The full (stupid) title is "Bits Stuck Anywhere: The Decline of BSA and the Birmingham Motor Industry", and the film will be online until Friday 7th September 2012 courtesy of the Media Archive for Central England (MACE.
It's a "compilation of footage from ATV Today on BSA in the 1970s and the threat of closure, as well as an amateur film shot in the 1960s". The running time is slightly less than 30 minutes and it's a fascinating insight into final days of the British motorcycle industry—and an insight into the general demise of British manufacturing.
If you're quick, you can view the footage at: https://vimeo.com/47240533 and on the archive's blog at www.macearchive.wordpress.com until 5pm on Friday 7th September.
You'll be glad you did.
— Girl Happy
Actually, it's a 15,000 kilometre emissions and durability test which is crucial if Norton wants to flog its wares in the USA and Canadian marketplace.
The firm's Norton 961 Commando was recently put through its paces to ensure that it (a) won't fall to pieces and kill someone, and (b) won't leave a nasty stain in the North American skies, especially the bit that shines down on California. The bike, according to Norton CEO Stuart Garner, passed "by a wide margin" and is a credit to [the company's] design and production teams.
All that's left is some paperwork to be done, and then the bikes can, in theory, start rolling off the production line. And that will be interesting to see because more than a few Norton customers have complained about non-delivery of their machines, some of whom having withdrawn their orders alongside a series of legal threats aimed at recovering deposits and full payments.
Clearly Norton has (let's be generous) made some serious cock-ups with its sales/production strategy and has lost a lot of goodwill, and with the internet being what it it is, the firm's reputation has suffered a lot of damage. Let's hope that a line has been drawn under all that nonsense. But we're still hearing rumbles from disgruntled would-be purchasers...
Watch this space.
— The Third Man
If you had to pick a handful of records that set the tone for the mid-1960s Flower Power Era, Scott McKenzie's San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair) has to be one of them, if not top of the list.
Along with Procul Harem's Whiter Shade of Pale, Eric Burdon's San Franciscan Nights, The Kinks' Waterloo Sunset and The Doors' Light My Fire, McKenzie's hit lit the touch paper beneath a generational bomb and helped propel the international counter-culture movement to the top of the political agenda.
While Vietnam raged, psychedelic freaks and hippies made free love, dropped acid, wore out the word "groovy", and offered flowers to anyone who shared their vision of s global social utopia centred around San Francisco's legendary Haight-Ashbury district.
The song that made McKenzie famous was composed by John Phillips from The Mamas and the Papas. McKenzie was hired as the vocalist, and together with a bevy of musicians, the track was recorded during a frantic one night session. It was aimed squarely at the first Monterey Pop Festival in California.
Seven million people around the world bought the record. It reached the number one spot in the UK, and number four on the US Billboard chart.
But McKenzie (born Philip Wallach Blondheim) was never able to match the success and, following a series of failed career re-starts, eventually fell more or less into obscurity.
But the song, long since anthemic, is likely to survive forever as the quintessential soundtrack of a revolutionary era in world history.
McKenzie was 73 years old.
— Big End
He'll be competing at this year's Goodwood Revival (14th-16th September 2012), but after that, he's calling it a day. Mick Hemmings, the Northampton-based specialist builder famed worldwide for his unsurpassed Norton twin expertise, has had a successful racing career dating back to the 1960s. He's recently twice won at Goodwood and is hoping to make it a hat trick.
Mick is pictured (above right, courtesy of Brian Crichton) on August 11th 2012 at the CRMC meeting at Donington. Beside him is Dan Shorey, the retired Banbury-based dealer who raced Bultacos and Nortons and is rightly credited as the man who put Bultaco on the UK map.
The above bike (far better in reality than in the image) is Mick's 1953/4 Norton Dominator Clubmans Special 600cc twin.
But will Mick really hang up his racing leathers? From all accounts, he's still got a few seasons left, and it ain't over until it's over. We're reserving judgement.
— Del Monte
It comes to us all sooner or later. Retirement, that is. But for Stephen Johns from Keighley in West Yorkshire, it came twice. The first time was twelve years ago when he retired from the pyjama industry, and the second time is now.
Since the mid-1960s, Johns has been collecting an eclectic range of old cars, bikes and classic motoring ephemera. Since 2000, he's been displaying them at the Exmoor Classic Car Museum in Porlock, Somerset.
But now the time is right to cut loose, which is why the entire collection is going under Bonhams' hammer at Beaulieu on 8th September 2012.
British motorcycles include:
• 1969 Velocette 192cc LE (est: £2400-£2800)
• 1981 Triumph 744cc Royal Wedding Bonneville (est: £3000-£4000)
• 1947 Dot 122cc AA Tri-Car (est: £3000-£4000 - image below))
• c1945 BSA 591cc AA M21 combination (est: £3000-£4000)
• c1952 BSA 123cc GPO Bantam D1 GPO (est: £1400-£1800)
• 1968 BSA 172cc Bantam D10 (est: £1400-£1800)
• 1960 BSA 123cc Bantam D1 (est: £1200-£1600)
• 1971 BSA 172cc D175 Bantam (est: £1200-£1600)
You might think that Johns (image above left) would be devastated by selling of half a century of classic motoring, a collection that includes some rare and exotic hardware. But it seems that he's taken it all in his stride and is looking forward to a little extra "freedom".
— The Third Man
According to the Office for National Statistics, UK unemployment has fallen by 46,000 in the three months to June. That, they say, takes the jobless total down to 2.56 million.
Probably does on paper. But once you factor in the growing problem of Zero Hours Employment Contracts, things start to look a lot bleaker.
Never heard of this Zero Hours business? Well basically, it's the latest example of commercial sharp practice in which firms circumvent the British employment laws by engaging staff for no set hours. Or zero hours. Instead, employees are contracted to be on-call (often on the premises) but can be effectively laid off temporarily when the work dries up.
What it means is that a huge army of "workers" is currently hanging around desperately hoping to be summoned into work at minimum wage, an army that shows up on the stats as "gainfully employed", but is often anything but.
Employers know exactly what they're doing. The government knows it. And you do too. It's all (currently) perfectly legal, but these workers aren't really working at all, and they can't claim unemployment benefit for their downtime hours. They're in a kind of employment limbo, and it's getting worse.
Meanwhile, working part-timers rose by 41,000, while youth unemployment in the UK is still pegged at over one million. If you believe the propaganda, the recent Olympic Games created 130,000 jobs, mostly in the London area, and largely by bussing in non-local staff. But those jobs are already starting to dissolve in the post-games clear up.
All of this is, of course, putting renewed pressure of Prime Minister David-the-man-with-no-ideas-Cameron who's also having to contend with man-of-the-moment and London Mayor Boris Johnson who's still basking in Olympic glory and snapping at his heels.
Some pundits are tipping Boris as the man most likely to get Cameron's job, which sounds unlikely in view of Boris's anything-but-conservative flamboyance which plays well at London level, but might not look so clever on the foreign stage. Then again, stranger things have happened in world politics, and there's no other Tory in the frame who currently looks "fit" to step into Cameron's shoes.
We hated Blair, and we're starting to feel the same way about his successor.
Meanwhile, inflation is up. Car sales are rising. New bike sales are down. Petrol prices are down too. Classic bike prices are all over the place. Property prices are, on average, falling pretty much everywhere except London. And the employment figures are making a mockery of orthodox economic thinking.
Polarisation in the marketplace is increasing with many firms still "doing alright", while others are barely solvent. Expect a fresh round of "quantitative easing" in the not too distant future.
If you think you see light at the end of the tunnel, you'd better jump to one side because we think there could well be a seriously-serious financial train wreck coming right at us unless something pretty radical gets done while there's still a little room for manoeuvre.
If you want to get in on this, you'd better be quick because it kicks off tomorrow (Friday 17th August 2012) at Sherborne Girls School, Bradford Road, Sherborne, Dorset DT9 3QN. And if you think the location is fairly interesting, wait until you see the movies...
This 4-day celluloid extravaganza, organized by Austin Vince and Lois Pryce, is a "celebration" of the some of the world's greatest travel movies, many of them made from behind the handlebars of a motorcycle.
There's camping available plus music from The Jolenes (an all-girl, banjo-plucking bluegrass band), a campfire cooking competition, and bushcraft lessons from people who know how to keep you alive and kicking when you're stuck way out back in the boonies.
Notable films include Robert Edison Fulton Jnr's "Twice Upon a Caravan (1933)"; "Roadside USA (1997)"; and "Four Strokes of Luck (2011)".
The festival ends on Monday 20th August 2012. Tickets for the full weekend are £75 to £111, the latter price including half-board meals. Check out the link below.
— Girl Happy
Just when you thought your classic heap was beyond the reach of the MOT testers, the BMF go and spoil it all by warning us of a new kind of test.
It's called, at least tentatively, the Road Worthiness test, or RWT. The long and short of it is that the Eurocrats want a one-size-fits-all annual inspection programme to help mitigate the rare instances when dodgy maintenance leads to a road accident.
The EC claims that five people die every day as a result of unfit-for-purpose vehicles. But the BMF say that the figures are skewed and show little correlation between fatality rates of member states with and without an MOT regime.
In fact, the BMF have highlighted an EC MAIDS report (Motorcycle Accidents In Depth Study) which suggests that only 1.1 percent of accidents are/were caused by mechanical or electrical defects.
Some member states don't as yet require motorcycle testing, and it's been suggested that there may be more stringent requirements on the way related to vehicle emissions for current classics.
But don't panic. These are just proposals, and as ever, the EC quite likely haven't thought it through at all. But the BMF and the Federation of European Motorcyclists (FEMA) are scrutinising the small print. And you can too. Check the proposals, and take a look at the BMF briefing.
It's worth noting that it's in the interest of motorcyclists to have this issue properly tested (no pun intended). As the EC point out, European vehicles currently on the road and fitted with ABS and Electronic Stability Control devices are not yet subject to any annual inspection. Given the technical complexity of even the average modern car, there are a hell of a lot more things to go wrong than there was with, say, an Austin Seven or a Ford Zodiac.
Better keep an open mind until you've heard all the arguments.
— Sam 7
The good news is that this French firm claims to have the answer to your Norton Commando and/or Velocette Thruxton or Venom starting woes. The bad news is that they haven't given us a price.
You're right; it's not good journalistic practice to run a story with the all-important price fact omitted. But do you wanna know about this or not?
Okay then. The kits are designed to fit-and-forget, and are completely reversible if you come down with a bad case of purism and suddenly decide you don't want the decadent luxury of push-button starting while all your mates are jumping up and down and having heart attacks in the time honoured tradition.
Alton, run by brothers Paul and Herve Hamon, has been around for a while and are regularly coming up with thoroughly modern parts for ancient British twins. The firm is based near Brest, in Brittany and has dealers in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Australia. You'll need to check their website for details, but here in the UK, you can talk directly to Andover Norton, Hawkshaw Motorcycles, Norvil and SRM.
Alton, however, will talk directly to anyone from anywhere else. You can find them at: www.alton-france.com. Don't forget to ask the price (which, of course, might not have been set until the firm works out a dealer mark-up; but you'll want to ask anyway).
Meanwhile, check out this YouTube video for some footage of an electric start Venom firing up.
— Del Monte
Update: We've since been advised that the Norton kit retails for around €1600. The Velocette kit is around €1000 plus tax and carriage. There's a two year guarantee on both products.
This is one of those events that plenty of you keep meaning to attend, but never quite get around to. Well if so, you're another year older and you ain't getting any younger, so you'd better make your move while the going is still good.
The date is Saturday 8th September 2012. The place is Madeira Drive Brighton (as if you didn't know). And there's going to be a lot of hot rubber, Castrol R and plenty of filthy hydrocarbons polluting the atmosphere.
If you're a neurotic nose-pegged environmentalist, forget it. But if you've got hot engine oil in your blood, Brighton is the place to be on that particular date.
There will be some very old, rare and exotic machines pounding the pavement, plus a lot of new plastic hardware to help make the event financially viable. Entries for competitors are now closed. But wowsers are still welcome, so get along there and make a day of it.
The image above, incidentally, is 81-year old Frank Clarke campaigning his 1936 500cc Brooklands JAP. Photo by Tony Madgwick at the 2009 Speed Trials.
— Big End
The days of being rear ended while you're waiting at a set of traffic lights could be numbered if and when Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) is introduced.
Philippe Jean of the European Commission certainly loves AEB. He figures it can cut accidents by "up to" 27% and save "up to" 8,000 lives a year. Additionally, the financial saving (from reducing injuries and road accident traffic congestion) is reckoned at somewhere between £3.9 billion and £6.3 billion (where do they get these numbers?)
AEB, predictably, works by a system of lasers and sensors and computers. It recognises an imminent collision and puts on the brakes. Sounds good in theory. And for most drivers, it's probably a good idea. But here at Sump, we can hypothesise a number of scenarios in which slamming into the vehicle ahead could be more preferable to staying where you are.
Either way, AEB appears to be coming. By November 2012, commercial vehicles will be required to have the system fitted. Or else. From 2014, Euro NCAP, the European testing outfit, says that a maximum 5-star safety rating for cars will not be possible without AEB.
Euro NCAP also reckon that 90% of crashes are below 20mph which is where most of the injury savings will be made. Some systems also detect pedestrians in the road and can hit the anchors if the proverbial nut behind the wheel fails.
Let's hope that whoever builds the system remembers to include motorcycles in the list of things not to crash into. Bikes, after all, are usually at the bottom of the list (if on the list at all) when it comes to any transport policy.
We've already posted a buyer's guide to the Sunbeam S7 and S8, but for a long time we wanted to make a short video to go with it.
Anyway, after "shooting" the Triumph Model H and BSA Bantam D7 vids below, we realised that we still had some digital film in the camera and finally got around to to the Sunbeam. And here it is, ready to roll.
It's no big deal. Just a few words and pictures that might help persuade you that this is the bike for you. Or not.
That's it. Watch it, or don't watch it.
Sunbeam S7 1946-1956
— Big End
Derbyshire County Council wants to charge motorcyclists to park on Matlock Bath's North Parade and South Parade. In case you don't know, Matlock Bath, on the edge of the Peak District, has for years been a very popular meeting spot for bikers. On a busy day, we're talking about thousands of visitors bringing in a lotta dosh for the local community.
Generally, parking is pretty much a free-for-all. But now the council wants some revenue and/or control, so they've set their own wheels in motion. It has to be said that plenty of local residents see the bikers more as a social liability than an asset and would like to see a cull. But local businesses, fearing a massive loss in trade, are broadly against the parking plans.
Certainly, Matlock's visiting hordes feel they don't need another parking meter twixt themselves and the pavement, and a petition has been launched by Sheffield Motorcycle Centre to combat the plans.
If 7500 names are registered, the council will be forced to rethink the idea. At least, that's the propaganda. At the time of writing, a little over 1500 people have made their mark. If you want to join them, here's the petition.
As ever, do whatever you feel you have to do.
UPDATE: We've since been advised by Sump visitor Phil Spowart that parking on the North and South Parade is already restricted to forty minutes.
— Del Monte