Back­wards Glance

In his teenage years, Tony Gut­teridge owned an un­usual Am­bas­sador and cov­eted a Nor­man B4. Af­ter 55 years he even­tu­ally lo­cated one of each – and now owns both of his dream bikes…

Real Classic - - Ambassador Super Sports - Pho­tos by Tony Gut­teridge

Is­tarted work aged 15 as an elec­tri­cal fit­ter ap­pren­tice on Mon­day 19th De­cem­ber 1960, hav­ing left sec­ondary school the Fri­day be­fore. No ‘gap year’ in those days! Most of the 120 ap­pren­tices at HMS Colling­wood were mo­tor­bike mad and the car park had a won­der­ful col­lec­tion of Bri­tish bikes. My pro­vi­sional li­cence was ready for my 16th birthday, and a Nor­man Lido moped had al­ready been pur­chased from Westree Mo­tors in Maidstone. With L-plates af­fixed, I was on my way. My rid­ing gear was just an over­coat and flat cap, no hel­met be­ing re­quired in those days.

The 250cc learner law had just come in at that time and many of the lads lusted af­ter one of the many sports 250s that were on the mar­ket. These in­cluded the Royal En­field Cru­sader Sports, BSA C15 SS80, Ariel Ar­row Su­per Sports, Match­less G2 CSR, etc. Be­ing a ‘Man of Kent’, I fell in love with the Nor­man B4 Sports, built fairly lo­cally in Ash­ford. The beau­ti­ful, red and ivory Ital­ian-style petrol tank had me lust­ing af­ter one.

In De­cem­ber 1961 I called into my lo­cal Nor­man deal­ers, Brook Mo­tor Cy­cles in Chatham, with the brochure in hand, ready to place my or­der. I was so dis­ap­pointed to be told that Nor­man mod­els were made in batches and no B4s were be­ing pro­duced at that time. I later dis­cov­ered that Tube In­vest­ments (aka Raleigh) had taken over Nor­man for the bi­cy­cle side of the com­pany. They closed the Ash­ford fac­tory and all the re­main­ing parts moved to Smeth­wick. The ex­ist­ing stock was then built into com­plete bikes and when these were sold dur­ing the lat­ter part of 1962 the Nor­man name was no more, apart from badge-en­gi­neered Raleigh mopeds sold un­der the Nor­man Nippy name.

I con­sid­ered al­ter­na­tives like the Ariel Golden Ar­row -- didn’t like the look of the front forks / mud­guard – and BSA C15 SS80, but for some rea­son un­known to me now

I was smit­ten by Villiers two-stroke twins. I de­cided on an Am­bas­sador Su­per Sport on the ba­sis of the road test in Mo­tor­Cy­cling, where the Am­bas­sador came out a cou­ple of mph faster than most other Villiers twins.

The Am­bas­sador was or­dered and duly de­liv­ered by Brook Mo­tor­cy­cles of Chatham in Jan­uary 1962. This I kept for a cou­ple of years then suc­cumbed to parental pres­sure to sell the bike and get a car. I didn’t get back into bikes un­til the late 1970s. Dur­ing my time of Am­bas­sador own­er­ship, I only ever saw one other Sports Su­per S (in the car park at Brands Hatch), so they must have been quite rare.

I’ve kept an eye on the old bike press and au­to­jum­bles ever since, look­ing out for one, even sub­mit­ting a wanted ad­vert a num­ber of years ago with­out much luck. Then through the grapevine I heard that one had sur­faced in Portsmouth and I was able to con­tact the owner, Brian. He was restor­ing it, and agreed to keep me up­dated with his progress.

Af­ter a year or so, Brian de­cided move onto his next pro­ject so, fol­low­ing some bar­ter­ing, he kindly de­liv­ered the Am­bas­sador to me in Jan­uary 2017. Many thanks, Brian! When Brian

pur­chased the bike it was fit­ted with the stan­dard front mud­guard which was a bit ‘fair­ground’ look­ing, and to­tally dif­fer­ent to the al­loy item fit­ted to Sports Su­per S when new. 17” al­loy mud­guards are very dif­fi­cult to find off the shelf, but I was very lucky to find that Au­to­cy­cle En­gi­neer­ing in the Mid­lands would make me one to my own di­men­sions. I had to wait a long time for de­liv­ery but it was cer­tainly worth the de­lay as the qual­ity is very good. Mud­guard stays were made from stain­less steel strip pur­chased from good old eBay.

The bike was also miss­ing a fly­screen, so I guessed the di­men­sions and had one made by a plas­tics com­pany based in Wey­mouth. Fit­tings were made from stain­less steel rod, again pur­chased from eBay. That’s the fin­ish­ing touch which re­turns the Am­bas­sador to its in­tended spec­i­fi­ca­tion. Over the years, I sought and se­cured my first dream bike, the Nor­man B4 Sports. Now it sits in my garage be­side my sec­ond choice (and the one I ac­tu­ally owned in my youth), an Am­bas­sador Sports Su­per S. And they make a fine pair!

Tony and his orig­i­nal Am­bas­sador, back in the early 1960s

The Am­bas­sador Su­per Sport un­der­go­ing restora­tion by its pre­vi­ous owner When Tony took pos­ses­sion of the Am­bas­sador, it still wore its heavy­weight front mud­guard, which re­ally be­longed on the more se­date ‘Su­per S’ model Above: Tony had a fly­screen and suit­able sporty mud­guard fab­ri­cated to re­turn his Am­bas­sador to Su­per Sports specBe­low: And here’s the Am­bas­sador’s stable­mate: Tony’s other dream bike, a Nor­man B4 Sports

Am­bas­sador of­fered two ver­sions of this Villiers twin. Tony’s dream bike was the Su­per Sports: ‘Another thor­ough­bred that meets the de­mands of the sports en­thu­si­ast,’ with ‘dropped han­dle­bars, ligh­tal­loy front mud­guard and cut­away rear en­clo­sure.’ The in­verted, ad­justable tele forks and swing­ing arm sus­pen­sion of­fered ‘per­fect road­hold­ing un­der all con­di­tions’, while the ‘spe­cially tuned, high­com­pres­sion Villiers 250cc twin two-stroke en­gine with large-bore car­bu­ret­tor pro­vides that ex­tra speed’. On top of all that, the model also boasted a four-speed close-ra­tio pos­i­tive-stop gear­box, 7-inch brakes and an ex­tremely sturdy, brazed and welded steel frame

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