That was the year when…

… the ISDT squad was pa­raded in front of the press at Fenny Dray­ton. It was a well at­tended af­fair with the in­dus­try no­ta­bles all over the place.

Classic Dirtbike - - Contents - Words: Tim Brit­ton Pics: Mor­tons Archive

If the at­mos­phere at the of­fi­cial team launch of the UK’S 1966 ISDT bid was any­thing to go by then yes, our teams could pos­si­bly win this pres­ti­gious event. Hopes were high for a suc­cess­ful trip to Swe­den where the ISDT was to be held that year, and the not-so-sur­pris­ing news for those as­sem­bled at the Casa Blanca Motel, Fenny Dray­ton, War­wick­shire in early Au­gust 1966 was the ma­chin­ery sup­plied to the teams. AJS had pro­vided its men with tra­di­tional ma­chines, su­perbly pre­pared; Greeves the same, though Jim San­di­ford’s bike nipped up on the speed test when clos­ing the throt­tle at the end of the MIRA straight starved the en­gine of lu­bri­ca­tion for a few sec­onds but in re­al­ity all eyes were on the Tri­umph and BSA ma­chines.

Mind­ful of the is­sues from the pre­vi­ous year, steps had been taken to ad­dress the prob­lems suf­fered and the press was pre­sented with Tri­umph-en­gined BSAS. Tri­umph’s unit en­gine had a proven re­li­a­bil­ity record, thanks to Jeff Smith, BSA’S Vic­tor Mxer was on top of the world so, why not marry the two and go for gold?

While the press day was a chance for ev­ery­one to see the ma­chines prepped and ready along with their rid­ers, the story had re­ally be­gun in Fe­bru­ary when a large piece in Peter Fraser’s col­umn, On The Rough, in the Mo­tor­cy­cle laid out the aims of the BSA group’s deputy MD. Such an an­nounce­ment her­alded sev­eral changes in ISDT think­ing and per­haps the re­al­i­sa­tion that maybe mix­ing and match­ing good com­po­nents from within the group could be a good idea. Such an an­nounce­ment from the big­gest UK man­u­fac­turer did raise a few hopes

about pro­duc­tion ma­chines based on these mo­tor­cy­cles but these hopes were quashed early on. A firm state­ment clearly stated that these hy­brids were an ISDT ex­er­cise pure and sim­ple.

What the Fe­bru­ary state­ment from the fac­tory did say was 12 ma­chines were to be pro­duced with the bless­ing of the fac­tory man­age­ment. Un­for­tu­nately, as is rea­son­ably well known, com­pany pol­i­tics came into play and rather than work­ing to­gether it seemed as if el­e­ments within each of the fac­to­ries went out to re­strict the co-op­er­a­tion. Tales abound of vi­tal com­po­nents be­ing mis­placed, other parts van­ish­ing, comp de­part­ments say­ing there wouldn’t be time to build the new ma­chines and so on… So bad was the sit­u­a­tion that for the big test at Llan­drindod Wells rather than there be­ing nine of the pro­posed 12 ma­chines avail­able there was only one. In the back­ground to all of this Greeves had al­ready pro­duced its ma­chines and along with AJS had the ac­tual team bikes avail­able for the test. Greeves had even in­vited Peter Fraser to nip to the fac­tory and try out one of the bikes for him­self. Peter did and in bliz­zard con­di­tions spent a day try­ing out the Chal­lenger-en­gined MX3, pro­nounc­ing it ex­cel­lent.

So, as the teams headed for the Welsh test in­stead of the hy­brid ma­chines be­ing avail­able for all, there was in­stead a mix­ture of re­fur­bished 1965 mod­els and four newly built mod­els to that year’s spec. Hardly aus­pi­cious and a great op­por­tu­nity missed for a se­ri­ous shake­down test of the bikes. While the ob­ject of the ex­er­cise had been to try the bikes there were other rea­sons for go­ing to Wales. It was part of the new team man­ager Jack Stocker’s drive to make the UK team the best it could be un­der what­ever cir­cum­stances they would meet dur­ing an event. This meant deal­ing with in­ci­dents such as punc­tures in ad­verse con­di­tions, brak­ing and ac­cel­er­a­tion tests, spark plug chang­ing and trou­ble shoot­ing. Wales pro­vided ad­verse enough con­di­tions and team mem­bers dis­played vary­ing de­grees of abil­ity in al­lot­ted tasks. It should be rea­son­ably ob­vi­ous in an event where re­main­ing on sched­ule is im­por­tant, and any­thing that slows a rider down is bad as it means risks are of­ten taken to make time up. It is from this sort of sce­nario the leg­end arose that a ‘gold’ means ev­ery­thing went right dur­ing the week whereas a silver meant trou­ble.

As the test event went on – 200 miles each day – a num­ber of in­ci­dents caused con­cern as fly­wheels parted on Greeves, an AJS lit­tle end bear­ing seized and sev­eral of the Tri­umphs mis­fired as wa­ter was sucked into the air fil­ters. Dis­play­ing a ded­i­ca­tion to the job Jack Stocker ac­quired some trac­tor in­ner tubes and fab­ri­cated air-fil­ter cov­ers to keep the wa­ter out of the Tri­umphs and then helped AJS me­chanic, Wally Wy­att, re­build the failed AJS – a 350 to be used by Peter Gaunt. The test also al­lowed Lu­cas to trial a new style of ig­ni­tion for the AJS team and pro­nounced it so good all three AMC ma­chines would have it for the ac­tual ISDT.

This ig­ni­tion sys­tem had all of the ben­e­fits of a bat­tery and coil one but with­out the bat­tery, this cre­ated a weak link, as in­stead there was a ca­pac­i­tor from a tele­vi­sion set, flex­i­bly mounted, which pro­vided the steady elec­tri­cal cur­rent to the ig­ni­tion coil. Un­like the of­ten trou­ble­some and tem­per­a­men­tal en­ergy trans­fer sys­tem this ca­pac­i­tor set-up was sim­ple and ro­bust and much in ev­i­dence when the pre65 move­ment got go­ing years later. De­spite the prob­lems and tech­ni­cal is­sues Stocker deemed the Welsh try-out a suc­cess and those who needed to re­solve the is­sues were work­ing to do so and have the bikes ready for the ISDT proper.

The bikes them­selves had been seen in the press and in what was re­garded as be­ing the best-pub­li­cised ISDT at­tempt for many years quite a bit was known about them. It didn’t stop them com­ing un­der close scru­tiny though and while the AJS and Greeves’ ma­chines were pretty amaz­ing in their own right the Tri­umph en­gined BSAS were jaw drop­ping. Just be­fore the Welsh test ses­sion Mo­tor­cy­cling was in­vited along to BSA to view one of the spe­cial ma­chines and spent some time with a lad called Joe Saunt who’d been be­hind the project. Un­fet­tered by the pre­vi­ous year’s fail­ures as he’d only joined the back-room team at the start of the year Joe mar­ried the two best com­po­nents of each make and pro­duced a leg­end. He also pro­duced a prob­lem for the world out­side the fac­tory.

Leg­end has it these bikes were sim­ply ‘parts bin specials’ with a Tri­umph en­gine bunged in a BSA Vic­tor frame. You can al­most hear the bloke down the pub can’t you? “Piece o’cake in­nit, any­one could do it… yeah, I’ll have an­other pint…”

Un­for­tu­nately for ama­teur builders ev­ery­where pro­duc­ing one of these ma­chines isn’t a sim­ple mat­ter of squeez­ing the twin en­gine into the sin­gle frame as the T100 unit is too big – ask any­one who’s tried it. When Mo­tor­cy­cling’s man in­ter­viewed Joe he found the frame was built to Vic­tor En­duro di­men­sions but had been mod­i­fied for the Tri­umph en­gine. Par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion had been paid to po­si­tion­ing the en­gine to keep the Vic­tor weight dis­tri­bu­tion, some­thing that those out­side the fac­tory didn’t al­ways do when try­ing to slot a twin into the Vic­tor. The frame it­self was made from Reynold 531 tub­ing, and so it was quite light al­ready and in Vic­tor use it car­ried the oil-in-frame tubes but for ISDT use the ca­pac­ity wasn’t big enough so a sep­a­rate oil tank was fab­ri­cated to go in the tra­di­tional po­si­tion on the sub-frame. Ad­di­tion­ally the head stock was strength­ened with ex­tra brac­ing. The sub-frame was also mod­i­fied with ex­tra brac­ing where the swing­ing arm pivot which was in it­self a Tri­umph one as a Tri­umph rear wheel would be used to keep the chain line in place. Up at the front were BSA Vic­tor forks in BSA yokes with two-way damp­ing, and wheels were Vic­tor for the front with a 3in x 21in rim and Tri­umph QD at the rear with a 4in x 18 in rim. As alu­minium wasn’t deemed tough enough the rims were high­t­en­sile steel given its twin ad­van­tages of light­ness and strength.

There were a num­ber of pretty neat touches to the hy­brid, a Vokes oil fil­ter, for in­stance, al­lowed some back pres­sure in the lu­bri­ca­tion sys­tem, which forced more oil to the top end of the en­gine as well as sup­ply­ing a chain oiler to lube the rear chain. It was equally clear a lot of at­ten­tion to de­tail had gone on as if a part needed to be ac­cessed quickly or re­moved dur­ing the event then the min­i­mum num­ber of tools was needed to do so… with things like Tommy bars on wheel spin­dles, push-knobs for the

air fil­ter, pull-knobs for the hinged seat; all things which save vi­tal sec­onds dur­ing the cut and thrust of an ISDT.

Per­haps most puz­zling, given its rep­u­ta­tion, was the use of the En­ergy Trans­fer ig­ni­tion sys­tem. Yet, those who un­der­stand how to set it up and how it worked al­ways felt it was a much-ma­ligned sys­tem. What­ever else it did, it pro­vided both ig­ni­tion and light­ing in a sim­pli­fied sys­tem.

The fi­nal spec for these en­gines was laid out at the press day and in­cluded all the mods de­tailed ear­lier but with the ad­di­tion of light al­loy bar­rels to the en­gines, a weight sav­ing of nearly 8lb, a mod­i­fied breather that vented into the pri­mary case, a much lower first gear so the clutch wouldn’t have to be feath­ered in tricky sec­tions, a stain­less steel rear mud­guard af­ter the al­loy ones split and a glass-fi­bre air-fil­ter hous­ing. Slight dif­fer­ences be­tween the Tri­umph and BSA ver­sions in­cluded low ex­haust for Tri­umph rid­ers and high ex­haust for BSA rid­ers. Opin­ion dif­fered on the rea­son for this but an of­fi­cial ex­pla­na­tion was the Vic­tor chas­sis sat slightly lower than the Tri­umph one and thus placed the pipes too near the ground for com­fort.

The Greeves on show at Casa Blanca were sub­stan­tially as Peter Fraser had re­ported in April and con­sisted of a Chal­lenger en­gine in the MX3 frame which, while sim­i­lar to the 1965 frame, was ac­tu­ally a lit­tle shorter. This was ex­pected to im­prove han­dling through twisty sec­tions. Aid­ing this han­dling was the lat­est pat­tern Greeves’ front fork but in­stead of the glass-fi­bre mud­guard an alu­minium one was fit­ted. Greeves had ex­pe­ri­enced a rash of the plas­tic ones break­ing and rather than make a sub­stan­tially heav­ier glass-fi­bre one as it did for the rear, used the al­loy blade.

En­gine mods were aimed at ad­ding re­li­a­bil­ity and in­cluded a shal­lower ta­per on the tim­ing side main shaft to more se­curely lo­cate the fly­wheel. In­side the fly­wheel the light­ing coil was wound in two parts one feed­ing the head­lamp the other the rear lamp and in an emer­gency ei­ther could be used for the other ap­pli­ca­tion… if you see what we mean. A small clutch mod­i­fi­ca­tion saw a length­ened ac­tu­at­ing arm fit­ted in­side the gear­box end cover which gave a lighter and smoother ac­tion. The whole clutch was light­ened by fit­ting light al­loy clutch plates with a slower wear rate.

At the Press day the Thun­der­s­ley two strokes wore ad­di­tional tub­ing un­der the en­gine to pre­vent the pri­mary case from be­ing dam­aged.

The big­gest changes though were re­served for the AJS mod­els as in­stead of three dif­fer­ent ca­pac­i­ties the AMC men were out on newly built 500cc ma­chines. Based on the ex­pe­ri­ences of the pre­vi­ous year it

was deemed bet­ter if all three rid­ers rode iden­ti­cal bikes.

As the rid­ers, re­splen­dent in new Bar­bour jackets, smiled and posed for the press, checked out each other’s ma­chines they were pre­sented with wrist watches by the Smiths In­dus­tries rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Jack Owens, be­fore head­ing over to the MIRA test area where speed test­ing was to be con­ducted. It was as well they did as there was a last-minute hitch or two when Jim San­di­ford’s freshly built Greeves en­gine nipped up and Arthur Lamp­kin’s bike re­fused to start. San­di­ford's prob­lem was traced to lu­bri­ca­tion star­va­tion when shut­ting the throt­tle at the end of the MIRA straight while Arthur’s seem­ingly ma­jor prob­lem was found to be a wire touch­ing the ex­haust pipe. Bert Greeves promised the San­di­ford bike would be run in a lit­tle more and Lu­cas would en­sure all the elec­tri­cal sys­tems would be checked out.

So, how did they do?

Well, the gen­eral verdict was that the UK had put it­self back in con­tention as po­ten­tial win­ners of this event and bar­ring a cou­ple of mi­nor prob­lems might well have taken top hon­ours in Swe­den. The main bug­bears were known be­fore the event and while the ma­chin­ery was su­perb for 1966 it was still heav­ier and slower than the op­po­si­tion used and the team rid­ers couldn’t gain ac­cess to the bikes for much-needed prac­tice be­fore the event. It was felt ad­dress­ing these is­sues would go a long way to in­creas­ing our prospects of a win.

There was praise for the ef­forts of Jack Stocker and Eric Davey who en­sured ev­ery­thing ran smoothly and the pre-event train­ing proved ben­e­fi­cial to ev­ery­one. All in all it was a good ground­ing for 1967’s event in Poland. 

The Tro­phy team lines up for the cam­era, left to right are John Giles, Roy Pe­plow, Arthur Lamp­kin, Ken Heanes, Ray Sayer and Sammy Miller. Team­man­ager Jack Stocker is be­hind Arthur while as­sis­tant Ma­jor Eric Davey REME is partly hid­den by Ken Heanes....

Though the Vic­tor frame car­ried oil- in-the-frame tubes there wasn’t enough ca­pac­ity so an ex­ter­nal one-gal­lon oil tank was fit­ted in­stead. Tri­umph ended up us­ing ‘all Tri­umph’ bikes in­stead of the pro­posed Vic­torstyle framed ver­sions… com­pany pol­i­tics...

Orig­i­nally down to ride a 348cc AJS Peter Gaunt was is­sued with a 500 ver­sion as was the rest of the team. Spares and main­te­nance ex­pe­di­ency was the claim.

Sammy Miller was drafted back in to the Tro­phy Team for 1966 and felt, at last, the Bri­tish ef­fort had­ma­chines up to the task.

Smiths In­dus­tries pre­sented each team mem­ber with a wrist watch. Their man, Jack Owens, shakes John Giles hand as he presents the time­piece as Roy Pe­plow in­spects his watch.

Surely not a lit­tle self- con­scious there John? John Pease is asked to pose with his Greeves… Mo­tor­cy­cle’s off- road jour­nal­ist Peter Fraser finds it amus­ing.

Scott El­lis checks out his 490cc TRIBSA while Peter Stir­land and John Pease look on.

Some typ­i­cal ter­rain for the rid­ers. We’d love to know what BSA boss, Bert Per­rigo, in themid­dle of this group, has said to Tri­umph man, John Giles, but what­ever it was it raised a smile. Giles is on the left, Jack Owens of Smiths In­dus­tries is next to...

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