Friday, 26 August 2016

The 36th Carole Nash International Classic MotorCycle Show, Stafford

The April show at Stafford is always a treasure trove of classic motorcycles and this year I was commissioned to sketch three of the pieces found below, which made my decisions a lot easier.

c.1959 Norton-JAP 998cc sprinter ‘Thor’

(ink sketch)

Known as ‘Thor,’  a name given by its later owner Ernie Woods, this was the second 1000cc machine built in the 1950s by the former Brooklands competitor Francis Williams. Williams built this in 1959 to compete for the outright record at the Brighton Speed Trials. Based around a Norton Featherbed frame, this sprinter was built on the knowledge gained from building its predecessor in 1955.
The engine is a JAP V-twin using Alfin alloy cylinder barrels topped by Speedway JAP cast-iron cylinder heads. Running on methanol, the engine was reputed to produce 100 horsepower. When Williams sold on his remaining sprinters to Ernie Woods around 1960, Ernie continued to campaign Thor successfully at sprints and hill climbs, achieving 186mph on the Caragrohane Straight in Northern Island. Woods also broke the Ramsey Sprint record set by George Brown on Super Nero.
Thor is one of the few sprinters that has remained intact. Luckily after it failed to sell at the Woods’ family auction in 1996, it was bought by a sympathetic owner who has kept it running, stopping it from being broken for its valuable race parts, which many of these machines do. Sold by Bonhams, I hope the new owner is just as sympathetic to its history and that Thor gets to bring its thunder to sprints in the coming years.

1937 250 Rudge Rapid

(ink sketch with gouache)

A while back I was asked by Mike Griffiths of the Rudge Enthusiasts club to sketch his Rudge Rapid. I finally sat down in front of the machine last April. 

Originally owned by John Cansdale of Surrey from 1960-89, the machine was ridden in worse than barn find condition, though this didn’t happen often due to its bad state. It was then bought by Martin Toft, who spent over five years restoring it to a better than factory condition. In 1995 it won Autoglym Bike of the show at the Birmingham NEC. Later that year John Cansdale’s wife bought it back as a surprise for John. From then on, the Rapid was shown a lot in Rudge Enthusiast Club displays, and this is where Mike came to know John and the machine. John died around eight years ago, and the Rapid passed to his son, who after six months decided to move it on. Mike was offered first refusal, as John knew he was keen on it, though at the time Mike had a fair few machines and so he didn’t take up the offer. It then went to Milton Keynes. After a while Mike, saw the machine for sale and so decided to buy it. I love the fact that it has now come back to a genuine enthusiast and friend of the original owner, showing how motorcycle clubs can keep relationships and histories going through continued ownership.

The 1st Velocette Venom

(ink sketch with gouache)

Whilst sketching Mike’s Rudge, I was asked by a member of the Velocette Club to sketch this very special machine. This Velocette was the first production Venom (engine No. VM1001) and the show bike from the 1955 Earls Court Motorcycle Show. One very individual aspect of the Venom was its beige paint job, somewhat controversial as Velocettes were predominately black.  After the show, it was sent to one of the top Velocette dealers, L Stevens of Shepherds Bush, from where it was sold to Dennis Bradbury in January 1956. Two years later it was involved in an accident where the frame was bent. Keith Gooding took on the motorcycle and during the restoration he painted it black.

For the next 20 years it was used for both commuting and weekend riding by Mr Gooding. In 1981, Les Froad restored it back to its original colour, which is how it is now. The next owners were a small consortium of Velocette Owners Club members – the colour made this purchase a controversial one. Many in the club felt it should be black, but luckily it has stayed Dove Grey Beige. Velocette must have chosen this colour to make it stand out at the 1955 show and it certainly has been a talking point since. A brave decision on behalf of the maker, but seeing that this was the first of what was to become an iconic machine it seems right to me that the colour remains as is, as this is an integral part of its history. The bike differs from the production models as certain extra parts were chromium plated rather than painted and the crankcases were highly polished.

The Venom was important in Velocette history as it was the company’s range leader and successfully campaigned in production racing, competing in the Thruxton 500 mile race, where Velocette was very successful. The Velocette Thruxton model came out of this development and went on to win the first TT Production 500cc class race in 1967.

CBX Turbo Custom

(ink sketch with gouache)

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