1928 Douglas DT5 494cc OHV Horizontally-Opposed Twin Racer


‘Dirt-track racing’ started in America. Races on hard surfaces became increasingly dangerous to riders and spectators as speeds improved, particularly on corners. By 1913, the American record for dirt tracks with a one-mile lap had been cut to 43 seconds, a speed of more than 83 miles per hour. This new sport spread to Canada and then to Australia.

On December 15, 1923, ‘Roaring’ Johnnie Hoskins brought the first dirt-track race to the Hunter River Agricultural and Horticultural Society’s mid-summer (for Australia) Electric Light Carnival. Says Hoskins, ‘The competitors stripped down their precious models. Off came mudguards and lamps and they were ready to go. One or two riders had helmets which would have sent today’s referees into a fit. Most had none. Gloves were considered superfluous. They just trook off their coats, rolled up their sleeves and wheeled their assorted racing jobs on to the track.’

This seminal event exploded the sport into the public eye, and huge crowds attended these first meetings in Australia. Rules began to develop, the bikes shed their ‘inside’ footrest as they kept digging into the dirt at inopportune moments, protective gear was mandated. The day Charlie Spinks flung his motorcycle through the paltry chain link fence ‘protecting’ the crowd was the beginning of proper wooden crowd protection.

Australian promoters were instrumental in popularizing the sport in Great Britain, and England’s first race was held on 7th May, 1927, at Camberley, Surrey. Motor Cycling magazine billed it as ‘the first British Dirt Track Meeting.’ Fay Taylour won the unlimited class final – it was not until 1930 that women were banned from racing.

The Australian riders favoured adapted Douglas SW 5 racing motorcycles because of their low centre of gravity. With the immediate popularity of this new sport, Douglas were quick to launch an adapted version of the SW 5 , the DT 5.

This machine had no brakes or clutch, a 3 speed gearbox, special frame,  dual control twin carburettors and strengthened rear wheel construction, to name just a few dirt track  specialities. Alcohol fuel and a 14:1 compression ratio made this a very fast machine …in fact it was the fastest in its day.

1928 Douglas DT5 494cc OHV Horizontally-Opposed Twin Racer

Matching Engine & Frame Numbers

(Now sold)

This very rare racing motorcycle is a Douglas production model DT5. Even rarer is its specification, as it features the special racing TT carbs. Although the original racing models were built with no clutch, this example has subsequently had one fitted, which means that it can also be ridden on the road.

Only the footrests are missing (we will provide them when we prepare the bike for sale). We’ll also fit a nicer saddle.

It has not been started for the past ten years, but the compression is excellent. The petrol system will need cleaning, which we will do on sale so that it is ready for the new owner to ride.





1927 Douglas DT5 500cc The DT5 was the world’s first purpose-built speedway machine. Offering a 500cc OHV flat-twin with an extremely low centre of gravity, the DT5 suited the leg-trailing riding style on the cinder tracks of that time. It was THE unbeatable machine of the 1927/’28/’29 seasons and any rough-track rider worth their salt rode the DT5.

The popularity of this sport in the late 1920s is difficult to imagine, as it caught the public imagination like wildfire after the sport arrived from Australia. Races which were expected to attract 1,000 spectators were suddenly swamped with 20,000 people! This caused great difficulties with crowd and traffic control but made promoters (and ultimately riders) a great deal of money in at the time.

One of the riders that made the DT5 infamous was a woman called Fay Taylour who was a champion speedway competitor in the late 1920s. Born in 1904 in Ireland, she was travelling the world by the age of 21, racing on the incredibly popular speedway tracks in England, Australia and New Zealand. Fay had remarkable talent and achieved great success until women were banned from ALL speedway tracks in England in 1930; so Fay switched to racing cars and became, naturally, very successful at that sport as well.

‘If a woman is strong enough and enjoys the thrills, if she can take to the sport as the men do, she is in for a good time. But she has to exercise greater care, for it is easier for her to overdo things. Nevertheless, she need not lose her femininity over the job. I know there are people who think that there is something abominable about a woman on the dirt-track. But it merely shows her adaptability. She can be just as normal in the leather gear of a speed merchant as she is in a billowy evening frock.’

[Fay Taylour, 1920s Champion speedway competitor and DT5 pilot]