Ex-Meriden man and Triumph restoration wizard Hughie Hancox who died on August 18th 2011 will be laid to rest on September 1st 2011 at Ash Green, Coventry.
In 1953, Hughie began work at Triumph's Meriden factory starting in the Service and Repair shop. Following his National Service tour (with the Royal Corp of Signals), Hughie returned to Meriden in 1959 and began working in the experimental department on the bike that was to become the Triumph Bonneville.
The following year, he was in the Production Test shop. Two years on, he was back in Service and Repair doing what he enjoyed most, which was keeping the wheels turning.
In more recent years, Hughie was a successful restorer, notably of 1950s and 1960s Triumphs. He was a mine of information and belonged very much to the "old school" who did things the factory way—not that he couldn't be innovative when required.
He made numerous videos relating to Triumph tuning and was always friendly and courteous when advice was sought. On the few occasions we talked to Hughie, he was never anything other than a gentleman.
Hughie had been battling cancer for a while, but finally succumbed. He died aged 73 and is survived by wife Gloria, his son, Simon, and daughter, Sarah.
— The Third Man
Most people would recognise him as Oliver Twist in the original 1948 David Lean movie production, whilst some would also recognise him as the man who gave us some cracking British TV comedy sitcoms including Only Fools and Horses, the Good Life, Fawlty Towers and The Goodies. He was also the guy who famously (and deservedly) gave Benny Hill his walking papers.
Aside from being a great TV comedy producer, and a pretty good actor, John Howard Davies was also a motorcyclist, a painter, and a sportsman.
He died yesterday (Monday 22nd August 2011) aged 72 after losing a fight with cancer. Weep all you want, but we prefer to laugh. The boy who "wanted more" made a lot of people smile.
This idea has been kicking around for a while, but now it's beginning to look like its time has come.
Put simply, the government has mooted the notion of extending the period in which new cars can forgo an MOT test. At present, vehicles must be tested annually when they become three years old. Westminster is considering increasing this to four.
Additionally, these vehicles would require further MOT tests only at two year intervals, as opposed to every year. The move would affect all vehicles less than ten years old. After ten years, all vehicles would be tested yearly as they are at present.
Why the change? Some say it was Gordon Brown's idea explored as a mean of pacifying rebellious motorists in the wake of increasing petrol duty. But opinion, as ever, is wildly polarised. The motor trade fear a loss of business, not only directly due to fewer tests, but also due to the loss of pre- and post-test repair work.
And then, naturally, there's the safety aspect. The government claim that only three percent of road accidents are due to vehicle defects.
However, 1,857 people were killed on the road in 2010 (down from 2,222 in 2009). Three percent of that would account for around 55 deaths. Statistics, of course, don't always give the whole picture, and it's not clear that a change in the MOT regulations would directly leads to more fatalities. But it looks like there's a case to answer - not least because campaign organisation Brake insist that true accident numbers are under reported.
But would the changes apply to motorcycles? We simply don't know at the moment. Our guess is that bikes will be viewed differently, not least because two years between tyre changes is a long time for an average mileage crotch rocket. It's hard to imagine that Whitehall will sanction that. Then again. some feel that the entire idea is just barmy with lots of losers and few winners.
Currently, around 22 million vehicles are MOTed each year in the UK, of which around 33 percent fail first time around.
— Del Monte
So it's not going to impress the BSA purists, but a 1951 500cc Beezer-powered custom impressed the judges enough to take second place in the freestyle category at the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building in Sturgis, North Dakota.
Never heard of this event? Well you're behind the times. It took place on 7th-10th August 2011 and featured the best of the best in custom motorcycle fabrication with entrants from around the world including "Son of a Gun" (above) built by Larry Houghton of Lamb Engineering, from Salisbury, England.
The bike, we hear, was designed as a homage to the racing Hondas of the 1960s and the Yamaha Fizzie (FS1E) of the 1970s. Despite some highly sophisticated engineering and over 1200 hours of work, the project cost less than £6000.
But what was the overall freestyle winner? That would be a weirdly gothic S&S-powered (Harley clone) creation (below) fabricated by Ken Tabata from Tavax Engineering in Osaka, Japan and cunningly named "TAVAX2011V". Ken wanted his creation to "look like a cheetah chasing its prey across the African Savannah". But to us, it looks more like a concept by Swiss fantasy artist H R Giger. Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that, and you can't fault the workmanship.
Not your cup of tea? Maybe not, but it would be a duller world without this kind of motorcycle engineering extremism.
— The Third Man
In case you missed it, this exhibit has actually been running since 26th April 2011 and ends on 11th September 2011. So if you want to get an eyeful, you'd better tickle your carb and kickstart your old heap and make your move.
This week, the display—which features around 40 bikes, each "with a unique tale to tell"—went one stage further and marked the anniversary of Elvis's death which was on 16th August 1977 (but then, you already know that because it's tattooed on your chest, right?).
Supported by Harley-Davidson (who understandably expect to get a few more sales from six months of mainstream product placement), there's a bike on display representing every decade of the last century. And if you're a H.O.G member and can't afford the eight quid entry fee (having stumped up around ten grand on your wheels), entry discounts are available.
Expect to see some pretty oddball customised stuff plus the usual tattooed rebels rehash. It's all happening at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), and for another £2, you can enter a raffle for a Harley Sportster and join the brotherhood.
Our experience is that these exhibits rarely live up to the hype, but they seem to keep the more uninitiated members of the general public happy. However, the museum has got some pretty interesting stuff on display if you fancy something a bit more highbrow than reading the Daily Mail or watching another episode of Rosemary and Thyme.
So if you've been looking for an excuse to MOSI around to the museum, now's your opportunity. Meanwhile, spare a thought for Elvis.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that auctions these days are all about Broughs and Vincents fetching megabucks from well-heeled investors who know as much about motorcycles as most of the rest us know about tax shelters, money laundering and asset protection.
But the 1981 Triumph T140 Bonneville above found a new owner at the recent Cheffins Cambridge Vintage Sale for just £2450. That was on 23rd July 2011, detail freaks, and while they weren't exactly giving it away, it was nevertheless a genuine bargain at a time when there are few really good deals to be had. So okay, there were only seven bikes in the sale (see footnote), making it unlikely to draw punters from far and wide. Nevertheless, two and a half grand for a 750cc Triumph is going to put a big, fat, cheesy grin on someone's face.
The bike is said to be fully restored and is sold with an electric starter and Morris cast wheels. It's got just 10,000 miles on the clock, and apparently has documents and receipts to back up its claims.
Forget eBay. If you want some true auction excitement, it's these regional sales that so often quietly turn up what antiques expert David Dickinson would call "the real deal". Meanwhile, Triumph T140s continue to be good value British classics with the average price for a good quality taxed and MOTed private sale being between £3500-£4000, with slightly rougher examples fetching maybe £2950-£3500.
But £2450 for this peach? Makes you wanna weep.
— Girl Happy
Footnote: Our mistake. There were actually twenty-seven bikes in this sale. Apologies to Cheffins.
If you've got any spare sympathy this month, you might want to send a little to Mick Broom, the Hesketh Motorcycles development engineer, who was recently airlifted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham after one or more gas cylinders exploded at his workshop in Greens Norton, near Towcester, Northants.
Apparently, Mick was working on a hovercraft project when something went bang. Around thirty firefighters attended the incident and established a 24-hour, 300 foot exclusion zone around the workshop displacing an unspecified number of residents.
Having suffered burns, notably to the chest area (we hear), Mick is said to be doing okay, but in some discomfort.
Broom Development Engineering has been manufacturing brand new Hesketh bikes at up to twelve machines a year. There is a waiting list, with a base price of around £20,000.
— The Third Man
Rick Kordowski, owner and webmaster of the famously infamous website Solicitors from Hell, has had a bankruptcy petition filed against him after failing to shell out £31,105 and 44p in damages awarded by a Court to a solicitor he libelled.
For those of you who are out of the loop, Solicitors from Hell exists to expose all the dodgy legal shysters out there who muck up your bike accident claim, or run off with your inheritance, or hand over the house and the Vincent to your significant-other midway through your divorce.
We've been watching this site for a while and trying to keep up with all the crooks and incompetents in the legal profession. But the truth is that we lost count. But serial-libeller Rick (with sixteen law suits brought against him) hasn't, and the knives are now out in a big way.
Of course, some of the guys and gals targeted and "outed" by Rick might well have been inadvertently/unfairly singled out for shame and dishonour. Statistically speaking, after all, there has to be at least a couple of honest and useful solicitors out there somewhere. It stands to reason. But a class-action is now being mooted to force Rick to pay up his various damages claims, or face a contempt of Court charge and go straight to jail.
Unfortunately, he's already clocked up £150,000 in awards and hasn't paid a penny, and probably hasn't got many more coins left in the piggy bank anyway after the regular jaunts to and from the beak. So it looks like a spell in clink is on the cards—assuming they can find some space among all the rioters that the UK national police forces have been busy rounding up lately.
If you've got any doubts or misgivings about your own legal eagle, or simply want to watch a lot of dirty laundry being hung out to dry, check out the site (details below). Meanwhile, if you're a webmaster living on or close to the edge, legally speaking, a few hours spent with Rick might well help you redefine the margins of what you can get away with, and what you can't.
But it's a sad old world when you can't speak the plain unvarnished truth about members of the bar without having to dig into your wallet every time one of them squeals. In fact, there ought to be a law against it. But if there was, you'd only have to hire another solicitor to untangle the legalese, so you'd be right back where you started.
We're not exactly the biggest fans of "trial by television". But when it comes to solicitors, we're prepared to look the other way.
[Link deactivated; website appears defunct]
Legendary American dirt-track and road racer Gary Nixon died on August 5th 2011 following heart surgery complications. He was 70 years old.
Nixon, riding a 500cc Triumph, won the 1967 Daytona 200. That same year, and in 1968, he won the AMA Grand National Championship.
Hailing from Oklahoma, Nixon was a lifelong friend of the late Barry Sheene, but is more closely associated with friend and bike tuner Erv Kanemoto.
In 1998, Nixon was inducted into the AMA Motorcycling Hall of Fame. In 2003, he was similarly honoured by the Motorsports Hall of Fame in America.
Gary Nixon leaves behind his wife, Mary; son Gary Jnr: and daughter Kary Ann.
— Del Monte
The UK government has backed a £625,000 trade loan to Norton Motorcycles intended to help increase exports through a doubling of production. At present, Norton employs around thirty people. By 2012, the firm plans to increase this to around sixty.
Underpinned by a scheme known as the Export Enterprise Finance Guarantee (ExEFG), the cash is being splashed not by the treasury but by High Street lender Santander who, if you recall, bought out the old Abbey National back in 2004 through a £9bn takeover.
The government's Business Secretary, Vince Cable, recently visited the Donington factory and waxed lyrical about the "innovation" that British businesses had to offer, while Norton's head-honcho, Stuart Garner, was said to be chuffed and optimistic that the ExEFG scheme will reap a lot of benefits right down the supply chain as it's rolled out across the country. Norton is the first UK company to be awarded an ExEFG loan.
Sounds good in principle, but £625K isn't actually that much money when it comes to industrial expansion for a firm like Norton—a company whose annual wage bill is probably considerably higher than that. And the terms of the loan are, as yet, unclear.
But the fact is that as far as Her Majesty's Government is concerned, the company is now firmly on the map, and that's got to be a good thing for the renewal of the British motorcycle industry.
But is Triumph likely to be worried about Norton's anticipated growth? Probably not. If anything, the two firms can play a little commercial leap-frog (with Triumph doing most of the leaping) and ramp up fresh interest in British bikes as the Jap market stagnates.
A little industrial support from the government has to be a good thing. It's only a pity that they've done so little, and after so many years of neglect.
The pic above, incidentally, shows (left to right) Stuart Garner, Vince Cable and BSB & WSB racer Chris Walker.
Many of you out there already know Bill Saker—aka Trident Willy.
Donkey's years ago, Bill sold classic bikes at Verralls in Tooting, South London. Later he sold Triumphs, old and new, at Boyer Racing in South East London. From there he moved to Destination Triumph in Washington, West Sussex. And now he's struck out on his own as buyer and seller of classic bikes, cars and even antiques.
But the bikes are first and foremost.
Anyway, Bill's been working quietly on this one for some time, and now he's arrived. Check out his website and see exactly what the pitch is. If you're looking to sell, or looking to buy, Trident Willy will cut you a deal.
The picture, incidentally, shows Bill (left) followed by wife, Christine and Wil "the new boy in town".
— The Third Man
He was known as "The Piston Ring King" and traded as "Lourick Autocycles" specialising in piston rings for motorcycles built between 1904 and 1975. Originally trading from Bedfordshire, Rick more recently moved to Kettering, Northants where he shared premises with Jampot Spares and the AJS & Matchless Owners Club.
Rick hailed from Grimsby, Lincolnshire and served in the British Army
His health, it's said, was possibly damaged by using X-ray equipment during his later employment with an oil company.
Aged just 44, he leaves behind a wife, a teenage daughter, and a younger brother and sister. His funeral took place at Bedford Crematorium on 6th July 2011.
— Del Monte
Now don't start getting complacent out there, but motorcycle deaths continue to fall—according to new stats from the government. Lesser biking casualties fell by 10%, while more serious injuries are down 11%.
These newly released numbers, from 2010, are set against a backdrop of the lowest casualties since 1926 for all road users except, oh-oh, cyclists who have seen a 7% increase in fatalities, despite marginally increased numbers.
In view of how bloody dangerous the average cyclist is (and we include ourselves among their number), the only wonder is that so many have, for so long, escaped the attention of the grim reaper. During rush hour, in particular, our biggest concern these days (regardless of how many wheels we have beneath us) are the hard-boiled lycra louts zipping in and out through traffic gaps with only a passing nod towards the Highway Code, never mind commonsense.
But will the generally falling numbers encourage local authorities, and the government itself, to actively promote motorcycling as a solution to Britain's transport woes rather than merely another manifestation of the problem?
Not likely. Biker deaths and casualties are still wildly over-represented, with the average rider said to be forty times more likely to be killed in a crash than a car driver (depending on whose numbers and propaganda you believe—and you can take it from us that the official stats are highly misleading).
Ultimately, motorcycles are unlikely to be actively promoted by anyone outside of the bike trade, or by bikers themselves, unless and until casualty rates are closely comparable with motorists. And for obvious reasons that's unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future, if ever.
But that's no reason not to get those numbers down further, is it? Just watch out for all the increasingly gung-ho lycra-louts on the move because there just might well be one out there with your name on him.
After just six full-years of trading, Rockingham Classics of Great Oxendon, Leicestershire has shut up shop. Why?
"The recession," said owner Mark Hemingway. "We were selling forty to fifty classic bikes a year, and had had a super year last year until October, and then people stopped taking test-rides."
Additionally, Hemingway cited the increasing difficulty in obtaining the right bikes at the right price—due, in part at least, to online trading markets such as eBay.
Rockingham was also a Guzzi and Enfield dealer. But in recent months, Guzzi's sales have nose-dived, and Enfield sales have lost a lot of altitude. Moreover, Hemingway cited the increasing problem of riders taking test rides at dealerships, and then buying discounted bikes from other sources.
Ultimately, the position because unsustainable, and Rockingham threw in the towel. Which is a shame, because the business had developed a good reputation and had become a significant player on the classic bike scene.
— The Third Man