We discovered this device (top left) about ten minutes ago and don't know anything about it other than the fact that it's designed to boost the spark of a tired old Lucas MO1, N1 or KN1 magneto.
It's up on eBay right now (29th February 2012) and carries an asking price of £13.
The seller is claiming it's simple to fit and is a straightforward service item good for around 10,000 miles or two years, or possibly longer. But like all capacitors (or points, or plugs), it will fail sooner or later.
To fit it, you'll need to perform a "simple condensectomy" to disconnect/isolate the old condensor. Special tools are available on loan if needed;
The upside is that unlike the standard condensor, you won't have to strip the mag to replace it. It all fits right there under the ignition points.
Sounds like a great device. But does it work the way the makers, or sellers, claim? We don't know, so you'll have to do some legwork yourself. If it does work, pass the word. We'd really love to find out. Note that the ignition points aren't included in the price. What you get for your thirteen quid is the little square thing that's on the green and silver bit.
— The Third Man
We've been hearing this kind of stuff forever, but that was then, and this is now, and Bill Ford, boss of a fairly well known Detroit-based motor company, reckons that this time the hour really is nigh.
Exercising his tongue and lips at the 2012 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Bill predicted semi-autonomous cars within seven years, and the Full Monty soon after.
We've already got cars with sensors front and rear, cars that know how to park themselves, cars that know when they need a service and when they're about to crash, cars with cameras and satnavs and more computer power than anything that landed on the moon, so maybe he's right.
Sounds a little scary at first. But perhaps it's actually a great idea if the great washed and unwashed British motoring public finally gave up the steering wheel completely, climbed into the back seat with their mobile phones and iPods and let the machines have their day. Got to be safer than the present system which currently kills a couple of thousand people each year, a disproportionate number of whom are motorcyclists (actually, 403 for 2010).
Better still if the vast majority of British motorists simply stayed at home to watch the football/soaps and sent the car out for the shopping. The only real problem being that when one of these new fangled Fords, or whatever, has a bad day or comes at you with a chip on its shoulder, so to speak, it won't be anywhere near as clear who's to blame, and who to punch.
Better enjoy those classic moments while you can. The times they are a'changing again, and there just might come a time when manually operated vehicles are seen as anti-social as having a quiet fag.
Fifty bloody quid? Someone's having a laugh, ain't they? Well actually no. They're deadly serious. This book is on special offer until the end of April 2012, with ten quid off. But hey-ho, the press release we got doesn't make it clear if that's ten quid off of fifty, or ten quid taking it down to fifty. Doesn't even tell us if it's new or old or what? Smart thinking, huh?
Either way, this book by David Gittens, "well known authority and author of classic motocross and scrambling" (never heard of him) details the complete history and development of Métisse Motorcycles and is probably the definitive work on ... well, Métisse Motorcycles.
Sounds like a pitch. But as ever, the tightwads didn't bother to send us a review copy; just a press release hoping for a free lunch. Well, hey; here's your free lunch, guys. Eat it while it's hot.
Meanwhile, if you people out there parked up on the internet super highway want more info, check out the site. Just don't expect sumfin for nuffin, like some guys do.
This YouTube vid has actually been around for a couple of years (and almost half a million views), but it bears mentioning again.
It's one of the amazing videos that doesn't stand too many viewings (or you'll end up seeing some, or all, of the strings). But it's worth watching for the first time for its sheer inventiveness. Special treat for Norton Commando owners. Check it out. Applaud. Share.
— Del Monte
Actually, the consultation document for this was launched on 13th December 2011, but something must have shorted in the office wiring loom because we completely overlooked it until someone jerked our lead (thanks, Mike).
But there's still time to read, study and, if necessary, react if you don't the sound of it. The upshot is that the government wants to close all 39 regional DVLA offices by 2013. That number includes 10 regional enforcement offices.
The impact on the classic bike community could be huge, not least when it comes to recovering a vehicle's number plate/registration document. At present, vehicle inspections are carried out at local DVLA centres. But when these centres get the chop, you could find yourself hauling your wheels all the way to Swansea, wherever that is.
The pressure behind this proposal is cost and efficiency, which is usually one and the same. The DVLA handles 200 million customer "interactions" each year, an increasing proportion of whom now prefer to "interact" online. Consequently, the department is trying to rationalise services. And that, they say, could lead to "less stringent enforcement", whatever that means, plus the closure of offices and even more people on the employment scrap heap.
The closing date for this consultation is 20th March 2012. We still haven't properly looked into this, so we'll update this story as and when interesting and relevant new information comes to light. Meanwhile, better take a look if you think it even vaguely affects you, which it probably does.
If you can circulate to story to your local bike club, that can only help. Meanwhile, we're going to interact with a couple of bottles of beer and try and get our heads around this.
— Sam 7
"Forensic Historical Motorcycle Archeovist" David G Hartwick, from San Jose, California, is looking for any info he can get on bikes built by a certain Mr Carl Nelk sometime around 1905 -1912.
We checked our Tragatsch, and there was nothing listed. So we looked at half a dozen other reference tomes, and eventually found a mention of a motorcycle built in Palo Alto, California by a guy of the same name.
This engine was a liquid cooled, overhead cam, 220cc rubber-mounted single housed in a bicycle frame. Top speed was around 35mph. The horsepower was a modest two. Drive was direct, and by chain. A crude form of front brake was installed. List price was £225. And that's pretty much it. That's all we got.
But the supplied image above is clearly of a different model which, as David advises us, is a Nelk Motor Coaster. This front wheel drive motorcycle-cum-scooter carries the fuel tank up by the handlebars, has a battery to provide the sparks, odd wheels, and is steered partly by weight-shifting.
We've never seen if before, but then, we don't get around as much as we used to—and obscure Americana isn't our strong suit, anyway. So we're throwing it open to Sump visitors.
Carl Nelk, incidentally, was born in 1870 and died in 1946. The Nelk Motor Coaster pictured above is thought to be the only one of its kind, but whether that means "the only one made" or "the only one still in existence" isn't clear.
David is looking for any information at all. Snippets of gossip. Old adverts. Hearsay. Pictures. Or whatever. He'll take it any way it comes and needs the information for the final draft of his book; In Search of Mr Nelk. So if you can help, you know what you have to do.
Meanwhile, he's also looking for info on the bicycle on the right.
The machine is a Speed-O-Byke built in the US in the 1930s and 1940s and sold at between $25-$50—with many being given away as prizes. As you might have guessed, David is also writing a book on these bikes and, as before, is looking for information.
Contact David at: firstname.lastname@example.org
— Girl Happy
There was a time when some folk hoped they died before they got old. Today, those same people are more likely to be hoping they can hold onto their driving licences beyond age seventy and get a decent insurance quote.
2,593 of them, it seems, are over the age of 90, with 121 of them over 100. Amongst their number, thousands have never passed a driving test (if that actually means anything) which was introduced in 1935.
Who says so? The government says so. They've just released figures that paint either a bleak, or an optimistic, vision of a future that lies in store for many, if not most, of us.
We don't have figures that reveal how many of these geriatric licence holders own and/or ride motorcycles. But the increasing number of silver-haired bikers we've been seeing in recent years at motorcycle shows and autojumbles suggests that we're likely to be in good company.
As it stands, British motorists/motorcyclists are obliged to renew their licences when they hit the big seven-oh. After that, the law requires them to reapply every three years—which actually defies logic because ageing doesn't occur in triennial bursts of decrepitude. Seems to us that the renewal period should progressively shorten as the knees go and the eyesight fades, etc, until it gets down to every ten minutes or so.
But who are we to argue?
On the positive side, older drivers are (according to the official stats) much less likely to run into older, or even younger, motorcyclists. In fact, you're three-times more likely to be T-boned, carved-up or rear-ended by a 17-19 year old (unless he or she is on the AA Drivesafe program—see below).
But should there be an automatic upper age limit on driving a motor vehicle? We don't think so, and so far the government agrees. But there is some talk of putting the motorways off-limits to anyone beyond their Biblically allotted-three-score-year-and-ten. And there is some talk of further restrictions on where and when the aged can go, which could someday mean that if the grim reaper doesn't get you, the DVLA will.
Meanwhile, better get it while it's going. The end of personal mobility is a scary thing, huh?
— The Third Man
Let it not be said that here at Sump we're afraid to tackle a little controversy. In fact, we love it, especially when it comes from the British National Party; the party that everyone loves to hate—or is that hates to love?
To that end, we've just received a press release from BNP chairman Nick Griffin complete with an attached begging bowl seeking funds.
Fifty-two year old Griffin is already a Member of the European Parliament (North West England) and now he's campaigning to seize control of the London Assembly; that august body of never-do-wells who run the political machinery underpinning one of the greatest cities on earth.
Only, the way Nick's carrying on at the moment, it looks more likely that he's gonna find himself not in the mayors seat but in jail for stirring up some serious racial hatred at a time when tensions are higher than they've been in a generation.
Just check out the rhetoric:
"Everyone in London, and indeed all over the country, will still have the vivid memories of the horrific events of last August when immigrant communities rioted, first in London, then in other cities across England.
"Just think about those images for a moment… burning buildings and black gangs ransacking shops and houses, and – worst of all – the police just standing by and watching the destruction and violence."
But it gets worse (or better, depending on your point of view):
"Think of the thousands of young British girls groomed, drugged and gang raped by Muslim Paedophiles. Think of the shame of the Establishment, who have ignored this systematic abuse of our innocent children and even tried to jail me for speaking out about it in two gruelling trials in Leeds Crown Court in 2006. I was judged, twice, by 12 members of the great British public and found NOT GUILTY."
Heavy stuff, huh? Except that our recollection of those riots revealed an awful lot of white faces mixed up in the melee. And as for Muslim paedophile gangs, we've never seen the slightest evidence that Asians have demonstrated a greater propensity for illegal "grooming" than any other demographic.
But what's it all got to do with British classic biking? Well, quite a lot actually. Most of us are into our Triumphs, Nortons, BSAs, Ajays and whatever not simply for the hardware, but also for the cosy illusion of a golden age of British biking that goes with it; the idea of rolling English countryside and quaint English country towns and the lilac-smelling freedom of the open road. And all of that dissolves in Nick's "rivers-of-blood" portrait of the present and his apocalyptic vision of the future.
Don't get us wrong. Here at Sump we hate multiculturalism and would love to turn back the clock to a more genteel English age of carefree motorcycling, tea shops, friendly roadside inns, and saluting RAC patrolmen.
Except that that age never really existed; certainly not to the extent as portrayed by the ad men who'll say and do pretty much anything to get us to put our hands in our pockets and buy their product.
So okay, much of what the BNP says is the truth. Trouble is, so much more is so far off the beam that these latterday home-brewed Nazis lose credibility for exploiting concerns that deserve a better airing than any of the other mainstream British political parties have the stomach for.
Fact is, the country's changing, and way too quickly for many of us who are still clinging to what's left of our youth with attitudes hardening faster than our arteries. But you can take some comfort in the fact that old England is still out there if you look long enough and hard enough in the right places.
In 1998, Griffin received a suspended prison sentence for stirring up racial hatred, but was acquitted in 2006 of similar charges. If the Muslim fanatics don't get him first, it now looks as if he's well on his way to a fresh arrest if he carries on disseminating material like this.
Worse still, he's spoiling the rose-tinted view from our classic saddles; a view that's getting harder and harder to maintain as multicultural (as distinct from multi-racial) Britain continues to threaten ideals and values that have taken a thousand years or so to establish.
And worse than that even, what if he really is right?
The next time you're out plinking happily along on your classic heap, don't be surprised if you notice some unusually courteous driving from the younger members of the motoring community.
What's happened is that the Automobile Association (AA) has today launched its Drivesafe initiative. Basically, it's a piece of "black box" technology that sits under car bonnets and monitors the driving behaviour of the usual suspects.
In return, young drivers are in line for huge insurance discounts—of "up to £850"—on their policies which currently cost, on average, around £3000 per annum. The technology is a long way from new. It's been coming for a while. But with the AA throwing its not inconsiderable corporate weight behind it, the system is likely to be rolled out across the UK at a faster pace that it otherwise might, thereby causing plenty of ructions in the insurance industry while the actuaries punch the new numbers and recalculate the risks in the new world driving order.
The "pack pf playing card-sized" box of tricks will allow users to log on to a home-based "dashboard" and see for themselves the errors of their ways by highlighting issues such as speeding, heavy braking, over-sharp cornering and, of course, exactly what led to that that final massive thump into a tree/drystone wall/phone box/or whatever.
More ominously, it will also potentially give Big Brother yet another way to pinpoint the inch-by-inch movements of tens of thousands of young men and women—who are already being routinely tracked and plotted by their mobile phones.
Meanwhile, the calendar is counting down the days to 20th December 2012 when a ruling by the European Court of Justice comes into force making it illegal for insurers to discriminate against male drivers purely on the basis of gender, even though women are said to 40% less likely to be involved in a smash up. It remains to be seen whether this (on the face of it) daft ruling will simply be circumvented by some shrewd sleight-of-hand insurers, or whether female drivers will have to financially carry more than their fair share of the risk.
But cheer up. Anything that helps dilute all that youthful testosterone should have an impact (so to speak) on your riding enjoyment. And fortunately, because most of us classic bikers are either well into the autumn of our years, or rapidly approaching it, we've already got a fully functional black box right in the middle of our heads, and the insurers know it.
There ain't many benefits in getting old, but cheap classic policies are certainly one of 'em.
He's 83 years old and has spent 71 of them supporting British motocross, which is why Her Majesty the Queen has seen fit to award him an MBE in the New Year's Honours List.
Dennis Slaughter began his association in 1940 at Lyng, Norfolk, home of the Norwich Vikings. He was 12 years old. Three years later he joined his brother Bernie in the motorcycle trade.
In 1949 he began riding in competitions by campaigning a 250cc Ttriumph Tiger 70, followed by a Triumph HW 350cc and later a 350cc Matchless. In 1955 he became Eastern Centre Grasstrack Champion. His riding career, however, came to a sudden and unfortunate end following an accident in which he ruptured his spleen.
In 1960, Dennis started his own motorcycle business. Four years later he became a Greeves dealer and forged a good friendship with Bert Greeves and Derry Preston Cobb. Subsequently he took on Yamaha, Suzuki and Maico.
The 1960s proved to be good years, and Dennis proved to be an astute and ambitious businessman buying ever larger premises and land, and consolidating his reputation as a man to be reckoned with.
He left the bike trade in 1995, but retained throughout his very close links to motocross including sponsorship of riders and getting down and dirty as a volunteer on the track marshalling and helping prepare race bikes.
His awards and achievements include honorary life membership of the Eastern Centre ACU (1980); ACU Motocross Committee Chairman (1997); honorary life member of the ACU (2010); and now an MBE for a lifetime of support for motocross.
Here at Sump, in view of the recent public banking knighthood debacle involving Sir/Not Sir Ron Goodwin, we haven't got anything positive to say about the archaic British honours system. But no one around here, or probably anywhere else for that matter, is challenging or questioning Dennis Slaughter's achievement and dedication.
The only wonder is why they took so long to pin a medal on him.
— The Third Man
Now here's a pretty flat tanker that Bonhams sold on 2nd February 2012 at its Paris Sale at La Halle Freyssinet. The hammer went down at €10,350, inclusive of Buyer's Premium.
Originally, this BSA was despatched to the French army. But at some point, it came into the hands of the vendor's grandfather, and subsequently was passed down through the family to where, in the late 1950s, it ended up in "safe storage" in the South of France. The vendor says it has never been restored, and because the vendor is a lady, we're taking her at her word.
The bike, which was imported by Brown Brothers, comes with a French sidecar (not shown), BSA catalogues, an instruction manual (in French, several boxes of spares, assorted photographs & correspondence, numerous bills, plus French registration documents, all of which underlines the fact that provenance is everything in these sales. Without the paperwork, chances are that this BSA would have sold for a couple of thousand euros less.
Also sold at the Paris sale was was a 1948 Vincent 998cc Rapide that fetched €37,950 inclusive of buyer's premium (frame number R2887, engine number F10AB/1/2170).
... meanwhile, the OEC-Anzani "Claude Temple replica" outfit (below) was optimistically estimated to sell for £75,000-£85,000, but failed to find a buyer.
This 2,003cc, 715lb monster, for all its custom kudos, bears little authentic relation to anything manufactured by the original Osborn Engineering Company (OEC).
The V-twin Anzani-style engine is, rather, built around Harley-Davidson and home-made parts. The cylinder heads are machined from aluminium billets. The overhead camshafts are bevel driven. Bore and stroke is 105.5mm x 114.5mm. The claimed power output is 80bhp at 5000rpm. The top is speed is said to be 102mph. The brazed-lug frame is home made. And an aluminium-bodied sidecar is offered with the bike.
OEC's roots began in Gosport, Hampshire in 1901 when Frederick Osborn built pioneer-era bikes propelled by Minerva and MMC engines. In the 1920s, his son, John Osborn, took the helm and manufactured machines that would include (two-stroke, sidevalve and OHV) engines supplied by Blackburne, Sturmey Archer, Villiers, Brockhouse, JAP and Matchless.
In 1927, John Osborn unveiled the firm's unorthodox duplex fork/chassis arrangement, said to be the next big thing in motorcycle handling and marketed as: "A new standard in two wheeled stability". More conventional sprung rear suspension was optional.
In the 1930s, racer Joe Wright campaigned a supercharged 996cc Claude Temple-JAP V-twin (immediately above) housed in an OEC frame using the firm's radical "self-centring" duplex steering arrangement. At Arpajon, France, Wright hit record speeds of 137.3mph. However, the German, Ernst Henne, piloting a supercharged BMW, promptly snatched back the record with a measly extra .3mph.
Soon after, in Cork, Southern Ireland, Wright re-took the record when he topped 150mph—which was an entirely bogus achievement (officially speaking) as the OEC machine used made only one pass instead of the required two.
It was in fact a "reserve" Zenith-Jap that made the (OEC's) second run after the OEC suffered mechanical mishap due to a sheared woodruff key. The whole affair was essentially an audacious sales-driven cover-up that, despite the rumour, was not fully exposed until decades later.
Regardless, OEC motorcycle production stopped during the Second World War when OEC took on military contracts. Post-war, the company focussed on two-strokes.
— Girl Happy
So okay, it's not the world's catchiest name for a bike club. But PR firms don't come cheap, and slick corporate branding costs a fortune, so sometimes you just have to do what you can do, and be happy with it.
Anyway, the pitch is that this club is looking to promote itself on these hallowed web pages, and we're happy to oblige. They sent us a newsletter and seem to be both an active and a proactive bunch of hooligans, and they're keen to raise as much dinero as possible for their two adopted charities: The Yorkshire Air Ambulance, and Manorlands Hospice.
The club is based in West Yorkshire and meets regularly at a pub between Skipton and Keighley. All classic bike riders are welcome. For more details, contact Brian Sanderson.
Mobile: 07931 312579
— Del Monte
Now here's a confession; we don't actually have the faintest idea who Kevin Schwantz is. Seriously. But we figure he must be important and have a lot of fans, because he's riding at this year's Festival of 1000 bikes at Mallory Park.
No, hang on, wait a minute ... some more info coming in on the telex. Oops, it says that he's the 1993 500cc GP Motorcycle World Champion. Now all we have to do is figure out what a GP is. Probably a doctor or something. Yeah. 1993 500cc General Practitioner Motorcycle World Champion. That sounds right.
Anyway, if Dr Kev means anything to you, go along to the Festival of 1000 Bikes and yell and cheer and drink beer or whatever. Let's just hope that he's facing the right way when the racing starts, huh?
The VMCC is, naturally, once again organising this event. It takes place on 6th, 7th and 8th July 2012. So go, go, go, Kevin. We're all rooting for you down here in the Sump garage.
STOP PRESS: We've just been told that Randy Mamola (and we've heard of him) will be "riding his original 1980 Suzuki XR31M1 in the spectacular Past Masters feature", but you'll have to be there on the Sunday to see him in action.
— Del Monte