Isle of Man Manx Grand Prix
Readers will recall that in OBA 53, Alan Cathcart did a test ride on the famous ex-Tom Arter G50 Matchless usually referred to as Wagon Wheels owing to the cast wheels designed by the rider Peter Williams. I was fortunate this year to travel to the Isle of Man for the Manx Grand Prix. There was an open day at Jurby called Festival of Speed. It was there that I was able to photograph Wagon Wheels together with the well known American rider, Dave Roper, and the owner of Team Obsolete, Rob Iannucci. Dave was second twice in the Manx Grand Prix and won the 1984 Senior Historic TT. He rode in a Legends display that day as well as a lap of the Isle of Man TT course several days later. Dave is a friendly approachable bloke and happy to have a chat about his time in Australia with the likes of Bill Horsman. I was curious to find out the differences, if any between Wagon Wheels and other G50s that Dave had ridden. He told me that it is slow steering as there is little leverage with the narrow clip-ons inside the fairing and the Manx Norton geometry. Also the front tyre would be probably wider than that used back in the time that Williams was riding the machine. Dave is taller than Williams so it is hard for him to keep his knees inside his elbows unless he sits well back. When he corners he likes to slide forward and imagine putting his knee up by the front axle, then it is awkward to get his knees inside his elbows when he tucks down for the straight. He feels confident in saying that Wagon Wheels had less power in 1973 when Williams did a 102.74 mph lap than what he had on a 1959 G50 Matchless that he set the fastest lap of 102.52 in the 1989 Senior Classic Manx G.P. Additionally he considers that he had better tyres and the course was no doubt quicker with some straightening, widening and smoothing of Quarry Bends among other places. Dave considers that not only was Peter Williams a top rider but he had an extensive knowledge of the circuit. A conrod from this famous machine was used as part of the trophy for the best finishing AJS or Matchless at this year’s Grand Prix and was awarded to Cameron Donald for his fourth place on the AJS 7R photographed in the last issue.