Export or die
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engines originally developed for the Spagforth Styx corpse carrier (commissioned by the Burmese Army) was utterly outdated, inefficient, ugly, pathetically underpowered and chronically unreliable, and these were its good points.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...