Some guys make you sick, huh? Guys like Aniket Vardhan who design and build their own engines. What you're looking at here is a 998cc "Royal Enfield V-twin" with a home-built crankcase and timing side arrangement running 500cc Bullet heads and barrels.
It's not the first engine Aniket has built. His earlier creations featured a 70-degree angle between the cylinders, but this has been cut to 59-degrees.
He designed the new components and crankcase using a CAD (Computer Aided Design) program, then fabricated the patterns using MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) and had them cast at a foundry before machining them to size.
He calls it the Musket, and clearly there's some work to do with the frame. And yes, it can be configured to run with 350cc heads and barrels giving a 700cc twin.
Royal Enfield is reputed to be working on a twin-cylinder engine of its own, but it's not clear whether this will be a V-twin or a parallel twin or maybe something else. But Aniket's engine looks good, sounds good, and is clearly in a high state of development. It's probably not going to make the emissions fascists smile. But if it become available commercially, and if the price is right, we can imagine a fairly long queue.
Here at Sump, we still have trouble putting air in our tyres, so we're understandably impressed when some guys can engineer stuff like this. You can see and hear the engine on YouTube, and you can check out his website for more info.
Happy New Year.
— Big End
We grew up with Gerry Anderson. Not directly, you understand. But remotely, on the other side of our TV screens. This was the man who fired the imaginations of millions of boys, quite a few girls, and plenty of adults too. He sent us into space, into burning buildings, deep under sea, and into a thousand other places way beyond our imaginations.
Indeed, he helped build our imaginations, animated brick by brick.
He also created some of the most colourful, most imaginative, most amusing and most enduring British TV characters of the 1960s and 1970s, most of them made from wood and papier mache and rubber bands.
We're talking about the likes of Mike Mercury (Supercar); Steve Zodiac (Fireball XL5); Troy Tempest (Stingray); Captain Scarlet (Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons); and Joe 90 (in the series of the same name). All of them puppets, and all of them very real in our hearts.
But by far, his greatest creations were the International Rescue team in the Thunderbirds TV series which included Jeff, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John Tracey; Brains; Tin-tin; Lady Penelope; and the one and only Parker (Cockney chauffeur, right hand man, crack shot and ex-safe cracker).
Anderson was born Gerald Alexander Abrahams in Bloomsbury, London. He founded AP films which became Century 21 Productions. As a writer and producer, his first classic British children's TV show was Twizzle, followed by Torchy the Battery Boy and then a weird fantasy western called Four Feather Falls (remember Tex and his magic guns, anybody?).
He pioneered the concept of Supermarionation (a mixture of traditional stringed puppets coupled with remote control operation), and gave us a vision of the future that, sadly, never materialised quite the way he envisaged (but has come dangerously close in many respects).
He also created live-action TV shows including UFO and Space 1999 starring Ed Bishop/George Sewell and Martin Landau/Barbara Bain, respectively, and wrote and/or produced numerous other British TV shows including The Protectors (with Robert Vaughn and Nyree Dawn Porter); and the influential sci-fi movie Doppelganger (also known as Journey to the Far Side of the Sun).
Anderson's second wife, Sylvia, was the alluring voice behind the Lady Penelope character. Their twenty year marriage ended in 1980.
His career suffered numerous personal problems and financial setbacks, but he was still working and developing his ideas almost until the end. In 2001 he was made a Member of the British Empire, but for a generation he practically was the British Empire and represented all that was good and decent about it (even though many of his characters were fashionably Americanised).
You may or may not remember where you were when Kennedy was assassinated, or when Elvis died or when John Lennon was shot, but a fair number of you out there will recall exactly where you were when Gerry Anderson's shows first appeared on your TV screens.
His contribution to British culture can be overstated, but you'll have to work hard to do so.
So okay, it might not be your idea of a dream bike, or even dream paint job. But Max Milnes (aged 12 and a bit and from Leeds) had other ideas and impressed Triumph so much they made his vision a reality.
It was the result of a competition organised at the bi-annual 2012 Triumph Live event that saw X-thousand entrants submitting their idea of exciting motorised eye candy.
Triumph put Dean Driver, their paint shop team leader, on the case, and—hey presto—one 2300cc Rocket Three wearing what looks suspiciously like Triumph Hurricane livery.
But there's nothing wrong with borrowing ideas and making them your own, if that's what Max indeed did. Either way, it's one of those rare moments in a boy's life that he's going to treasure forever.
Triumph, naturally, made a big day of the presentation and organised a factory tour, a meal, and fairly generous goody bag (T-shirt, watch, model motorcycle, cap), and also gave Max a side panel from the bike.
Unfortunately, they neglected to tell us what's going to happen to the rest of the Rocket, but no doubt it will turn up on someone's launch pad sooner or later.
The next Triumph Live event will be in 2014.
— Del Monte
You know how it is when you spot a fabulously exciting, must-have, Lord-pluck-out-my-eyes motorcycle? The kind that makes you wonder why they bothered making anything else? The kind that possesses your soul and keeps you wide awake in the small hours scheming feverishly and wondering how you can get your desperate little mitts on it? The kind of bike that would have scuppered God's plans for humanity if Adam had spotted it before he clapped eyes on Eve?
Well that's what happened to us when Bonhams spread the news that they were auctioning this beautiful 1928/29 100 cubic-inch Ace Four hemi-head prototype at their January 2013 Las Vegas Sale—which, take note, is just a few weeks away.
We're supposed to be primarily a British bike website, but there are times when you have to roll up the Union flag, put it away and admit that there are other motorcycles in the world just as pretty, if not prettier, than anything ever made in Coventry, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Stevenage, Redditch, Nottingham, Cleckheaton or Plumstead.
We love this bike so much that we're sending death threats to Mr Bonham warning of what will happen if he sells this machine out from under us before we've counted the pennies in our pennies jar and checked that we've got enough.
But what's the back-story?
Well, brothers William and Tom Henderson founded the Henderson Motorcycle Company. That was in 1911 in Detroit, Michigan, USA. The siblings favoured an inlet-over-exhaust "inline four" design with final drive via chain. These long wheelbase bikes were always beautifully built and capable of outpacing just about everything else on the block, providing the road was straight.
Sales were good, but times were getting tougher, and Henderson was under-capitalised. That was why, in 1917, the firm was sold to German-US immigrant Ignaz Schwinn (don't you just love that name?) who had plans for the marque.
Chicago-based Schwinn, who made his fortune from building bicycles, had in 1911 bought rival US motorcycle manufacturer, Excelsior (not to be confused with the British motorcycle firm of the same name),
When William Hemderson sold the family firm to Schwinn in 1917, he went along for the ride (so to speak) and kicked his heels for a few years, never really satisfied with being a smaller cog in a bigger gearbox.
So in 1919 he left Schwinn under contract to stay away from motorcycle manufacturing and not create new competition for his erstwhile employer. But later that year, Henderson founded the Ace Motorcycle Company, anyway.
The upshot was that in 1920, Ace machines hit the streets and, surprise-surprise, the engines were inline fours. At first glance, the Ace was just another Henderson, but the detail work was different in many respects, not purely for the sake of natural improvement, but also to avoid having Schwinn hit them with a patent infringement suit.
Henderson enjoyed a brief moment of success with his bikes that hit speeds of over 120mph. But in 1922, at the age of just 39, he was killed in a motorcycle-testing accident which snuffed out one of the world's great motorcycle builders and helped clear the way for the eventual dominance of Indian and Harley Davidson.
In 1927, Indian bought the rights to the Ace company and, for one year only, produced the Indian Ace before modifying it further and simply calling it the Indian Four (and you thought Coronation Street, Emmerdale Farm, Home and Away, East Enders and Dallas was where all the drama was).
This particular Ace Four, X-1 28, is fitted with high lift cams and big valves, with the hemi-head work handled by Ricardo Engineering (which helped put some extra umph into the Triumph "Riccy" back in 1921).
The bike, it's said, was built specifically for E Paul du Pont, the famous US industrialist and one-time president of the Indian Motocycle Company (yes, that is the way Indian preferred to spell "motorcycle", so be thankful we didn't also end up with an Indian Big Chef).
Bonhams are estimating that this one will sell at £120,000-£150,000, and Bonhams' estimates are generally so good these days that if anyone knows when the world will end, they do.
If you do manage to get over to Las Vegas for this sale, just don't touch this bike. It's ours, okay?
It's one of the most recognised buildings in the UK, and one that conjures fond memories among millions of visitors who've attended motorcycles shows, motor shows, caravan shows, ideal homes exhibitions, and any number of musical and conference events right up to and beyond the recent 2012 Olympics.
But the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea announced back in November this year that they wanted to demolish the 77 acre site and redevelop it into 7500 homes. Now, local residents have launched a petition asking Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to call-in the plans and launch a "transparent public enquiry".
Earls Court occupies a site on Warwick Road, London SW5 and was opened on 1st September 1937. This iconic art deco building was designed by US architect, Charles Howard Crane. It stands on a spot recorded in the 1086 AD Norman Domesday Book. Around eight hundred years later, in the late 19th century, Buffalo Bill Cody staged his legendary Wild West Show on the location.
The 19,000 capacity venue has been host to hundreds, if not thousands of bands and musicians, including Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, Supertramp, Genesis. Oasis. REM, Led Zeppelin, Morrissey, the Foo Fighters and Fleetwood Mac.
The first event at Earls Court was a Chocolate and Confectionary Exhibition. Soon after came the famous Motor Show, Later still, Britain's top fascist of the era, Oswald Mosley, addressed his British blackshirts in the world famous halls.
In the post war years, for tens of thousands of British and overseas motorcyclists, Earls Court was one of the most exciting places on Earth. Anyone who was anyone, and who wanted to get anywhere, took some floor space at this venue. Triumph was famed for putting on wonderful exhibits. Other British motorcycle marques such as BSA, AJS, Matchless, Norton, James, Francis Barnett, Vincent and Greeves were all represented at these halls.
But in more recent years, its suitability (and location) as a motorcycle exhibition venue diminished, and major UK motorcycle shows have since been staged primarily at the anodyne and sterile National Exhibition Centre (NEC), just outside of Birmingham, and the even less appealing ExCel Centre in London's Docklands.
Now the planners have moved in around Earls Court and want to bulldoze around seven decades of history and raze the building to the ground. Whether it's right or wrong, we don't know. Times change, and people need homes. But then again, people need culture and history too. They need roots and memories.
So we're happy to support the Save Earls Court Appeal. Maybe you can sign the petition too and keep this wonderful, historic and atmospheric venue safe for another few years.
Click here for the online petition.
— Del Monte
Most people will remember Dr Alexander Eric Moulton, if at all, as the bloke who invented that funny little bicycle with the tiny wheels. But like most inventors and innovators, there was a lot more to him than that.
A keen motorcyclist in his youth (riding Honda CBs), Moulton died on 10th December 2012 at the "respectable" age of 92.
In 1848, his grandfather, Stephen Moulton, acquired from Charles Goodyear, the American entrepreneur, a licence to market vulcanised rubber products.
Stephen Moulton tried to re-sell the concept to British rubber firms, but was unable to impress them with this new technology from the Wild West. He subsequently founded his own business and thereby sowed the seeds for his grandson's future as an engineer and entrepreneur in his own right.
In 1945, following his apprenticeship with the Bristol Aircraft Company, Alex Moulton joined the family business as a technician and quickly adapted to a life of experimentation and development. From an early age he'd shown an interest in things mechanical, and had even built himself a steam car. Joining the family business was therefore a natural progression and one that suited both his temperament and abilities.
He soon became interested in the concept of rubber springs and worked with Sir Alec Issigonis on the much-lauded hydrolastic suspension system as fitted to the original Austin Mini. This cheap, compact and clever idea would soon evolve into the hydrogas system that served the British Motor Corporation (BMC) so well and for so long. Other engineers and manufacturers of the era, including Bert Greeves, would incorporate the simplicity of rubber suspension into their products, and also with much success.
Following the Suez Crisis, in which Britain's oil supplies were under serious threat, Moulton became particularly interested in re-developing the bicycle and felt there were better ways to get those wheels rolling.
In 1956, the Avon Rubber Company bought the family business. In 1959, Moulton founded Moulton Developments Limited and designed his own machine and tried unsuccessfully to sell it to Raleigh who were less than impressed.
This bike was a radical departure from conventional (and arguably dated) bicycle design in that it featured 16-inch wheels (with high-pressure tyres), rubber suspension and an instantly recognisable lightweight "F frame" of unlikely proportions. The public and press liked it from the start. It was a hit.
In 1966, Raleigh tried its hand with its own design (borrowing largely from Moulton), but their effort never quite had the appeal of the Moulton bicycle (pictured immediately above). The following year, the Big R saw the error of its way and finally bought the rights and manufactured the bike until the mid-1970s.
To some extent, the Moulton bicycle breathed new life into the industry at a time when cycling was falling out of fashion. Certainly, celebrities and national personalities, including actress Eleanor Bron, weren't afraid to be seen on one.
In the 1980s, Alex Moulton re-acquired the rights to the bicycle and re-developed it with a space-frame and revised suspension. New partnerships emerged, and variations on a tried and tested theme produced a range of models for both ends of the market. Many of these bikes circumnavigated the world and set new speed and endurance records.
Moulton was awarded a CBE in 1976. Other honours followed. And whilst it's true that he continued to explore new ideas and innovations, his golden years were unquestionably the 1960s when his creations changed the world of pedal-power and shook up the complacent industrial bicycle giants.
In his final years, he often lamented the demise of British engineering and manufacturing. He never married, and lived and died in Bradford-upon-Avon, Wiltshire. If you want to know more about this man, his memoirs are available.
— Sam 7
Actually, the title of this event is a little misleading. It implies that this show was all about dirt bikes of some kind. But that wasn’t the case at all. It was really about all forms of competition bikes, and from all accounts, organiser Eric Patterson threw a pretty good party. A lot of very interesting hardware came out of the sheds and garages of England and reminded us all just how deep this thing goes. We’re talking about speedway bikes, flat trackers, café racers, trials bikes, road race machines, sprint bikes and dragsters.
The show (pics here by Brian Crichton) was staged in conjunction with the regular Kempton Park Autojumble and took place on 8th December 2012. Dave Degens (of Dresda fame) was the guest of honour, while the Ace Cafe handed out a prize for the best flat tracker.
Some of you will recall that Eric (pictured at the top of this news item with Dave Degens, and below at Bonneville Salt Flats) set a new speed record back on 1st September 2011 in the AMA 1350-A-VG class when he hit 124.98 mph riding an 1150cc OHV Brough Superior owned by Brough aficionado and CEO, Mark Upham. That bike made an appearance at the Kempton show and looked a lot better in the flesh than it ever did in a photograph.
Here at Sump, we don't actually understand these more obscure records. Broughs were cracking well over 100mph half a century ago. But Mark and Eric, and the numerous sponsors and supporters (including Jay Leno) are pleased that something pretty amazing was achieved on the day, and we ain't going to argue about it.
Either way, the bike looks fantastic, and 120-plus mph is nevertheless a large rate of knots for an un-streamlined, old-tech V-twin "running on pump gasoline" and piloted by a bloke who qualifies for a free bus pass.
Eric is da man, huh?
— Del Monte
It's a cost-cutting initiative, of course. The government reckons that around £90 million could be saved each year if the road fund licence—or tax disc if you prefer—was scrapped.
HM Gov isn't talking about abolishing the duty, take note. We're all going to continue paying, and paying through the nose in many instances. But the paper discs are supposedly for the chop, along with the paper reminders that come in the post, and even the paper counterpart that accompanies the UK credit-card sized driving licence. Instead, notification will be made by emails and text messages.
That's the plan, anyway.
Modern electronic Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology is, say the government, making the discs redundant. Except that ANPR is, at present, fitted only to certain police vehicles and roadside cameras. By no means is the technology as widespread as it needs to be. So it's not clear what, if any, provisions will be made to allow the ordinary copper on the beat (if you can find one) to recognise an unlicensed vehicle.
We'd be happy to see the end of the tax disc, if and when it happens. Yes, there's a certain social, historic and nostalgic interest in them. But mostly, they're just clutter on the windscreen and junk on the fork leg or headlight.
What's a little more worrisome is the fact that many modern systems now demand that you own a computer or mobile phone if you want to park a car on a given street or access your bank account or do any number of other things. Soon, pay-by-phone will be the only way to go, complete with cradle-to-the-grave purchase tracking and movement plotting.
Meanwhile, analogue TV is dead. Valve radios are not a lot of use anymore now that the best stations have gone digital. And our old dial telephones are increasingly stumped by many call steering systems.
Like it or not, living in the past is going to feature less as the years roll by. It can only be a matter of time before running a classic bike or a classic car is simply no longer an option.
Welcome to the future.
— Sam 7
It was built for one year only, and is thought to be the sole surviving example of a lost American marque. The manufacturer was the L.A. Mitchell Motor Company of Oakland, California.
Unlike many manufacturers of the day, this bike was a purpose-built motorcycle rather than a bicycle with a motor attached. It was discovered in the warehouse of a new England museum where it had been for decades (which once again underlines the fact that many museums, like many garage owners, have little or no idea of exactly what they've got stuffed at the back).
The engine is a two-stroker and, apparently, turns freely. It's got good compression too. The pedals are from Thor. The saddle is a leather Troxel item. And it's otherwise pretty much all there, all 107 years of it.
Bonhams, who supplied the image, will be looking for big bucks for this Leo when it's put up for sale on Thursday 10th January 2013 at Bally’s Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, USA.
— Girl Happy
We're a little slow in putting this up online, mostly because we were out of the country when it happened and busy doing other things.
But we're not letting the month go by without marking the passing of jazz maestro Dave Brubeck who died on December 5th, the day before his 92nd birthday.
Nerdy-looking Brubeck, and nerdy-looking chums, were as much a sound of the sixties as the Beatles, the Stones, the Kinks or a BSA Gold Star exhaust twitter. If any of you reading this were around in that decade, you'll be well acquainted with his unique and evocative noise.
He'll be best remembered for the classic and timeless track Take Five (written by Paul Desmond), but the man's back catalogue boast dozens of slick, classy, and rhythmically challenging songs including Unsquare Dance; Blue Rondo a La Turk; It's a Raggy Waltz, Pick up Sticks; and Bossa Nova.
Take Five was actually recorded in 1959 on the seminal album, Time Out. The tune was written in 5/4 time, which led to many other odd time signatures including 5/4, 6/4, 9/8 and even 7/4. If you don't know what that means, don't let it worry you. It sounds fantastic and gives your hands and feet plenty to do while your ears are trying to figure it all out.
Pianist Brubeck had been writing and playing since the early 1940s, but it was in the late 50s and early 60s that he really found his way. He was a prolific musician who worked with, and inspired, some of the jazz greats of the era. He was frequently joined on stage by one or more of his six children.
He disbanded the quartet in 1967, but continued developing his music by exploring new dimensions and harmonic inventions.
He became increasingly involved in choral and orchestral work. But the jazz wave he caught in 1959 was still carrying him through to the end.
In 1987, Dave Brubeck formed a new quartet and was still campaigning, composing and redefining his music until 2005.
If you haven't yet discovered Brubeck, there's still time. You're not dead, and there are hundreds of recordings and compilations awaiting your ears. You can even still pick up the original Time Out album in charity shops around the country for a quid. Or less. And if it ain't a crime that this vinyl is going so cheap, it ought to be.
The man was a classic in his own lifetime.
Hard to see it actually happening, but Franco Malenotti & sons certainly have plans for the Matchless name. Malenotti is the Italian clothing entrepreneur who breathed new life (or, arguably, new death) into the fading Belstaff brand (founded in 1924) and took it from the greasy backstreets of the world to the upmarket fashion high streets.
Since the late 1990s, Malenotti had been a licensee of the Belstaff brand which was then owned by Phoenix Distribution. But he bought the brand outright in 2004 paying a reputed £10.4 million (but we've heard other numbers too, both higher and lower). In 2011, Malenotti flogged Belstaff to new Switzerland-based owners, Labelux (founded 2007), and is now looking to start work on his new project.
Matchless was founded in 1899 by Henry Herbert Collier. Backed by sons Harry and Charlie, Matchless launched its first production machine in 1902. They built singles and V-twins, sidevalves and OHV engines, and were pioneer engineers renowned for quality merchandise. The company also justifiably boasted track-time kudos following Charlie's 1907 inaugural TT win riding one of the firm's singles.
In 1931, the Colliers bought out AJS which was owned and managed by the progressive-minded Stevens brothers. Soon after, the Colliers also bought Sunbeam, subsequently moving it on to BSA.
Associated Motor Cycles (AMC) was formed in 1938 with Matchless and AJS being the core brands. AMC soon swallowed-up Francis Barnett, James and Norton.
In 1966, Associated Motor Cycles went bust and Manganese Bronze Holdings under the control of Dennis Poore stepped into the breach.
By the early 1980s, the Matchless brand was in the hands of the late Les Harris of Racing Spares Ltd who manufactured a 494cc SOHC Rotax powered "G80" single. Production continued for around three years, and these (often contentious) Matchless-badged machines turn up from time to time at "affordable" prices. The number built is unclear, but 800-900 units is variously quoted.
In 2006, a collective/syndicate of four Greeks bought the Matchless brand paying £45,000 for it at Bonhams' April Stafford Sale. The Greeks had plans to re-launch the marque, but nothing came of it.
Then Franco Malenotti came along (image right), purchased the famed winged "M" and all that went with it, and moved the game along a little further. Which brings us pretty much up to date.
Whether or not Malenotti actually produces a motorcycle remains to be seen, but it's worth remembering that his experience is largely in clothing. Certainly he's been making noises about Matchless-branded apparel. So are we really just looking at a new fashion line for the fickle ragtrade, or a genuinely revitalised motorcycle brand for the hoi polloi like us?
It's hard to imagine a single new bike reaching a single new customer. But there are plenty of people out there looking for something else to stick in the closet beside Burberry, Armani, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Ben Sherman, Prada and (of course) Belstaff.
— The Third Man
Royal Enfield tell us that this bike (above) is inspired by the 1959 Crusader Sports, and we're taking them at face value. We're talking about their new Bullet Sports kit which features dropped handlebars, a fly screen, a Goldie type silencer and a bar-end mirror.
The kit is designed to fit the current range of 500cc Bullets and sells for a modest £353.95. Or, if you haven't yet joined the Royal Enfield club, you can buy a complete Classic Chrome model kitted out in the above style for £5595.
... alternately, if you're looking for something a little more rugged, Royal Enfield have introduced their T5 kit as a kind of homage to the International Six Days Trials bike of the late 1940s/early 1950s.
This kit (immediately above) features Continental Twinduro on-road/off-road tyres, braced ‘scrambles’ handlebars and an alloy bash plate and sells for £251. Or you can buy a new Bullet built to T5 specification for £5395.
The prices of the kits look pretty reasonable, but once again, Royal Enfield is in serious danger of pricing its bikes out of the market if it doesn't watch it. For not an awful lot more, you can pick up a new Hinckley Triumph Bonneville, a Kawasaki W800, or even a Harley Sportster. We've said that before, but it bears repeating.
True, real Enfield men wouldn't consider either option. A Bullet is a single, and the Bonnie and Kwacker are twins. And yes, there's still a certain down-market coolness in a low-tech RE thumper.
But as ever, it's the floating buyers that make and break a product. Enfield's biggest selling point has always been price. It would be a shame if the company lost sight of that simple fact and brought the whole thing down.
— Big End