American teenage heartthrob of the 1960s dies aged 73
He was the singer of Rubber Ball and Take Good Care of My Baby
He was one of the most recognised and most played voices of the 1960s. His hits included Rubber Ball; More Than I Can Say; Take Good Care of My Baby; and The Night Has a Thousand Eyes. This is how most people will remember (with affection) the American singer Bobby Vee who died this month aged 73.
He was born Robert Velline in Fargo, North Dakota, USA. As a teenager, he once appeared with a certain Robert Zimmerman who was then using the stage name of Elston Gunn, and who later became an even more certain Bob Dylan. But it was the death of Buddy Holly that propelled Robert Velline into the spotlight.
Buddy Holly was killed in 1959 in an air crash that also took the lives of J P "The Big Bobber" Richardson and Ritchie Valens. Holly had been on his way to a Minnesota gig when the news of the accident hit the airwaves. An appeal was launched for a stand-in to fill Holly's shoes (no small task), and Velline responded. An avid Holly fan, Velline knew the words to the songs, and he was quickly accepted.
That appearance was, if not a major professional springboard, then a catalyst at least. Soon Velline and his band, The Shadows (not to be confused with Hank Marvin's Shadows), had cut their first hit. By 1961, Rubber Ball had sold over one million copies and he became Bobby Vee, a clean-cut, all-American teenage heartthrob who, between 1959 and 1970, notched up 38 top 100 hits.
In the 1960s, Bobby Vee was never the rockers choice, not with those smooth looks and the homely, honest, apple-pie voice. But the American public loved him, and the British public followed suit. He toured the UK for many years, and in 2013, as if to close the circle of his success, he made a guest appearance with the aforementioned Bob Dylan at a Minnesota concert.
Bobby Vee married Karen Bergen in 1963. She died last year (2015). The couple had four children who all survive him.
Ex-War Department BSA sidevalve fetches top money
Is this a new high for a BSA WM20? We certainly can't remember one fetching six grand plus; at least not in this condition. But this example sold recently at the Bonhams Sale at Stafford on 16th October 2016 for £6,325 including buyers premium.
As far as we can tell, there's nothing special about the bike (aside from it being a perennially popular 500cc BSA sidevalve). It doesn't appear to have a significant war record (or any war record). There are no obvious celebrities associated with it. It doesn't claim to have been a star in any movies. It's not in road going condition. And it's not the first of the line, or the last.
It's just a common or garden variety BSA WM20, c1943, and someone paid £6,325 to own it, presumably without having a loaded gun pressed against his or her head.
Don't misunderstand us. We own a WM20 ("W" for war department), and we love it to bits. Ten years ago we paid £925 for a near-completed machine. And until recently, we figured it was worth £3,500 or so. Maybe £4,000. And that's in a generally very good condition and ready for the road.
But we're now going to have to re-evaluate that value and maybe add a thousand quid or so to the agreed insurance value. Or, on the other hand, is this above Bonhams WM20 just a buying fluke?
We don't know. And okay, it's not exactly a huge jump into a new price bracket. But it looks like a significant nudge forward. A well-sorted WM20 (i.e. canvas bags, Vokes filter, blackout mask, etc) would normally fetch around £5,000 - £6,000. We've been told of bikes asking more than that (£7,000 - £8,000). But "asking" ain't necessarily "selling". And most, if not all, of the owners claiming similar values are not actually selling their wheels.
Meanwhile, this example is going to need a fair amount of re-commissioning. It's been standing for ten years or more. The tyres might need replacing. Fluids will need to be changed. A lot of spiders will need evicting. A new battery will be required. Some rust will have to be dealt with. Fresh paint or an oily rag will feature extensively. And there will be some fettling involved, if not a complete engine strip and rebuild.
We figured this example might have sold for £3,000 - £3,250. Whoever bought it, however, had other ideas.
UPDATE: We've since been contacted by a regular Sumpster who was at the Bonhams Sale. It seems that this bike might have been bought largely for the number plate. On this occasion, that never occurred to us. The number, after all, is JTO 121D, which doesn't strike us as particularly valuable, unless your name is JTO 121D. Of course, there would have been an under-bidder to drive the price north of six grand. But maybe that under-bidder was also equally interested in the numbers. No doubt, if or when you asset strip a classic motorcycle, there are a few quid to be made, even for a number such as this. It's not how we like to do business, however. Meanwhile, we'd better hang on to our original BSA WM20 valuations until we see more conclusive evidence of rising prices.
New range of vinyl-lettered sweatshirts for hardcore autojumblers
Be noticed, buy smart
Okay, dudes and dudesses. Here's the pitch. We've devised these new "WANTED" sweatshirts which are aimed squarely at all you desperate, hardcore, fanatical autojumble hunters.
As we've discovered for ourselves many times, it's getting harder and harder to root out the really good junk.
Yes, there's still a fair bit of motorcycle gold stashed away here and there; items that are slowly unearthed and brought back into circulation. But getting your hands on it requires more than persistence. Ya gotta have an edge, and we think this might help do the trick.
Here are the operating instructions.
1. Buy the sweatshirt.
2. Wear it and visit an autojumble.
3. Root around in the usual tradition, and wait for a tap on the shoulder.
4. Turn around and eyeball the guy or girl standing there holding a genuine, NOS, last-one-in-the-box, Smiths 8-day clock/Lucas Competition Magneto or whatever.
5. Make a deal.
6. Go home, switch on your computer and tell all yer mates on your favourite forum.
These WANTED sweatshirts are good quality stock. But the lettering isn't printed. It's made of soft vinyl to ensure that (a) it's easily seen from a distance, (b) won't wash off, and (c) looks good for the longest possible time. But wait! If you don't like the feel of vinyl on a sweatshirt, and some folks don't, then don't buy this item. However, because the lettering is on the back only, we figure that most wearers will be perfectly happy.
The sweatshirts are £25.99, and we're carrying a very limited stock at any one time. Why? Because the range is large, and because we expect these to be fairly slow sellers and bought only by the more determined jumbler.
Also, we're offering these shirts with a scaled design. In other words, the bigger the sweatshirt, the larger the lettering. And vice versa.
But we will make the lettering as large as possible to maximise your chances of getting what you want at the jumbles.
Delivery time is therefore likely to be somewhere between a few days and maybe two weeks depending on where you are in the world. But take note that shipping costs for sweatshirts are higher than for T-shirts. So the price might simply be too high for you Sumpsters living Down Under or up-over in North America/Canada. Keep that in mind if you will. Then again, the British pound has collapsed so badly that we could be practically giving 'em away.
Finally, we're currently offering these sweatshirts for the following motorcycle marques:
AJS ARIEL BSA GREEVES HARLEY-DAVIDSON INDIAN MATCHLESS NORTON ROYAL ENFIELD TRIUMPH VELOCETTE VINCENT
A Royal Enfield sweatshirt will be available imminently.
Sizes are S - 4XL (and if 4XL ain't big enough for ya, you don't need an advertising sweatshirt. You need a billboard).
Happy hunting, hunters.
Giant Indian engineering and automotive group buys BSA name
£3.4 million is the purchase price
This is a follow up to our story from last week in which the huge Indian firm, Mahindra, was expected to announce an investment of some kind in Southampton-based BSA-Regal, current owner of the BSA brand and trademark.
Well, it's become clear today (24th October 2016) that Mahindra has done more than simply invest in BSA-Regal. Through a subsidiary company, Classic Legends Private Limited (CLPL), the Indians have bought the BSA motorcycle name and brand for £3.4 million (120,000 shares at £28.33).
However, it's still not clear exactly what this involves beyond the BSA motorcycle name itself. Does the purchase, for instance, include other aspects of BSA-Regal's business, which includes various forms of engineering? We're checking details now and will follow this up as soon as we receive an official statement from Mahindra, or BSA-Regal. Or both.
In the meantime, it seems likely that Mahindra will either seeks to return BSA branded motorcycles to the marketplace, or will use the BSA name for other commercial purposes. In recent years, BSA-Regal has licensed numerous BSA branded products. This control will now pass to Mahindra.
UPDATE: BSA-Regal has clarified the position by explaining that the BSA-Regal Group, as a whole, is not part of the deal. Additionally, a BSA-Regal insider has suggested that new BSA bikes are on the way and will be produced in the UK. We haven't heard confirmation of that from Mahindra, take note.
See this link for more on Sump's BSA-Regal story
Ex-Radio London DJ dies
Ex-Radio London and Capital Radio DJ Dave Cash has died at the age of 74.
He was born David Charles Wish in Hertfordshire and grew up in North London. When he was a child, his family emigrated to Canada, hence his distinct "North American" accent and relaxed delivery style.
If you were around in the mid-1960s, you might remember Dave Cash as one of the voices of "Wonderful Radio London", the pirate radio ship (MV Galaxy) anchored in the North Sea off the Essex coast between 1964 and 1967. Supported by DJs Tony Blackburn, John Peel and Kenny Everett, Radio London was the anarchic sound of independent commercial radio that so confounded the British establishment.
At that time, all UK broadcasting was regulated by the Post Office. Licences were strictly controlled and given only to those deemed reasonably conformist. Radio London (aka "Big L") was devised by Texan entrepreneur Don Pierson. It was housed in a ramshackle ex-US Navy minesweeper, and was certainly not on the British Government's approved list. Consequently, any number of attempts were made to shut down the "illegal" station.
Telephone lines were cut, numerous subtle and not-so-subtle threats were made against the operators and staff, signal jamming was mooted, and finally legislation was introduced (Marine Broadcasting Offences Act) which made it illegal for anyone on the British mainland to support pirate radio ships, or pirate radio stations operating from offshore forts, or even "pirate radio aircraft". The new offence included supplying music, advertising, food, drink and pretty much anything else except emergency assistance.
The entire venture was a catalogue of makeshift repairs and improvisation, which included regularly piloting a small boat to the British mainland to take or make telephone calls, and padding the steel studio walls with bedding mattresses to improve the acoustics. The ship, it's said, was not ballasted. Therefore, the pendulum effect of the transmitter mast created some very unpleasant experiences on board. But the station was much loved by tens of thousands of listeners, and it's since achieved something of a cult status. And yes, it sounds klunky and amateurish today, but in its time this station was pioneering and presented music and commentary in ways that simply couldn't be heard through mainstream British broadcasting networks.
Radio London pulled the plug shortly before the new broadcasting law came into effect, and Dave Cash soon found a new opening with Radio Luxembourg before moving to the BBC.
Dave Cash, who borrowed Johnny Cash's surname for his professional "nom-de-mic", was also a regular presenter on BBC TV's Top of the Pops where he shared the honours with established DJs such as Alan Freeman, Pete Murray and Jimmy Savile (the late DJ who reputedly molested around 70 victims and allegedly raped eight of them).
Cash became a regular face in the British newspapers due to his high-rolling lifestyle in Swinging Sixties London. Later he was one of the opening DJs to be heard on Capital Radio, London's first commercial radio station (as approved by the government, naturally). It was a gig he maintained for 21 years. And if you remember the movie Quadrophenia (1979), you might have heard Dave Cash piping up here and there in the background.
He worked on numerous other stations around the South East of England including Radio Kent, Radio Sussex, Radio Surrey, Radio Solent, Radio Berkshire and Radio Oxford. Later in life he also found time to write a couple of reasonably successful political novels. And in more recent years, he's been a constant face on YouTube with his Dave Cash Collection programme; a music box of 1,500 digital albums available from iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and the other usual digital stores.
Dave Cash was married three times. He's survived by his third wife, a son and a daughter.
BSA M20 "Blueprint" T-shirts are back in stock
100 percent cotton, £15.99
To tell the truth (and we always do), we don't know what the hell we were thinking of, or what the hell we we're were doing. Here's what happened: Our last batch of BSA M20 "Blueprint" T-shirts sold out pretty damn quick. But the truth is, we'd expected them to sell out a whole lot damn quicker.
Actually, most sizes did sell out somewhere between "damn quick" and "damn quicker". And that's surprising because the snapshots we took of the shirts were pretty ... well, amateur. That's what we mean when we tell you that we don't know what the hell we were thinking of, etc. It was lousy marketing from people who ought to know better.
We blame it on the beer. And the late nights. But the point is, we needed to quickly reprint XL and 2XL, and so we did. And they're back in stock. We carry M, L, XL, 2XL. But sorry, no S or 3XL. Not yet, anyway.
The tees are still 100 percent cotton and silk-screened printed right here in the UK. The seams are double stitched at the neck, shoulder and lower edge. The colour is "army green" (which means different things to different people". And if you want one, you know what you have to do. Just make sure you check your size (as if you don't already do that half a dozen times a day).
Check our BSA M20 "Blueprint" T-shirt page and buy now before your size gets snapped up again.
Jim Redman at South of England Classic Motorcycle Show
Adult tickets £6 on the gate
Here's a reminder that this weekend (Sunday) is the occasion of the South of England Classic Motorcycle Show at Ardingly, West Sussex. Julie Diplock at Elk Promotions is, as ever, the organiser. This year's guest of honour is Jim Redman MBE, Six Times World Champion and Six Times Isle of Man TT Winner (image below right). He'll be fielding questions and signing copies of his autobiography.
Ardingly is a pretty good venue with a nice vibe and plenty of under-cover space. So expect a decent motorcycle show aimed at pre-1980 machines. We're also told that you can listen to the iconic Honda RC181 and Manx Nortons associated with Jim Redman's career. That will go down at 11am and 1.30pm.
Beyond that, there will be a large bikejumble, numerous club stands, a baker's stall, burger stands, toasted sandwiches vendors, an Italian smokerie, a hog roast, real coffee, a helmet park (courtesy of the Royal British Legion), and much more.
Garage clear out stalls (6 metres x 6 metres) are still available for just £10 (which includes entry for two), but you'd better book superquick—meaning book tonight (Friday 21st October) or tomorrow. And if you've got a dog, bring him or her along. Just remember to keep the mutt on a lead, if you will.
We'll declare an interest here: We know Julie Diplock. But that ain't gonna stop us from saying again that this is a good show and worth a morning or afternoon of your life. She's an independent on the show scene and works very hard to provide value for money entertainment. And these independent shows need supporting, perhaps more now than ever.
Here's an address:
South of England Showground, Ardingly, West Sussex, RH17 6TL. It's eight miles from Junction 10 on the M23, and it's sign-posted SOE/Wakehurst Place. The entrance to the showground is via the North Gate, opposite the Gardener's Arms pub.
Tickets are £6 on the gate, £5 for over-65s [Isn't everyone over-65 these days? - Ed], under 16s get in free [What does "under-16" mean? - Ed]. The gates open at 10am. Last admission is at 1.30pm.
British custom bike builder scoops prestigious US award
$10,000 prize money
Rocket Rob's Speed Weevil salt flats racer has won the 2016 Artistry in Iron award in Las Vegas, USA. The Swindon, UK-based custom shop is the first British bike builder to be invited to display at the prestigious 20-strong event held at the 16th Annual BikeFest (29th September - 2nd October 2016).
Speed Weevil is built around a nitro-fuelled, turbo and supercharged 1935 Triumph L2-1 engine that, we understand, has been campaigned in motorcycle competition for 70 years. The firm, which was founded in 2009 is owned and managed by Pete Pearson. He received a $10,000 cheque and a bespoke bracelet created by artist Steve Soffa.
Engine: 1935 Triumph L2-1
Frame: T45 with 316 stainless steel slugs and Inconel pins
Transmission: 1965 Japanese grasstrack race box
Front fork: Internally sprung 4130 aero tube girder with 316 stainless steel support arms
Swinging-arm: T45 grasshopper arm with 436 jack shaft running 12 high speed bearings
Supercharger: 1942 Rolls Royce Merlin compressor retrieved from a WW2 Spitfire fighter
Turbo charger: Extensively re-worked snowmobile unit
Fuel tank: Modifed 1977 Ironhead peanut with internal intercooler, plenum chambers and wastegate plus adjustable inlet tract
Carburettor: Yoshimura downdraft
Ignition: SEM magneto
Oil tank: 316 stainless steel
Rear brake: Fully custom with Hope caliper
Wheels: Supermoto race with Dunlop full wets
British engineering firm is targeted by Indian multinational
The BSA brand is part of an as yet unspecified deal
It's all pretty sketchy at the moment. An official press statement will be released on Monday or Tuesday next week (24th/25th October 2016). But what seems clear is that a new commercial tie-up between Mahindra Two Wheelers and BSA-Regal Engineering is on the cards.
So who is Mahindra Two Wheelers? Well, it's part of the giant Mahindra Group headquartered in Mumbai (Bombay), India. The firm has been struggling for some time to produce a viable challenger to the dominant two-wheeled manufacturers on the Indian mainland (Hero MotoCorp, Bajaj Auto, Honda and TVS). Mahindra Two Wheelers currently owns the Kinetic and SYM brands.
The parent Mahindra Group, meanwhile, has its fingers in any number of commercial curries including the automotive sector, aviation, agriculture, defence, steel manufacturing and financial services. And we're guessing that Mahindra has been eyeing up the success of neighbouring Eicher Motors which is presently riding a very tall Royal Enfield wave.
And who is BSA-Regal Engineering? Well, the 120-strong British company is based in Southampton, Hampshire. It's involved in a range of manufacturing services from industrial tubing technology to electrical systems to heating networks to building maintenance.
BSA-Regal bought the BSA name and rights back in 1994 but hasn't shown much interest in redeveloping the marque. Or, at least, hasn't found a suitable trading partner with deep enough pockets and the wherewithal to restore the brand prestige of the once great Birmingham Small Arms Company. There have been a few failed attempts to re-establish BSA bikes, notably with the 1980 Tracker, the 1994 Bushman, and the 1997 400cc BSA Gold SR, all carrying a BSA badge, but employing proprietary engines from Yamaha. More recently, the firm has been fielding (on a very small scale) the BSA John McClaren TAG 350 and the BSA TAG1000 electric off-road trials bikes.
▲ The BSA Gold SR. It featured a 400cc and (later) a 500cc Yamaha engine and looked reasonably good. But the BSA badge wasn't enough to secure sufficient sales. It lasted just a couple of years before (very limited) production ended. The bikes went to Japan and Europe.
▲ In 2003 there was also a prototype BSA Tempest. This 85hp, 1,000cc Rhind-Tutt Wasp-engined twin looked very promising. But a lack of orders belayed production. Shame.
For a while, BSA-Regal also became involved in BSA spares, Norton spares and MZ spares. But these wavering interests have since been licensed to thirds parties while the parent firm concentrates on its core engineering business.
In May 2016, it was widely reported that Mahindra was looking to buy an established British motorcycle brand. Norton Motorcycles was one consideration, and BSA was another. However, Norton's Stuart Garner has apparently made it clear that he's not currently in the mood for flogging the family silver, which leaves BSA. Or BSA-Regal.
To that end, negotiations with Mahindra have been underway for some time, and now it seems that a joint statement is being drafted. So could we be looking at a new range of BSA badged bikes in the foreseeable future?
We spoke to a BSA-Regal company insider who, with some reluctance, hinted very strongly at "yes". But until the official press release lands on our doormat, we're keeping an open mind.
Beyond that, we were actually hoping that Triumph would enter the fray and pitch for the BSA name (and for all we know there have been tentative enquiries from Hinckley). But as it stands, it looks like the most likely route to get BSA branded bikes back on the market (in any kind of volume) is via the hungry Indians. But will we be pleased or disappointed if and when that actually comes to pass?
Bombay Small Arms? It makes ya think.
Triumph's new 1200cc factory custom is packed with features
Hardtail looks, but with a sprung chassis front and rear
ABS. Traction control. Ride-by-wire. 270-degree crank
Triumph Motorcycles is both way behind the curve with this one, and is also ahead. For a long time custom builders have been creating some pretty cool looking air/oil-cooled Hinckley Bonneville choppers, brats and bobbers, and it was only natural that sooner or later the new liquid-cooled T120s would go under the backstreet knife. But we didn't really expect Triumph would jump on the bandwagon—and in doing so steal a march on pretty much everyone else. Maybe we should have, but you can't look everywhere at once.
The bobber scene is still strong, and in hindsight we might have anticipated a Hinckley version any time over the past ten years. Hence our comment about the factory also being way behind the curve. But with this new machine, the company has made up a lot of ground, and we're glad they've finally joined the party.
▲ The battery sits in a "traditional" battery box. You can see it behind the rider's left foot. Triumph evidently felt that a single front disc was adequate.
▲ Triumph hyped this bike under its "Brutal Beauty" banner with press launches in London and Los Angeles. We're not crazy about the silencers, and the fuel tank looks like an afterthought. But overall, it's not a bad attempt at an instant showroom "bobber".
And what a party this is. A 1200cc 270-degree, liquid-cooled parallel twin with an 8-valve head. ABS. Fuel-injection. Traction control. A ride-by-wire throttle. An immobiliser. Wire wheels. Rigid looks (but with a monoshock rear end taking all of the "hard" out of the "tail"). A sprung saddle. And foot-controls in a more sensible and practical mid-position.
Additionally, a large range of accessories is planned for this bike including full-blown ape-hangers straight out of the 1960s. With its low riding position (27-inches/690mm), its macho/urban looks, and the Harleyesque front end, it's pretty obvious which bikes are looking to be taken down by this factory bobster. And a lot of rival bikes will undoubtedly lose out in the showroom wars. This, for a large chunk of the market, will be viewed as a pretty cool looking motorcycle that's going to bring in some big bucks for Hinckley.
▲ Triumph's Bonneville Bobber, top view. The low saddle will no doubt be a major factor in any buying decision for shorter rider. That saddle slides back for longer-legged riders.
But wait a minute! Doesn't the idea of a factory custom kinda kill much of its appeal? Well for some guys and girls it might. And with all the weight that's piled on to ensure everyday practicality (and legality), you can argue that it's not really much of a bobber anyway. Certainly not in spirit. And some might even call it a cynical attempt to (belatedly) cash-in on a fad that really belongs with the everyday folk looking to express themselves in their own way and thereby demonstrate some kind of rebellion against conformity.
▲ Four colours for the Bobber are expected: Modello Red; Ironstone; Jet Black; and Competition Green/Frozen Silver. Triumph's "high torque" SOHC 120cc engine is expected to remain unchanged, subject to a few tweaks.
Well we can recognise the arguments, but we don't really see it like that. Triumph has simply responded to fashion and has produced another motorcycle that thousands of motorcyclists are going to want. And if these bikers want to take a hacksaw and a blowtorch to this newcomer in the comfort of their sheds and garages and re-interpret it, that's their business.
Certainly, at the very least, this machine is going to frustrate a few custom bike builders looking to produce something different to the stock roadster T120s.
Other features of the Bonneville Bobber include a neat adjustable saddle that slides up and down on a runner thereby varying the height and attitude. The electrical stuff has been cleanly tucked away, and there's a large and fairly stylish flip-up speedometer adjustable for whatever seating position you choose. We don't yet know what pillion provision is being offered, but we're fairly confident that Triumph would have looked that far ahead.
There are no prices yet, so look out for an update. Triumph hinted that something like this was coming. We were expecting something ... well, something else. Something a little less safe, perhaps. Something that pushed off in a totally new direction. Or maybe even an electric Triumph. But we're not disappointed.
If you're looking for another reason to buy British (albeit probably produced in a foreign factory) this could be it.
£100 Veloce publication is perfect for lovers of Vincent specials
875 pictures (colour and B&W)
248mm x 248mm
In September (2016) we carried a brief news item on the launch of this book. However, we couldn't provide an intelligent review until we received hard copy from publisher, Veloce. Well that book arrived a week ago, and we're happy to report that it's one of the best things from any publisher that we've seen in a long while.
Firstly, if this volume fell on your head from a first floor window, it would probably kill you. It's simply huge and is jam-packed with images, history, insights, facts and feelings about the other most famous (and certainly the most legendary) motorcycle in the world. But if you're looking for more mundane road tests from the forties or fifties, or even later road tests from more recent history, you won't find it. If you're looking for a minute-by-minute account of Phil Vincent's and Phil Irving's personal beginnings, and endings, that's not here either. There's not much on the Stevenage factory, and the book is in no way a manual.
This, instead, is a book about that other Vincent, the one beloved by the Vincent diehards who prefer to race, modify, tinker, specialise and innovate. That above all else. The images, both black & white and colour, are highly evocative (and more than a couple of snaps are wonderful). The writing is full of heart and passion. The subject matter is well focussed and constrained. And the design is ... well, largely irrelevant. But it's by no means bad.
Instead of concerning yourself with font choice, kerning, leading, margins, captions and whatnot, you'll be too busy reading intently about the high-speed antics of the Vincent boys and girls who've seized this motorcycling platform by the throat and have literally propelled it into areas that Phil Vincent and Phil Irving would have undoubtedly approved of, and would quite probably have marvelled at.
The chapters include narratives on Egli-Vincents, The Seeley Vincent, The Vincati, Gunga Din, The Capon-Vincent, The Parkin-Vincent, and numerous other performance specials of which we've never heard. And there's even the odd Vincent chopper.
If we had to gripe, and unfortunately we're kind of obliged to if only for journalistic balance, we would have liked some more mundane stuff here including the aforementioned road tests and sales material and suchlike if only to provide a wider context. That said, the Vincent crowd are already well acquainted with the context and will easily look beyond that.
You can't read this book in a day, or probably in a week, not unless you stop doing pretty much everything else. Here at Sump it would take us a month or more to read it properly, and maybe another year or two to re-read and re-map the relationships between the players and fully acquaint ourselves with what is effectively a parallel world that's neither classic nor modern. It's not heavy going in terms of the writing style. There are simply lots of words.
In our last news item we mentioned that you can't judge a book by its cover. And we're reminded of the truth of that statement. It's far better than we expected, and we suspect that Author Philippe Guyony probably needed a blood-transfusion after this work.
Put simply, books such as this could put television out of business, at least as far as Vincent lovers are concerned.
Veloce's price is £100, and it's worth every penny. And if there's a Vincent owner in your life, you simply can't go wrong with presenting this book as a gift.
See Sump Motorcycle News September 2016 for more on this story
Cool album of original 1950's twangin' rock'n'roll
Petrolheads step this way
Fast Cars, Loose Women & Rockin' Sounds. That's what this collection of raw and raunchy rockabilly promises. So if twang's your thang, you won't be disappointed. There are forty great original songs stuffed with enough youthful energy to take some grey from your hair, some flab from your belly and maybe even some of the hardness from your arteries. We stumbled on this boogie beatbox a week or so ago whilst trawling YouTube, and we've been playing it pretty much ever since.
As the album title suggests, the focus of this compilation is hot rods, 1950s style. And these artists aren't modern fakes. They're the real thing pouring it on thick and sweet. It isn't simply the sound of the slapping double basses, the razor-edged screech of the semi-acoustic rhythm guitars, or the cheeky T-shirt-and-acne lyrics that does it for us. It's also the roar of flathead V8s and the squealing tyre rubber that gets the heart pounding. So if those sounds work for you, this album is an essential antidote to the dullness of middle age and a message to contemporary youth that great music is as old as you want it to be, and is always best served fresh.
The longest rockin'-hillbilly track is Hoyt Stevens' '55 Chevy at 3.28. The shortest is Billy Wallace's Burning the Wind at 1.46. But between those two modest extremes, it's all pretty much seamless rockin and rollin'. Other tracks include James Gallagher's Ford and Shaker; Johnny Roane's Drag Strip Baby; Johnny Lane's Rockin' on the Dragstrip, and Bobby Johnston's Flat tyre with lyrics such as:
"Down the road and over the hill
I took my baby riding in my automobile
Just riding along with my heart's desire
And a ... sssssss..... a flat tyre
Grabbed my jack and reachin' for my spare
And great googwoogah it was flat as a chair
I took out my pump and started pumpin' back
When ... ssssss ... another flat ..."
Meanwhile, there's something here for Gene Vincent fans, Roy Orbison fans and much more. Just make sure you turn the volume up until the windows are vibrating. It doesn't work if you don't do that.
Are we connected in any way with Not Now Music which released this in 2013? No. We just like it and feel like sharing it.
So go and search YouTube for Hot Rod Rockabilly. It's claimed to be officially licensed content, but you'll have to contend with half a dozen or so adverts that pop-up between tracks. Our advice is to contact Not Now Music and/or hunt online for some place to download this album. Whatever it costs, pay up. While the music plays, you'll feel a little younger.
61 bikes listed for sale
28 listed as sold (later claimed to be 33)
Rikuo (Harley-Davidson clone) sells for £9,040
Godet Egli-Vincents fail to sell
George Beale Matchless G50 fails to sell
Firstly, we're a little slow in posting this story, so we're putting that right without further ado. The belated story is that H&H Auctions Duxford Sale at the Imperial War Museum on 12th October 2016 didn't exactly set Cambridgeshire alight.
Of the 61 motorcycles on offer, we counted 28 that were listed on the company website as sold. That's a conversion rate of just 41 percent. However, H&H has since told us that they actually sold 33 motorcycles which gives a conversion rate of 55 percent. We're assuming that these other bikes were sold post-sale. Either way, H&H is naturally a little disappointed at the result. Ideally, they'd love a 100 percent conversion rate, but would happily settle for 70 - 80 percent.
And there were some interesting bikes in the sale including two circa-1980 Godet Egli-Vincents estimated at £50,000 - £60,000, a 2004 George Beale G50 Matchless Replica estimated at £25,000 - £27,000, and a 2011 Tonkin Tornado (Manx Norton special).
The Godet Egli-Vincents didn't sell. Neither did the G50 replica. And as far as we can tell, the Tornado was withdrawn (H&H's spokesman didn't have details when we called). But it should be noted that Duxford is primarily a car auction, not bikes. And as we understand it, car sales were much healthier with a claimed 70 percent conversion rate and a turnover of £5 million (that figure includes bikes)
But H&H won't be flogging motorcycles at Duxford in 2017. That venue will be reserved for the aforementioned car auctions. The firm is instead planning a heavier assault on Donington Park, Derbyshire. And the next sale at that location is on 16th November 2016 (times have yet to be posted).
One bike that has caught our eye at Duxford (but we'd totally missed earlier when perusing the lots) is a 1955 Rikuo. This 747cc flathead Harley-Davidson clone was produced under licence in Japan. The story of Rikuo's association with Harley-Davidson is long, complicated and very political.
But essentially, in the early part of the 20th century, Harley-Davidson's access to British Commonwealth markets was subject to hefty/punitive import taxes. Both Harley (and Indian) consequently looked to Africa and the Far East for their much-needed growth, and up to a point things went well in Japan with good sales to the police and the military, plus some private sales.
The Great Depression helped scupper much of that market when the Yen collapsed. The solution, according to some, was to manufacture the bikes in Japan under licence. This fitted well with Japan's economic and political philosophy, and it further addressed the nation's basic transport needs.
By 1935, a motorcycle factory was built, and numerous H-D sidevalve models were produced up until WW2 (the figure of 18,000 bikes is commonly suggested). The bikes were badged as Rikuo, which translates roughly as "King of the Road". Many were fitted with driven sidecar wheels along with other items of military equipment. Essentially, it was Harley-Davidson that kept large elements of the Japanese army on the move right up to and beyond when the nation invaded China in 1937.
In 1947, following the post-war reconstruction of Japan, motorcycle manufacturing recommenced with the above Harley-Davidson 45 clone (three bike images in this story). The bike wasn't an exact copy. The Japanese engineers had their own ideas about how to adapt the design for local needs. By the late 1950s, production came to an end.
The engine on this example apparently turns over, but the bike will need re-commissioning. The estimate was £10,000 - £12,000. The bike sold at slightly below bottom estimate at £9,040. No further details were available.
Check Sump Classic Bike News September 2016 for more on the Duxford Sale
1924 996cc Croft-Cameron sold for £203,100
1948 Series-B Vincent Black Shadow sold for £113,500
1937 1,096cc Brough Superior 11-50HP sold for £85,000
The 2016 Bonhams Stafford Sale has just ended (16th October 2016) with the firm boasting a respectable £1.6million purse. The top selling lot was the (immediately) above 1924 996cc Croft-Cameron V-twin which found a buyer for £203,100. The estimate for this bike was £160,000 - £200,000, so Bonhams couldn't have got any closer if it had used a smart bomb.
The runner-up, sales-wise, was the (immediately) above 1948 998cc Vincent Black Shadow Series-B. The estimate was a fairly conservative £50,000-60,000. But the auctioneer walked away with a smug £113,500.
The Vincent therefore upstaged a 1937 1,096cc Brough Superior 11-50HP motorcycle combination (ex-Sheffield police) that sold for £85,500 (image immediately below). Apparently, five of these 60-degree sidevalve V-twin outfits have survived. Three of them are still in the UK. The sidecar has been recreated. Note that the blunt nose design isn't typical of the pointed deck of the standard Brough Superior Cruiser outfit (see the image further down this page).
These motorcycles entered production is 1933 and were withdrawn in 1939. The intended market was overseas police forces looking for a fast and cost effective patrol and pursuit vehicle. Maximum speed of a solo bike is reckoned to be around 85mph. In combination trim, around 70mph was possible.
Interestingly, the torque curve is said to be very flat thereby allowing the rider to drop to 15mph in top gear and, by dint of a little jiggery-pokery on the advance and retard lever, still have viable traction, even on hills.
The bike has undergone much restoration work, including a new petrol tank (by Ernie Rowe) and a replacement gearbox shell. But the engine and frame numbers match.
Bonhams is very satisfied with this sale. The auction realised £1,572,712. The sale rate was 94% of the lots offered, and at 94% of estimated value. What it all means is that Bonhams nailed it shut and has once again consolidated its position as the top UK auction house, at least as far as classic motorcycles are concerned.
At Sump, we were getting a little concerned about some of the prices in the classic bike sector, many of which appear to be in freefall. In fact, we've still got some misgivings in that regard. But this sale result has gone some way to reassure us that the end isn't exactly nigh. On this occasion at least, the market has dipped its hand deeply into its pocket.
"With reference to the ex Sheffield police Broughs (Bonhams auction). There may have been another survivor. A Bawtry man called Idris Williams had one of the SS80s as a solo, but upgraded it to SS100 by fitting the heads and barrels from an AJS V twin. That had been a one-off being AJS's submission for the army's sidecar driven-wheel contract which I believe Norton won. The Brough was never 'lost'. It just changed spec. I don't know what happened to it, but there were rumours of blank cheques being offered by Americans in the '70s. The frame of the donor AJS ended up as hardcore under the last owner's garden path. And no! I don't have the address."
- Mick Stephani
Norton introduced the 650cc Dominator range in late 1961. The frame was narrowed to create the Slimline Featherbed chassis (thereafter to be distinguished from the older Wideline featherbed frame). Among the first examples was the Manxman. With its twin-carburettors, the high bars, the polychromatic blue & grey livery, and the white piping on a red saddle, it was intended to appeal to US tastes, but failed. And that's where pretty much all the Manxmans went. A less radical 650cc Dominator was introduced for that year (image immediately above), which in 1962 was followed by the De luxe model. That season also saw the introduction of the more sporting twin-carbed 650SS for the UK market. Later, the SS was joined by a (single-carbed) Mercury. The Manxman stayed in production for just one year. The 650SS stayed for six years. The last of the 650cc Norton twins was the aforementioned Mercury produced between 1969 and 1970.
In the background is a 249cc Norton Jubilee. It was named to commemorate Norton's diamond anniversary. This quarter-litre is said to be the smallest engine Norton ever built. It was also the first unit construction engine manufactured by the firm. The bike arrived in 1958 and stayed in production until 1966. Originally it was offered with rear enclosure panelling (similar to Triumph's "bathtub", but by 1964 Norton finally accepted that it was unpopular and ditched it for more conventional styling.
BMW's "zero emissions" crusade continues
German government "to end petrol/diesel vehicles by 2030"
Yes, it's another (possibly electric) concept bike, but the context for this one has arguably changed a little over recent weeks, and that makes it perhaps a little more interesting and thought-provoking. What's happened is that the German Bundesrat has just voted to ban petrol and diesel engines by 2030. We're talking about road-going vehicles here, and not necessarily other equipment that utilises four-stroke cycle motors.
But don't panic. Yet. The vote doesn't carry any immediate weight. Instead, it needs to be rubber-stamped by the European Commission which could take years, or decades, of wrangling among the other 27 EU nations (or 26 if and when the UK finally cuts the cord).
However, the Germans swing a lot of weight, both politically and industrially, and they've got friends among the Norwegians who not so long ago passed a similar resolution. And there will no doubt be a few other nations fretting about the (probable) myth of global warming (see The Zeppelin File for more on this) and climbing on the alternate-power bandwagon, most of which is currently (no pun intended) electric.
Consequently, the rush for battery cars, motorcycles, trucks and buses is gathering pace, and as the necessary electric infrastructure develops (which it probably will), there will quite likely be a negative pressure on petroleum-centred infrastructure. In other words, the more electric charging points there are, the less interest there will be in supporting the existing petrol stations—unless the two technologies can somehow converge (perhaps with quick-change battery provision or ultra high speed charging).
The company, incidentally, isn't exactly saying that this is an electric bike. BMW prefers the term "zero emissions", which could refer to a hydrogen fuel cell (or some other high-tech or novel form of propulsion), never mind that "zero emissions" is a misnomer. Somewhere in the chain, there's a dirty exhaust pipe.
All the German car manufacturers have developed electric vehicles, but BMW is perhaps further ahead that the others. Hence the Vision Next 100 concept bike.
Interestingly, this motorcycle has a rubber frame, so to speak. Or a "Flexframe", if you prefer. The headstock doesn't operate in the usual way. It seems that the whole bike curves or bends or something (the details are beyond our puny intellects, and BMW's press release was a little vague on this point). But we can tell you that the tyres handle the suspension requirements, and that onboard gyros keeps the bike right-side-up even when the rider tries to put it upside-down.
BMW envisage no instruments on the bike. Instead, the rider (or space pilot) will wear special goggles with eye-movement functionality. The similarity to the existing Boxer engine is, of course, just BMW's way of segueing the past with the future.
Meanwhile, the Vision Next 100 program has a broader scope than "mere" motorcycles. It's part of BMW's core exploration of the future and encompasses cars and other forms of related technology.
If and when this future arrives, we can see a very long queue forming for the bikes are cars. So okay, most of us are wedded to the idea of petrol-powered engines in much the same way that previous generations were wedded to the concept of the grass-powered horse. But like it or not, electric/alternate-powered are going to play an increasing role in the future of personal transportation. And the Germans have, typically enough, already laid their towel on the beach.
Suicide Customs from Japan takes the Freestyle Class trophy
Michael Naumann takes second prize
Fred "Krugger" Bertrand takes third prize
Top prize in the 2016 12th AMD World Championships Freestyle Class went to Suicide Customs from Japan which presented the world with the (immediately) above 1973 1,000cc XLH Ironhead Sportster called "Rumble Racer".
It's the third successive year in which Suicide Customs has walked away with the coveted trophy. The builder is Koh Niwa. He was one of 67 competitors from 23 countries. 82 bikes were entered.
The second prize (Freestyle Class) went to Michael Naumann from Germany for "Simple Iron" which his take on the Ironhead Sportster. That's the entry immediately above.
Meanwhile, Belgian Fred “Krugger” Bertrand of Krugger Motorcycles took third place (Freestyle Class) for his 103-inch S&S Cycle-powered “LADD” (pictured immediately above).
Now, maybe we ought to get out a little more or something. Because as much as we recognise that these three motorcycles represent hundreds of hours of work and God only knows how many brainbytes of thought, it's nevertheless hard to see anything here that's significantly different from anything we haven't seen a hundred or more times.
All three bikes appears to be rehashing established trends and bringing very little to the banquet that, in one form or another, wasn't already on the table. That said, we weren't there to study the bikes up close, and there's nothing like direct eyes on polished steel and aluminium (or flesh) to appreciate the quality of the engineering.
But we have looked at a lot of photographs of these motorcycles, and nothing really impresses us. Good engineering, yes. Plenty of care, effort and what appears to be meticulous finishing. Serious builders all. But we'd expect more than these on the AMD World Championships winners podium.
Or is it simply that custom bike building has largely reached a plateau and needs a totally new wave to swamp it and bring out something truly radical? Ultimately, form follows function, and motorcycle function is pretty much the same as it was 100 years ago. A revolution is long overdue.
Meanwhile, we quite like Larry Moore's "Kontrolled Kaos" (image immediately above). Moore hails from Witchita, Kansas where he runs a custom shop. This Shovehead entry took fourth place (Freestyle Class) and features dual Morris magnetos (nothing new there), split rocker boxes (also nothing new), oil and gas in the split fuel tank (nothing new there), and exaggerated board track racer styling (nothing new there either). But there's a novel vertical leaf spring arrangement for the rear wheel that we haven't seen before. And as with the other bikes, the workmanship is meticulous.
Also, we like "Alcatraz 521" (image immediately above) from Italian builder North Coast Custom. We know nothing about the bike except that it's a two stroke and took 5th place in the Cafe Racer Class. We searched the web for more info, but at the time of writing, there was nothing helpful.
And finally, we like this bike (immediately above) from Iron Custom Motorcycles which hails from Kharkov, Ukraine. This was the winner in the Cafe Racer Class (check the hand-made 56bhp, 555сс 3-cylinder 2-stroke engine).
We don't say that this bike is pretty. However, it's quirky and interesting, and those colours fight hard against each other, but work in a kind of bizarre Eastern Bloc, not-quite-on-message way.
Tesco accesses DVLA database
Database security concerns
We're talking about the UK-wide Blue Badge scheme which allows disabled shoppers to park as close as possible to the (Tesco) supermarket door instead taking a hike across the car park.
The scheme has long been abused by "frauds" and "cheats" and sundry ne'er-do-wells who are too lazy/busy/thoughtless to park somewhere else. So Tesco has deployed a new high tech device which scans the displayed badge and forwards the information to whatever parking contractor is on the company books. The contractor checks the details, and if you're displaying a bogus badge, your goose will be cooked and a fine will wing its way to you in the mail.
We haven't got a lot of sympathy for the cheats. But on the other hand, when you just want to nip in for a pint of milk or to use the facilities, a few seconds in the disabled bay (with or without a phoney badge) doesn't seem like much of a crime (not that we've ever transgressed).
But of course, pensioners, the disabled and the chronically ill see it very differently and take issue with offenders regardless of how many blue badge parking bays are still vacant. Anyway, you've been warned.
More worrying is the fact that these parking contractors can get easy access to the DVLA database which means that pretty much anyone else in the universe can get access because parking contractors, in our experience, rarely occupy offices on any kind of moral or legal high ground. Not for long, anyway.
This isn't exactly a new development. The DVLA has long been careless and irresponsible with its information, and any teenage hacker can probably by-pass the government security. But it's worth remembering that your private details and the details of your expensive motorcycles are practically in the public domain. So if you're concerned about security, double it.
The information age is a double edged sword, and sooner or later it's going to spill some unexpected blood. And beyond that, in this age of brutal and desperate commercial competition, it's a brave (and possibly very foolish) supermarket that starts a war with its customers, especially when so many of them are the enemy.
Celebration of German pioneer cars
130th anniversary of Karl Benz's Patent Motorwagen
120th anniversary of the Emancipation Act
The 2016 Bonhams London to Brighton Run has a distinctly Germanic flavour this season. That's because the event is celebrating 130 years since Karl Benz presented the world with his Patent-Motorwagen, while Gottlieb Daimler, just sixty miles away, quickly followed suit with an adapted horse-drawn carriage of his own.
Consequently, it's "widely accepted" that this was the birthplace of the car as we know it. Except that these things never really have a birthplace. It's always smart men (and women) standing on the shoulders of other smart men (and women). Nevertheless, no one around these parts is doubting the huge contribution made by the Germans with regard to personal motorised transport. So it's game on for the Krauts.
But why 130 years? Well why the hell not? As ever, any excuse for a celebration of some kind is a good excuse. So the organisers are laying it on thick for our German cousins.
Over 400 entries are expected. Among them are 14 German cars including rare marques such as Adler, Delin and Cudell plus a Benz Victoria, Benz Phaeton (both from 1898), a 1901 Benz Spider (image immediately above) and a 1902 Mercedes Simplex.
Now, it's a well know fact that most of the world still hasn't turned out to watch and enjoy the London to Brighton Run (not to be confused with the Pioneer Run), and if that includes you, you can put it right on Sunday 6th November 2016. But take note that it kicks-off before 7am. And if you can make it a day earlier (5th November), there's a free-to-watch classic car show in London's Regent Street, W1. Actually, the entire week preceding the run will showcase motoring art, lectures, history talks and suchlike in and around Regent Street.
The run is open to all three- and four-wheelers built before 1905. It's organised, as ever, by the Royal Automobile Club. And this year marks the 120th anniversary of the Emancipation Act which finally allowed "light locomotives" on the road to (a) increase their speed from 4mph to 14mph and (b) scrap the requirement for a bloke to walk (or run) in front of a vehicle waving a red flag.
We can't see there being many, if any, veteran bikes on the day. But it's nevertheless all very cool and evocative stuff, and you can always ride the route and enjoy the parade. Just be sensitive, if you will, to the needs of the entrants. The vehicles that can stop often can't do it quickly. And those that have stopped often find it hard to get going again.
But it's a hoot, and you'll remember it forever—and hopefully for the right reasons [That's not the correct use of the word "hopefully" - Ed]. The run, which is said to be the longest-running motoring event in the world, starts at Hyde Park, London and ends on Madeira Drive, Brighton, West Sussex.
Cow skin bomber jacket for £799
100% made in Italy
So okay, at £799 this piece of cow skin is way beyond the means of our humble pockets and purses. But we know that quite a few of you Sumpsters are sleeping above huge wads of cash and can afford to spend this kind of loot on a jacket that you might wear when, say, slumming around your local autojumble or even Chelsea antiques emporium.
Actually, £799 isn't even that much these days, and there's no substitute for quality—which is always cheaper in the long run. This bomber jacket is made by Matchless which, as you no doubt know, is currently owned by the Malenotti family. In 2012 these guys bought the Matchless name and rights and transmogrified the brand into an Italian fashion house aimed squarely at the medium heeled classes.
But hey, you can't always blame folk for having a lot of money. It ain't their fault they were born into it, or were smart and resourceful enough to earn it or otherwise divert it into their pockets. Good luck to 'em, we say. In this world you gotta get it while it's going.
Anyway, you don't want a lecture on financial morality. You just want to know about the jacket which is made from "Matchless leather", which presumably comes from a Matchless cow. Features include a couple of zipped side pockets, underarm aerators, elastic wool on the neck, on the wrists and around the lower edge, and a viscose lining (a kind of artificial silk made from cellulose, aka rayon). Also, it's "100% made in Italy".
Truth is, we haven't seen the jacket up close, but we're angling for a freebee (strictly for review purposes). So if you're interested, climb off that bed, drag out a few bundles of notes, contact Matchless and made a deal.
What's that? You hate the idea of buying anything from a fashion hut that stole the hallowed Matchless name? Well it's a bitch, and we're not crazy about it. But life moves on, huh? Classic Matchless Motorcycles had their moment. Let's be satisfied with that.
Also see: Elvis Presley found alive on moon
More on the Malenotti Matchless brand
BMW RnineT Pure Suzuki GSX-R1000 Triumph T100 Black
Triumph Street Cup BMW RnineT Racer Moto Guzzi Audace
Kawasaki Z650 & Z900 Honda Fireblade Honda CB1100EX
Plenty of rehashed bikes at Intermot 2016
BMW introduces the RnineT Racer
Triumph introduces the Street Cup
This is a particularly busy season for us, what with Stafford coming up (15th - 16th October 2016), Intermot (5th - 9th October 2016), and the EICMA Show next month (10th - 13th November 2016). Consequently there are plenty of new, old and simply rehashed bikes being unveiled, unearthed, sold and otherwise shifted around the new and classic marketplace.
We're doing our best to feature the motorcycles that interest us and which we figure might interest most, or all, of you Sumpsters. If you're curious to find out what's on the way, click any of the nine images immediately above. That will take you to our Motorcycle News pages (as opposed to our Classic Bike News). More to follow...
New 900cc Street Twin variant at Intermot 2016
Traction control, ABS, £8,600
It's just been unveiled at the Intermot Show in Cologne, Germany. It's called the Street Cup, and yes, you read that right. "Cup", not "Cub", as in "Tiger Cub". That aside, it's a 900cc Street Twin with a whole new "urban" attitude and it's coming this way in the new year. Curious? [Step this way ladies and gents...]
Harley's "Follow the Sun" competition
£4,500 prize on offer
Once again, Harley-Davidson is offering UK and Irish motorcyclists a chance to win a trip to an exotic location. All you have to do is take a test ride on a Hog of your choice between 1st October 2016 and 30th November 2016.
The "Follow the Sun" competition trip will be available for two people, and £4,500 (€5,000) is being offered to "customise" the adventure. But it's not clear if a bike is part of the deal, or if you're expected to rent a motorcycle from a dealer in SA. Yes, we could phone HD-UK and ask. But have you tried getting through to these people lately?
Anyway, if you fancy a shot at some sunshine (and "there's never been a better time", we're told), go and talk to your local Harley-Davidson dealer anywhere on the UK mainland or Ireland, book that test ride, collect whatever proof is needed and put your name down on the competition list.
Someone is going to win it.
It's also unclear if you can enter multiple times, but we suspect that that ain't gonna work. Our advice is to make sure you understand exactly what's on offer here because there's a lot of ambiguity. Copy and paste the following address for the terms and conditions:
If you win, you'll be expected to make your trip between 1st January 2017 and 20th April 2017. The winning entry will be announced on 12th December 2016.
New hardback for £30
For the past few days we've been dipping into and out of British Café Racers, a new hardback publication by Veloce, and evidently part of an ongoing series.
It's that kind of book; the type you pick up and browse for five or ten minutes, then go and mow the lawn or something, think about what you've read, and later return for another fix.
The book arrived a week or so ago, and we've not read it cover to cover. But we can tell you that it's an eclectic mix of both the traditional café racer and modern interpretations of these cultish bikes, and it's therefore a worthy insight into the scope of the café racer scene. But if you're a purist with a limited view of what really makes a quintessential British café racer, this one might not suit you at all. There's probably way too much dilution in these 128 pages (248mm x 248mm).
That said, there are 250 pictures, and pretty much all of them are decent enough, meaning well focussed, well lit and reasonably well framed. The chapters cover pretty much all the established marques from BSA to Norton to Triumph to Vincent, and we're treated to plenty of interestingly named home-badged bikes from Elmdee to Carberry to Barton Norvin to Godet to Trocket Weslake.
The publisher blurb tells us that this is "The first book to concentrate solely on the British-powered café racer" as opposed to any of the numerous books that feature the bikes only as a part of the wider rocker scene. However, we're not at all convinced by Veloce's statement. It seems to us that we've seen a few books dealing solely with British-engined hardware. But typically, we can't actually bring one to mind (but then it is nearly midnight, and we've been at the bottle again; actually quite a few bottles).
Overall, the writing is fairly basic and lacks any wit. The author is Uli Cloesen, so it might simply be that English is not his first language, therefore a lack of Anglo Saxon humour perhaps can't he helped. Nevertheless, the material is being presented in English, so we're judging everything at face value. We wouldn't call the writing dull. But it doesn't sparkle or have a compelling narrative voice.
And here's another observation; there's no "poetry" here. We're not talking about Wordsworth, mind. We were just hoping to get something more evocative and flavoursome; something that we might want to repeat, or an image to gaze at for an hour or so, or just a couple of really GREAT shots that sum up the café racer experience. But we were left wanting.
Another criticism is that there are a few bikes in these pages that, to our mind, don't really qualify as café racers at all. And that easily leads to a charge of "padding". In fairness, it's all a matter of opinion. But we think a little more focus wouldn't have hurt this publication at all. Meanwhile, some of the picture angles are repetitive (check pages 30/31 with almost identical images of a Seeley Matchless, or pages 64/65 where a T150 Trident gets pretty much the same shot give or take a few degrees). With that in mind, this book would have benefitted from larger images, and fewer of them.
But clearly, the author knows his stuff and/or has done his homework, and we've learned a thing or two here, which is exactly what you want from a new book.
To sum it up, this is a good book, but with limitations (not least in its uninspiring design). It will certainly suit most riders interested in café racers and their development/interpretation. It would be very well received as a gift, and it's likely to get picked up regularly and explored. There's also a useful resources section at the back.
As an addition to your motorcycle book library, you'll probably want this. But as a book to treasure, you'll be less enthused.
Veloce is offering it for £30 direct from its website, and we haven't bothered to check who's discounting it, if anyone. Look for ISBN: 978-1-845848-96-5.
Annual dealer calendar, £10
Proceeds go to the East Anglia Air Ambulance
In case you don't know, the image above is of a 1936 BSA Y13. These beautiful 750cc OHV V-twins belong to that magic inter-war, leafy-lane, Rule Britannia era of British motoring and are now both rare and sought after (especially around here at Sump).
The 71mm x 94.5 mm air-cooled twin features a 4-speed gearbox, a dry multiplate clutch, 7-inch SLS brakes front and rear, a dry sump [did someone say "Sump?" - Ed], a double gear pump, a girder front fork, a rigid rear end, and enough olde-worlde charm to make you weep with nostalgia on every ride. The top speed is around 75mph, and easy-loping happens at fifty to fifty-five.
This Beezer is featured here because it's one of the pencil & water colour artworks embellishing Andy Tiernan's latest calendar, this being for 2017. Mike Harbar is the artist. Like Andy, he hails from the wonderful county of Suffolk (but is now living in Australia) and was the guy responsible for last year's calendar sketches. He'll welcome any commissions, incidentally, and can sell you a print or two.
There are six images which includes the above BSA Y13 for November/December 2017. The others images are a 1914 Ariel (Jan/Feb); a 1914 Rex (Mar/April); a 1927 P&M Panthette (May/Jun); a 1926 & 1927 NUT (Aug/Sept); and a 1913 Lea Francis (Oct/Nov). All the bikes, except for the OHV Panthette, are sidevalves.
Andy Tiernan uses these calendars for a little extra business promotion (not that he really needs it), but the profits from sales go directly to the East Anglian Air Ambulance. So if you live in or around Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk or Cambridgeshire (or the rest of the country, and America, Canada, Argentina, China, etc) be generous. These men and machines really do keep the grim reaper at bay and are worth their weight in gold. Since 2000, when operations began, 19,501 missions have been flown. If you know anything about helicopter flight and risk, you'll appreciate exactly what an achievement that is.
If you want one, write a £10 cheque payable to "EAST ANGLIAN AIR AMBULANCE" and send it to Andy. That includes second class postage, and that will bring a calendar to your letterbox.
The calendar is, as ever, dedicated to the memory of Dave "Beret" Berry (an employee of Andy Tiernan) who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2006. So that's the pitch. Can you help keep this air ambulance flying?