The good news is that there are almost 100 bikes from a single collection on offer at Bonhams' sale at the Classic Mechanics Show on 20th October 2013 at Stafford.
The bad news for most of the visitors to Sump is that all the bikes are Japanese, and most of them are Hondas.
The motorcycles date from the 1950s to the present day. And you won't have to scratch your head to figure out exactly what's there because anyone who collects close on 100 Japanese bikes will have picked the most significant models. But there are quite a few monkey bikes and mopeds, and the collection is described as "eclectic". So maybe you need to look beyond the obvious.
Michael Buttinger, a Dutch entrepreneur, is the guy responsible for the collection which is said to be valued at around £300,000 ($470,000). Buttinger caught the collecting bug when he was aged ten. But more recently, he feels he hasn't got the time or energy needed to maintain these bikes (many of which are projects), so he's selling up.
Highlights of the sale include:
Honda NR750 (£50,000 - £70,000)
Honda CR93 (£26,000 - £32,000)
Honda CBR1000RR7, ex-Steve Brogan (£16,000 - £20,000)
Honda Juno M85 (£7,000 - £10,000)
Honda GB500 (£6,000 - £8,000)
Honda GL1000 (£6,000 - £8,000)
Honda CB450 K0 (£5,000 - £6,000)
Kawasaki Z900 (£8,000 - £12,000)
Suzuki RE5 (£10,000 - £15,000)
Yamaha TA125 Racer (£5,000 - £7,000)
If you want to expand your collection and fancy dipping your toe into Japanese waters, you know what you have to do.
The bike image immediately above (courtesy of Bonhams) is a Honda CB77 which, unsurprisingly, is part of the collection. It's valued at somewhere between £8000 - £10,000.
We've said it before, but it's worth repeating; much of the "Jap Crap" from yesteryear (notably the 1950s and 1960s) is starting to look pretty good, and much of it is prime investment material.
Keep that in mind if you've got a spare yen or two and a vacant corner of your shed or garage. Quality British iron at realistic prices is getting hard to come by.
— The Third Man
You know the old saying; If it looks too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true (or it’s a Sump T-shirt).
Well the above Harley-Davidson FatBoy which recently appeared on eBay isn’t a Sump T-shirt, and was too good to be true. It was listed as a 2007 model with just 5000 miles on the clock, and £4600 (asking price) is around half the true value.
The seller boasted a 100% feedback rating, which actually represented just one transaction (see how figures are apt to confound?), and he said the bike was located in Elgin, Scotland—conveniently far enough away from the vast majority of the UK (and most of the rest of the world).
Also, the seller’s eBay account was new (about 2 weeks old), and the seller said he lived in an area where mobile phone reception was poor (like somewhere in Mexico, maybe; more about that link in a moment). So all communication would have to be via eBay.
No direct talk. No eyeball. Just email.
The supposed sweetener was the fact that the seller was promising to deliver the bike (or have a friend deliver it), and handle the transaction though a (non existent) PayPal department designed to “safeguard your money”. And if, after a week of close inspection, you decide that you don’t want the bike, the seller promised to collect it (at no cost) and “PayPal will refund your money, no questions asked”.
If your antennae aren't now twitching, they ought to be.
The seller further claimed that his name is Joachim Young. He said he lives in Germany, but the bike is in Scotland, and it used to belong to his brother who is now dead.
Additionally, Joachim supplied the registration number to allow an HPI check to be conducted thereby bolstering the con. We logged onto the DVL database, and the number certainly checks out. We contacted HPI and that checks out too.
We contacted the police (who weren’t very interested), and we logged a report with Action Fraud, a civilian-operated service established to record online scams and suchlike and send the info to the various police intelligence units.
We also tipped off eBay, and the bike has since been removed from its listings. And we tipped off NatWest Bank who, it seems, is holding the scamster’s account (and they didn’t seem to be much interested either).
There are a number of other very interesting leads relating to this matter that we won’t go into here (bank details, various related locations, a home address, background info on the bike, and a Mexican sounding “beneficiary”); suffice to say that this is an ongoing con that might well have suckered in a number of hopeful bikers looking for a serious bargain. Unquestionably, the fraudster has made mistakes, and there’s a chance he’ll get his collar felt sooner or later.
These kind of scams are becoming more common, and even relatively smart people can lose their shirts (so God help the fifty percent of the population who are below average). If you have any further information on this, or on similar, frauds, tip us the wink. Meanwhile, don’t be a victim.
So once again, if it’s too good to be true, it’s just one of our T-shirts—and remember that you can buy them only here, etc (cue fanfare, dancing girls, and the usual BUY NOW contact details …)
— Big End
Footnote: When we contact HPI (Hire Purchase Information), they showed no interest in taking details of a possible eBay fraud. HPI exists only to alert potential buyers to any outstanding finance obligation, or whether a bike is stolen, or whether it's been written off following a crash or a fire. But this firm all but point blank refused to take on board our information regarding a modern online con. They claimed that it was "murky waters" and said that they didn't want to be involved. We feel that they ought to be more willing to engage the fraudster and accept whatever information is available and pass that information onto consumers. You might want to consider this if and when you have dealings with HPI. Their response simply isn't good enough.
Coincidentally enough, we've just been trawling eBay and looking at CX500 Hondas when an email dropped into our inbox from a Sump contributor asking of we'd seen these.
Well we hadn't. But we're glad we were tipped off because the Honda CX500 is not only a classic today, but was a classic when it was out there on the streets, usually in the hands of soggy motorcycle couriers who respected them as a hardworking, all-weather, no nonsense tool.
Truth to tell, we rode one of these ourselves way back when, and thought they were pretty useful all-rounders good for around 100-105mph at the top with a realistic 70-80mph cruising speed. Features included shaft drive, water-cooling, Comstar (pressed-steel) wheels with tubeless tyres, CV carburettors, a contra-rotating gearbox to minimise the torque reaction, and an 80-degree angle between the V-twin cylinders, each with a 10-degree twist towards the rear to prevent the carburettors from kneecapping the rider.
They were pushrod engines too, incidentally, and gave a weird hollow sound like someone clunking on a steel coconut. At least, that's how we remember them.
They were pretty cheap looking with ugly welding, and they were heavy at around 470lbs. But for all that, they were great motorcycles capable of taking more abuse than a squaddie's wife, and many a love affair between bike and rider blossomed on the mean streets of London EC1, EC2, EC3, EC4, WC1, WC2 and W1.
▲ Above: The Honda CX500 as it appeared in 1978. Original. Interesting. Practical. Pragmatic. And a future classic. Over the years, Honda adulterated the concept and produced numerous variants (Custom, Eurosport, Silver Wing and Turbo). But the basic, common or garden variety frrst-of-type CX is probably the one to collect.
The weak point was always the cam chain which was modified numerous times before Honda sorted it out, and later CXs can be retro-fitted with the final fix. And yes, they had cam-chains and pushrods, and at this hour of the night, with beer and wine sloshing around our bellies, we can't think of another bike with that configuration (but there are probably one or two out there).
Good, unmolested examples of these CXs are rare. But they are still around, and if you're looking for an investment classic, these will help bolster that pension pot.
On the other hand, you can still find yourself a cheap and knocked about example for a few hundred quid that would offer a good donor vehicle for one of the kits highlighted here.
There are two options; the Cafe Racer Kit (image at the top of this feature) and the Roadster kit (below). Both look pretty good to us, especially the Roadster, and both options give the CX500 a new lease of life and will help put them back where they belong, which is on the streets. The price for each kit, as we understand it, is around £900. But check with Ian Saxcoburg who operates from the Isle of Wight and is the guy behind this project.
There are plenty of details of this kit on Ian's site. We especially love the wire wheels that force you to see these machines very differently. As a CX cafe racer, you're not going to be breaking any bar-hopping records. But you'll know that you're in a class of your own and will hang your head in shame to nobody.
With the Roadster, you run the risk of riding along with your nose in the air, because this configuration simply looks so right and shows you how the CX might have appeared had Honda looked beyond the mundane.
There ain't many Japanese bikes that here at Sump we love and respect. But the Honda CX500, produced between 1978 and 1983, is one of them. In fact, we'll go a little further than that. We think it's one of the greatest pieces of "Jap Crap" ever built.
Telephone: 07854 098088
— Girl Happy
It's a terrible thing when a man is rudely separated from his wheels. But this owner has had the wit to advertise his loss on eBay (that great repository of stolen bike parts), so we're happy to give him a little extra publicity in the hope that someone out there can point a finger at the bastards who had it away.
The bike, which, incidentally, is unquestionably a modern classic, was stolen from St James Square, London on or around 24th August 2013 between 10.00am and 4.00pm. The registration number is EXI7549 (which looks a little odd to us, but we checked with the DVLA and it is a bona fide 1984 bike). The frame and engine number is: 6056687.
The owner says that the paintwork is in exceptional condition via parts sourced from new old stock (NOS). The bike's been fitted with a Wilbers rear shock absorber.
So if you spot this machine, please tip-off the rozzers so that the owner and his motorcycle can be reunited. And if you come across the thieves, please kill them and hang their filthy hides from a streetlamp with a sign explaining why you had to do what you had to do.
No one around here will blame you.
— Sam 7
They're a little early this year. We don't usually get to run this story until October or November. But we don't care. Ace Classics is the place to go for 1950s - 1960s pre-unit Triumphs, and their annual calendar always looks pretty cool, and they sell pretty quickly. So if you want one, better get it in gear and make your play.
The format is the same as it ever was. One bike per page, and one page per month. The size is ... well, still pretty big calendar size. The price is still just ten quid, plus postage. We could be talking about collectors items some day. Keep it in mind. Meanwhile, check out the related story immediately below...
Kevin Rushworth, who manages Ace Classics, will be racing for the fourth time at the Goodwood Revival, this year campaigning a Buddy Elmore replica 500cc Triumph Tiger 100.
Elmore's win at the 1966 Daytona 200 (average speed 96.6mph) led to Triumph introducing the twin-carburettor 499cc Daytona T100T the following year. It was priced at £371.
Rushworth (pictured above) will be partnered by none other than Paul Smart, ex-Grand Prix racer (Norton, Kawasaki, Ducati, Yamaha, et al). If you need to ask anything else about Smart, you're probably not a racing fan, so move along there.
Said Rushworth, "I don’t know how we will get on as we are up against brand new Manx Nortons and G50s. We will be racing against the likes of Wayne Gardner, Stan Woods, Mick Grant, Gary Johnson, Steve Brogan, Cameron Donald, Bruce Anstey, Michael Rutter, Phil Reed, James Haydon, and Scott Smart (Paul Smart's son). It's going to be hard work, but as long as it doesn’t rain and we can finish, I will be happy."
The Goodwood Revival takes place this year on 13th -15th September 2013.
— Del Monte
When classic bikers talk about the British Invasion, they're usually referring to that fabulous post war era of ration cards and Argentinean corned beef; a time when BSA and Triumph launched an all out assault on the USA, gave Harley-Davidson a major fright, and brought home a lot of much need dollars to Britain's cash-strapped shores.
But music fans generally remember the British Invasion as the time when America discovered the Beatles, The Kinks, The Moody Blues, The Dave Clark Five, the Animals and The Rolling Stones.
The man who introduced this line-up of erstwhile rock and pop demi-Gods was impresario Sid Bernstein who died on Wednesday 20th August 2013 aged a rocking and rolling 95.
Bernstein was born in Manhattan, New York City and was adopted by Yiddish-speaking Russian immigrants. During WW2, he served time with the US Army and saw action in Europe, notably at the Battle of the Bulge, He later ran a nightclub, organised dances and, for a spell, managed the Newport Jazz Festival at Rhode Island, USA.
He also helped introduce numerous black artistes to the world, including Fats Domino, James Brown and Duke Ellington, and was said to be one of the first white promoters to do so.
But although Bernstein rubbed shoulders with, and helped launch or further the careers of some of the greats (Sinatra, Hendrix, Tony Bennett, Judy Garland), his financial fortunes followed a rocky path.
He is survived by his wife, Geraldine, four sons, and two daughters.
— Girl Happy
Put your hands together for British Crown Court judge Peter Murphy who has refused to allow a 21-year old Hackney, London woman from making an opening guilty/not guilty plea until she reveals her identity.
The woman, who is facing charges of witness intimidation, protested that she had the "religious right" not to expose her face to men. Including the judge. She suggested that some other arrangement could be made to formally identify her, such as allowing her female barrister or a woman police officer to take a peek behind the cloth and tick the appropriate box.
But Judge Murphy wasn't having any of that elitist God-fearing nonsense and adjourned the trial pending a reality check.
Notwithstanding the fundamental judicial imperative to identify the woman at all stages throughout the trial, it begs the question of how a jury of her peers is supposed to gauge the defendant's reaction during cross-examination whilst said defendant is wearing a sheet with a slot in the middle.
What's really happening here isn't the repression of religious rights. Instead, it's the refusal of the British judiciary to capitulate to irrational elements of certain sections of society who are demanding preferential treatment.
Try standing up in court in a full face crash helmet, or even a pair of dark glasses, and demanding the right to anonymity whilst arguing the case against your next speeding ban.
The Secular Europe Campaign is struggling to put end to these kinds of shenanigans by changing the mindset of the European Union by:
- opposing the privileged status of the churches under Article 17 of the TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union)
- opposing the privileged status of churches in countries where they are established
- opposing the special status of the Vatican at the United Nations and its economic and political privileges across Europe
- opposing state-funded religious schools
Meanwhile, you might want to check out what the British Humanist Association has to say on the matter.
It isn't purely a Muslim thing, or a Jewish thing, or a Christian thing. It's the whole bloody organised religion thing that needs to be intellectually and emotionally kicked into touch and back into the dark ages where it belongs. This isn't advocating religious hatred; just religious pity and a much needed shot of rationalism.
It ain't often that we think good thoughts about a British judge. But as far as the berk in the burka is concerned, we think Murphy's da man.
From March to June 2013, 177 complaints were made to the Metropolitan Police regarding Ace Cafe bikers racing up and down Rainsford Road in Brent, North London—or so we're told. At times, the number of racers is said to be up to fifty machines. So the council has moved to stop the shenanigans by slapping a temporary ban on bikes using that stretch of road.
An alternate route has been posted, and in six weeks the council will review the situation. But as it stands, motorcycles have been given the elbow from the particular stretch.
The British Motorcyclists Federation has (naturally) launched a protest. But the council is holding firm (so far). It appears that it would cost around £90,000 to introduce traffic calming devices, but it's cheaper to simply hang a sign and restrict access.
Bikers are going to have their noses put out of joint over this. But Brent Council feels it has a duty of care towards everyone, and wants to ensure that other bodily parts aren't put out of joint too.
Here's what Brent said:
‘This is proposed as an experimental order at this stage, with a signed alternative route. There are on-going and often daily problems with motorcyclists using this road as a race track and for stunt riding, particularly when there are events at the nearby Ace Café. Numerous incidents and accidents have been reported by the Metropolitan Police and the local community. It is only be a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed."
There's a hospital nearby, incidentally, and the bikes are making a racket which has added to the complaints and probably not doing the patients much good.
You can see where the council is coming from, of course. We've seen for ourselves some of the stupid and irresponsible antics that some brainless bikers get up to in that neighbourhood, so our feelings are mixed over this one.
Meanwhile, if you're one of the motorised morons, show a little mercy to the local community, particular the hospital, and try and keep in mind that it's not just your tyres that need to get a grip.
— Big End
Doesn't sound like there's much in this one for classic bikers, and maybe there isn't. But it's one of those stories that deserves a little cerebral energisation (whatever the hell that means), so we're giving it to you, anyway.
Seems that Volkswagen has managed to get an injunction slapped on a trio of latter day boffins (one British, and two Dutch) who've figured out how to crack the security codes and pick the electronic locks on hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of VWs and Audis and whatnot, and they want to publish their findings at a convention with their peers.
Why? Well, the eggheads figure that the public have a right to know that the algorithms that are supposedly protecting their expensive wheels are easily cracked by a couple of University Challenge students with a few billion high-IQ brain cells and a little high-tech gadgetry. Moreover, the eggheads figure that a bunch of well motivated crooks could do exactly what they've done. So if they spill the beans and let everyone know all the techno secrets, we'll all somehow be that much safer when away from our wheels.
That's the logic anyway, unless we missed something in translation. But Volkswagen doesn't agree with the boffins, hence the injunction.
By the same standard, if the aforementioned eggheads figured out how best to break into our sheds and garages and nick our Triumphs and BSAs and Ariels, it would be okay to publish the details for all the world to know.
Or maybe they can simply spread the word about how to crack our bank accounts with a a hair pin and a digital calculator. And every once in a while they do just that.
You can see where they're coming from in forcing the various motoring corporations to stay ahead of the game and close the loopholes. But you can also see why VW has got its corporate knickers in a twist and doesn't want to make it any easier than it apparently already is to rip off their customer's wheels.
The moral? We ain't sure if there really is one, except that in a high tech world with computer-this and algorithm-that, you still can't beat a good old low-tech Rottweiler camped out in the garage, a trip wire or pressure pad linked to a soft buzzer beside your bed, and a hunk of lead pipe wrapped in newspaper.
Last year, Bonhams turned over £2.6 million at its Beaulieu sale at The National Motor Museum, Hampshire.
This year, the firm is going back to see if it can match or exceed that total, and will no doubt be helped by the above 1952 Triumph Speed Twin (images from Bonhams) that hasn't been on the road since the mid-1960s.
The erstwhile owner has since died, hence the sale. And there are other machines from the same collection on offer. But this one in particular has caught our eye, not least because it all sounds pretty tragic and depressing; a man and his motorcycles slowly being overwhelmed by the passing of time.
The bikes should have been ridden and enjoyed. But walk a mile in another man's shoes, and all that.
Regardless, someone is going to snap up this bike and will, we hope, take nothing more than an oily rag to it, change the required fluids, fit a new battery and put an air hose on the tyres.
Actually, those tyres and tubes are probably long past their sell-by date. But this is a desirable bike that carries an estimate of £1800 - £2500.
We might even raise an eyebrow or two of our own if we can get to the sale. The engine and frame number match (29998), by the way. And the original registration number is SPB 956.
The bike carries a tax disc that expired in March 1965, and an MOT certificate that expired in January 1966. Also present is an instruction manual and a copy of The Book of the Triumph.
If you're looking for a rare piece of unmolested (read; neglected) classic motorcycle, look no further. This is Lot 260. Be at Beaulieu on Saturday 7th September 2013 (or, according to Bonhams' original press release sent in error, Saturday 8th). And bring a hankie.
UPDATE: The Speed Twin sold for £4370 including buyers premium.
— Del Monte
Meet PC Shaun Jenkins. He's an armed copper from South Wales who recently lost his job for having sex with a woman in a house Caerphilly whilst on duty.
His colleagues, we hear, were outside in the car whilst Jenkins was busy dispensing justice and keeping the peace. But because his weapon was out of reach for the forty minutes that he was otherwise engaged (no singgering, please), he was sacked.
However, he successfully argued that his gun was actually within reach at all times, not least because it was safely holstered around his ankles with his trousers, and he was reinstated.
That safely explains what is generally meant by the long arm of the law. Nice one, Shaun. Clearly here at Sump we're living in the wrong part of the country.
There are quite a few jokes we could make about safely holstered weapons and Caerphilly-does-it, but we'll leave all that smutty stuff to minds significantly less innocent than our own.
The British police. Ya gotta love 'em.
— The Third Man
We understand exactly how Peter Fonda feels.
We've had problems with our own T-shirt designs being ripped off by chancers and autojumble pirates and sundry ne'er-do-wells.
But this is slightly different. The fashion houses of Nordstrom and Dolce & Gabbana has allegedly misappropriated an image from the 1969 movie Easy Rider and has plastered it over a piece of very expensive casual cotton.
How expensive exactly? Well women were said to be buying the tees for $295 each. Fonda is mucho unhappy about it and has moved to litigation. He wants $3,000,000 in compensation, plus interest charges, costs and punitive damages.
Nordstrom, in their defence, say that they bought the rights to the image in good faith and haven't formally been notified of the pending litigation.
We ought not to make capital out of this. But we're going to anyway. Click on this Sump T-shirts link and you'll be transported to the appropriate page where you can get some rags to cover that flabby skin for a whole lot less than $295.
Yeah, that was cheap of us. But not as cheap as our tees, brother. And in this world, you gotta get it where it's going. Are we right, or are we right?
Read some even less happy new below on Easy Rider.
— Big End
The date is Saturday 7th December 2013, the venue is Kempton Park, and club and private entries are now being invited.
Kempton Park always has a great vibe, and this show is likely to be a pretty good day out for anyone on this side of Alpha Centauri.
This year, there's an Ace Cafe Flat Track corner for all you riders who prefer to travel both sideways and forwards at the same time.
There will be an autojumble, lots of classic bike bargains, plenty of food and refreshments, and we've just heard from God that the sun will be shining. But even if our weather information is unreliable, much of Kempton Park is under cover, anyway.
Admission is just £6.00 for adults; £5.00 for kids and OAPs. The gates open at 10.00am, and things generally wind up around 4.00pm - 5.00pm.
If you haven't yet visited Kempton, scratch a note on your petrol tank. This event is probably the best thing that's going to be happening on on 7th December.
— Girl Happy
She starred opposite Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper (1936-2010) and Jack Nicholson in the seminal counterculture hippy-biker movie, Easy Rider, and now she's gone.
Easy Rider was Black's third film. She played a prostitute working alongside actress Toni Basil and was soon in demand by TV and movie producers. Most people, however, will probably remember her as the stewardess Nancy Pryor in the movie Airport 1975 in which she lands a stricken Boeing 747; as the journalist in Capricorn One (and the object of Elliot Gould's ardour); and as Jack Nicholson's girlfriend in the film Five Easy Pieces.
Her career started well, and she appeared in over 100 films, but she never achieved the heights of many of her contemporaries and often found herself languishing on the margins of low budget and B movies and working in the horror genre.
But she had a loyal fan base, achieved something of a cult status, and was always an interesting presence on the screen.
She appeared alongside other
A-list actors including Charlton Heston, Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. She also worked with Alfred Hitchcock, Richard Benjamin and Robert Altman, and wrote a number of screenplays.
Karen Black was 74.
— Del Monte
It probably won't affect too many of us on two wheels—at least, not when we're on two wheels—but the Eurocrats in Brussels and/or Strasbourg are trying once again to fix something that isn't really broken, and that's British touring caravans (as opposed to static caravans and motorhomes).
The UK accident statistics relating to mechanical failure don't appear to support the demand for more stringent MOT-type checks. The Caravan Club (perhaps predictably) is against the idea, and once again the British government is actually on-side. But our unelected European puppet masters see it differently and are trying to jerk our strings and foist a new expense upon us.
If and when the proposals becomes law, it won't affect all caravans; just those weighing more than 750kgs—which, apparently, is most of them.
So what's the cost for setting up a network of caravan testing stations? Well, it's been estimated at over £230 million, and would probably see around 500,000 caravans unnecessarily trundling up and down the roads for their annual checks when the case for it simply hasn't been convincingly made.
Various other EU states haven't much enthusiasm for change, but the EC wants to "harmonise" the laws. In September this year (2013), the usual suits and suspects will be clustered around the table again trying to thrash it out. So if it matters to you, write to your MP or MEP or David Cameron and be heard. Caravans ain't exactly our favourite sight on the Queen's highway, by the way. But each to his own, and all that.
Let's hope that this is another nail in the coffin of the EC and helps extract us sooner rather than later from this continental con.
— Sam 7
Okay. We got this one finished at last. We started working on it late last year but got distracted by the usual things. Women. Beer. More beer. And motorcycles (seems we've said that before somewhere).
But now it's done and we've been walking around in the samples for the past month and we're happy with 'em.
Actually, we love 'em.
But we need the cash to finance the aforementioned beer, women and classic bikes, etc, so we're ready to flog 'em to you.
The price for flying this particular Norton flag is fifteen quid plus postage and packing, and the tees are available in heavyweight black cotton in the usual four sizes (S, M, L, and XL).
There's not much else to say about 'em here. We all know what we feel about Norton. So we're going back to what we were doing (which is extremely private and possibly illegal) while you make up your mind.
So look away and click this Norton: The ride of your Life T-shirt link for more of the usual sales talk.
— Sam 7
For months we've been getting teaser press releases and invites to Sturgis and Facebook, the idea being to work us up into a journalistic frenzy in anticipation of the new 2014 Indian range of bikes, and then infect others with our fever and hysteria.
Well that range has since been announced, and Indian is fielding three models: the above £18,100 Indian® Chief® Classic (note the little "registered" symbols that are spread like a rash over Indian's sales material); the £19,399 Indian® Chief® Vintage; and the £20,250 Indian® Chieftain. These are starting prices, by the way. There's naturally a huge list of options (screens, panniers, and bolt-on chrome-plated doo-dahs).
All the bikes are, however, pretty much of a muchness, and all are based around Indian's 111 cubic inch, 49-degree Thunderstroke V-twin. And if you like the overweight, blowsy, range-riding, Easy Rider, American cruiser thing, these will probably suit you well. For a jaunt down Route 66 or the Pacific Coast Highway, you could do a lot worse.
But here at Sump, we feel it's all a little too thick on tradition and too light on anything really new or exciting. Put another way, there's only so much sugar you can take in your coffee, and this brew is at the limit of our peculiar taste.
Yes, that kind of commercial caution is probably exactly what you'd expect for this first foray into a marketplace dominated by Harley-Davidson (which is doing very well at the moment). Except that Indian was always a great innovator and was generally at the cutting edge of motorcycle design rather than at the trailing end. It was once edgy, whereas it's now more cagey.
The original company, which went out of business in 1953, would immediately recognise these products as its own, which is arguably both the strength and weakness of these new bikes. The single word that comes to mind every time we look at the press images is "safe & obvious®" (note the little "registered" symbol next to that word). But some bikes look a whole lot better in the flesh than they do in pictures (Triumph's Speed Triple for instance). So maybe we ought to reserve judgement until we catch one in the wild. That said, Indian's ultra-safe marketing campaign certainly isn't going to have us rushing into an Indian dealership at any time in the foreseeable future.
So does Harley have anything to worry about? Probably not too much at the moment. But there's little doubt that Indian, backed by the huge Polaris Industries combine, will help itself to a slice or two of the Yankee cruiser cake. However, with cruisers currently in the ascendancy, that cake is getting larger rather than smaller.
And remember that Polaris also owns Victory Motorcycles, and that means the firm will be campaigning two marques that, to a greater or lesser extent, will be chasing each other's tails. The trick for Indian will be to ensure that there's enough marketing space between Indian and Victory without giving Harley-Davidson an open goal.
Throughout this marketing campaign, Indian's buzzphrase has been "Choice is coming". Well fortunately, choice was always there, and it's something that we still have.
Indian reveals new 111-inch engine— Sump March 2013
— Big End
We're a little slow off the mark with this story, which is appropriate enough because we are talking about the humble Trabant and the demise of the man largely responsible for its creation.
Werner Lang died on 17th June 2013 aged 91. We must have been looking elsewhere when it happened, but we didn't want to let this man pass without a mention on Sump because the Trabant is a true classic of design and has earned its place up there with the Morris Minor, the Austin Mini, the Volkswagen Beetle, the Citroen 2CV, the BSA Bantam and the Honda Super Cub.
Launched in 1957, the 500cc Trabant—or Trabbi/Trabi/Trabbie—was named in honour of the first Russian Sputnik which had just blasted into orbit having beaten the Americans by three or four months. Trabant and Sputnik both mean traveller or voyager.
Following WW2, the Soviets had pretty much stripped bare what was left of East Germany. Whole industries and a huge amount of material was plundered. But transport was desperately needed among the bruised and poverty stricken East German citizens, and a few far-sighted engineers and designers—one of whom was Werner Lang—brought their heads together to address this problem.
▲ Kleinwagen mit grosser zukunft: Small car with a big future.
The Trabant was powered by an air-cooled two-stroke engine. The body was a steel monocoque frame clad with Duroplast panels; a mixture of cotton fibre soaked in resin extracted from coal, the latter of which East Germany had more than its fair share. Think Bakelite.
Designed as a four seater, the front-wheel-drive car could (barely) reach 50mph (62mph on later models), but with few moving parts, it was easy to manufacture and simple to service.
The fuel tank sat above the engine thereby obviating the need for a pump. Instrumentation was minimal. The windows were raised and lowered on runners (rather than by later winding mechanisms). And almost nothing couldn't be fixed with a hammer and a curse.
During its lifetime, the Trabant went through few design changes. Over 3,000,000 were built and sold, and they boasted a waiting time of up to eighteen years—which meant that second hand examples were often more expensive than new.
Although the top speed was fairly low by modern standards, later Trabants, due to their light weight and (slightly) raised horsepower could actually be quite nippy off the mark in the right hands. Fast gear changes were a pre-requisite for would-be racers, and a little tuning of the twin-cylinder engine could give owners just the edge they needed on the traffic light drag strip.
But "fast" is, of course, a relative term, the engines were noisy and smoky and generations behind, and their days were quickly numbered with the advent of more stringent European emissions controls.
The model that everyone remembers is the 600cc 601. This was the last of the line and fell out of production in 1989—and promptly achieved cult status. Many were trashed as hated symbols of an oppressive communist regime. But many others were deployed as proletariat icons by those opposed to German reunification.
Trabants have since been raced, customised, stretched, thrown from aircraft, covered in fur, sectioned, blown-up, toured the world, and have been stuffed in the corners of countless trendy loft apartments and restaurants from Berlin to Birmingham to Beijing.
Werner Lang was born in Saxony and trained as an engineer. As a young man, he was conscripted into the Wehrmacht (German army), but later deserted and joined the Italian anti-fascist partisans.
His legacy will no doubt still be around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. He is survived by his wife, Renate.
— Del Monte
Norton Commando and Norvil specialist, Les Emery, has had three of his staff members arrested on suspicion of theft from his premises.
The incidents, which have recently come to light, involve numerous motorcycle parts taken over a period of months if not years.
"Totalling as much as £1000 per week at its peak," said Les, "it's still not entirely clear exactly what items are missing from stock, but the losses certainly involve major mechanical components. We're talking about cylinder heads, a frame, barrels, pistons, con-rods, etc."
"After concerns were voiced, partly by other staff members, about stock irregularities, we installed an internal CCTV system," said Les, "and it soon became clear that things were being taken from right under my nose. Literally."
"We were also receiving odd phone calls from people concerning unofficial orders," added Les. "And despite the CCTV system—which isn't something that any employer wants to install—the thefts persisted. Eventually, however, we had sufficient evidence and the police were brought in. Parts have since been recovered from various locations."
The three staff members who were arrested are: Les Malone, Les Allen (centre image above), and workshop manager John Brisco (image right above). All have been released on bail pending further enquiries and/or charges, and all have been formally dismissed.
"As you can understand, this is a very unhappy episode for us," said Les. "We're currently working flat out with our workforce now down to ten. It's also meant that I've been working from 7.00am to 7.00pm seven days a week to keep up with orders. I've actually been quite enjoying the extra work aspect, but the circumstances around it are very disappointing."
Meanwhile, Les Emery is now supplying spares on a wholesale arrangement to other legitimate Norton dealers—as opposed to supplying them on a more casual retail basis.
So if you're a Norton parts trader or restorer, contact Les Emery via the details below.
Regarding the alleged theft of the parts, ultimately the police and courts will perhaps sort out who's responsible and will deal with the matter in whatever way they see fit.
A good slap on the wrist, probably. Or maybe both wrists.
But the incident underlines an issue that the classic bike community prefers not to discuss too much, and that's the number of stolen parts and stolen machines that many classic bikers are happy to exchange cash for and in full knowledge of the provenance of the items.
It's always easy to lay claim to the moral high ground (but harder to stay there for any length of time) but it's worth reminding everyone that "dodgy" bikes and parts are simply matters of theft and often cost someone dearly.
Factor that in the next time you trawl eBay, or scour your local autojumble or are offered something under the counter in your local biker's pub. If you know it's dodgy, don't buy, do inform, and give the honest and reliable classic bike dealer a break.
Keep in mind too that receiving stolen goods carries a maximum penalty of fourteen years (even though a slapped wrist is a more typical sanction).
UPDATE: We've been advised that bail conditions have since been dropped against Les Allen who has throughout protested his innocence and is aggrieved at being arrested, held for 19 hours in a police cell and kept on police bail for 10 months. He wants to make it clear that he stole nothing and that no Norvil parts or Norvil property was found either on his person or at his home. Consequently, he has not been charged with any offence.
— The Third man
See this Les Emery feature on Sump
Telephone: 01543 278008