Motoring down memory lane rare machine arrives at Black Country Living Museum

A 1959 DKR Defiant scooter, manufactured by the now defunct Wolverhampton-based automotive manufacturer DKR, has been acquired by the Museum and is now on display, helping to keep this little-known story of automotive history alive.

Relatively affordable, reliable and convenient to use, scooters became a popular means of transport during the 1950s and 60s. Retailing at £188 1s 3d (approximately £4,488) when new, the DKR Defiant was a Black Country-built machine that aimed to capture a share of this market.

Established in 1957, DKR took its initials from the three founders of the company: Barry Day, Cyril Kieft and Noah Robinson. Many of the scooter parts, including the body panels, were made locally by the Willenhall Motor Radiator Company, with the machine itself assembled in workshops at Pendeford Airport, Wolverhampton. 

Powered by a 197cc fan-cooled Villiers two-stroke engine and a four-speed gearbox, the scooter could reach a respectable top cruising speed of around 60mph. The Defiant had a rather unusual styling, with the large front fairing offering good weather protection for the rider. Another unusual design feature was a storage locker, with a drop-down lid that converted into a small picnic tray for meals or drinks on the go.   

Commenting on the acquisition, the Museum’s Transport Manager, Tim Shields, said: “The DKR Defiant is a rare example of a Black Country-built scooter, of which few survive. This stylish, high quality and well-engineered machine fills an important gap in our collection. Not only were they a user-friendly means of transport, but scooters also came to symbolise Mod culture and youth fashion.

“This is a theme we will be exploring as part of our new development. Our 1940s-60s high street, due to open later this year, will give us the opportunity to share these stories.”

Although DKR launched several models of scooter, production ceased in 1966. This was largely due to falling sales and increased competition from foreign manufacturers, such as the Italian-built Vespa and Lambretta, which eventually came to dominate the market throughout Europe.

Visitors will be able to take a look at the DKR Defiant alongside the rest of the Museum’s transport collection, which also includes motorcycles by Black Country manufacturers, a 1924 Guy-Morris fire engine and several buses and trolleybuses.