The Raleigh Cycle Company Ltd was founded in 1888 in Nottingham, UK as a bicycle manufacturer. In common with many such firms it also began to produce motor cycles and engines in the early 20th century. A limited number of motor cycles were produced up to 1906 and production was not resumed until after the First World War. In addition to producing Raleigh brand machines, the firm supplied engines to other manufacturers in the UK and Germany. During the 1920s a range of single and twin-cylinder engines with both side and overhead valves were produced. These included the ohv 348 c.c and 498 c.c engines which were also used in racing machines with some modifications. Motor cycle racing was extremely popular in Australia in the early 20th century

The Museum's 348 cc overhead valve, 71 mm (bore) x 88 mm (stroke) Raleigh engine was made around 1926. It has built for high-speed work and this type was used as a racing engine. According to the manufacturer it was "capable of maintaining a high power output for long periods". The 1926 Raleigh product catalogue shows this model engine fitted to the Model No. 6 Motor Cycle. This engine was donated to the Museum in 1936 by James Disney (later Sir James Disney) whose firm J.S. Disney Pty Ltd in Elisabeth Street, Melbourne was the local agent for Raleigh and New Imperial motor cycles. The sectioned engine had been imported by Disney in 1927 for demonstration and display purposes at a cost of 40 Pounds.

Disney was a former Australian Flying Corps fighter pilot and champion motor cycle racing rider who won the Phillip Island 200-mile 250 c.c event in 1928. He later served in the Victorian parliament as the member for Higinbotham and was minister for transport and mines in 1945. He was a founding member of the Liberal party and served two terms as Melbourne's Lord Mayor for which he was knighted. He died in 1952.

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