SURTEES ON GUZZI’S V8

EDI­TOR FROM 1978-1987

Classic Bike (UK) - - CONTENTS - MN

Mike Nicks re­calls CB’S early days, and in­tro­duces JS test­ing Guzzi’s epic 500

Iwasn’t the right per­son for the job when I took over Clas­sic Bike for its sec­ond is­sue. I started rid­ing – 250cc BSA C15, BSA and Tri­umph 650s, 250cc Royal En­field Con­ti­nen­tal GT – in the dy­ing years of Brit bikes. But CB founder Peter Wat­son had left to join Bike mag­a­zine, and I said to the pub­lish­ing com­pany: “I’ll put to­gether a cou­ple of is­sues un­til you find a proper edi­tor”.

I stayed for seven years. I couldn’t be­lieve what de­lights I found in mo­tor­cy­cling’s past. Matchless had pro­duced a gor­geous 600cc over­head-cam V4 road bike, the Sil­ver Hawk, in 1931 – 50 years be­fore Honda pro­duced its first V4 road­ster. AJS raced a wa­ter-cooled, su­per­charged, 500cc ohc V4 Grand Prix bike in 1939. I’d as­sumed the past had been mainly plod­ding side-valve sin­gles.

I plunged into this world like an ex­plorer dis­cov­er­ing a lost city in the jun­gles of South Amer­ica. The Ja­panese rush of cylin­ders and power in the ’60s and ’70s seemed to have sucked from peo­ple’s minds any knowl­edge or ap­pre­ci­a­tion of any­thing prior to the Honda CB750. It was said at the time that you could buy a lor­ry­load of Tri­umphs for a fiver.

I tried to trans­mit my sense of al­most child­like won­der about mo­tor­cy­cling’s her­itage to the pages of Clas­sic Bike. I was in my mid-thir­ties, and I reck­oned that if I felt as I did there must be oth­ers of my gen­er­a­tion who thought like me. Rock­et­ing cir­cu­la­tion fig­ures proved that to be true. His­toric mo­tor­cy­cling had pre­vi­ously had no na­tional voice, but Clas­sic Bike gave it that fo­rum in those pre-in­ter­net times. Own­ers clubs, parts mak­ers, re­stor­ers and rid­ers could all now in­ter­con­nect. I wanted CB to do much more than just eu­lo­gise the past; I wanted it be about clas­sic mo­tor­cy­cles to­day. What’s a BSA Gold Star DBD34 or a Gil­era Saturno re­ally like to ride? What breaks, who makes the bits, what’s a real­is­tic price to pay? I never po­si­tioned my­self as an ex­pert, ex­cept per­haps on putting a mag­a­zine to­gether. Much of the writ­ing I com­mis­sioned from the few peo­ple of my gen­er­a­tion who knew some­thing about clas­sics. For a while we even had John Surtees (above right) as our track tester – and his mem­o­rable Moto Guzzi V8 test is over the page. I could have used the old guard, but they tended to write in the pompous style of their era. ‘Some vi­bra­tion was ap­par­ent,’ they would say of a de­vice that rat­tled your go­nads off.

Ex­cept Vic Wil­loughby (in the mid­dle, bot­tom right). He wrote for weekly mags in the ’50s and ’60s with an ob­jec­tiv­ity his pals seemed to lack. Any­thing by Vic tells you what mo­tor­cy­cling was ac­tu­ally like be­fore CB re­dis­cov­ered it.

‘WE HAD JOHN SURTEES AS OUR TRACK TESTER...’

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