The Classic Motorcycle

DaveM

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Coventry Eagle: Flying machine


There are few motorcycles which are in an elevated class, separated from the vast majority of their peers. This, though, is one of them.

Words: JAMES ROBINSONPhotography: GARY CHAPMAN


During the 1920s, the bosses of several firms cast their lines into the waters of the 1000cc ohv V-twin pond, but most quickly found that the lake was if not devoid of stock, then running low.

There really wasn’t the numbers to sustain a host of ‘high end’ manufacturers; many quickly disappeared. Coventry-Eagle actually lasted longer than most.

In April 1996, 1929 Coventry-Eagle Flying 8 E160, registration number WK 9146, was the top-selling lot at Brooks’ (now Bonhams) Stafford sale, achieving just shy of £29,000, which was twice its pre-sale estimate.

Eventually, it passed through at least one more owner before it was acquired by collector Daniel Ward, with much of the restoration undertaken by Tim Walker, who has – among other things – been responsible for the fantastic Duzmo which has starred at the last few Kop Hillclimbs.



After Daniel Ward acquired another Flying 8, this machine was sold on in September 2008 to current owner Derek Fox, since when the Coventry-Eagle has undergone various modifications, including lower compression pistons being fitted; when it was restored in 2007 it seems high compression Gold Star items were used, not really a necessity on a machine which, in truth, is perhaps at the limit of its cycle parts v engine performance envelope. The last thing it needs really is even more beans.

But that said, Derek has been impressed with the big Eagle’s handling, saying that it is perfectly capable of being laid into corners, and then powered out.

Derek goes on to explain how it requires an almost jockey-like riding style, with the rider’s bottom hovering above the saddle, rather than planted on it, with weight on the footrests and the knees and arms used to absorb the bumps and bashes which come through from the road.

One doesn’t grasp the handlebars too tight either; the more the methods are thought about and looked at, the more equine-influenced it all seems.

This is nothing new to anyone used to riding a powerful rigid-framed machine, but it does once again underline that these were a physical mount to ride; but of course the main market for a such a motorcycle would have a been a 19-year-old undergraduate up at Cambridge or Oxford, who would have spent the majority of his (it would have only been a chap…) time fuelled by brandy and bravado.

On a cold but thankfully clear March morning, the kind where in an era when the Eagle was new a nip of brandy would have been requisite, after a lot of ferrying about, finally, in a Buckinghamshire village, it was time to fire up the JAP KTOR-engined machine.

This might not be as easy as we’d perhaps hoped; the machine hadn’t been started since June 2015 while Derek has since had one new knee and is waiting for another, so wasn’t really in the right fettle for starting a 1000cc V-twin.


The lovely 1926 brochure illustration. In that year and the following the Jardine gearbox is listed, in 1929 and 1930 Sturmey-Archer is specified, while in 1928 gearbox mention is completely omitted.

From 1929’s brochure, by which time there were three Flying Eights; the cooking E130, the four-cam side-valve E150 and the ohv E160.

Even one with lower compression pistons. He was, though, confident it would go: “It starts easily.”

We poured in fresh fuel (it had been drained before passing into Bonhams’ care) and switched on the petrol tap; the tank is actually in two pannier halves which aren’t connected.

Half expecting fuel to come gushing out of the dry tap, nothing untoward occurred.

Next, on with the oil; we actually had that with us too, but there was plenty in the tank and seemingly not too much in the sump.

And then I was across the Coventry-Eagle; Derek set the advance retard to a marked dot he’d painted on it, I gave a long-swinging kick… And the big V-twin burbled into life, immediately.

Fair to say, we grinned at each other. The air-lever isn’t connected, so we kept the Eagle running on a steady throttle, watching oil pulse though the sight glass on top of the pump, meaning both cylinders were getting more than enough lubricant.


Explaining to Bruce what to expect. Derek looks on.

Derek reckons he has set the oil rate ‘a bit high’ but as with many of these things, it’s better to have a touch too much, than any too little.

With the engine warming up and soon settling down – and in fairness, running beautifully – I kitted up and climbed on board. Derek said: “I can’t remember which way first is…” but we settle on up – and it proved correct.

The clutch was smooth and progressive (and thankfully not sticking) and I trickled across the pub car park where we’d set up base, avoided a couple of huge potholes, and pulled out onto the road.


Wow. The KTOR JAP V-twin engine.

With no gate on the gear lever, it was a case of easing through neutral and into second, then a few more revs, and into top.

Though we were on a tight timescale and under various pressures owing to the weather and such, I couldn’t resist going a little bit further than strictly necessary, out of the village where we were and onto the open road. Wow, what a machine, just lovely in every sense of the word.


Derek Fox with his Flying 8. He’s enjoyed ownership of the big V-twin but notes: “You need to ride it 100 miles to get a real sense of it.”

The power was smooth and soothing, with plenty on tap. The throttle response was impressively brisk, with no lag at all. The brakes were adequate too, while quite soon I was jinking up and down the Sturmey-Archer three-speed gearbox without a thought.

Derek had earlier explained: “I drop it down into second going into a corner, lay it in, then power it out, and it performs fantastically.” Too right it does.

As Derek said though: “You really need a 100-mile ride on it to get the full extent of just what it’s all about.” Yes, please. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option but for my brief opportunity to soar on an Eagle, I was grateful.

“It was soon time to hand the V-twin over to my pal Bruce, who was there to write a feature for one of the ‘modern’ publications in the Mortons’ portfolio, and watch as he (who’s not used to old machines really, though has ridden several) quickly acquainted himself with the big black and red Midlands-made V-twin. It was almost as nice watching and listening as it rode past as it was riding it. Almost.


Opportunities to ride an ohv Flying 8 are few and far between; Bruce Wilson jumped at the opportunity.

Coventry-Eagle was founded in 1898, born out of an earlier company called Royal Eagle, reforming as Coventry Eagle Cycle Co, owned by Edmund Mayo (who’d been involved in Royal Eagle) and Bernard Rotherham. The firm was originally based on Lincoln Street.

Moves into powered machinery began soon after the company was founded, while Edmund’s son Arthur joined the concern and it wasn’t many years before his son Percy (previously having worked at Royal Ordnance as a gun designer) was on board too. It is always reported that during the First World War, Percy Mayo and George Brough became acquainted.

The first Coventry-Eagle Flying 8 was announced in 1923, the marque’s provenance underlined by the performance of (among others) leading privateer Bert Le Vack at Brooklands; other Brooklands names who seemed to have campaigned Coventry-Eagles at around the same period included the likes of Gordon Cobbold and Gordon Norchi, with Georg Hogl flying the flag in Germany and the fabulously named Biro Zero enjoyed success in Hungary.

The ‘8′ designation came from the RAC’s engine rating of 8hp for the 976cc side-valve JAP power unit.


Speedometer mounted in the petrol tank is much more what one would expect from a 1930s machine.

For 1926 the side-valve versions were joined by the ‘Flying 8 Model B160’, which used the same ohv KTOR JAP engine to be found in the SS100 Brough Superior, marketed – rather brilliantly, it must be admitted – by Percy’s old mucker, George Brough. It slotted into an elite class – McEvoy, Zenith, perhaps Montgomery, but there were few attempting to profit from this niche-within-a-niche market.

On its debut the ohv Flying 8 model used a three-speed Jardine gearbox, eight inch Royal Enfield brakes and Webb forks. In 1927, there were four Flying 8s listed in total, three with side-valve JAP V-twin engines; the base Model C120, the C130 with electric lighting, the C150 with electric lighting and the four-cam 8/30hp JAP engine and then the top-of-the-range C160, with the overhead valve power unit.

The range topper cost £155 dead with the C120 £110, the C130 £120 and the C160 £132. That actually compared favourably with the offerings from Brough Superior, with the Nottingham maker’s SS100 Alpine Grand Sports listed at £170.


The lovely logo on the ‘split’ petrol tank.

The 1928 D160 was down in price to £150, which was down further still in 1929, to £120 for the E160. Price was the same for the 1930 F160 which now had the name ‘Super Police’ attached to it, such was its apparent popularity with the Australian police.

By 1930, a Brough Superior SS100 AGS was being offered for £170 with a rigid frame, £180 for the spring frame model. If George Brough was keeping his prices high, then Coventry-Eagle was looking to the other end of the spectrum, now offering the 147cc two-stroke Villiers powered, two-speed F21. It cost £24-15-0.

For 1931, the Coventry-Eagle ‘160’ model disappeared, and was followed soon after by the side-valve variant too.

Though Coventry-Eagle survived the austere times of the 1930s up to the Second World War, just like Brough Superior did, Coventry-Eagle did so by concentrating not on the luxury end of the market, but the absolute opposite.


Sight feed shows that the engine is getting the necessary life blood…

Whereas in 1926 advertising literature Coventry-Eagle had boasted how its B160 was designated in Motor Cycling as “…the Pullman Express… the highest attainable luxury, comfort and speed on two wheels” by late 1931 it was a somewhat different story.

Coventry-Eagle offerings were generally now more Blackpool tram (so cheap transport for the masses) than upper-class indulgence.

So how rare is this 1929 Coventry-Eagle Flying 8 E160? It’s hard to say, with some suggestion there may be as few as six extant, which means that the 2009 bringing together of three of them at Banbury was quite some achievement.

A look at the VMCC’s machine register records three, incidentally all of which are 1927, so C160s; there’s VJ 844 (which was at Banbury in 2009 and which has twice recently been sold, at Stafford in April 2008, and again at Quail Lodge, California, in August 2011) and two others, in addition to the two which were at Banbury, which were the one featured here and a 1926 B160.


Handy paint blob shows the position for the advance retard lever where starting is best attempted.

There was another sold by Bonhams late in 2015 plus a dealer was offering one relatively recently, which sported a different registration number to any of the others, so that’s another for the roster.

There’s a couple in museums (including the National Motorcycle Museum at Birmingham) while there may be another in private ownership too.

That takes us up to 10, and another source reckons that there may be as many as 20 (one seems to have perhaps mysteriously disappeared too) still existing but even that doesn’t make them exactly thick on the ground…

This Flying 8 is being auctioned by Bonhams at Stafford in April. So what will the lucky winning bidder get? Simply put, one of the few truly stunning motorcycles that are still about.


There are few vintage-era machines that could offer performance to beat the Eagle.

There are few motorcycles which will make jaws drop – the Flying 8 is one of them. And that’s without even riding it, because in the saddle it’s just as fabulous too.

As we chatted, Derek was hatching a few plans of what he might do in the feature; basically his knees (damage to which is largely the legacy of a lifetime of motorcycle competition) mean the Eagle has to go, to fly off for a new adventure. Whoever gets to share the journey will surely enjoy it.

The Coventry-Eagle will be sold at Stafford on Sunday, April 24, 2016. The estimate is £140-160,000. Details from www.bonhams.com/motorcycles or 0208 8963 2817.


Twin silencers emit a glorious burble.

Finer Details

Coventry-Eagle Flying 8 E160

Year of manufacture

1929
Engine
JAP KTOR V-twin
Bore x stroke
85.5 x 85mm
Gearbox
Three-speed Sturmey-Archer
Forks
Heavyweight Webb girder
Frame
Coventry-Eagle open cradle
Brakes
Royal Enfield 8in
Wheelbase
58in
Saddle height
28½in
Petrol
3 gallons
Weight
350lbs
Price new
£120
MAKERS
Coventry-Eagle Cycle and Motor Co Ltd, Bishopgate Green Works, Foleshill Road, Coventry.

Club contact:
The Sunbeam Motorcycle Club, www.sunbeam-mcc.co.uk or 01797 270209.
VMCC, www.vmcc.net or 01283 540557.


Speedo drive is taken from the front wheel; brake is from Royal Enfield.

Read more News and Features at www.classicmotorcyle.co.uk and in the latest issue of The Classic Motorcycle – on sale now!


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DaveM

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Improving the breed

In 1952, I bought a 1932 Velocette GTP 250cc two-stroke for £9. We got it running and I rode it around in the adjoining field, getting used to the clutch and hand change for a while. My brother said it needed sorting out, so it got dismantled and refurbishment began.

In 1954, while out on my bicycle, I saw a Sun tandem with a Trojan Minimotor fitted for sale in Wilkinson’s shop in Birchencliffe, near Huddersfield. After looking it over and noticing it had hub brakes, I bought it for £20.

One Saturday later that year, I had been out on the tandem Trojan and got home at lunchtime, duly parking the device against the kitchen wall. It started to rain, so I went to put it under cover.

As I wheeled it backwards, the left hand front fork blade just swung down, having sheared off at the fork crown.

I broke out in a cold sweat thinking about what could have happened if it had broken while I was riding it!


Velocette forks fitted to the tandem.

While finishing my lunch I had a ‘I wonder if…’ moment, thinking would the Velocette girder forks fit, because the headstock is larger than a bicycle one, and luckily I had not dismantled the girder forks yet.

Quickly removing the tandem forks, I tried the girders on and, to my amazement, they fitted perfectly. I had to use the Velo front wheel and change the front brake cable but the tandem handlebars fitted in the girder clamps okay.

I was using the tandem to go to work on so, for three weeks while I got some new tandem forks, I rode it with the girder forks fitted. The brakes were much improved with the five inch motorbike hub.


The 1932 Velocette GTP was restored and back on the road in 2009; here, pictured in 2015.

If you are curious about the Velo GTP… it finally got rebuilt and back on the road in 2009. Fifty seven years later, but in my defence I have also had six other motorbikes, a Bond Minicar, a Goggomobile, a Bedford ex ambulance/camper van and eight cars in that time… and they all needed work on them!

Brian Mason,
via email.


Read more Letters, Opinion, News and Features at www.classicmotorcyle.co.uk and in the September 2020 issue of The Classic Motorcycle – on sale now!


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DaveM

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Super superbike?

The Series A Vincent-HRD Rapide (as featured in the July 2020 top 10) . . . the first and probably the most enigmatic Vincent twin.

Introduced in the late 1930s and with a production run of less than 100 machines, not many people would have ridden or even seen one of these handsome machines.

“Oh yes, the plumbers’ nightmare,” the clubroom experts proclaimed (on account of its multitude of outside oil pipes). Can it have been that bad?

Of the three Series A riders I met, two raced them successfully at Brooklands and one learned to ride and passed his test on his father’s outfit!

Jim Kentish rode his big twin several times at Brooklands in unlimited races, gaining a Gold Star for lapping at over 100mph in 1938. A great all-rounder, Jim won a TT replica after the war on a Norton and a gold medal in the ISDT.

Streatham club member Ted Frend had been very disappointed with his Ariel Square Four and whilst admiring a new ‘Rapide’ at the Earl’s Court motorcycle show, Phil Vincent made him a part-exchange offer that he could not refuse.

Trained as an aircraft engineer, Ted prepared his machine to good effect and after riding to his second meeting, with clubmate Carl Pugh on the pillion, also lapped at over the ton to gain his Gold Star (actually, they were made of brass).

Straight-talking Ted reckoned his machine was capable of over 120mph.

“If this machine is as good as you say,” challenged club members, “why don’t you ride in the forthcoming grass track meeting?” Remember, pre-Second World War grass track circuits, unlike today’s speedway-inspired tracks, were much longer and featured left and right hand bends, with riders using stripped sports models.


Jonathan Hill with Ted Frend, who reckoned his Series A twin was the best ‘all-rounder’ he ever owned.

Ted blew them away, winning several races and only retiring when his exhaust pipe came adrift.

After that meeting, all grass track races in the South-East Centre were restricted to a maximum capacity of 750cc!

Not content with this, Ted entered the 1938 International Six Days Trial, held in Wales, and was in line for a gold medal until a stone jammed in his back wheel, breaking teeth of the sprocket.

Not having the optional dual rear sprocket (funds being really tight), He was forced to retire. The bike was kept until after the war, when it was sold for a good profit. “The best all-round bike I ever owned,” Ted proclaimed.

Persuaded by friend Harold Daniell to enter the 1948 Senior TT on a new ‘garden gate’ Norton, Ted finished fourth . . . an amazing first-time result and was invited to join the AJS works team, riding the new Porcupine twin and 7R machines with Les Graham.

A few years later, in Belvedere, Kent, not far from the AMC factory, a young Colin Seeley was learning to ride on his father’s Series A twin combination and became rather good at it…

Jonathan Hill,
Dorset.


Read more Letters, Opinion, News and Features at www.classicmotorcyle.co.uk and in the September 2020 issue of The Classic Motorcycle – on sale now!


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DaveM

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PREVIEW: October edition of The Classic MotorCycle



The October edition of The Classic MotorCycle magazine offers a lavishly illustrated celebration of legendary machines, riders and races, and news, reviews and rare period images from the golden age of motorcycling.

Drawing on an archive stretching back to 1903, The Classic MotorCycle magazine provides an unparalleled insight into more than a century of motorcycle design, development, riding, racing and much more.

This month’s issue includes:

Moto Guzzi Model P

Though it looked road ready on arrival, this Guzzi Model P has had plenty of time and effort lavished upon it, resulting in a motorcycle that’s the embodiment of the maxim ‘relaxing to ride.’

BSA M20

This military M20 from 1940 retained some civilian features – and gained some more when it was demobbed in 1953.

TriBSA Twin

Check out our cover bike! This TriBSA was originally built with a clear purpose in mind.

A subscription means you can enjoy all of this, plus plenty of other benefits such as making a major saving on the cover price and FREE postage.

It’s quick and easy to sign up and, whether you do it online or over the phone, our team is ready and waiting to get your new deal under way or extend your current package.

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DaveM

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Benellis top the Bonhams bill

Two exquisite grand prix 250cc Benellis were top of the huge Bonhams’ ‘live and online’ summer sale, held behind closed doors from August 14-16.

Top price was the £149,500 1964 four (right), used by Tarquinio Provini, to win that year’s Spanish GP.

It had an interesting history, being built up from reunited parts, its engine having at one point being used in a road bike by a member of the Benelli family.

The four cylinder racers were finished in grey; the suggestion was they were ‘to be as fast as a cannonball’, hence the colour.

The more traditionally finished all red 1950 machine (below), as used by Dario Ambrosini to win the world championship, sold for £138,000, while a third Benelli – one of four 1959 works 250cc singles made – fetched £83,950.



Veteran and vintage motorcycles performed particularly well, with a 1916 Harley-Davidson, 1000cc Model J and trade sidecar realising £56,500, while a 1909 Minerva 3½hp with wicker sidecar, a regular participant in the London to Brighton Pioneer Run, achieved £29,900.

An extremely rare 1928 Montgomery 680cc ‘Twin Five’, a Banbury-concours winner though fitted with a 1930 engine, sold for a healthy £37,950.

Beautifully-restored machines were also stellar performers.

The same bidder paid £36,000 for a 1979 Mike Hailwood Replica Ducati and £23,000 for a spotless 1956 BSA DBD34 Gold Star, the subject of a total restoration in the early 2000s.



There were plenty of more modest prices too – including swathes of bargain, lightweight Italian-ware – while across the board most sold for what would be expected – or a little more.

We’ll have more next month – including Martin Squires’ unique-styled reportage – but see the full results at www.bonhams.com

Read more News and Features at www.classicmotorcyle.co.uk and in the October 2020 issue of The Classic Motorcycle – on sale now!

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DaveM

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Triple chance of winning

There’s three stunning classics to be won in The National Motorcycle Museum’s latest raffle.

The museum receives no external funding so relies on visitors to the museum, but mainly on support from its conference business and two sister hotels.

Therefore, times have been and are tough, so the museum has launched a special Covid-19 appeal raffle with the chance to win one of three classics…



First prize – 1977 Norton Commando 850cc, brand new old stock

Second – 1948 Ariel NG 350cc, restored by the museum

Third – 1959 BSA B31 350cc, restored by the museum

The draw will take place on Monday, December 21, 2020. Tickets cost £6; they’ll be with our October subscription copies, or can be obtained online from www.thenmm.co.uk

Read more News and Features at www.classicmotorcyle.co.uk and in the October 2020 issue of The Classic Motorcycle – on sale now!

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DaveM

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Spiritual homage


With lots of late 1960s and 1970s BMWs ending up as café racers this more authentic take, paying tribute to the beautiful Rennsport, makes a refreshing change.

Words and photography: IAN KERR


In 2014, Michael Dunlop, son of Robert and nephew of TT legend Joey, gave BMW its first solo class TT win since Georg ‘Schorsch’ Meier led home his teammate Jock West in the 1939 Isle of Man Senior TT.

The first victory was at a record speed of 89.38mph and was on one of the factory-built, lightweight supercharged motorcycles, a replica of which was tested by Alan Cathcart in the January 2016 edition of this magazine.

The BMW 500 Type 255 Kompressor was one of the most sophisticated motorcycles of its time and were it not for the governing body’s – the FIM – postwar ban on supercharging, who knows how machines from the German firm would have progressed.



But certainly the S1000RR that Dunlop blitzed the mountain course on is a worthy successor, being one of the most sophisticated machines on sale at present, albeit not powered by BMW’s trademark ‘boxer’ engine.

In between these two events, of course BMW dominated world championship sidecar racing with a normally aspirated Rennsport motor from the middle of the 1950s to the end of the 1960s.

Not to mention Walter Zeller coming second in the 1956 500cc solo world championship on a type 256 Rennsport, although BMW withdrew from racing official works grand prix machines in 1958.

The Rennsport was one of the first racing motorcycle designs to come out of Germany in the postwar period, after the FIM allowed German machines back into the championships.


This is the stunning 1953 works Rennsport, in the Isle of Man.

As supercharging was abolished on racing motorcycles, BMW had no choice but to modify its boxer engines and revert to two carburettors.

The dimensions of the cylinders were changed and the engine’s power and weight were different. The motorcycle’s total weight was around 275lbs, showing how much work was done by the factory on the first of the models, which appeared in 1953.

But the BMW pictured here is not a genuine Rennsport from that period. It started life as a standard 1971 R60/5 road bike.

But, at a quick glance, it could easily be one of the RS500 Type 256 from 1956, though without the beautiful aluminium Bartl-style ‘duckbill’ fairing, which was thought to split the airflow and improve the ‘slipperiness’ of the bike as a whole.

You may not agree, but it is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it was that feeling that attracted Jason Blackiston of Anson Classic Restoration when he saw the Rennsport RS500 for sale at the H&H auction at Duxford last year.


The original rev-counter and speedo is neatly incorporated.

However, an estimate in the region of £160,000-£180,000 meant it was never going home with Jason, but, as fate would have it, there was a very rough-looking BMW R60/5 in pieces on offer at considerably less…

“I don’t know why I bought it really,” said Jason, reflecting on the sad-looking BMW he took home, “I just thought I would rebuild the bike as standard and sell it on.”

But the image of the Rennsport was still burning away in Jason’s mind when he emptied the remains of the bike into the company’s workshop in Leicestershire.

Although mostly all there, the BMW was in need of some serious attention and the engine clearly needed a complete rebuild.

It was then that the idea of creating not so much an exact replica of the Rennsport, but more a tribute was formed between Jason and his workshop foreman, Mat Jones.


It’s tribute, not a full replica, though at a glance…

So, with a stunning detailed image of the Type 256 pinned to the wall of the busy workshop, the R60/5 was stripped down to all its component parts and those not needed for the project were put to one side for future use, or to sell off to offset costs.

The idea was to create a bike that could still be used on the road, so it had to be user-friendly, even if it did get the odd day out on a track from time to time.

Having said that, as Jason so ably put it, “I thought the world did not need another BMW café racer with a brown quilted seat and satin paint with an exhaust wrapped in asbestos string!” I think given the end result he has succeeded in producing something of quality and almost a work of art.

So, instead of investing thousands on trick internal components like the factory originals, the engine was just carefully rebuilt – after the crankcases had been substantially altered to give a silhouette similar to the factory bikes after removing the starter motor.


Jason Blackiston poses with his company’s creation.

Careful cutting and welding took time, as did returning the aluminium to look the same as the rest of the casing, such is the attention to detail that has been lavished on this machine.

The gearbox and final drive were all dismantled, checked, and reassembled with all new seals and gaskets, but all remaining standard.

The frame too may have had a few lugs removed here and there, but, in essence, it remains standard and very different from the lug-less oval-section tubed item that graced the original Rennsports.

It goes without saying that all bearings and bushes were replaced on the frame as well as on the new leading-link front forks obtained from Germany, which needed some minor modification to fit in with the design.


The petrol tank has been modified, and the metal strip added, in the process of aping the Rennsport shape.

The R60/5’s original telescopics would not have been right or correct as BMW had moved across to the ‘Earles’ type fork for racing, the Earles’ design being lighter and much stronger than traditional telescopic forks.

The fork was licensed from Englishman Ernie Earles after he patented the design in 1953, hence the name.

The original petrol tank was cut open, modified, and rewelded to give the desired look, along with the manufacture of a central retaining band.

Mudguard stays etc were fabricated in-house, as was the remarkably original-looking seat unit.


New Earles’ forks were obtained from Germany.

A lot of the bracketry and linkages had to be made from scratch, as did the clever rear numberplate holder and fly-screen.

One of the nicest touches is the moulding of the original combined speedometer/rev counter into the design, sitting almost unobtrusively behind the fly-screen and just in front of the neat steering-damper knob.

Jason has tried to use as many parts of the donor bike as possible to keep down costs, but some new parts – such as the slim mudguards – were bought in, as there was no point in spending time making them.

The exhaust system is another prime example of a bought-in component, but the stainless steel and chrome Hoske-style silencers are worth every penny, looking period and sounding just right.


All the electrics are neatly hidden away.

The wheels were fully rebuilt with stainless spokes, new tyres and tubes and all cables and rubbers were replaced.

Initially, a new Boyer Bransden electronic ignition was fitted along with new coils, loom and battery and solid state regulator rectifier (cleverly hidden under the tank) although this has now been removed and the original points system reinstated, to ensure easier starting.

The Bing carbs were replaced with modern Mikunis as the originals do not like running unfiltered and it is difficult to set the engine up to run and pull cleanly, even when hot.

Once the dry build was complete the frame and forks were treated to a two-part powder-coat system. The rest of the tinware got sprayed with a two-pack base coat before being lacquered to give a deep quality finish similar to 1950s BMWs.


Seat is particularly impressive-looking.

The overall appearance of the finished motorcycle is stunning, and I am sure that if the bike were to be parked in a race paddock, it could easily pass off as original, until a detailed inspection took place.

Certainly it sounds as good as an original, if a little quieter, but the big plus with this bike is that it is road legal for daytime UK use and comes with a current MoT.

It may not have the short-stroke engine with all the trick lightweight internal components, or the five-speed gearbox, but it is a very usable bike that will provide hours of reliable fun on the road as well as attracting many admiring glances when parked up.

Quality abounds, as does craftsmanship!


The remodeled engine looks rather Rennsport-esque.

“Now we have built this and worked out how to fabricate the various bits and pieces, we can build a few more and cut down on the time and therefore labour cost of the build”, said Jason.

“Although it is more a tribute than a replica, I have had no shortage of interest and sold it within days of finishing it and I am now looking at building a few more ‘racing’ BMWs as there seems to be quite a demand,” he concluded as we stood admiring the bike in the winter sun.

I know what he means, and I have already put my name down for a future recreation as, like him, I think that the Rennsports are one of most beautiful bikes ever to come out of Germany.



Now, thanks to Anson Classic Restoration, more of us can at least experience the flavour and essence of the bike without mortgaging the house and be able to just go out and enjoy it on a sunny day without needing a nearby race track!

www.ansonclasisic.co.uk or 01509 502534.

The best BMW cafe racer ever?

When racing legend Walter Zeller retired from top-level racing at the end of 1958, he left with this incredibly special machine, constructed to his own specification.

It used a 600cc, 60bhp supercharged engine, dated to 1949 and built for sidecar racing, housed in a Rennsport-type frame. Interestingly, Zeller chose telespcopic rather than the Earles-type forks he’d also raced with – some reports reckoned he preferred ‘teles’ though there is also a suggestion that the Earles’ forks wouldn’t clear the blower.

Front wheel is from a Rennsport, though the silencers come from the standard road catalogue. Lights were total loss and there was no kick-start fitted.



Zeller had fully expected to buy the motorcycle, which he’d kept an eye on as it was constructed, to his specification, in the test shop, and was a regular visitor during its build to ensure everything was tailored to suit him.

When the machine was finished, BMW’s management arranged a ceremony to hand the machine over – which they did, as a gift, and much to Zeller’s surprise.

After racing, Zeller worked in the family business and with things not going as well as they could, he sold the machine in 1963 to a schoolteacher, who’d apparently telephoned every month for years requesting the opportunity to buy the machine.

The price was supposedly 7000 Deutschmarks, which is more than £2800, at a time when a Triumph Bonneville cost about £320.

Read more News and Features at www.classicmotorcyle.co.uk and in the latest issue of The Classic Motorcycle – on sale now!

The post Spiritual homage appeared first on The Classic Motorcycle.
 

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Many people are put off by the large Rennsport tanks, I love them...
 

DaveM

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BREAKING: Kempton Autojumble cancelled



The Kempton Autojumble, due to be held this Saturday, September 12, has unfortunately had to be cancelled due to circumstances outside of our control.

We are very sorry at the late notice for this, as we were so looking forward to welcoming everyone safely to the Kempton Park Race Course this weekend, but we hope you will all appreciate that the safety and well-being of our visitors, exhibitors, partners, contractors and staff has to be our number one priority.

We will be in touch very soon in regards to your tickets and any trade bookings, please bear with us.

For all ticket enquiries please contact our Customer Services team on 01507 529 529 or email customerservices@mortons.co.uk

For all trade enquiries please contact our Shows team on 01507 529 430 or email exhibitions@mortons.co.uk

Lines are open Monday-Friday, 8.30am-5pm.

Thank you all for your patience, understanding and support – and apologies once more.

From a very upset Kempton Autojumble team.

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Infernal machines’ shirt

Martin Squires has released some screen printed t-shirts to coincide with this month’s Henry Fournier’s ‘Infernal Machines’ article (see page 80).

The pictured machine is a converted De Dion Bouton motor tricycle that was ‘quite a handful,’ according to Charles Jarrott.



The phrase on the shirt comes from this period article about Henri Fournier that appeared in The San Francisco Call, September 4, 1898, and many other American papers at the time.

More information at www.sketchbooktravels.com/bankedtrackheroes

Read more News and Features at www.classicmotorcyle.co.uk and in the October 2020 issue of The Classic Motorcycle – on sale now!

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National Motorcycle Museum offering chance to win Triumph T140J Silver Jubilee Bonneville



The National Motorcycle Museum is giving motorcycle enthusiasts the chance to win a brand new/old stock Triumph T140J Silver Jubilee Bonneville in the musuem’s summer raffle.

James Hewing, Museum Director, said: “We have another amazing new/old stock first prize for our summer raffle with a brand new/old stock Triumph T140J Silver Jubilee Bonneville, which has never been run or registered and is showing just four ‘push’ miles.”

What’s up for grabs?

1st Prize – Brand New/Old Stock 1977 Triumph Bonneville T140J Silver Jubilee motorcycle.

2nd Prize – Sealey Retro Style Combination Tool Chest. Blue & white 10 drawer retro style tool chest -RRP £850.00

3rd Prize – Luxury Hotel Break & Dinner for two people. Includes VIP museum tour, 1 night stay & dinner at the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse in the Manor Hotel, Meriden www.manorhotelmeriden.co.uk

Despite not being able to host the Museum LIVE event this year, the National Motorcycle Museum will hold the summer raffle draw as planned on Saturday, October 31.

1977 Norton Commando 850cc Motorcycle


Emergency raffle

The National Motorcycle Museum has also launched an emergency Covid-19 an appeal raffle.

“The special Covid-19 appeal raffle has the chance to win the following fantastic classic motorcycles, one new/old stock and two which have been restored in the museum’s workshops.”

The Covid-19 appeal raffle will be drawn at the museum on Monday, December 21, when one lucky first prize winner will receive a brand new/old stock 1977 Norton Commando 850cc Interstate.

Tickets cost £2.00 each for our summer raffle, £6.00 each for the Covid-19 appeal raffle, and both can be entered by visiting www.nationalmotorcyclemuseum.co.uk/bike-raffle/

“Whilst the museum remains closed due to Covid-19, every raffle ticket purchased at this difficult time makes a huge difference, and The National Motorcycle Museum wants to thank everyone for their support so far,” the Museum added.

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Cowboys & Indians


When it first arrived in 1934, the Indian Sport Scout divided opinion. There were those who were so enamoured by the earlier 101 Scout model that nothing could compare, and there were those that readily embraced this sportier newcomer. In the years following its introduction the Sport Scout grew and matured, and became increasingly popular.

Words and photography: JAMES ADAM BOLTON


Despite many tweaks and modifications during its lifespan, the Scout (along with the Chief) was to become one of Indian’s most popular models and would establish a positive reputation as one of the best American twins of its period.

The Scout always featured a flathead V-twin motor in ever-larger capacities that was reliable and robust. Designed by Irishman and Indian racer Charlie Franklin, when the first Scout came off the Indian production line in 1919 it was regarded as a marvel of contemporary engineering.

In the modern age the Scout’s flathead motor might not seem like much of a revelation, but at the time it was a solution that worked brilliantly, as all the mechanical components were enclosed, reducing noise and dirt ingress.



The 600cc (37cu) Scout motor – as it was when it first arrived on the scene – was smooth and powerful, and its over-engineered helical gear primary drive and strong, compact double-loop frame made for a rugged but light motorcycle capable of 60mph cruising speeds – plenty for the rough roads of the day. Indian became so proud of the Scout that it even used it in advertising slogans such as “You can’t wear out an Indian Scout”.

In 1928 the Scout was tweaked and the resulting 101 Scout, with a 750cc motor and chassis improvements, proved to be hugely popular and is reckoned by some to be the best Indian motorcycle ever made.

The 101 lasted just four years in production and as the Great Depression bit hard, Indian started to cut costs.

By 1932, Indian was fitting Scout motors to the bigger and heavier Chief frame, thus distilling what was previously a powerful and successful model. As a part of a move intended to appease its disappointed customers, Indian introduced the Sport Scout in 1934. This featured a lighter, two-piece frame and alloy cylinder heads.

Scouts were – and still are – used to thrill speed junkies. Burt Monroe chose a 1920 Scout to modify mercilessly (he took the engine out to 950cc) to make a one-way run at the Bonneville Salt Flats, clocking 190.07mph – the fastest-ever officially recorded speed on an Indian.

Racer Ed Kretz won the inaugural Daytona 200-mile race in 1937 aboard an Indian Sport Scout, and actor and motorcycle collector Steve McQueen owned various Indians, one of which (a 1940 Sport Scout) was sold at auction last October for a staggering £59,740.


The Sport Scout is urged round a right-hand bend.

Wayne Johnson knows and loves his Indians, and he too wanted to experience ownership of a Scout, which in his case turned out to be this beautiful 1941 Indian Sport Scout.

The year 1941 was the penultimate year of production of the long-running Scout model, as just one year later and with war clouds gathering for the USA, production of the civilian Sport Scout ceased in February of 1942.

This Scout has a 750cc, 45 cubic inch side-valve motor.

Wayne explains how he came by the handsome American V-twin: “I bought the Scout a couple of years ago.

It was sat at a classic bike dealer’s without much history behind it, already on a UK plate, with matching frame and engine numbers, but they hadn’t managed to get it running.

I made an offer for what I thought it was worth and when I returned it was running, but still roughly, so we struck a deal. A couple of past MOT certificates suggest that it probably passed through Edinburgh at some point.”

Wayne is referring to the fact that Indian connoisseur Alan Forbes’ Edinburgh-based shop Motolux has, for many years, been the place to contact for Indian motorcycle restorations, spares and advice in the UK.


Wayne cruises along on the heavy (but sufficiently powerful) Sport Scout.

“The bike seems complete and mainly original as far as I can see, and I would say it has been professionally restored a few years ago – whoever did it made a pretty good job of it.

“Anyway, I bought it, got it home, and gave it a decent service, discovering that the reason it wasn’t running properly is that it was only running on the choke. I use a straight 50 oil. There is no oil filter at all on these bikes, and the oil just feeds in and out of the oil tank, pumped by an oil pump that runs off the crank. It’s a dry sump system, so it does wet sump occasionally.” explains Wayne.

“The reserve fuel tank and filler sits below the oil tank, and they can mix sometimes! The main fuel tank is on the left, and I have to say, it’s quite a thirsty bike to run.”

Along with the filler caps for the fuel and oil, there’s also the ignition switch that also switches the lights, and what Wayne reckons is the original ammeter, suffering from a little misting on the glass.

“The big chrome headlamp on the other hand is probably a new copy from US Indian parts guru Jerry Greer,” says Wayne. “You can buy most new parts for these Indians, but the more original they are, the better.”

Wayne’s 1941 Sport Scout certainly looks wonderful, featuring as it does the large fenders introduced to all Indian models in 1940.


The Sport Scout is lean and muscular, and the heavily valanced mudguards add a touch of classic American style.

Though seen now as hugely desirable by collectors, not everyone was enamoured by the stylistic changes at the time. ‘Mad’ Max Bubeck – a racer whose 135.58mph speed record for an unfaired Indian achieved on his ‘Chout’ (Chief/Scout hybrid) still stands – offered the point of view that this period in history was “when Indian quit making motorcycles and started making Harleys.”

There had always been intense rivalry between Indian and Harley-Davidson, and especially between their riders and racers, so when Indian introduced plunger suspension featuring one compression and one rebound spring on the Chief model in 1940, and on the Sport Scout in 1941, it made the rigid frame Harley-Davidsons at once seem old and primitive.

“Yes,” agrees Wayne, “but in fact the ‘soft’ suspension added a fair amount of weight to the frame compared to the earlier rigid frame Indians, so it wasn’t welcomed by all.”

The two-tone paint scheme is impressive, especially as parts of the flowing lines of the mudguards and fuel tank are picked out in a crimson red.


The 750cc (45cu) side-valve powerplant provides the ‘go’ – and plenty of it!

This ‘brilliant red’, as it was named by Indian, was one of three standard colours offered for 1941, the other two being black and seafoam blue. A two-colour finish, as on Wayne’s Scout, would have been an extra cost option.

The customer could also choose 16 or 18in wheel rims. Wayne’s Scout has the 16in rims, shod with wide 5 x 16in Avon Speedmasters, and he says “they make it a bit less sharp on the handling”.

The Indian’s rough running was eventually solved when Wayne swapped the Linkert M342 carb that came with the bike for a NOS Linkert M642 found on eBay.

“For perfect originality it should have been an M641 for a 1941 Sport Scout, but I checked it over and it all seemed fine. Once fitted, the new Linkert resolved a lot of issues and the bike ran better than ever.”

Introduced in 1940, the motor’s heads and cylinders were also streamlined compared to how they were on earlier models, and a centre stand held in place by latch was also brought in, so both feature on Wayne’s 1941 Scout.

“I did take the heads off when I bought the bike,” he says, “as I wanted to check out the pistons, which looked in new condition. I also took the opportunity to check the timing, as I couldn’t find the timing mark, so I timed it all up manually when the heads were off. I also added copper gaskets that you anneal first, as it can be a problem sometimes to get them to seal properly.”


The handsome tank-top panel, complete with what owner Wayne believes to be the original ammeter.

I take some passing shots of Wayne aboard the Scout, which seems to glide effortlessly by like some sort of self-contained regal motorcade, and then it’s my turn.

Remember the stories about the big Indians being fitted with a left-hand throttle so that their police riders could shoot their pistols accurately with their right hand?

Well, there may be some truth in them, though it’s also a fact that many early manufacturers – Indian included – chose to place the ignition advance and retard control on the right.

In the days of primitive carburation, ignition timing had more effect on a low compression motor than a throttle, and so it was on many motorcycles until improvements saw the throttle become the dominant control. By 1941 Indian offered a left or right-hand throttle, but this one is a ‘leftie’.

Add to that a left foot-operated heel and toe ‘suicide’ clutch, hand change gear lever mounted on the right flank of the fuel tank and a right-hand throttle-type advance and retard mechanism (I would have even preferred a lever!) and complete confusion is guaranteed.


Combine the rear suspension with the leather seat, and you get that “floating sensation” that adds new dimensions of comfort to the ride.

I have been lucky to ride all types of motorcycles of all eras and with all kinds of controls, but I can honestly say that this Indian took the most concentration to ride.

Sitting at tickover (I asked Wayne to kindly keep the Indian running for me) the big V-twin motor sounds rhythmic and strong. I press the clutch forward with my left boot and engage first gear with my right hand by pressing the knurled knob forwards, having learned that neutral was one pull back, and second and third gears another two clicks backwards.

The hardest part, for me at least, is feeling the point at which the clutch begins to bite, and I also struggle to control the smooth throttle with my ‘odd’ left hand. I advance the spark somewhere to midway, twist the throttle, and let the clutch back in – and I stall it. I kick it over, it starts easily, and I try taking off again.

It stalls. I have another go, and get no further. “Give it more gas,” suggests Wayne, and he’s dead right. Eventually I get it all right and the Indian takes off, with me on board, bouncing up and down on the generously sized sprung leather saddle.


The plunger-type rear suspension was new for the Sport Scout in 1941.

Not for no reason did we choose a very quiet location with long, straight stretches of near-empty road for me to try the Sport Scout, because it really needs (or in truth, I really need) no distractions.

Once on the go, I find changing up and down comes naturally enough, as does use of the throttle. Once I get my feet planted on the footboards, the Sport Scout rides nicely.

The flathead motor is willing, and although I get up into top gear, the road here is neither long nor spacious enough to go much over 40mph. The combination of sprung seat and rear sprung suspension provides that ‘floating’ sensation, and on decent sections of road, the Indian is smooth.

Hit a bump though, and the sprung girder front end jars slightly, and the stiffness of the forks and plunger system is shown up.

But the famous Indian V-twin power plant is torquey and feels reliable and strong, and so with the combination of footboards, wide bars and sprung saddle, it’s easy to appreciate why the Sport Scout was so popular with motorcyclists who wanted to get out there and ride long and far.


Tester Bolton takes to the road on the Indian. He looks like he’s enjoying it!

The six-inch front brake proves to be rather underpowered as I pull up to stop, while the rear feels much more effective.

Stopping and stalling is easy – stopping, selecting neutral and keeping the motor running is much harder. In the end I have about three decent runs up and down this mile strip and then I stop, because I know that the Sport Scout will need much more time and miles to master.

Wayne is sympathetic. “It was very much a challenge to learn how to ride with a left-hand throttle, I must admit, but now it’s okay.” He also tells me that he thinks that the adjuster between the gearbox and the motor was tightened too much during its restoration, so the gearbox is actually stiffer to actuate than it should be. I feel better that my shifting wasn’t as slick as it could have been otherwise.

It was a fascinating experience and I found the Indian Sport Scout to be one of the most peculiar motorcycles I’ve tried. Whether they appeal to you or not, the chromed, all-American looks are, by now, instantly recognisable and fixed firmly in that 1940s and 50s era, so park up an Indian Sport Scout at a bike rally and the crowds will always flock.

Finer Details

1941 INDIAN SPORT SCOUT
ENGINE

Side-valve air-cooled V-twin, cylinder inclination 42°
CAPACITY:
750cc (45cu)
BORE x STROKE
73mm x 89mm
CARBURETTOR
NOS Linkert M642
SUSPENSION
Girder fork at front, plunger-type rear suspension
GEARBOX
Three-speed hand change
WHEELS
16in
TYRES:
5 x 16in Avon Speedmasters
WHEELBASE
56.5in
ELECTRICS
Auto-Lite generator and distributor
FINISH
Two-tone ‘brilliant red’

Club contact:
The Indian Motocycle Club of Great Britain
www.indianmotocycle.co.uk or email: membership@indianmotocycle.co.uk
The Vintage Motorcycle Club,Allen House
Wetmore Road, Burton Upon Trent DE14 ITR
or email: members@vmcc.net

Read more News and Features at www.classicmotorcyle.co.uk and in the latest issue of The Classic Motorcycle – on sale now!

The post Cowboys & Indians appeared first on The Classic Motorcycle.
 

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Sadly, a bike I'll never get to own...
 

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Normous Newark Autojumble to go ahead this weekend at Newark Showground



The Normous Newark Autojumble will be going ahead as planned this Sunday, September 20 at Newark Showground.

As a COVID-19 secure venue, the Newark Showground can still host larger numbers in total but groups of up to six must not mix or form larger groups anywhere on site.

This rule will not apply to individual households or support bubbles of more than six who will still be able to gather together. Click here to get your tickets.

What do you need to do?

1. Buy your ticket in advance and beat the queues!

2. Buy your ticket with contactless card payment on the day

3. Remember to social distance

4. Use the hand sanitisers around site

5. Wear your mask when in indoor space

6. Enjoy ‘Normous being back”

So what’s the detail?

When? – 20th September

Where? – Newark Showground, NG24 2NY

What time? – From 8am

Price? – £10 for Early Birds from 8am / £7 for General Admission from 10am

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Burlen back to business

Carburettor maker Burlen has increased staff numbers at its Salisbury headquarters to manufacture Amal, SU and Zenith carburettors to meet increased global demand from trade and public alike since lockdown restrictions eased.

Several furloughed staff have returned to work to manufacture and dispatch products.



Burlen remained operational, on reduced staff, throughout lockdown to supply Amal jets for medical use in emergency hospitals.

Visit www.burlen.co.uk or call 01722 412500.

Read more News and Features at www.classicmotorcyle.co.uk and in the October 2020 issue of The Classic Motorcycle – on sale now!

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Mazda motorcycles

Japanese automotive manufacturer Mazda celebrates its centenary this year, and has released details of its early vehicle manufacturing – a 250cc two-stroke motorcycle.

The company was initially a cork maker, named Toyo Cork Kogyo, but in 1929 started work on a prototype motorcycle.

In Japan at the time, motorcycle racing was popular and in Hiroshima (where Mazda’s headquarters are), the sport was a regular attraction at a memorial service called Chinkon-no Matsuri, commemorating war dead. Most of the motorcycles raced were imported.


Later Mazda-badged machine, which is American in its appearance.

Mazda (then still Toyo Kogyo Co Ltd) began development of its prototype in 1929. In October 1930, Toyo Kogyo’s motorcycle, powered by a 250cc two-stroke engine, entered the races at Chinkon-no Matsuri. To everyone’s surprise, it won.

Mazda produced 30 motorcycles in 1930, sold with a trademark designed by combining the company emblem and ‘Toyo Kogyo’ letterings.


The two-stroke Mazda motorcycle, from 1930.

In 1931, Toyo Kogyo soon shifted its focus to production of three-wheel, motorcycle-based (think Harley-Davidson Servicar) truck, the Mazda-go, though it seems perhaps there were some two-wheeled examples of that too, as the second picture shows.

Read more News and Features at www.classicmotorcyle.co.uk and in the October 2020 issue of The Classic Motorcycle – on sale now!

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Stafford Classic Bike Show cancelled due to Covid-19



Due to the worsening situation and rising infection rate of Covid-19, Mortons Media Group has reluctantly taken the decision to cancel the Carole Nash Classic Motorcycle Mechanics show, planned for October 10-11 at Stafford County Showground.

This long-established event has always been a firm favourite with motorcycle enthusiasts from all over Europe, and with the increase of cases worldwide, Mortons feels this is the safest thing to do, for the well-being of visitors and traders.

Not only is the show a highlight in the event calendar, it is also a strong social event for visitors at the show, with people naming a ‘day out with their friends’, as one of the top three reasons for going.

Given the current restrictions with the ‘rule of six’, and the increasing localised lockdowns nationwide, Mortons believes this is the most responsible course of action to take.

The Stafford Shows will continue in 2021, with the popular Carole Nash International Classic MotorCycle Show scheduled to take place over the weekend of April 24-25. The team will be looking to bounce back by putting on the biggest and best show of its kind in order to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Meanwhile Mortons will continue to hold regular outdoor autojumbles at Newark Showground and Kempton Park, as currently planned.

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Book Review

“Velocette – Passion of a Lifetime”
Technical excellence and much, much more . . .
Author: Ivan Rhodes
Forewords by: Stanley Woods and Geoff DodkinDedicated to the late Chris Swallow
Publisher: The Velocette Owners’ Club c/o The Regalia Shopwww.velocetteowners.comHardback, 300 x 215mm (landscape); 288 pages with more than 540 photographs and illustrations.£30 (UK), $39 (USA), $52 (Canada), $54 (Australia)


Highly regarded worldwide as a Velocette expert, particularly regarding the overhead camshaft models – which author Ivan Rhodes describes as his ‘passion of a lifetime’, he could also justifiably be called the ultimate clubman.

This comes from trials, scrambles and road racing, all on the same ride-to-work bike (a 1926 350cc Big Port AJS) in the late 1940s, on to competing in the TT and, of course, finding and restoring historic KTT Velocettes to successfully race in vintage and post-vintage events.

Thirty years on and much additional information has been accumulated to produce this revised edition of his original popular book Technical Excellence Exemplified (a Veloce slogan).



With 29 chapters plus three appendices covering machine specifications, engine frame and gearbox numbers and production figures, we are taken through a concise history of Veloce (pronounced Veeloce), describing its early years, moving on to detail its range of competent two-stroke machines before providing the reader with an in-depth study of the influential overhead camshaft models, with which the company made its great influence on the racing world and their successors in the pushrod ‘M’ range with the Viper and Venom variants.

Denis Frost contributes the story of the ‘Everyman’ machine – the LE (light engine).

Complicated, expensive and initially problematic, sales were poor despite its adoption by several police forces.

There is a particular emphasis on the Veloce racing heritage. Also, the development and restoration of the two supercharged racing machines – ‘Whffling Clara,’ the blown KTT single, and the fabulous, potential world-beater, the shaft-driven vertical twin ‘Roarer’ along with its road-going derivative the Model O and the 24-hour record attempts.

There is also an update on the thriving Velocette scene in Australia and, of course, Stuart Hooper’s ‘World’s Fastest Velocette.’

In addition, Ivan has included his personal recollections of the Velocette community – the Goodmans of course (the owners of what in fact was quite a small family business), the designers Charles Udall and Phil Irving, plus racers including the great Stanley Woods and the first 350cc world Champion (on a Velocette) Freddie Frith and many others.

Dedicating this book to the late Chris Swallow, Ivan Rhodes is to be congratulated on this superb, high-quality, historically important book containing over 540 photographs with the front cover portraying Sam Rhodes (the author’s grandson) in championship-winning form on the Graham Austen 1954 MSS. Highly recommended.

Jonathan Hill.

Read more Reviews, Letters, Opinion, News and Features at www.classicmotorcyle.co.uk and in the October 2020 issue of The Classic Motorcycle – on sale now!


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Replicas, specials, fakes and forgeries


The seamy world of fakes, replicas and specials is one which can be navigated when armed with an understanding of what constitutes those terms, as well as a bit of nous to ensure you’re not being taken for a ride.

Words: MICHAEL BARRACLOUGH Photography: MORTONS ARCHIVE


While it may be an ugly topic and not one that many classic motorcycle devotees like to spend much time thinking about, it is an unfortunate truth that there are some insalubrious characters out there in the world that view classic motorcycles more as a way of making a few bob than as meaningful, pleasurable pursuits.

There are several patches of ambiguity that cause unwanted confusion and obscurity (such as what happens to the value and provenance of a historically significant machine when you introduce replica components, and vice versa) and these abstruse areas are occasionally utilised as convenient cover by some, who will ‘embellish’ certain machines and make them rather more worthy than in fact they are.

Eligibility throws yet another spanner into the works as some events only allow bikes of a certain age to participate, and age and eligibility equate to value in the eyes of many, meaning that sometimes a motorcycle is presented as being older than it actually is.

These areas provide a prudent place to begin understanding why this sort of activity occurs, and the key is being able to draw the distinction between what constitutes a replica, a fake and a special.

The dictionary definition of a replica is ‘an exact copy’ and so, with that definition in mind, any motorcycle that has been fabricated from spares, NOS parts or similar that has been made to resemble a famous or desirable machine can be classed as a replica.

The whole situation starts to become confusing when original components enter the picture, and some believe that, if you have enough original components in a replica rebuild, then the machine in question can straddle that tenuous boundary between ‘replica’ and ‘genuine article’ which simply is not the case.

The inclusion of the odd original or period component might add an extra layer of intrigue to the replica which may even equate to increased value if the bike in question is sufficiently impressive but, crucially, the machine is still a replica and must be advertised and displayed as such if the owner of said replica is to avoid the murky waters of vehicular fraud.


This V8 Moto Guzzi ‘evocation’ (so replica) sold for £196,250 at a recent Coys’ auction, and adheres as closely as possible to original factory specification.

Auction houses are very careful when considering machines for upcoming auctions and can remove suspect motorcycles in advance of their consignment to auction if they have reason to believe that something might be amiss, and the correct frame and engine numbers are crucial – more on this subject later.

Popular replicas include the Manx Norton and the Matchless G50, both of which regularly appear in classic race meetings for 500cc singles.

An interesting addendum to this short section about replicas is that some marques from days gone by did produce in-period replicas of famous race winners that the public could go out and buy – Yorkshire manufacturer Scott was one such marque.

A special is a much more straightforward term to define and describe.

Stick a Vincent V-twin in a Norton Featherbed frame with the appropriate cycle parts and you’ve got yourself a Norvin. Put a Triumph 650cc twin in the same frame and you’ve got a Triton.

The notion of the ‘special’ revolves predominantly around the combination of engine and frame, as is well known, and as long as it is advertised and displayed accordingly with no information omitted or falsified then no legal ramifications should follow.

Machines that have been stylistically altered to fit a certain aesthetic can all also be viewed as specials. Bobbers, choppers and café racers all fall under this banner.

A fake, then, is a motorcycle which has been made to look like something else in order to deceive prospective buyers into believing that it is a different (often more valuable) machine.

There are many classic motorcycles that have proven to be popular targets for this kind of fraudulent activity.

It would probably be fair to assume that more than one of our readers has heard a story concerning a purportedly fake Rocket Gold Star over the years that they have been entrenched in ‘the scene’, as the rorty Rocket Goldie seems to be one of the more popular counterfeits and many Rocket Gold Stars (authentic or not) have been accused of being ‘fakes’.

Typically people with the inclination to create a fake Rocket Goldie will get hold of another early-1960s A10 Beezer – a Super Rocket, for example – then strip it down, repaint it and reconfigure it into a replica Rocket Goldie.

Add the siamesed exhausts that were a factory optional extra for the Super Rocket but came as standard on the Rocket Goldie, and you’ve got a bike that, cosmetically at least, looks uncannily like a Rocket Gold Star (though there are subtle differences that will identify a genuine Rocket Goldie frame).

In the Triumph camp the humble Thunderbird or TR6 is occasionally known to disappear into a dark shed and emerge weeks later as a Bonnie (normally one of the highly-prized early-1960s models) though this, thankfully, seems to be less prevalent than it was.

Things become more difficult for the fakers and forgers as you turn back the clock, especially when you slide past the Second World War and into vintage country, though that’s not to say that the odd bike won’t occasionally slip through the net.

Where the sleek vintage and post-vintage bikes dwell a more insidious tactic exists.


This beautiful AJS V-four was scratch-built (the build was featured in our November 2006 issue). Ground-up rebuilds like this sit in the grey area between ‘replica’ and ‘new bike’. It is a very handsome machine.

This tactic focuses less on trying to physically build a valuable bike out of a more run-of-the-mill machine and instead puts the emphasis on harnessing mystery and folklore to increase the provenance of a pre-existing motorcycle, thereby making it more desirable and, consequently, more valuable.

It isn’t too difficult to imagine somebody building a convincing replica of an old TT-winner (or simply tweaking a standard model of the same type) and then trying to sell it off as the genuine article.

Dennis Frost is chief judge at the Stafford show and historian of the LE Velocette Club, and he explains that, while fake motorcycles do exist, they rarely find their way to nationally-renowned events.

“The Stafford judges are rarely presented with fake machines,” Dennis says “and I am blessed with heading a fantastically experienced team, but if we are not sure about a particular entry we seek a second opinion.”

I alluded to problems caused by eligibility earlier in this feature, and that is a subject worth expanding on.

Some classic bike aficionados, fuelled not by greed or any other insidious motive but rather by their passion for riding old bikes, might choose to tell a white lie to get themselves into events which implement certain criteria upon their entrants, usually pertaining to the age of participating machines.

The forethought might be innocent enough; Mr Bloggs might want to ride his 1916 Triumph in his local pre-1915 run and as it does look very much like a 1914 model, he decides to fudge its age in order to ride.

It’s quite easily done, as the commencement of the First World War did stymie development. While this sort of conduct could be viewed by some as harmless, it is just injurious enough to start confusing records, and that will only cause more ambiguity further down the line.

Many motorcycles which come under the category of ‘fake’ are sold privately, as the sellers don’t want to risk entanglements with auctioneers who can (and will) take a very close look at the machine to ensure it is genuine, though some do find their way into the auction process.

Thankfully they are often rooted out and removed. Many auctioneers of classic motorcycles will screen all prospective entries and run the frame and engine numbers (as well as anything else that is indicative of fakery) past the relevant marque specialist or owners’ club, should they find something that strikes the inspectors as ‘out of place’.

Auctioneers always look to make sure that there is no misinformation anywhere along the line, and that what is described in the catalogue is exactly what gets sold when the hammer drops at auction. This is no more important than in the case of replicas and recreations.

When it comes to verifying what is genuine and what is not, frame and engine numbers have always been the most definitive way of sorting the real from the bogus.


The Vincent Black Shadow built by the Vincent Owners’ Club in 2007. Sold the following year, this brand new Black Shadow is now out on the road over 60 years after its forebears.

In Great Britain, a motorcycle stands or falls by its frame number and, legally, this is the principle form of identification for an old bike. This is where all serious forgeries begin.

Vincents, interestingly, have an advantage over most other old bikes in that there are several numbers stamped or die-cast into the frame which are unique to each motorcycle, making it much trickier to fabricate a convincing fake.

According to Dr Ken German, who was formerly in charge of the Metropolitan Police Stolen Vehicle Squad and is still actively involved in the prevention of vehicle crime, a false frame number can cause a plethora of problems for the classic bike owner. It could be that the bike you are looking at is, in fact, one of the 720 classic machines (that the police know about) that have been stolen in Europe this year.

There are several ways that you can test whether the frame number on your motorcycle is genuine.

Back in days of yore, the vast majority of motorcycle manufacturers used to spray over the area where the VIN numbers were stamped with paint, and during the manufacturing process this paint was nearly always baked on.

If there is no paint on the area of your frame where the VIN number has been stamped then that could be a cause for concern, though even if paint does remain it is possible that a similar paint in the form of an aerosol cellulose spray has been applied to ‘make good’ the area.

A useful trick, if you think something might be amiss, is to wipe a cloth soaked in a little acetone (nail varnish remover) over the painted surface where your VIN number is located.

If the paint comes away very easily, it could be indicative of foul play. Acetone will not remove the ‘baked on’ paint no matter how much elbow grease you apply.

Discrepancies in the size and font of the characters in your frame number can also be telltale signs of skulduggery, though thankfully many of the owners’ clubs possess a lot of factory records that can help explain any inconsistencies that you might discover.

Taking all of this information into account, a hypothetical scenario (illustrated on page 35) comes to mind.

Take, for example, a Manx Norton from the 1950s that won the Senior TT during that decade.

If the motorcycle was disassembled after its victory and separated into three different elements (the frame, the engine and the cycle parts) and then these three elements formed the basis of three separate restorations, which one could be classed as the one that won the TT?

From the perspective of the auctioneer, the answer is none of them. The auctioneer would have to describe the restorations as standard motorcycles that were simply ‘incorporating the TT winning frame’ and ‘incorporating the TT winning engine’.

It is likely that the restoration with the cycle parts would simply be viewed as a standard motorcycle as these are not deemed as important as the frame or the engine.

The Vincent Owners’ Club Spares Company used its vast resource of parts to build a completely new Black Shadow in 2007.

This was unique in that it was built using newly-manufactured components supplied by the Vincent Owners’ Club Spares Company and as such was not eligible for an age-related number as it was a brand new motorcycle, so the VOC had it registered as such.

So, is the sort of nefarious behaviour highlighted in this feature increasing?

Evidence says, yes, it certainly seems that way. More and more people are buying classic motorcycles but they are buying them primarily as an investment, not as a provider of riding pleasure, and this is one of the factors pushing the monetary value of classic bikes up (compare the price of a Brough Superior SS80 sold 10 years ago with the price of one now) and there is also, according to Dr Ken German, a problem with organised crime gangs who are getting better at telling a valuable classic from a not so valuable one – unwelcome news for the classic motorcycle owner. Still, it helps to arm oneself with information and, once you know what you’re looking for, a ‘ringer’ can be spotted a mile off.

SCOTT REPLICA

The ‘TT Replica’, as it was designated, was first introduced at the end of the 1928 season and was essentially a replica of the motorcycle on which Tommy Hatch rode to third place in the Senior TT earlier that year.

It was available in 498cc or 596cc versions and became very popular, lasting for several years in the Scott roster. The fact that you could go to your local Scott dealer and purchase a machine that was more or less identical to one that placed third in the Senior TT was quite the draw for prospective owners, and a clever bit of marketing from the folks at Scott.



The problems start to arise when one considers that these machines are, due to their popularity and race-bred style and performance, rather valuable, and consequently become a target themselves.

It all starts becoming very convoluted when you entertain the notion that somebody could be out to make a fake replica of a TT Replica! This model – a genuine replica, if one can have such a contradiction in terms – sold at auction several years ago.

VINCENT GREY FLASH

Based on a Vincent Comet, this is an example of a replica done really well. Not only does it look like a Grey Flash, but the individual components and, as a result, the performance are very much akin to that of a genuine Flash.

Crucially, this replica has never purported to be any other than a lovingly-crafted recreation of a famous postwar single.



Only 31 complete Grey Flash models were ever built by the Stevenage-based factory, so a replica is about as close as many can get to owning one of these stellar machines.

This causes a problem for the fakers and forgers of the world as, with so few of them built, it would be near-impossible to fabricate one that would fool the many experts who possess a wealth of information concerning these machines.

BSA ROCKET GOLD STAR

This Rocket Gold Star has been looked over by the experts and it has been confirmed that, though it does look uncannily like a genuine Rocket Goldie (minus the clip-on bars that you see so many of these bikes sporting, though the ace bars are technically the correct factory spec), this one is, in fact, a lookalike.



It’s a sad tale, but one previous owner was sold this machine under the guise that it was genuine (before it was confirmed that it was a replica) and the aforesaid owner may well have had to pay genuine Rocket Gold Star money for it.

This is a sobering example that the sort of activity described in this feature is actually happening.

THRUXTON VELOCETTE

This Thruxton Velocette is unique in that it incorporates a TT winning engine. It was correctly and responsibly sold as a machine ‘incorporating the TT winning engine’ and not as the genuine TT winner, which would have been considered fraudulent.

Some motorcycles incorporating an original, authentic engine have been occasionally known to masquerade as ‘the real deal’ in the past.

Only if the original frame was part of the same restoration alongside the original engine could the authenticity of the machine be properly confirmed.



Cycle parts don’t seem to carry quite as much magnitude – as one might expect – and are often disregarded altogether.

A Norton incorporating the seat on which Geoff Duke rode to victory in a GP event, for example, would likely not warrant any special consideration and the seat might not even be mentioned in the catalogue description of the motorcycle.

Read more News and Features at www.classicmotorcyle.co.uk and in the latest issue of The Classic Motorcycle – on sale now!

The post Replicas, specials, fakes and forgeries appeared first on The Classic Motorcycle.
 
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