There has been lots to see at the Classic Mechanics Show, and at the National Motorcycle Museum’s Open Day
Is it Christmas yet, or possibly it has passed by the time the magazine arrives. In the first case, PUB wishes readers a Merry Christmas, or in the latter case a Happy New Year. May your motorcycles all be trouble-free, and your restorations be straightforward and low cost.
October did not see very much achieved in the garage – a rather cold spell did not help. A feeble attempt was made to fit the aftermarket clutch to the single-speed Triumph, to make it a little more rideable for its ageing pilot. However, this failed dismally due to the taper failing to fit the engine shaft. The latter had been carefully measured up, in order for the appropriate part to be machined with a matching taper, but clearly something has gone wrong. In any case, the item proves to be big, heavy, and very much overhung from the stubby engine shaft, and worse still will occupy the same space as PUB’s feet, and the brake pedal. Currently it has been discarded for a rethink, or possibly some re-engineering.
However whilst tinkering, the Triumph was at least taken out for a test ride, and started easily utilising a nearby slope (after lying idle for most of the year). PUB did have a go at run-and-jump starting on the level, but although successful it was a worrying wobbly affair and not very encouraging. Nevertheless an entry has been lodged for the Pioneer Run, but how she will manage remains to be seen – probably soliciting a lot of pushes from bystanders? So PUB encourages readers to go and watch (March 24), preferably one or two at every junction, traffic light, or hill!
Last month PUB mentioned the Bonhams’ Barber Museum auction. Who would have thought that a Husqvarna Cross 400 would fetch £175,276? The explanation is that the bike was ex-Steve McQueen and featured in the film ‘On Any Sunday’ – he remains an iconic figure whose intangible association with an object is worth more than the object itself. The same ownership raised the price of a used Bell helmet to £16,634, and a Vincent Comet to £48,096! Other Vincents actually failed to sell, perhaps because an estimate of $400-500,000 proved too rich even for a Black Lightning. Top price, although only equalling that of the McQueen Husqvarna, went to a very rare 1928 Windhoff 746cc four cylinder, followed by $137,000 (£104,177) for an original 1974 Ducati 750SS. However silly readers think current exotic prices are, the Ducati was well worth the money says PUB (who dreams about a 750SS).
Whilst on the subject of auctions, the Classic Mechanics Show produced yet more high (or read ‘outrageous’) prices, mainly around Brough Superiors. Vincent prices were once again pretty flat – so maybe now is the time to buy one? The most surprising Brough, though, which cost its new owner £264,500, was only a kit of parts and not necessarily complete, although it is a ‘matching numbers’ job. Whew. Presumably its history is the explanation, as the bike is well recorded, having been supplied to C.F. Edwards for sand racing, and is pictured in period publications. The catalogue description also records this SS100 as pre-dating the Alpine Grand Sport which may be significant amongst aficionados.
Should anyone want a Norton-JAP it is probably cheaper to build one than to try and buy, for the ex-Francis Williams sprinter ‘Saltdean Special’ required an £80,500 pocket to buy. The much publicised Böhmerland ‘Langtouren’ 3-seater (in countries where that is/was legal) made £63,250 – but before ridiculing the price just try and find another one.
Was there nothing cheap, readers may ask? Well, £4,600 bought a 1961 BSA Bantam/ British Anzani special with plenty of history. It was built by David Blanchard, using a prototype water-cooled 250cc twin British Anzani engine that he spied in a corner of the factory when visiting for another purchase. The bike he built around this engine went on to win third prize in ‘ The Motor Cycle’ competition for homebuilt specials, and appeared in the August 1962 magazine. The sale price even included a spare engine, probably the only other one ever made. Lastly, a 1956 Indian Brave only needed £3,450 to buy, but it is down to the reader to decide whether that was cheap for a ride ‘powered’ by a 250cc Brockhouse sidevalve engine. However, to put those figures in context, each of the last two bikes still cost less than the £5,250 that someone paid for a 1905 poster at the sale preceding the London to Brighton veteran car run.
PUB was only able to attend the Stafford show on Sunday, which was a bad day for the outside stallholders and jumble, due to rain – many just packed up and went home. Inside, however, there was plenty to see as usual, but with PUB on the lookout for the unusual as ever. Sammy Miller provided exotic bikes for the Footman James stand, with two stroke V-4 racing bikes by Jawa and Villa. The 1969 80bhp 350cc Jawa had a bad reputation for seizing in its early days – water-cooling and the 8 individual oil-feed pipes that PUB noted no doubt helped, but those were the days when racers needed lightning reactions on the clutch. The Villa, unfortunately, arrived too late on the GP scene and was outlawed by new regulations before it could show its potential.
In the less exotic world of autocycles and cyclemotors, as displayed by the NACC there was a pretty little ‘Epsom’, although so closely packed in that PUB could not get a very good photograph. Tragatsch does not list
the make, and both Wikipedia and Google also remain silent, but the bare details are that it is a French ‘vélomoteur’ dating from 1930 and featuring a 70cc 2-speed Sachs engine. Elsewhere Martin Robinson’s striking 1948 Series 1 B model 125cc Lambretta was sufficiently early to retain some of the A model features. With the engine and frame fully exposed it proves that enclosure in sidepanels was not the only feature that made scooters successful – for Lambretta did rather well. They did, however, quickly adopt those clean sidepanels.
The next meeting, which was, if anything, even better for meeting readers, was the National Motorcycle Museum Open Day. If you are within riding distance and do not attend this event, then you are seriously missing out. As well as the ‘craic’, the day
includes a small autojumble,
interviews with stars of the past (and not always even the past), restoration demonstrations, and a few exotic museum bikes starting up. All of that is topped by free entry into the museum – and if you cannot find something of interest in there then clearly British iron is not for you.
For this event, not too far from home, the PUB Vincent was brought out, notwithstanding that it is getting harder to manage. Jim Lugsden, in October’s RC174, suggests that a sidecar might be the answer to fading strength. Thanks for the thought, but currently a failing hip objects to too much starting, making that more of an issue than weight.
On the RC stand Rowena enthused over a BMW310, that company’s new lightweight and suggested it as a suitable electric leg (at least it was a better suggestion than the Bantam comment appended to Jim’s letter). A Les Harris Matchless could have offered a more acceptable British (mostly) alternative, but Frank had just sold his – boo. However procrastination rules, so the PUB Vincent is just ridden a bit less, rather than being extensively modified for the time being.
The museum exhibits include one which is very closely related to PUB’s pre-war project, so she wanted a really close look at that, or at least as close as the roping would allow. Getting a close-up photo involved pushing her luck, and the fear that a security camera would prompt burly staff to come and remonstrate – but fortunately that did not happen. Early stuff abounds, with a variety of only-just twentieth century forecars – one in the foyer featuring an inverted tooth chain final drive, and another (a Quadrant) featuring two engines.
Sidecar gunships have seemed to be in the news recently, and the museum has its own – a first war Clyno/Vickers and a second war Norton/Bren-gun, both being the preferred choice of the British Forces. Everyone knows that the Triumph Grand-Prix used the alloy barrel developed for a wartime generator
In what was then Czechoslovakia, Böhmerland made their distinctive long wheelbase machines. Longest of them all was the 3-seater ‘Langtouren’, with empty space filled by two gearboxes behind their own 603cc engine!
Above: Rare French ‘Epsom’ appeared on the NACC (National Autocycle and Cyclemotor Club) stand at Stafford. The make does not appear in Tragatsch’s encyclopaedia, or indeed on the Internet, but dates from 1930 and features a 70cc two-speed Sachs engine
Jim Lugsden (RC176, October) suggested that a sidecar would make the PUB Vincent easier to manage. In fact there is such a sidecar, very occasionally fitted. However, it is only a partial solution, whilst introducing other issues such as where to park (many years ago it lived on the street, but it is doubtful how long it would survive there nowadays)
Martin Robinson’s striking 1948 Series 1 B model 125cc Lambretta is claimed to be a ‘crossover’ machine, retaining some features of the A models. The front suspension is also noteworthy
The two-stroke GP era was plagued by seizures, requiring lightning reactions from top riders’ clutch hands. Water cooling helped, but this complex of oil feeds on the V-4 Jawa shows that it was a serious issue
Only visible to those with auction catalogues to admit them to the sale viewing area was this twowheel drive Rokon with its tractor type tyres. An interesting ride perhaps
Jawa works racing V-4 two-stroke 350cc was reputed to produce 80bhp, and was ridden by Bill Ivy and Sylvio Grassetti
The National Motorcycle Museum’s Open Day is now a popular and big event, with lots to see outside as well as inside
Not all of the glamorous and shiny machines were in the museum display halls, this Honda CBX six was parked outside amongst the visitor bikes
Although two Matchless-Vickers machine gun combinations have made the news recently, they were not the mainstay of British Forces. In the first war Clyno of Wolverhampton was the preferred ‘gunship’ with its Vickers gun, whilst in the second war Norton’s Big Four was selected – here seen with the ubiquitous Bren Gun
This is what a real wartime ‘Welbike’ looks like, in its parachute container ‘home’ – the post-war Corgi may be related but is actually different in almost all respects (and would not fit in the container)
Next to the two war outfits is displayed the Triumph wartime generator set, famous for donating its alloy barrels to the GP
Ancestor of the flat twin Douglas motorcycles from Bristol is this Fairy, derived in turn from the original Barter (named after its creator)