicycle known as the “Sunbeam Cub”. 

When Villiers began to manufacture internal combustion engines in 1912 a code system of a combination of numbers and letters had begun to be used to describe the type of engine and engine capacity, and this had become the traditional method of product identification.

Starmaker Prototype1962

Original Prototype Starmaker drawings / 02.03.1962

In 1963 this new engine and transmission was designed for use in Scrambling, although other applications were also being considered, it was so different; we decided it needed a name.

Very soon after the Starmaker was made available, the controlling body of the sport decided that the name Scrambling did not translate easily into other languages. To overcome this difficulty and to adopt a name that reflected the increasing interest in the sport throughout the world, it was changed to Moto-Cross.

The unit replaced similar engine power units made by the company, namely the 34A and 37A, which in turn had evolved from the venerable 9E.

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Cotton Telstar Starmaker / 1964

The units the Starmaker replaced had reached the limit of their power development and performance, and it was considered that only a redesigned replacement would be able to compete in the now international sport of moto-cross.

The responsibility for the design of the Starmaker was given to two designers employed by the company; Bernard Hooper, a two stroke engine design specialist and John Favill who was their expert in gear and transmission design. 

Motorcycle companies that purchased the Starmaker for moto-cross included DMW, Greeves, Cotton, James, and DOT. Some of them soon found that the engine and transmission assembly could also be developed for application in road racing. The engine and transmission unit enabled race competitive road racing motorcycles to be made available at a relatively low cost.  

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Bill Ivy / Cotton Telstar / 1964

The four-speed gearbox was provided with close ratios but in addition, a specially designed six-speed gearbox was also made available.

This road racing version of the unit was provided with a tachometer drive, plus an attachment to the timing side of the crankshaft that carried the ignition points in a separate bearing support that provided for better spark control for the ignition system at the higher engine speeds used for road racing. The developed power output was increased to 32 bhp at 7500 rpm  (128 bhp per litre).

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Bill Ivy / Cotton Telstar / 1964

Motorcycles powered by the road racing version of the engine and transmission did very well on the racing circuits of the UK and Europe but the most outstanding year occurred in 1966.

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DMW Hornet Starmaker 250cc / 1964 

A Villiers built road racing motorcycle, the Villiers Special, was ridden by Peter Inchley to 3rd place in the Isle Of Man TT for 250cc machines.

This was the first time for 16 years that a British machine had finished in the first three and the first time a single cylinder machine had lapped the TT course at an average speed of over 90 mph. (91.43 mph) and this record still stands today, this engine was a world beater.

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Technical Specification of the Starmaker engine and transmission


All versions of the Starmaker engine had a cast-in austenitic spun cast iron cylinder liner, the ports of which were machined and used to locate the shell moulded sand-cores of the cylinder, ensuring accuracy of casting at all times and consistency of engine performance.

On each model the piston had narrow rings and a large diameter piston pin. The crankshaft assembly had a thin section forged-steel connecting rod running on a caged needle-roller big-end bearing.

The road racing and moto cross engines had full circle cranks to help provide the high crankcase pressure required for these engines.

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DMW Typhoon Starmaker 500cc Twin / 1965

The crankshaft was supported on two steel roller bearings, plus a needle-roller bearing on the drive side. At the time the caged needle roller bearing used in the big end represented the limit of the technical know-how on this type of caged bearing application.

The engine performance levels, particularly in the road racing application, provided valuable research information in the development of technical design know-how for big-end cage design that has now become common practice.

The clutch was the first application of the use of a diaphragm spring in a clutch to be used on a motorcycle. Diaphragm spring clutches have now become universally used on both motorcycles and cars.

The clutch had two sintered bronze friction plates with one steel intermediate plate, pressure being applied by a diaphragm spring. Although the clutch had a very high spring pressure the natural mechanical advantage allowed by the diaphragm spring plus the scroll type release mechanism ensured light finger pressure at the handlebar lever.

The extremely robust gearbox had shafts and gears of nickel chrome steel (B.S. En36B Specification). All splines were of involute form and the shafts and rotating gears were carried on needle roller bearings.

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DMW Typhoon Starmaker 500cc Twin / 1965

The magneto was of the energy-transfer type with energising coils carried in the stator plate, and transferring current to a separate encapsulated coil, which could be mounted on the motorcycle frame. Road racing units were provided with a tachometer mounting and an independent bearing support and self contained drive system that carried the points for the ignition system.

Trials engines had a six-volt direct current lighting system.  

Drawings of recommended exhaust systems for each engine application were available, together with information on their effect on power and torque curves.

Drag Racer Starmaker


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