EXCEL SHOW REPORT
The crowning of the CBOTY winner and all the other news from a sell-out show full of glittering surprises
Once again the Carole Nash/MCN London Motorcycle Show proved a great success, with a record numbers of visitors heading along to London Docklands’ Excel Centre over the three days in February, from Friday 17 to Sunday 19.
The event has found a winning formula with its refreshing mixture of new bikes, adventure bikes, customs and classics – the colourful variety of styles makes for a more mixed crowd of motorcycle enthusiasts than you would normally expect to see at any single event. With a live stage arena in the middle of the hall featuring fun and games with some of the most popular racers of today, the classic and custom areas were located along with the Coys auction in one half of the enormous exhibition hall.
Classic Bike’s sister title Built, which covers custom machines and lifestyle, had a stand for the first time and proved a popular attraction, while the CB stand housed the finalists in this year’s Classic Bike of the Year competition as usual.
Ten outstanding restorations were presented by their owners for display and for the final votes to be cast by showgoers; although online reader votes had been collected over the previous months, it is usually the
voting at the show that decides the result - and this year the 1000 guinea prize went to Les Phelps, with his superb 1939 Matchless ‘SS100’ special winning by over 100 votes from the rest of the field.
Les’s bike is especially interesting because it is effectively the bike that Matchless never made. Although the Plumstead company made a 1000cc overhead-valve V-twin engine that they supplied to Brough Superior and Morgan as a proprietary unit, Matchless didn’t fit it to one of their own V-twins – their mighty Model X had to make do with a side-valve engine throughout its production. So why didn’t Matchless go the extra mile and make their own ohv bike? “I don’t know,” admits Les. “It’s great to ride – really torquey and powerful. It’s a great engine – the only real problem is how hard it was to get it into the frame. If you look, you can see how close it is to the tubes. Matchless did make one ohv twin, it was a prototype for a military sidecar outfit made during World War II. Badged as a Sunbeam (Matchless owned Sunbeam at the time) it was fitted with Matchless tele forks, but it didn’t go into production and was broken up. I’d guess an ohv twin would have just been too expensive to make at the time – I’m certainly penniless after building mine! But I’d like to thank everyone who voted for my bike; I’ve really enjoyed the weekend and it was just a fantastic surprise to find I’d won. I’d have voted for Gordon Lund’s Velocette myself!”
Les wasn’t the only one who left the show happy. The Coys auction on Saturday saw a variety of bikes find new owners, including the fascinating collection of (mainly vintage) machines formerly owned by legendary south-coast Triumph dealer, the late ‘Jock’ Hitchcock. Famous for a stonewall attitude to any customer who dared to come in asking for parts for anything but his beloved Meriden-made models, Jock had nonetheless accrued a selection of other makes in his personal collection, ranging from a sporty oil cooled 1923 Dot-bradshaw to a rare two-stroke 500cc motocross Jawa from 1969. Motorcycle consultant Anthony Godin seemed well pleased with the result of the sale. “It’s long been a dream of mine to bring a quality classic motorcycle auction to the Capital,” he said. “This is only our second year at the MCN Show and although we were pretty satisfied with last year’s result, there has been a definite increase in interest this time that I hope will continue to grow.”
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