Ex­port or die

Old Bike Australasia - - WHAT'S ON - Edgar Jes­sop

The ‘six­ties were not kind to Spag­forth. Clearly, their Stron­tium range of mo­tor­cy­cles pow­ered by the un­der-head valve sin­gle cylin­der en­gines orig­i­nally de­vel­oped for the Spag­forth Styx corpse car­rier (com­mis­sioned by the Burmese Army) was ut­terly out­dated, in­ef­fi­cient, ugly, pa­thet­i­cally un­der­pow­ered and chron­i­cally un­re­li­able, and th­ese were its good points.

Still, the Spag­forth works had stock­piled vast quan­ti­ties of mo­tor­cy­cles pow­ered by this beastly con­coc­tion, and the board of di­rec­tors main­tained that the best way to re­duce the in­ven­tory was to flog them in mar­kets where their no­to­ri­ety and in­famy had not yet reached. This was no sim­ple task, as the Stron­tium range had been the sub­ject of more jokes and jibes than the en­tire Ir­ish na­tion.

Coin­ci­den­tally, Sir Carruthers Spag­forth him­self had in­ter­ests in Min­danao, where he grew spaghetti and mac­a­roni trees, which thrived in the lush trop­i­cal cli­mate. When his close friend, the Sul­tan of Maguin­danao, ex­pressed a de­sire to stage a ma­jor mo­tor­cy­cle race on the is­land, Sir Carruthers seized the op­por­tu­nity and dis­patched works rider Edgar Jes­sop, me­chanic Peter Prong, and a spe­cially pre­pared Spag­forth Stron­tium for what he felt would be easy pick­ings and a golden op­por­tu­nity to es­tab­lish an ex­port mar­ket. The team trav­elled by jute raft from Zam­boanga, with na­tive bear­ers car­ry­ing the equip­ment to the cir­cuit on Mount Apo. At 2,900 me­tres above sea level, both the Spag­forth and its rider per­formed well be­low par; the mo­tor­cy­cle’s per­for­mance a shadow of its nor­mally piti­ful self, and Jes­sop suf­fer­ing from a chronic over-in­dul­gence in the lo­cal spirit which is dis­tilled from fer­mented go­rilla fae­ces. The com­bi­na­tion of an al­most deliri­ous Jes­sop and his vile ma­chine lasted less than one lap of the 85 kilo­me­tre course used for the in­au­gu­ral (and only) Grand Prix de Apo, where lo­cal rid­ers swept the board. Hu­mil­i­ated and dis­graced, Jes­sop and his crew beat a hasty retreat, aban­don­ing the Stron­tium which was cap­tured and dis­played in the vil­lage square as an ex­am­ple of ut­ter fu­til­ity and ridicule. The drought of 1962-64 also dev­as­tated Sir Carruthers’ pasta plan­ta­tions, and to­day not a trace of this west­ern in­fil­tra­tion of the is­land re­mains.

TOP The Spag­forth Styx, which used the un­der­head valve en­gine car­ried in the first aid box. LEFT The photo shows the placeget­ters in the Grand Prix de Apo; from left, third placed Spooky Kanakanaka, win­ner Al­bert Jaw­bone, and run­ner up Yippy-io...

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