The Classic Motorcycle

Memories of Bonzo

- Matthew Mason, Oxon, Oxfordshir­e.

Your Sketchbook piece (May 2022) about Bonzo, the Jarnett, brought back memories. I found this bike in a barn near Brize Norton, Oxfordshir­e, in a non-running state in either 1970 or 1971, and I bought it for £7-10s-0, so it was obviously pre-decimalisa­tion.

Not being the sort to do serious research, I did what to me was the obvious thing and got it running, and a friend, the late Simon Walton, entered it in a vintage grasstrack race.

Everyone who was involved in VMCC sporting events right up until the 1980s must remember Willie Wiltshire, who’d started racing on a Rudge in around 1926 and was still competing on the same bike; there was a scurrilous rumour that it was still on the same sparking plug… Willie used to say it was handy that his old age pension came on a Thursday, as it paid for his weekend’s racing.

When he spotted the then extremely scruffy machine we brought along, he rushed over shouting; “Bonzo, Bonzo! Where did you find it?” Willy told me about Christense­n and put its date of constructi­on as 1930.

I subsequent­ly tidied Bonzo considerab­ly, but to nowhere near concours… If the same parts are on it now, the primary chainguard is the inner of a

BSA Sloper primary case and the rear chainguard is from a New Hudson autocycle. The object on the rear mudguard is presumably some sort of toolbox, added after my time.

‘Jarnet.’ the maker’s It road was I name me didn’t and who coined to offer registered the ‘Bonzo’ the DLVA. name it as a

mad Being younger still in days my speed- I regularly took it along to vintage road race meetings, particular­ly Cadwell Park where I acted as a scrutineer and a mechanic to a rider of a BSA. I also lent it to Pioneer Motorcycli­sts’ Register to be taken to meet its maker (in the nicestmain­taining possible way.) My best wishes are extended to Bonzo’s current owner and may they have as much pleasure from this gem of a machine as I had.

I was reading your ‘Welcome’ feature in the June issue, and although my story is not about motorcycle­s, it is about two identical vehicles.

My family, under the J L Ingham Ltd name, from the 1960s until the late 1980s, ran a fleet of, in the main, bulk grain and animal feed vehicles – basically, we moved various grains from docks all around the country to millers, who then mixed the various products into animal feed. Also, we used to also carry grains to various flour mills.

In the 1980s, the last two trucks we bought new were Leyland Road Train tractor units, both at the same time and to the same specificat­ion. You could not believe they were the same vehicles; one was always in the garage with faults, the other very rarely was off the road.

The, shall we call it ‘problem truck,’ in the first year used to go for its loads and every couple of weeks, it lost power and pulled over to the side of the road. After a short time, the truck could be restarted and off it went. The unit went back and forth to the truck manufactur­er who could not make the problem happen under test.

In the end, they said they would send it to the engine manufactur­ers (at the time they bought engines in for these vehicles) who would go through the motor, stating if they could find nothing wrong, they would charge us for the time. Eventually, it was found an incorrect fuel pump had been fitted from new, this was replaced, and the truck was okay… But it never performed as good as its sister truck, perhaps it was jealous of its sibling!

I guess no two vehicles will ever be the same when they are fitted with bought in components, even small things like tyres make a big difference to a vehicle’s performanc­e.

Paul Ingham, via email.

 ?? ?? The Bonzo, as depicted by Martin Squires. Does anyone know who it’s ended up with, and where?
The Bonzo, as depicted by Martin Squires. Does anyone know who it’s ended up with, and where?

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