The end of the Greeves era


It would be a rain lashed 46th run­ning of the Vic­tory Trial by the Birm­ing­ham MCC in early March 1971 where Derek Ad­sett would record his only suc­cess on the Puch en­gined Greeves Pathfinder. The once mighty and proud Greeves com­pe­ti­tion mo­tor­cy­cles built in Great Bri­tain had tasted suc­cess in the past, but the glory days were now all but over. Us­ing Vil­liers en­gined ma­chines they had proved suc­cess­ful in the hands of Bill Wilkin­son, who won the 1964 Scott and 1969 Scot­tish Six Days Trial. His younger brother Mick along with Tony Davis, Gor­don Far­ley and Ad­sett, to name but a few, had also tasted suc­cess win­ning na­tional com­pe­ti­tions. Vil­liers had an­nounced in late July 1968 that they were ceas­ing pro­duc­tion of the 37A tri­als en­gine and from that day on Greeves were in de­cline, along with so many other Bri­tish tri­als man­u­fac­tur­ers that also re­lied on the en­gines to power their ma­chin­ery. The Aus­trian Puch en­gined Greeves ma­chines be­came avail­able way too late and were not prop­erly de­vel­oped against the Span­ish on­slaught of Bultaco, Montesa and Ossa. One week af­ter the Col­more, Scott El­lis would win the Cotswold Cup and in Oc­to­ber Mick Wilkin­son would take the fi­nal Pathfinder model vic­tory on a much mod­i­fied ma­chine at the Travers Cup held the day af­ter the Scott Trial. Words: John Hulme, Mor­ton’s Archives, Mo­tor Cy­cle • Pic­tures: Alan Vines

What came to light when we were gen­er­at­ing the ar­ti­cle by first look­ing at the re­sults was the num­ber of dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers in the re­sults: BSA, Bultaco, Cot­ton, Dales­man, Greeves, Montesa, Ossa, Sara­cen, Sprite, Suzuki, Tri­umph and the Gaunt Ducati special — 12 in to­tal. Euro­pean power would pro­vide the en­gines for Cot­ton with Minarelli from Italy, Dales­man and Greeves with Puch from Aus­tria as Sara­cen and Sprite used Sachs en­gines from Ger­many.

Over the next few years this cot­tage in­dus­try of ma­chine builders would fall to the might of both the Span­ish and Ja­panese man­u­fac­tur­ers. Notable rid­ers miss­ing from the event, as they were con­test­ing the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship round in France, were the win­ner and even­tual cham­pion Mick An­drews (Ossa), Rob Ed­wards (Montesa), Mal­colm Rath­mell (Bultaco), Dave Thorpe (Ossa) and the Montesa pair of Lawrence Telling and Char­lie Har­ris.

A Full House

Na­tional mo­tor­cy­cle tri­als were very well sup­ported both with rid­ers and Works sup­ported ma­chin­ery. It’s no sur­prise, when you con­sider that they had a sin­gle lap, thirty-one mile course tak­ing in fifty haz­ards based around the Knighton, Rad­nor­shire area of Wales, that it at­tracted a full house of one-hun­dred-and-twenty-two rid­ers. More haz­ards had been planned but a short­age of ob­servers had meant these could not be used. The event had been laid out by the club’s en­thu­si­as­tic team of helpers in dry con­di­tions, and some of the more am­bi­tious haz­ards soon be­came im­pos­si­ble in the very wet con­di­tions.

The solo rid­ers started their day on the rocks at Dolyfe­lin one where lo­cal mo­tocross rider, Andy Rober­ton on his Bultaco, recorded the first clean ride — much to the ap­plause of his lo­cal Cen­tral Wales club who were ob­serv­ing the haz­ard. Other clean rides would be recorded by Bultaco team rid­ers Alan and Martin Lampkin and eigh­teen-year-old Rob Shep­herd (Bultaco).

On the other haz­ards at Dolyfe­lin Two, which was a steep in­cline over ex­posed tree roots, Alan Lampkin and Shep­herd both went clean along with Jack Gal­loway (Sara­cen) and sim­i­lar mounted Jon Bliss, who was look­ing very dainty in his fur hat and gold coloured rid­ing suit, and Ross Win­wood on his home-built BSA en­gined Wal­win.

Cau­tious Ad­sett Us­ing his depth of knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence even­tual win­ner Derek Ad­sett had only parted with sin­gle marks in the first four groups of haz­ards and was an early leader at the half dis­tance mark af­ter his clos­est chal­lenger Alan Lampkin had con­ceded a five on the rocks at the Lugg haz­ards. The per­sis­tent rain and windy weather was now mak­ing the haz­ards very dif­fi­cult and at the re­mote and ex­posed moor­land haz­ards clean rides were very much at a pre­mium with only Ad­sett, Jim San­di­ford (Bultaco), Ian Hay­don (Montesa) and ex-Greeves works rider Bill Wilkin­son on the Ossa record­ing a clean sheet.

With the event now ap­proach­ing the end the steep cam­bered climb con­tain­ing two haz­ards at Tan­so­ma­lia proved vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble. Most of the lead­ing rid­ers set­tled for a five-mark penalty on the open­ing haz­ard to gain a bet­ter en­try into the sec­ond one. Three-mark penal­ties were recorded by Alan Lampkin, Nor­man Eyre (Ossa) and the Mid-Wales cham­pion Bernard Gore on his Bultaco, who were the only ones who passed the ends card.

The very last haz­ard of the day at Wernygeufron would de­cide the win­ner though as Ad­sett, Lampkin and Far­ley were all on the same num­ber of marks lost. An over­hang­ing tree branch stopped a clear at­tack at the tight hair­pin bend, and as both Far­ley and Lampkin stopped Ad­sett parted with a well-placed sin­gle dab to take the Vic­tory Trial win. Side­cars We are sorry to say that the re­sults we have are very vague, and sourc­ing pho­to­graphs from the event proved im­pos­si­ble. What we do know is that Ray Round (BSA) took the hon­ours in front of Bob Colein (Metisse) for the third time this year. The early leader had been Jack Mathews (BSA) but Round look a grasp on the event win­ning by an eleven mark mar­gin as only eight of the orig­i­nal 12 rid­ers who had started fin­ished.

Brian Hutchin­son

(125 Sprite): Af­ter suc­cess­fully com­pet­ing on the Vil­liers en­gined Sprite ma­chines Brian made a suc­cess­ful switch to the Sachs power that man­u­fac­turer Frank Hip­kins had moved to. 16: Roy Pe­plow (250 Bultaco): Ear­lier in the year Roy passed away but will al­ways be re­mem­bered as a very com­pet­i­tive rider dur­ing a suc­cess­ful ca­reer on Bri­tish ma­chin­ery. As with ev­ery­body else he made the move to the all-con­quer­ing Span­ish brands in the early sev­en­ties.

John Hem­ing­way (125 Suzuki): This is one of the very first pic­tures of the soon-to-be-re­leased Suzuki 120cc tri­als ma­chines. Us­ing the TC 120cc six-speed Suzuki en­gine sus­pended be­neath the light alu­minium sheet pop-riv­eted frame the mono­coque has a cast mag­ne­sium steer­ing head us­ing nee­dle roller bear­ings. The ma­chines with a claimed weight of 140lb were built by Suzuki at their fac­tory in Croy­don.

Jim San­di­ford (250

Bultaco): Al­ways with a keen eye for busi­ness, Jim would take over the north­ern dis­tri­bu­tion of Montesa tri­als ma­chines in 1972 as John Brise looked af­ter the south of the coun­try. At the close of 1972 Montesa had sold 27,000 mo­tor­cy­cles world­wide and, with Brise suf­fer­ing health prob­lems, on the 1st Jan­uary 1973 San­di­ford be­came the sole UK im­porter for Montesa. Seen here on a Bultaco his move to Montesa se­cured the fu­ture suc­cess of the brand not only in the UK but also world­wide.

Brian Hig­gins (250

Bultaco): Tak­ing the Best Un­der 18 award was no mean achieve­ment by the young Hig­gins. He had gained sup­port from the UK Bultaco im­porters Comer­fords be­fore mov­ing to the Sammy Miller team rid­ing the Bultaco pow­ered Hi-Boy ma­chine. In 1975 he would be­come in­volved with the fourstroke Honda tri­als pro­ject with Miller. Brian can now be found still in­volved in tri­als at the high­est level with Sport7 at the Trial World Cham­pi­onships.

Rob Shep­herd (250

Bultaco): Com­pet­ing on his Nor­man Crooks spon­sored Bultaco, eigh­teen-year-old farmer’s son Shep­herd was run­ning riot in the York­shire Cen­tre tri­als. Hav­ing started out on a Greeves Scot­tish be­fore pro­gress­ing to a Cot­ton and then a Montesa he would take a win the day af­ter the Vic­tory Trial, tak­ing once again the scalps of many more es­tab­lished stars.

Arthur Brown­ing (175 Greeves): An­other good all round off-road rider, Brown­ing was one of many rid­ers who suc­cess­fully mixed the dif­fer­ent off-road sports dis­ci­plines over a long sport­ing ca­reer.

Roy Pe­plow (250 Bultaco):

Ear­lier in the year Roy passed away but will al­ways be re­mem­bered as a very com­pet­i­tive rider dur­ing a suc­cess­ful ca­reer on Bri­tish ma­chin­ery. As with ev­ery­body else he made the move to the all-con­quer­ing Span­ish brands in the early sev­en­ties.

Mick Bow­ers (175 BSA):

De­spite the fact that BSA had with­drawn all fac­tory rider sup­port Mick had con­tin­ued to ride and de­velop this Bantam tri­als model. How many times has the ques­tion been asked as to why the stub­born man­age­ment at BSA let this gem of a mo­tor­cy­cle pass through their hands? A few years later Yamaha in­tro­duced the TY 175cc model and, as they say, the rest is his­tory.

Nor­man Eyre (250 Ossa):

In 1961 rid­ing a Tri­umph Tiger Cub this Der­byshire based rider had beaten the world’s best rid­ers to win the Vic­tory Trial.

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