Thursday 22 October 2015

The 22nd Carole Nash Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show

On my second trip to Stafford Show Ground this year I was fortunate enough to find 3 very special machines to sketch. The October show is mainly classic Japanese machines, there is a scattering of classic clubs and displays within the show and this is where I found the following machines:

c.1959 Ariel 645cc Grass-Track Racing Outfit

(ink sketch)

This Ariel outfit was in the Bonhams auction, it was previously raced and developed by Don Wright of St. Michael's Motors Stamford. The outfit's first incarnation appeared in 1957 but it soon became outclassed by the parallel twins that stared racing at the same time. At the end of 1959 Don decided it was time to improve upon the machine in order to make it more competitive. Sticking with the Ariel engine Don took advice from well known Ariel tuner of the day Laurence Hartley. Using a 1934 Red Hunter barrel, Hartley tuned and bored the barrel up to 645cc. The head used a 1936 factory bronze item intended for a 499cc engine. The piston crown was machined to suit, and Hartley 2 inch Jessops inlet valves installed. The frame itself was developed by Don using a 1950's Red Hunter frame.

The outfit made it's first race appearance in August 1961. Ridden by Don's friends Ken Fisher (rider) and Bill Smith (passenger) the outfit soon began to win at multiple events, most notably at Sleaford where the team achieved six wins in six starts. The 'St. Michael's Motors Special' was later retired after a successful carrier and laid dormant until the 1980's when Don entered it in the Vintage Class. Don died over a decade ago and so the machine has not been raced since. Unfortunately the outfit didn't sell at the auction, I for one hope that it does find it's new owner soon and is used as intended.

S.C.I.T.S.U. Replica

(ink sketch)

Whilst passing the Classic 50cc Racing Club this racer with an unusual frame construction caught my eye. Built by Alan Leeson in 2010 with permission from Tony Dawson to see whether it would produce a lighter frame, the result was that the frame weighed about the same as a tubular example. This machine is currently raced in the Classic 50 cc class.  Alan plans to build another bike with this frame to take to Bonneville in 2016, and the idea makes a lot of sense as the majority of the bike can be dismantled and packed into hand luggage, I look forward to hearing how he gets on.

Tony Dawson raced sidecars in the 60s and is most famous for inventing the Astralite wheel, a lightweight pressed aluminium wheel which started production in 1977 and by the end of the 1980s over 1500 wheels were being sold globally per year. As well as designing wheels Tony Dawson also formed a company called S.C.I.T.S.U. (Selfish Conduct Inhibits True Sporting Union) in 1978. The company was founded to produce components for road race bikes. This aluminium frame design was used on a number of Road Racing bikes back in the 1970's mostly using larger engines than this 50cc example. A bike with this frame design appeared on Tomorrow's World in the Mid. 1970s. Tony patented the design and some think that if he hadn't the Japanese may well have taken it on, as it is a design that could be easily automated due to it being a series of aluminium plates bolted together. The ride hight can be adjusted by changing the vertical plates, and the tank is sandwiched between the top two plates. The construction is surprisingly strong, but still enables a certain amount of twist that is needed to maintain grip on a road racing machine.

1928 Zenith Grass-Track

(ink sketch)

Found on the Vintage Motrocycle Club stand this Zenith was once ridden by Adrian Kessell and is now run as a sprint machine by Ron Pates who purchased the machine in 2007.

Adrian Kessell (1926 - 2010) is a Cornish motorcycling legend, son of Tommy Kessel, who was a pre-war motorcycle champion, Adrian started racing in September 1945 when he rode his fathers 1926 Zenith coming third. Adrian is famed as being the most consistent 250cc champion of all time winning over 20 Cornwall Grass-Track Championships, the Southern Centre Championship and also won in Wessex, Midlands and Western Centres. Not only did he ride Grass-Track he also rode in Scrambles, Trials, Hillclimbing and sprinting. One event of not is when Adrian beat English speedway stars Norman Parker and Bill Kitchen at Bodmin Racecourse at a grass-track meeting in 1949. Adrian's career continued into the 1980's when he took 5th place in the International Grass-Track meeting in Holland in front of 7000 spectators.

Adrian continued to race and develop racing machines until he fell ill in 2009, when he was unable to attend a meeting at Wiscombe Park which was the first meeting there that he'd missed in many years. Adrian passed away peacefully at home on 8th February 2010. His funeral was attended by many people from the motorcycle community, to mark the passing of a local motorcycling legend.

More Photos....

 c.1913 Matchless 3.5hp TT Model

 1925 Zenith JAP 6-80

 1903 Avondale 239cc Lightweight
 1968 Derbi Gran Sport
 1973 Suzuki GT750s,
Factory Special 1 of 84 made.
Greeves Challenger
1959 D.M.W. Prototype

On the Jumble

 Rudge racer
 1929 Peugeot  P108 250cc racer
 1930 Koehler-Escoffier 175 Super Sport,
with TT Villiers Engine.
 Jawa Speedway
 1979 Honda TL 250
1965/67 JAWA Banana 350cc Production Racer

Tuesday 6 October 2015

N.S.A. Sprint, Weston Zoyland

Weston Zoyland is a local sprint event run by the National Sprint Association (N.S.A). I've been trying to attend this event all year and luckily I managed to make the last meeting of the year. I have to say this was one of the main highlights of my year; the simplicity of the set up, the friendly and inclusive atmosphere all came together to show what the motorcycling community can achieve without spending horrendous amounts of money and getting wrapped up in a huge amount of red tape. Everybody was helping and watching out for each other so that everybody could enjoy the one common bond, going as fast as you can on a quarter mile drag strip on an old RAF airfield. 

I wish I'd had more time to sketch the variety of machines in attendance. Funnily enough it turned out that all the machines I sketched were powered by BSA units....

Brian White's 125 Bantam

(ink sketch)

Brian's BSA Bantam was exactly what I was hoping to see at Weston Zoyland, as I dream of building such a machine for sprinting. This Bantam has been sprinting in various events since 2000 and has been developed and tweaked over the 15 year period. After giving up Bantam Road Racing in 1999 after an off, Brian had someone buy his racing machine and so he was left with a spare engine and some spare bits behind his lathe which became the sprint machine you see here. Hung on a D7 Bantam frame (the frame of choice of road racers for it's strength) is a 125 engine with a reproduction BSA Bantam trials barrel. The Barrel comes from an original BSA pattern that Brian has been constantly tweaking, trying new configurations in order to get the best from the humble 125. the Bantam has an all steel clutch and a 4 speed box known within the Bantam world as a 'Brian Box', as Brian has configured the box to use various gears from different Bantam gearboxes in order to get a good racing arrangement. The rather fetching red tank is a Raleigh cycle motor tank 'possibly the fastest in the world' Brian's brother said before bursting out with laughter. 

P & R BSA Special

(ink sketch)

My second sketch of the day was this great BSA special which uses a 1970's grass track frame. I will get more information on this fantastic machine and update the post when I do.

 Supercharged BSA Drag Bike

(ink sketch)

I can't help but sketch these nostalgic drag bikes this BSA has a frame with an unknown history. It used to run a Shorrocks Supercharger until that became unusable it now uses a more modern Mercedes supercharger running around 12 - 13 pounds of boost. 

Again I'm looking for more information on this bike so I will update when I have it.

More Photos...

Vellocette Family, a great sight to see 3 generations of the family enjoying motorcycling.

A great pair of bikes that I wish I had time to sketch. A Norton and a Rudge with genuine race engine.
 Andy & Meriden's 'Hawkwind'
Powered by Villiers

 BMW Outfit
 Triumph JAP
 Harley Davidson
 Suzuki TSCC

Thursday 1 October 2015

Sywell Classic 2015

On my second visit to Sywell Aerodrome this year I had a great time at The Sywell Classic. I didn't attend the event last year due to being in New York for the Motorcycle Film Festival, and so when I returned this year I could see a noticeable difference in the increase in the numbers of race machines and clubs that were in attendance. The event is really growing in the two and four wheel categories, the aeroplane element included the Trig aerobatic team, Spitfire fly pasts and a fantastic WW1 enactment complete with very loud cannon fire and triplanes! After being in attendance at the Light Aircraft Association rally a few weeks previously I personally would have liked to have the option to go airside and sketch some of the aeroplanes as I had done at the LAA rally. I guess this is a hard thing to orchestrate with larger numbers of people in attendance, a lot of who would not be used to the rules of being on an airfield. Never the less the show was great and I'm really happy that it is continuing to grow and evolve in a positive way.

The Red Baron Rudges

(ink sketch)

When Ralph Richardson started racing his Rudge around 1991 in the pre '34 class a passing comment was made that he should be known as the Red Barron, the colour was only chosen as he prefers this colour to the standard black and I have to agree it makes them not only stand out but makes them look a bit more 'special'. The term 'special' is really a subjective thing, these bikes may not be historic racing machines but I feel that they have been built and campaigned with the same spirit that has become the heart of motorcycle racing. The machine in the rear of the sketch was originally bought by Ralph in 1967 as part of a lot of 4 machines for a grand total of £25. The 1934 250 4 valve was a basket case when Ralph bought it, he eventually got round to rebuilding it as a racing machine in 1991. When you look closely you can see that there are a few non period additions to the bike, including a Mini carburettor float which is used due to it's increased volume which is needed when running on methanol. There are also Mercedes Sprinter throttle linkages used within the rear break. Some would say that this doesn't make the machine period, but I feel that these decisions are done within the same spirit of motorcyclists of the past. Back then they would not have worried about whether their choice of parts would have been period or correct, they would have chosen based on what works, what they could afford or what they could find at the time. This is exactly what Ralph has done and so these racers are just as genuine and therefore relevant than a period racer.

The foremost machine is a 1931 350 which again Ralph bought as a basket case and built as a racer. It has only really been out to a handful of events until the barrel blew at Cadwell. The 350 has crankcases of a similar weight as the 500 Rudge and so this bike carries more weight than the 250, and Ralph finds the 250 easier to 'chuck about'. However Ralph will keep on working with the 350 to see what it can do.

Super Cyclops

(ink sketch)

With my ongoing obsession with sprint motorcycles I couldn't help but spend time sketching this Twin  1957 Norton Dominator 500 beast. Built and run by Mick Butler in 1971 Super Cyclops was the successor to a single engined Norton 'Cyclops' a similar evolution to Brian Chapmans Mighty Mouse and Super Mouse. After retiring the bike in 1971 the machine had a checkered past eventually being stripped down and stored away. The next time the bike would run was at a demonstration in 1982 at Le Mans. Rebuilt in 18 months by Colin Fallows Super Cyclops ran again in 2014. The drag bike is part of Roy Webbs collection and has been run in various N.S.A. events running 10 second quarter miles at 135 mph running using 20% nitro. Back in 1971 Super Cyclops was run on 85% nitro but with the price of rebuilding Norton Dominator engines running at over £5000 the machine is treated more gently today. The twin Nortons are also supercharged by a 1000cc Shorrock running 9 pounds of boost. The timing of two engines has never been an easy engineering task, the Nortons are connected via Ariel Square Four gears which does a good job of keeping the two engines in synch by eliminating the use of chains which can easily stretch.

It's incredible that machines of this vintage survive as they are normally recycled into other machines once they have served their purpose. Thanks to dedicated collectors and restorers like Roy and Collin these machines can still be seen running today and lessons of the past can be learnt and demonstrated in the way they were always intended to.

Cammy Velocette Sprint and Hillcimber

(ink sketch)

Hephaestus Slingshot Dragtser

(ink sketch)

Webster Race Engineerings, Hephaestus is one of a pair of slingshot dragsters built to race in the Nostalgia drag class. They were first run at Dragstalgia, at Santa Pod earlier this year, unfortunately the slingshot had more power than they expected and it flipped up due to it running period wheelie bars which are fairly short. The whiplash action actually knocked Jon Webster unconscious and so the pair of slingshots were never completed the run. Sywell Classic was their second outing and as the runs are only done as a demonstration no official times were recorded. The next time it will run will be at Flame and Thunder later this year, Jon hopes the car will achieve 7 second runs, maybe even into the high 6 seconds. The car runs a 509ci Big Block Chevrolet engine with an 871 supercharger, running on methanol, generating 15 -1700 hp. The purpose of these cars is to show that drag racing at this level can be done at a relatively affordable level with a reasonable amount of maintenance during a season of racing. A slingshot build like this would cost a customer about £70,000 which at this level of performance is a reasonable price.

Jon first got into drag racing back in 1984 when he entered his first drag race in a Morris Minor which ran a Ford V8, he achieved a 10.88 second run at 126mph which is pretty impressive for the time and machine used. From there people started asking him to do similar work on other drag racing projects and now Jons business specialises in building and tuning drag racing cars. They have also built bike too check out their customer cars here:

I have drawn slingshots in the past and always find them tricky to get looking right in a sketch due to the extreme proportions. I think I got close with this one, well I had a blast doing it anyway!

1960 Buckler Space Kart

(ink sketch)

Whilst sketching the Super Cyclops I became intrigued by the Go Karts across the way on the British Historic Kart Club stand. This is a first for me and according to the members on the stand possibly the first ever sketch of a kart! My chosen subject was this 1960 Bukler Space Kart, initially it was the 205cc Villers engine that intrigued me as I was used to seeing them in motorcycles. This is a very early example of a kart with the earliest in the country being made in 1958. This particular kart was found in a barn in Cumbria. The barrel has been bored to 205cc and has a lightened fly wheel. These engines run incredibly hot, hence the ducting to cool the engine. Built by Buckler cars these were one of the first production karts to be built.

Historically karts have always used motorcycle engines, starting with Villiers, which are still raced successfully today in the 250 class which is testament to the fact that these engines are so tuneable and robust. After the Villiers Bultaco engines were used, for some reason the trials engines worked better in the karts.
(Twin Yamaha)
 As with motorcycles once the Japanese engines became more available they were used more and more, until in the 70's the Italians developed dedicated rotary valve engines.

Rotary Engine with direct drive to the rear wheel.
1970's example

Classic 50cc Racing Club

I didn't get round to sketching this great 125cc Maico as visiting Canadian sketcher Paul Chernard got there first! The Maico was on display on the Classic 50cc Racing Club stand, I love these 50cc racers there is something about the minimalism that I really enjoy, the long thin tanks and classic fairing coupled with the small 50cc motors they just seem so perfect, I'd would love to own or even race one of these fantastic machines one day. Maybe I will get one in the sketchbook at the upcoming Stafford show.

National Sprint Association Bikes

A couple of good looking machines on the Triumph owners stand
Some real historic race cars in attendance.
1970 Macros Mantis M70

Veteran Buick