What we liked at the Bris­tol Bike Show

Oli rides to the Bris­tol clas­sic bike show and digs us out some of his favourites

Classic Bike Guide - - Con­tents -

Our pick of the ma­chines from Shep­ton Mallet

ABRIGHT BUT chilly ride pi­lot­ing the mighty BSA Starfire on slip­pery Som­er­set roads was an in­vig­o­rat­ing start to the Ca­role Nash Bris­tol Clas­sic Mo­tor­cy­cle Show week­end for me. The show was brack­eted by tor­ren­tial down­pours and storm-force winds, but for once the ac­tual show week­end was blessed with Fe­bru­ary sunshine – and a stiff breeze whistling across the site.

There are many things that make Bris­tol – well, Shep­ton Mallet ac­tu­ally, around 20 miles from Bris­tol – worth the trip, not least the el­bow room. Clubs get big pitches to play with and though the wind kept most folk in­doors, apart from those queu­ing for a pasty or a ba­con sand­wich, there was still enough room and va­ri­ety to sat­isfy jaded win­ter pal­ettes.

The best thing about the Bris­tol Show, as al­ways, was the sheer va­ri­ety of bikes on show. There’s next to no du­pli­ca­tion, and a ver­i­ta­ble horde of the scarce and the un­usual. In the big sheds the or­gan­is­ers had man­aged to pick out some real rar­i­ties, in­clud­ing a James scooter, a Velocette Vogue and two pre­war Match­less V-twins.

The VMCC was well rep­re­sented with mul­ti­ple stands and Wells Clas­sic Mo­tor­cy­cle Club picked up best stand again, this time for the cre­ation of a pe­riod lay-by com­plete with straw­berry seller and tea shack.


Ge­off Stray’s Pan­ther V-twin has been un­der de­vel­op­ment for some years and took pride of place on the Pan­ther Own­ers’ Club stand, where the re­ac­tion from vis­i­tors was usu­ally punc­tu­ated with gasps of ad­mi­ra­tion. With two M120 bar­rels grafted onto a hand-made crank­case dropped into a Dresda-made Featherbed-type frame, the at­ten­tion to de­tail and de­li­cious hand bent pipework is noth­ing short of a work of ge­nius.


Colin Cham­bers’ 1904 Hum­ber Olympian Fore­car was orig­i­nally used by Siegfried Sas­soon, later to find fame as a poet, whose fam­ily owned it un­til 1952. It was bought by a mem­ber of Colin’s fam­ily for £40.

A run­ner to­day, the trike reg­u­larly takes part in runs with the Brid­port Clas­sic Bike club. It has the orig­i­nal frame, which was made with Rus­sian steel – some­thing of a mark of qual­ity for buy­ers be­fore the First World War; the orig­i­nal mud­guards; with the only ma­jor changes be­ing the fit­ting of a larger 1903 ra­di­a­tor. Sus­pen­sion is lim­ited to the use of two long curved steel strip springs hold­ing the front seat on and pro­vid­ing a mod­icum of com­fort for the ex­posed pas­sen­ger.

Colin says the prim­i­tive brak­ing sys­tem, fea­tur­ing a set of bi­cy­cle type wheel rim brakes at the rear and a small drum on each of the front wheels, with leather straps that tighten around the drum when the brakes are ap­plied, can be a lit­tle chal­leng­ing on the road.


There is al­ways a good se­lec­tion of Velocette sin­gles at any clas­sic show, the mar­que be­ing pop­u­lar with re­stor­ers and own­ers. But you won’t see many like Brian Chidgey’s 350 MAF.

In 1939 a Velocette MAC and an MSS were pur­chased by the War Of­fice for test­ing its suit­abil­ity for mil­i­tary use. A mod­i­fied ver­sion of the mil­i­tarised MAC, the MAF was de­vel­oped with a tank-mounted air fil­ter and a big­ger head­light, with a cast iron tim­ing cover used to save valu­able alu­minium, and steel footrests and con­trols to save on the use of rub­ber.

Brian got his MAF through a friend in the Velocette club and bought it as it was oth­er­wise go­ing abroad. Reg­is­tered for civil­ian use in 1946, it was re­painted red, be­fore be­ing re­stored with a mil­i­tary paint scheme. Brian says it han­dles just as well as his 1952 MAC and has a re­vised gear­box with the change se­quence re­versed to al­low it to match other ser­vice bikes, and with a spe­cial low first gear.

There are bump stops on the front forks to help it cope with off-road rid­ing, the tool­box is mounted up­side down so the flap opens pro­vid­ing a use­ful parts tray, and there’s a hole in the rear mud­guard stay to hold a two-piece spare spark plug.


An­other rar­ity, in the UK at least, was Mike Lar­combe’s Mo­to­trans Du­cati 350. When Du­cati stopped mak­ing their famed bevel drive sin­gles in the late 1970s the plant was shipped to Spain where the older de­sign was built un­der li­cence. Mo­to­trans Du­cati made 250, 350 and 450 ver­sions of the wide crank­case sin­gles. This smart ex­am­ple was bought for just un­der £2000, and is, he says “a cheap way of get­ting into OHC Du­cati sin­gles”.

Al­ter­ations from the orig­i­nal are lim­ited to a kph-mph speedo con­verter, an up­rated 12v elec­tric sys­tem and re­place­ment head­light. Mike says the 350 was orig­i­nally used by a Du­cati ex­pert as a fly­ing test­bed, with the orig­i­nal Span­ish en­gine reg­u­larly ripped out and re­placed by a se­ries of Du­cati en­gines fol­low­ing re­builds, hence the non-stan­dard ex­haust and Dell’Orto carburetto­r.


While on the hunt for the un­usual, we spot­ted this splen­did Vic­to­ria Bergmeis­ter, the im­mac­u­late win­ner of the best three-wheeler tro­phy. The 350cc V-twin is ru­moured to have bankrupted the Ger­man Vic­to­ria com­pany, thanks to its com­pli­cated de­sign.

The carburetto­r is mounted un­der a cover to the rear of the cylin­ders, with the in­takes hid­den in tun­nels cast into the rear of the cylin­ders. It is also blessed with de­signer Richard Kuchen’s per­sonal pas­sion, a gear­box that used du­plex chains to con­nect ev­ery­thing up. Al­though this does re­quire a lot of mov­ing parts it is ac­tu­ally very sim­ple with the box us­ing dogs to en­gage the cor­rect gear. Kuchen also de­signed an up­dated Zun­dapp 601 and the Hoff­man Gou­verner, be­fore cre­at­ing the Bergmeis­ter.

Just as British man­u­fac­tur­ers were be­com­ing ob­sessed with en­clo­sures, so the Ger­mans de­cided that the most im­por­tant de­sign con­sid­er­a­tion was clean lines, hence the de­sire to hide away so many parts. There’s a shaft fi­nal drive, plunger sus­pen­sion and a QD Steib side­car that can be re­moved rapidly, turn­ing the combo into a solo in a mat­ter of min­utes.

Owned by Roger Burge who got it from re­storer Bernie Stevens, the combo was the loveli­est of things, and a chal­lenge to re-cre­ate from a pile of boxes found on Ger­man eBay in Wies­baden.


To look at it you wouldn’t think that this rare Swiss­made

Uni­ver­sal has nearly 100,000kms un­der its wheels. Made in 1959 the 570cc flat twin was made en­tirely in the Swiss fac­tory and al­though look­ing like the Ger­man ma­chine they were care­ful not to copy any parts in or­der to avoid li­cence fees.

The model was not pro­duced in large num­bers and only five oth­ers re­main world­wide with this shaped tank. Owner Gareth Burnard said: “My fa­ther bought this some 20 years ago and it was used by both of us un­til the clutch fi­nally gave up. The en­gine and gear­box came out in 2017 and new parts were made. I have been us­ing it on var­i­ous club runs over the last few years af­ter my fa­ther passed away and the bike be­came mine. The bike has now cov­ered 98000km and still plods along nicely.”


An­other bike from a Brid­port Club mem­ber was this MV Agusta Pull­man, which proves you don’t need megabucks to own an MV. The 1954 125cc twin port sin­gle was built into a scooter frame, with one damper be­hind the en­gine, and two more shocks to the rear. It has small scooter sized wheels. The en­gine and rear fork are one unit, while the frame moves up and down. The gearchange is a scooter-style left-hand twist grip.

In pro­duc­tion for four years, the Pull­man was im­ported to the UK from France and sold to Paul Cleaver for £2000 at the last Stafford show. De­spite the un­usual sus­pen­sion set up, Paul says the MV is beau­ti­ful to ride, with a heady top speed of around 40mph.

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