Friday 26 August 2016

VMCC Banbury Run 2016

The Banbury Run is an event ruin by the VMCC at which I’m always overwhelmed with the variety of machinery, often happy to see that a machine I missed in previous years has returned and so I get a second chance.

Like the Pioneer Run, ‘Banbury’ involves lots of pencils sketching in order to get the details into the sketchbook before the riders start leaving at 10am.

The ink bits are then done in the less hectic environment of the studio using photographic reference. Due to the ebb and flow of occasions like these, I’m sometimes unable to obtain information from the riders, as they are often preoccupied with making sure their machine is ready for the run or they are socialising away from their vehicle. In cases like this, I have then researched the marque or model afterwards in order to give you an historic insight into the machine.

1921 Cedos

(ink sketch)

I have seen this Cedos at a few Banbury Runs and was happy to see it again, and decided to get it in the sketchbook. I quite enjoyed the plethora of modern attachments to aid navigation on the handlebars – I gather the rider was well prepared for their route.

Cedos motorcycles were produced for a decade between 1919 and 1929. This exotic sounding marque is in fact a combination of the founding brothers’ names, CEdric and OScar Hanwell. Mainly producing two-stroke machines in ladies and gents variations – both of which, incidentally, could be seen at this year’s Banbury Run – they started with a 211cc two-stroke with chain-driven two-speed gearbox and final belt drive. There was no kick start and so the models had to be push started.
After liquidation in 1922-23, the company was restructured and the subsequent machines used various engines from Blackburne to JAP and ended up using Villers units.

Like many businesses, the stock market crash of 1929 bought Cedos down with it and production came to an end. Around 4000 machines were built during their 10 year run and it is reckoned less than a dozen remain.

1927 Norton Model 44 outfit

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The Model 44 was one of the many Norton variants listed in 1927. This Norton 44 was the ‘Colonial Model’ with high ground clearance. It features the 588cc ohv engine with a Norton four-speed cross over gearbox with hand change.

Chris and Jill Streather purchased the then solo machine a long while ago from a well respected Norton enthusiast ‘Up North’ when looking for some parts for another restoration he was helping them with. They were so taken with the machine it came back too. The ‘44’ was used as a solo at several Banbury Runs, while a suitable chair to accommodate the couple so they could do the run together, was looked for.

The sidecar they found is mounted on the later genuine Norton G chassis. The chair has been modified to be more in keeping with the era of the 44 and the originality of the sidecar body. The sidecar not only meant Jill could have some comfort, but; “As the 44 is very high, reaching the kick-start on the stand is virtually impossible, and off the stand starting was a bit of a balancing act, so a chair was just the job.” There are a few non-original parts on the 44 but the previous owner built it to be reliable machine, which Chris and Jill continue to enjoy.

1926 Motosacoche

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The first of two Swiss-owned machines that caught my eye at Banbury was this rather sporty looking Motosacoche V-twin. The marque name has it’s origins in its 1900 auxiliary engine which was sold in its own subframe and was to be installed in a conventional bicycle. The subframe made the engine look as if it was in a bag, hence the name Motosacoche, which translates as ‘engine in a bag.’

From these humble beginnings, the factory went on to provide engines for many British and continental manufacturers including Royal Enfield and Monet Gyon. Motosacoche also had racing success in the 1920s, winning the Bol d’Or 24 hour event outside Paris in 1922, with a 500cc Motosacoche covering 1206kms within the 24 hours.

Englishman Dougal Marchant designed and built ohc Motosacoches on which Wal Handley won the 350cc and 500cc European championships in 1928. The famous Bert Le Vack became a works rider, chief designer and tuner for Motosacoche in the late 1920s. Unfortunately, Le Vack was killed whilst testing one of the A50 machines on public roads close to the factory on September 17, 1931. It was by this time that Norton was dominating racing, and the Motosacoche started to lose business, eventually giving up on motorcycles by 1956.

1925 Husqvana Type 180

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The second Swiss entry, parked next to the Motosacoche, was this well built Swedish-made Husqvana. Spending the time I had sketching this machine, I really appreciated the finer details of a model so well built it never made the company money, as it sold for less than it cost to build.

This twin model was introduced in the early 1920s, possibly in response to the popularity of American twins in Sweden at the time. This design seems to be very influenced by the Indian Scout 101. With Bosch magdyno powering the lighting and a twp-way rear brake with an outer band and inner shoes, operated by hand and foot levers, this really was a higher end machine of the period. 

1919 Busy Bee

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On seeing the Busy Bee in the paddock, I was thrilled, but instantly questioned; “Is this vintage or a modern, recent build, using period parts?”

I soon stopped questioning and sat down to capture it in my sketchbook, ignoring my internal snobbery. While sketching it, I soon met the owner who confirmed this was ‘vintage’ – built, in fact, in 1919 by Joseph A. Mills of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. Mr Mills built the machine in his spare time with the prime objective of travelling with more protection than afforded during standard motorcycling. Originally fitted with an air cooled Stagg 5hp single cylinder engine, the one lunger was replaced in 1928 with a 1924 AJS 6hp 799cc V-twin, mounted as if in a motorcycle. The Busy Bee went through various modifications to the bodywork before arriving at its current configuration.
According to The Light Car and Cyclecar article of October 20, 1922; “The direct steering, connected by self-adjusting ball joints, is so successful that the monocar may be driven ‘hands off’ for considerable distances.”

How much of the 100,000 miles Mr Mills covered by 1956 were done in this manner is anyone’s guess! The story behind this amazing survivor conjured up visions of Mr Mills travelling the length and breadth of Nottinghamshire enjoying a machine of his own creation with a smile of contentment.

After his death, the monocar was sold to a motorcycle dealership Messrs Frank Inger & Sons where it was never used and I assume displayed as a curiosity. Since then the car has gone through several owners and has gone mostly unused. One rumour is that it may have been used in the Madresfield Speed Trials in the late circa 1986 when owned by Chris Gordon. The car was restored by Harry Reginald Holland after he bought it in December 1987. The current owners were running it in the Banbury Run as a test run before (fingers crossed) taking it out to the French incarnation of the Festival of Slowth, a wonderful event involving all things slow, mostly cyclecars. I have since been informed that the Busy Bee performed well at both Banbury and in France, and even made it up the hill at Chateau Impney ‘…though not when anyone was looking.’ I do hope this great machine enjoys more of the open road with its new owner, as was intended by Mr Mills.

Bentley Drivers Club Concours 2016

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Bike Shed London 2016

My second big custom show of May was of course The Bike Shed show at the Tobacco Dock in London. Yet again the show featured a wide range of customs along with the informal atmosphere that makes this show a must for my sketchbook activities.

deBolex Ducati

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 Rebels Alliance Honda CB

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Red Max BMW

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The Gas Box, 1950 Norton Dominator

(ink sketch with gouache)

I was quite taken by this beautifully simple Norton custom built by Jesse Bassett of Gasbox Customs. Jesse’s first job in the custom world was sweeping the floor at a shop at the age of 10.

The genesis of this build was born out of a trip out to a large barn an hour outside of Cleveland in search of Norton Commando parts. The barn was full of British bike parts and the owner said there was an old Dominator engine in among the piles of parts – two hours later, Jesse had dug the engine out. Two years later, while talking through a commissioned build with an Australian customer, Jesse remembered the Dominator engine. The mention was met with much enthusiasm, so Jesse started the process of a two year build, which was completed in 2015.

The frame is custom built to suit the rider and was styled around the Norton ES2. The girder forks were made from scratch, influenced by a Webb design. The engine has been tuned, by taking the 500cc Dominator up to 600cc with different barrels and crank, parts being sourced through the Norton Owners club here in the UK. Further tuning was done by installing larger valves and cleaning up the ports, plus the cam was reground to a more performance-oriented profile. For show, the engine cases were polished and the cast iron head and cylinders were nickel plated.

The main aspects of this build I think work are the simple choices and attention to small details that make this a pure motorcycle with just the right balance of original and custom made elements. Original Norton fuel and oil filler caps are used on the custom tanks, a six volt lighting system and a single Smiths speedo all help to make this a classic motorcycle with a modern twist. The Norton has been built to be ridden, but shares the show aspects of the Venom such as nickel plating to make elements really stand out.

NSA at Weston Zoyland, May 2016

National Sprint Association meetings at Weston Zoyland are becoming my favourite events to attend as they combine the atmosphere that comes with a sprint event, with the social and accessible elements that come with low key events such as this.

Suzuki GT250 X7

(ink sketch with gouache)

Bought in 1990 for £90 this Suzuki GT250 X7 was run as a road racer and then began sprinting in 1997. At that time it was still fairly original and over time the machine has been slowly tweaked and altered to become more competitive within the sport of sprinting. The day before I visited Weston Zoyland Tonmy had achieved a course record for it's class of 10.79 seconds for the quarter mile and hitting 119mph.

John Young’s Tri-JAP special

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I was thrilled to be asked to sketch this great vintage class sprinter. Using a combination of a 1936 Triumph Tiger 70 frame and a 500cc JAP engine, this is one of two JAP engined sprinters built by John E. Young. As John was riding his other sprinter on the day, I had the luxury of sketching this one uninterrupted.

On returning from one of his runs, I asked John how he did…
 “12.63 seconds at 106.4mph” he answered modestly. That’s quick indeed!  
John started sprinting about 16 years ago. Before that, he started riding grass track at Burton, Somerset and also rode successfully on a trials sidecar outfit and competed at expert level on a 500cc Cheney BSA. 

This particular machine has been out to Bonneville twice, once in 2014 and then again in 2015, but with the issues with flooding and then over harvesting, the bike hasn’t run on the famous salt flats yet. I hope this bike and John do make it out to the salt flats within the next few years, so he can achieve one of his life goals, though in the meantime he seems happy sprinting here in the UK.

Revolution Show Hastings, 2016

In May I was thrilled to be part of the Revolution show in Hastings. In this show Revolt Motorcycles showcased a great mix of custom and classic motorcycles alongside a whole gallery of motorcycle based art. The location was the Observer building in Hastings, the old print works for the local newspaper.

1904 Buchet

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The Buchet started life as just an engine. Jake Robbins, famed for his girder fork work, was commissioned to create the rest. Jake managed to track down the only other known Buchet of this year and model, which was in Australia. The owner kindly traced round the frame by laying it down on a large sheet of paper and drawing round it. Measurements were taken of the tube widths and lug work so that Jake could make a replica frame and forks. Jake has done an amazing job, fabricating all the various aspect of this veteran machine.

It is unusual to see early machines like this at what is mainly a custom show. The variety of machines on show was great, as it provided a great insight into what people are building, be it modern customs or replicas such as this. You could argue that this is a custom motorcycle by the fact it has all been hand made in the same way a good custom motorcycle is, but I think replica is more appropriate as Jake has done such a great job creating a period machine. 

One item of note is the fact that the engine is mounted very low with not much ground clearance. This may be because the original was built as a cycle pacer, as a roadster would surely have had more ground clearance, due to the roads being rather bumpy back then…

Kingdom of Kicks vs Will Barras Triumph Chopper

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This was my favourite custom of the show as it used the combined talent of Kingdom of Kicks and the abstract talent of Will Barras. The bike was assembled days before the show, hence some unfinished bits like a missing brake line etc. this didn't matter as it stood out as a full on motorcycle that plays on the traditions of choppers whilst doing it's own thing.

Harris Turbo

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It was the engine that attracted me to this Harris racer turned custom. The turbo on the engine was original to the race machine that has now been changed into a custom, which apparently won't be ridden which is a shame, as at the heart of this custom is a real race machine that could easily be raced on a track or even sprinted to do what was originally intend by Harris.

1964 Honda 50cc Racer

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 Indian Board Track Racer

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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’

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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

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Prescott Bike Festival 2016

It's been a few years since I've attended the Prescott Bike festival and on returning to the beautiful location of Prescott I remembered what a great place the paddock is to sketch in. 

1969 Smith Honda CR750 Racing Type

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The Grief Kriedler 50cc Racer

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This particular machine was bought by father and son team Zac and Sam Grief in 2013. They were building a Kawasaki AR50 after seeing a 50cc racer at the Telford show earlier in the year but when this complete Kreidler came up for sale, they changed their plans. The Kreidler was one of the 50cc racers of choice in the 1970s due to the success of the Kreidler and Van Veen factory racers. The Kreidler, although in poor shape, was a great basis for their racer. This became their summer project and entered its first race at Darley Moor in September. Sam was only 14 at the time and worked hard to ride a bike that was unfortunately plagued with problems throughout the meeting. So that winter was spent making lots of modifications, ready to compete in 2014. A 9bhp but reliable engine earned them third place in the championship that year and several wins including the local circuit of Darley Moor, the scene of the previous year’s problematic first race, so a great moment for the father son team. 

More work that winter on the engine yielded 13bhp from the little air-cooled piston port 50cc machine, with a 20bhp liquid cooled disc valve engine also in build. The winter’s work paid off and 2015 continued to be good for the Griefs as they won all 22 races they finished, with two falls and one machine failure. Lap records were taken at all four circuits they raced at and even won in the 250cc class outright at Tonfanau, showing power to weight really matters.

Anables Atom, Monowheel

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