Peter Brown

BSA’S back­room boy Bri­tish Side­car Cham­pion in 1968 he may have been, but it was bad luck and worse tim­ing that robbed Peter Brown of the greater suc­cess he un­doubt­edly de­served. Pete Craw­ford spoke to the man him­self and dis­cov­ered the ins and outs whil

Classic Racer - - WHAT'S INSIDE -

Tri­als, side­cars, en­gi­neer­ing or sub­marines! Many things with many en­gines make ap­pear­ances amidst the story of one of the most nat­u­ral all-rounders to take up the com­pet­i­tive man­tle. Peter Brown’s story is one that ev­ery mo­tor­cy­cle race fan should know.

“Ac­tu­ally I was ed­u­cated at the same school as Doug Hele, which was Kings Nor­ton Gram­mar and I thought the war was bloody won­der­ful. We all did. We lived on a hillock look­ing down to Bourneville, where Cad­bury was, and one day a twin en­gine bomber, most prob­a­bly a Heinkel 111, came across level with our house drop­ping bombs closely fol­lowed by what I sus­pect was a Hur­ri­cane, which shot it down. “I had a cousin who fought in Hur­ri­cane squadron 501. Squadron Leader Ken­neth Lee. He was my hero and I was go­ing to be a fighter pi­lot you see, but as I grew older I re­alised they were never go­ing to have me, and that was a turn­ing point. It was a case of: ‘I can’t be a fighter pi­lot so just what can I be?’” It was a trip to the 1949 TT, paid for by his mother on the un­der­stand­ing that he passed his school cer­tifi­cate, which changed ev­ery­thing. The likes of Ernie Lyons, Johnny Lock­ett and Fred­die Frith in full flight left a pro­found im­pres­sion. Ca­reers ad­vice was against it but two years in a lo­cal en­gi­neer­ing ap­pren­tice­ship and night school led to work at Copes of Bear­wood, County Cy­cles and PJ Evans work­ing on parts for Bent­leys, among oth­ers. Ul­ti­mately it se­cured a place at Ariel’s. “I worked un­der Len Moss, in the ser­vice depart­ment and served my time with var­i­ous fit­ters, end­ing up with the guy who did the square fours, Sammy Peter. He was metic­u­lous and a stick­ler for dis­ci­pline, which was very good learn­ing for me. I got to work­ing on my own and fill­ing in here and there and I’d started scram­bling and tri­als, as one could pur­chase bits at very rea­son­able prices. Ac­tu­ally the prices were ridicu­lous! “Len had a mate in East Anglia, a big Ariel agent, and I got the job of at least once a year hav­ing this chap’s son’s en­gines, strip­ping them com­pletely, giv­ing them a bit of a tweak. I prob­a­bly had a go at the cylin­der heads and gen­er­ally made a half decent job of build­ing them. Then they used to go into the com­pe­ti­tion shop to be brake tested. “Now, in the com­pe­ti­tion shop the boss was Ernie Smith, who was a fright­en­ing per­son­al­ity, but work­ing for him was a bloke called Clive Ben­nett. All the Ben­nett brothers were mixed up with Ernie Ear­les, but that was how I got to know him ini­tially, at Ariel’s. I never heard any­thing back on those en­gines, but that was the at­ti­tude then, no one ever told you if you’d done a good job.” But he ob­vi­ously had and Clive Ben­nett’s aware­ness was to prove use­ful in the fu­ture. In the short term how­ever a ‘bust­ing’ row with Len Moss saw a de­par­ture from Ariel’s and spells at Birm­ing­ham deal­ers Col­more De­pot and as Mid­land Area Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Isetta bub­ble cars – an episode that could fill a book in it­self. This first flir­ta­tion with three wheels was cut short by an op­por­tu­nity at BSA, which looked too good to be true, and nearly was.

Cas­cades, Oul­ton Park, 1966. Peter leads Nor­man Hanks. Note the ex­tended screen and com­mit­ted eyes from the white BSA boys!

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