Twice he won the speedway World Championship, and in the early 1950s, Freddie Williams was the man to watch. Famed for his lightning-quick getaways off the line, Williams first won the championship in 1950 and again in 1953.
Perhaps most closely associated with JAP-powered bikes, he was the leading light in the Wembley Lions during an era when speedway, as a spectator sport, was second only to football.
Crowds of 50,000-60,000 were typical. But his first race, at age 24, saw him wowing a gathering of 93,000.
He was born in the Port Talbot, South Wales suburb of Margam on 12th March 1926. At age 16 he struck out as a navy apprentice fitter at Portsmouth Dockyard, and also became a Home Guard despatch rider.
In 1947, Freddie joined the Lions and began carving the reputation that would stay with him throughout his long life. He enjoyed ten seasons with the team and voluntarily brought his career to an end in 1956 when speedway was clearly in rapid decline.
He enjoyed racing success in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, but his last race was at Belle Vue Stadium in Manchester.
In 1953 Freddie married figure-skating champion Pat Devries. They had one son and two daughters, all of whom enjoyed successful sporting careers of their own.
We met Freddie a couple of years back when we covered a winter gathering at the National Speedway Museum which, last time we heard, was still at Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire which is owned by ex-Speedway rider Peter Sampson. Freddie was cool and relaxed and happy to chat to us about his career, and he posed for a few shots, including the one above (colour image). You can see that feature on our Speedway page.
Freddie Williams was 86 years old, and was survived by his wife and children.
— Del Monte
In 1953, Triumph supremo Edward Turner took part in s three-man publicity stunt ride from Land's End to John O'Groats. The bikes were 149cc Triumph Terriers.
The ride was sponsored and filmed by Esso. The riders were (left to right) Bob Fearon (Works Manager), Edward Turner (General Manager), and Alec St John Masters (Service Manager).
And it was known as The Gaffer's Gallop.
Half a century later, lawyer and writer Nigel C Winter reprised the journey on a modern Triumph and wrote a book about that semi-legendary northbound sojourn.
With the 60th anniversary of that ride coming up, Nigel is keen to find that film and ensure that it's made available again for us to view. But there's another dimension to this request that we don't want to go into just yet, suffice to say that this story has a movie sub-plot that's currently in production—and we'll let you know about it as soon as the time is right.
But for now, someone out there just might have this can of ageing celluloid in their loft, or under the bed, or simply knows where it is. If so, please pass the word and get in touch with Nigel, or us, or both.
Meanwhile, if you're interested in reading Nigel's book, Travelling with Mr Turner, you can pick up a copy at Panther Publishing for £9.99 including UK postage and packing. If you're in Europe, add £3.00, and if you live elsewhere in the world it's £8.00. And we know that £8.00 isn't kitty litter, but UK postal costs have gone up substantially over the past few years, and they're probably not coming down again.
Above all else, see if you can help rediscover that movie—and spread the word on whatever biking forum you visit.
But a word of caution; Nigel's pages on the fiftiesroadtrip link carry some BIG images and they load very slowly. So open a beer (or two), sit back, learn to speak Russian, start a family, build that extension, and be patient. Okay?
One final point: Nigel really needs that film within six weeks from today (January 24th 2013). And there's a reason for that too. So please do what you can.
— Big End
We can't go into detail here because (a) we're still not entirely sure what happened, and (b) we don't want a punch up the bracket for pointing the finger at an innocent party.
But it appears that there have been some very peculiar things happening recently with ebay; things that long-established Suffolk classic bike dealer, Andy Tiernan, wants to share with everyone else. The long and short of it is that Andy (pictured left) recently tried to buy an item off ebay, only to be outbid.
No big deal, of course. He's been around the block a few times and takes it as he finds it. Except that some time after, he received an email advising him that he had a Second Chance offer to buy the aforementioned item.
He almost took it up. However, on closer inspection something looked decidedly odd about the email; something that invited various possibilities—not least that the item had already been sold, and that the seller was trying to fleece someone else for the loot.
Alternately, it might have been a genuine attempt to off-load a genuine item onto the next guy in the queue. Or even the guy behind that.
The upshot being that Andy fears this kind of Second Chance scam, if it is a scam, is likely to scoop up a few less astute ebayers, so be warned if you get such an email in your inbox.
In the first instance, tell ebay (who didn't actually sound very interested, we hear), and then pass it on to us, or Andy. We'd both like to get to the bottom of this one.
Take note that we don't want to explain exactly what was wrong with the email. If we did that, and if it is a scam, that might tip off the con artist. So just be vigilant and thoroughly check any such correspondence.
Meanwhile, Andy's 2013 calendar, illustrated as ever by artist Nick Ward, is as much an annual fixture as the New Year itself and can be yours for just £5.00 plus £1.10 in stamps (UK), or £2.90 (Europe), or £3.93 (rest of the world). Contact Andy before sending funds, please.
All profits go to the East Anglian Air Ambulance that saves a lot of lives. Don't be tight-fisted. What goes around, comes around, etc.
Check it out.
It seems that John Bloor has been busy with his spanners over the Christmas break and has knocked up another bike to stick in the Triumph stable.
Actually, we're talking about two bikes, but both are based on the same platform. The first is the above "brooding" Rocket Three Roadster; a basic three-cylinder 2294cc Rocket offering the same maximum output (146bhp) and torque (163lb.ft), but re-engineered to boost traction in the first three gears.
The idea behind this one was to unleash a lot of the hidden power and give riders a full-access backstage pass. How the firm did this, apparently, was to electronically "de-restrict" the ignition system or something and fit an extra rubber band.
It's all too complicated for us, but Rocket Three aficionados will know all about it and will probably applaud the change—while many of the rest of us are probably wondering why this monster needed any extra oomph. But as ever, it's horses for courses, and some guys just can't get enough mechanical Viagra between their legs.
ABS is fitted as standard, and the "Metallic Phantom Black" livery is available with red go-faster stripes on the tank, or white go-faster stripes (also on the tank)—and with the reworked gear-techy stuff, you will go faster. So wimps and people who suffer easy nosebleeds need not apply.
The price is £12,899.
The other new bike is the Rocket Three Touring designed to go and kick some more Harley-Davidson Electra Glide ass, hence the extra chrome and "dresser bars", plus the screen, quick-release sissy bar and luggage rack.
You can have this in black and red with a single coach line, or black with a single coach line.
The price is £13,899, and both bikes will be on your dealer's launch pad in March this year.
— Del Monte
Sounds like a silly-season story, but at the moment, if the British coppers feel that you're using insulting language in public, they can nick you.
That was why one Durham student, half a dozen years ago, was shunted off to the cells for telling a copper that his police horse was gay. The rozzers said that the remarks were homophobic (if not horseophobic) and, not for the first time, they grossly overreacted.
Another victim of this implacable police stupidity was nicked for saying "woof" to a police dog, and the list of bully-boy antics from the various thin-skinned British police forces seems to recognise no social, moral or intellectual (or even legal) limits.
Under new proposals, however, 150 to 54 British MPs voted (among other changes) to amend the line in the current Public Order Act (1986) that reads: "A person is guilty of an offence if he uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour". If the changes goes ahead, the word "insulting" will be removed.
However, you can still be nicked if you insult someone specifically, as opposed to generally. So it still won't be lawful to tell a muslim (for instance) that he or she is a moron and is helping wreck the quality of life in the UK (if that's what you privately believe), but you will be able to say that organised religion is just for morons (if that's also what you believe).
Of course, you'll probably get nicked for something else; like yelling in a public place before or after the hours of darkness, or being born without due care and consideration, or even going equipped with a point-of-view.
And then there's the catch-all "hate crime" offence.
Also, "abusive" behaviour or language, as distinct from merely "insulting" is still on the books. So there's a fine and fuzzy line there that the courts will have to sort out.
But broadly speaking, if and when the change comes, the Public Order truncheon will have to be wielded by the gun-toting, kevlar-wrapped, gung-ho, gay horse-loving boys in blue with a little more discrimination, and a little less malice aforethought.
So if you've ever wanted to rush into a Vincent Owner's Club Annual General Meeting and tell 'em what you really think of 'em, you might soon be able to do it legally—if you pick your words with care.
So much for sticks and stones will break my bones, etc.
So okay, it's not a classic motorcycle firm, but it's a classic British company that's at the top of its game and keeping around 1250 guys and girls in full time employment.
But did we say British?
We meant to say Kuwaiti, but it's not quite as simple that. The firm was founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford as Bamford & Martin Ltd. But the following year it was renamed Aston Martin in reference to the once-renowned Aston Clinton Hill Climb in Buckinghamshire, UK, and (obviously) Lionel Martin's surname. For some reason, Bamford's name never appeared on the badge.
The fortunes of the company followed a ragged financial graph, and Aston Martin collapsed in 1924 and found a new owner. But in 1925, it collapsed again. Fresh investment followed, but the firm ran into trouble yet again in 1932, and in 1936 was moved on once more to new management.
Post-war, (Sir) David Brown bought the firm, hence the famous DB initials that appeared on over a dozen models and variants between 1948 and the present day.
Between 1994 and 2007, the Ford Motor Company owned the company. But Ford had over-extended itself and was losing money and needed to off-load various divisions, which is where a consortium led by David Richards (current chairman of the firm) stepped in.
Richards, with his long-standing motorsport credentials, was financially backed by Kuwaiti-based Investment Dar, and also Kuwaiti-based Adeem Investments. But Ford still own shares in Aston Martin, and the Italian firm Investindustrial (who until recently owned Ducati) has recently climbed on board for a piece of the action. And it's appropriate that the Italians should be back in the game because the classic DB5 (below) was styled by Milan-based coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera.
So a British firm?
Well, spiritually so, maybe. And the chairman is British. And most of the cars are at least still built here in the UK, albeit no longer at the old Newport Pagnell site (which is to Aston Martin what Small Heath is to BSA, and Meriden to Triumph).
But the Newport Pagnell facility now handles restoration and refurbishment, while the majority of vehicles are assembled at Gaydon in Warwickshire (on an old British V-bomber site, take note). Meanwhile, a four-door Aston Martin is currently being produced in Austria.
But it's good that we've still got Aston Martin, by the heart and throat if not the wallet. And 100 years is a significant milestone for any firm.
Shame that we've lost control of so many once exclusively British companies. Rolls Royce and Bentley, for instance. And Rover. And the Mini brand too. Yes, they're all still built here as well. But it's not the same. Still, in the global village, you have to adapt, grab the cash or perish.
Makes you realise all over again what a wonderful thing John Bloor has done with Triumph.
In pounds Sterling, that equates to around £299,458 (including premium). Not quite a record, but a lotta dosh nonetheless. Certainly, Bonhams is pleased with the outcome of this much hyped "standing room only" sale on January 10th 2013 at Bally's Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, an event that saw $2.6 million change hands (£1.6 million).
The 1939 BMW Rennsport Kompressor (above) actually sold after the auction to an American collector (or is that kollector?).
Following some way behind was a 1954 BMW Rennsport outfit that fetched $167,000 (£104,000, plus change) which also went to an American buyer.
Other notable lots included a 1952 Vincent Black Shadow (immediately above) which, after fighting off numerous US bids, sold for $134,800 and went to a Middle East Collection, and the circa-1920 956cc Mars (Type A20 'White Mars' ) that fetched $86,250 (around £53,000). This bike came from the Otis Chandler Collector (see Sump December 2010).
Also worth a mention is the ex-Indian Motorcycle Museum 1902 Rambler Model B in original condition which, following intense interest from collectors in the audience and on the telephones, sold for $66,700.
Meanwhile, an ex-Steve McQueen 1970 Husqvarna 400 Motocross didn't find a buyer.
Overall, however, Bonhams (who supplied the pictures) tell us that it was their most successful sale to date at this venue.
Their next outing is on Thursday 7th February 2013 at the Grand Palais in Paris which takes place during Retromobile week. More than 100 motorcycles will be on offer.
— The Third Man
This ain't exacty breaking news, whatever that means anymore now that the BBC and Sky News have mangled the definition beyond recognition. But clearly the word still hasn't spread wide enough and far enough about Burton Bike Bits' Triumph TRW register.
It's been open for a long time now, but the business is keen to see who else out there owns one of these charming sidevalves that tend to get overlooked in the scramble for BSA M20s and Norton 16Hs.
The TRW was built in three versions. It was shown in 1946 at a military vehicle expo, but it didn't enter production until 1948/49 where it continued until 1964. The engine concept was developed during WW2 by Bert Hopwood to meet changing MOD requirements for a sub-300lb, 500cc twin cylinder motorcycle suitable for military needs and with mechanical complexity kept to a minimum.
This embryonic bike was the Triumph 5TW which appeared in 1942/43. Following much revision (notably spur gears replacing the timing chain) it morphed into the TRW.
The pre-unit 499cc, 63mm x 80mm TRW was the only twin cylinder sidevalve that Triumph produced (excluding prototypes).
Softly tuned and launched with an SU carburettor, the TRW was later supplied with a Solex Type 26 WH-Z carb.
The cast iron and aluminium alloy engine, featuring an alternator located at the end of the crankshaft (drive side), is housed in a rigid frame similar to the Triumph TR5. Ignition is by magneto.
The 17bhp bike is capable of around 72mph and cruises comfortably at around 50-55mph. The valve adjustment is handled at the front of the engine beneath the Siamese header pipes where all four valves are set in single transverse block. A single row primary chain transmits power to the four-spring clutch and thereby to the four-speed gearbox
A total of 15,939 units were produced (according to some estimates), none of which were offered for sale to the public. Instead, they were bought by military departments notably throughout the British Commonwealth, including Canada, South Africa, and Pakistan. But they also turn up elsewhere including Australia and New Zealand.
The Royal Air Force used the TRW, and as late as the end of the 1970s, these bike were still being pressed into military service. The Royal Signals "White Helmets" display team also used these underestimated sidevalves, and were famed for "crashing" them through brick walls, jumping any number of obstacles and carrying the usual pyramid of suicidal performers.
Additionally, TRWs, being light, flexible and softly-tuned, acquitted themselves fairly well on the trials scene. The bike also found favour as an ISDT mount.
Unfortunately, many machines were cannibalised, notably for their frames and cycle parts that, when fitted with the appropriate engines, made convincing (and far more sought after) "Triumph TR5s". Meanwhile, gearbox internals (with their wider ratios) found their way into Triumph trials 'boxes.
But there is still a fair number of TRWs out there, and Burton, which has a lot of TRW NOS parts, would like to know about them.
▲ Above: Bonhams sold this 498cc Triumph TRW for £2,530 (including buyer's premium) at their October 2012 Sale at Stafford. Generally, at 2012 prices, you'd expect to pay between £2800-£3500 for a sorted TRW with military equipment present. Note that the indicators on this bike are non-standard.
— Del Monte
They used to be run by Andrew Greenwood, but now they're run by James Austin. No, we're not talking about all the Greenwood shows (see item below for more on Greenwood).
Austin has just taken control of four of them. Whether that means he owns them now, or is just running them, or licensing them, or what, we don't know. The press release didn't say.
But clearly something has changed, so if you're interested in these shows, either as a visitor or exhibitor, here's the list for 2013:
Sunday 27th Jan 2013
The 17th Newbury Classic Car & Bike Show & Autojumble
Newbury Racecourse, Newbury, Berks, RG14 7NZ
Sunday 10th March 2013
The 14th Staffordshire Classic Car & Bike Show & Autojumble
Uttoxeter Racecourse, Uttoxeter, Sta ffs, ST14 8BD
Sunday 29th Sept 2013
The 15th Staffordshire Classic Car & Bike Show & Autojumble
Uttoxeter Racecourse, Uttoxeter, Sta ffs, ST14 8BD
Sunday 10th Nov 2013
The 18th Newbury Classic Car & Bike Show & Autojumble
Newbury Racecourse, Newbury, Berks, RG14 7NZ
Meanwhile, maybe James can tip us the wink about what's going on behind the scenes. We love a little gossip around here...
— Big End
Any old excuse to use a picture of a beautiful Manx Norton is good enough for us, but this example has another reason for decorating the hallowed pages of Sump. It was voted Best in Show at Andrew Greenwood's Winter Restoration shindig on 30th December 2012.
A mix of cars and bikes (but mostly bikes), it was held at Donington Park, Leicestershire. The word is that it was either "a pretty fair day out with a respectable turnout considering the weather, which could have been better" or "poorly attended with few exhibitors", depending on who you believe, and depending on who snapped up a couple of bargains.
But it was never billed as a big show, mind. Like all Greenwood events, this one was a fairly low-key gathering. Calling it a "Restoration Show" is a little misleading, however. Yes, there were traders selling parts that will no doubt go towards someone's restoration project. But you can say that about any show or jumble. There was nothing that really gave it "restoration" credentials, and billing a show inaccurately doesn't do anyone any favours.
But you have to be brave (or foolhardy—or have your own stable of classic bike magazines to publicise your events) to lay on a show over the Christmas period, so you have to take these things in context. And Donington isn't exactly an ideal venue for the classic scene.
The Manx is a 1958 model and is owned by Malcolm Potter. The picture is by Brian Crichton.
These winter shows make a welcome addition to the classic bike calendar. But they're not yet a firm fixture in anyone's diary.
Meanwhile, check out the Morton story below for more on the subject. And check out the Sump events listings for what's going on in 2013.
— Del Monte
It looks like Hinckley is slowly getting the message about the seat altitude on their Tigers. As cool as these bikes are, if you're anything under average height (and fifty percent of the population is) getting a perch on one can be daunting.
Over the years, we've taken a couple out for a spin and we're underwhelmed (or is that overwhelmed?) by the distance you could travel falling off one at a set of traffic lights (lucky you have to wear a lid, huh?)
But someone at the factory obviously got a new ruler for Christmas because the 2013 Triumph Tiger Sports saddle is supposed to be 5mm lower and down to just 830mm. Gosh!
That's 32.6 inches, and that's about an inch and a half higher than the seat on a T140, and half an inch higher than the seat on a Norton Commando (Norton-Villiers model). Might not sound much, but the Tiger's also got a longer path-to-ground. Also, the Tiger weighs-in at around 500lbs wet which is considerably more than the Bonnie or Commie.
Anyway, Triumph is still tweaking the Tiger concept, and evidently is still fooling around with the identity of the bike. It was supposed to be a kind of pseudo off-road machine, wasn't it? But then it mutated into a tourer, and then it got a little more touristy, then kind of touring-sporty, and now it's a lot more sporty. That's the word from Hinckley, anyway.
The chassis has been strengthened (they all say that when they warm-over an older model, don't they?) and the suspension has been upgraded for improved cornering (they all say that too).
But it's still a 1050cc triple and pushes out 123bhp and 77 lb-ft of torque, which is up slightly on the 2012 Tiger.
Triumph reckon that the one-tooth-larger rear sprocket gives more oomph (or umph) off the lights, and they say that fuel efficiency is up seven percent (usually, those two factors work the other way, but no doubt the factory has done some other tinkering under the bonnet).
The Tiger has also got reflector headlights instead of the old projector units, and the luggage capacity has been hiked. Oh yes, it's got a revamped exhaust giving a new voice to the old Tiger growl.
At the time of writing, prices aren't available, but the bike is tipped to be in the shops by March. If you've got the legs for it, and like to ride around with your head in a cloud, these Tigers are superb motorcycles and are on par with pretty much anything in the same price/category from anywhere else in the world.
— Girl Happy
Morton Motorcycle Media are claiming a 15% rise in show visitors at the second outing of their Carole Nash sponsored Classic Bike Guide Winter Classics Show.
Over 11,000 visitors are said to have attended the event which took place at the Newark Showground, Nottinghamshire, on 5th-6th January 2013. We don't know if the numbers are accurate, so we'll just have to take Morton's word for it.
Either way, the British classic bike scene can certainly use a little more colour at the turn of the year, so good luck to 'em (pity that there ain't a few more independents out there, mind).
Guest of honour was Chris Walker. Over 200 trade stands showed up. Some probably even made some money. And the Best in Show award (and £100 prize) was snapped up by Ray Bourne’s 1972 750cc Kawasaki H2A (image above). Ray's a steelworker from the West Midlands, we hear, and bought the Kwack in 2009. Three years on it was finished, and for a piece of Jap Crap, it looks pretty good (we actually like a lot of Jap stuff, but don't spread it around. We've got our British Bike street cred to maintain, ya know?).
Anyway, it's a New Year, so make the most of it just in case it's your last.
— The Third Man