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Bike Review - Posted 13th August 2012

1929 Grindlay-Peerless 'Hundred'
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The great challenge of the vintage era was to ride for an hour at over 100mph. The G-P Hundred was the first 500cc machine to achieve that aim on British soil...

Grindlay-Peerless scored their 15 minutes of fame in 1928 when Bill Lacey became the first recorded rider to travel 103.3 miles in a single hour on a machine under 500cc in Britain - which is very different to reaching 100mph for a few fleeting seconds, you understand. To average 100mph for a whole hour, even on the top-flight race track of the day at Brooklands, was an astonishing achievement in an era when overhead valves were considered to be the cutting edge of technology…

Excess paint adds excess weight... 1929 Grindlay-Peerless 'Hundred'

Grindlay-Peerless initially manufactured sidecars, and added motorcycles to their range from 1923. Unlike many of their contemporaries, they eschewed the option of offering lightweights and instead built massive machines, intended to provide the motive force for their outfits. Initially the Grindlay-Peerless was powered by a 999cc sleeve-valve V-twin engine, but their range soon grew to include a variety of 348cc, 344cc, 346cc, 488cc and 499cc options powered engines bought in from by JAP and Barr and Stroud.

Note racing jumper... Bill Lacey

Bill Lacey turned his attention to tuning a OHV JAP-powered Grindlay-Peerless in 1926, and his clean machine and tidy riding style paid off handsomely on the evening of August 1st, two years later. JAP had produced a special 498cc engine for the attempt which Lacey modified considerably, making his own pushrods, their tubes, the cams, rocker gear and rocker box castings; standard JAP engines of the time left their valvegear and pushrods exposed.

Just to prove that the 1928 record wasn't a fluke, in 1929 Lacey did it again, increasing his record to 105.25 miles in a single hour aboard another G-P. Don't forget that there were strict noise regulations in place at Brooklands, unlike continental circuits like Montlhery where open pipes could be used. That's why the G-P is lumbered with the amazing exhaust contraption - and why the Norton attempt of 100.58 miles in one hour in 1927 doesn't count for the British record, because that particular ride took place in France.

Note parts that have fallen off, revealing inside of bike... 1929 Grindlay-Peerless 'Hundred' record breaker

The 498cc G-P continued with its winning ways through the 1928 season, with Lacey finishing on the podium at each Brooklands meeting. The borrowed engine had to be returned to JAP at the end of the year, however, although the company was delighted to create a replica for public consumption.

No manufacturer would miss a marketing opportunity like this, so Grindlay-Peerless produced a special edition 'Hundred' customer machine. Each motorcycle came with a certificate guaranteeing that it had lapped Brooklands at 100mph with record-breaker Bill Lacey at the helm, giving each machine his personal approval before delivery.

Note holes. So many holes...
'Vintage' bikes on

Mind you, the replicas were considerably different to Bill's actual record-breakers. For one thing, they had speedway engines fresh from the JAP factory and not twin-port versions hand-tuned by Lacey himself. He had used an experimental Brampton front fork which employed progressive friction damping, while the public had to make do with the standard Webb set-up.

G-P also continued to produce raft of other models including a 490cc OHV single, a 674cc OHV V-twin, and a 750cc sidevalve V-twin. This profusion of different engine types and configurations was typical of the time - everyone did it, and pretty much they all bought their motors from the same suppliers, which made it hard for a single manufacturer to stand out from the crowd. We've previously covered the 1932 range of G-P machines, marketed 'Tigers', here.

Note startling price...

It's notable that the marques which survived from the vintage era and through the Great Depression were very often the ones who started building engines to their own design, and brought more of the machines' component production in-house as modern manufacturing techniques took hold. Grindlay-Peerless, for all their record-breaking reputation, stopped building bikes in 1934.

This makes the motorcycle you see here extremely unusual. It's one of the tribute 'replica' record-breakers, of which only five or six were ever made. That's hardly surprising - while a workaday model from the G-P range might cost £35 or £40 in the mid-1920s, the Hundred retailed for approximately £90; the price you'd normally pay for a fully-equipped heavyweight V-twin litre tourer.

Note startled elf in blue anorak...

There are now only two Hundreds known to survive to this day - and this one lived up to its record-breaking predecessor. Owned by a prominent VMCC member in the 1930s, it took to the Brooklands track in 1937 and was awarded the coveted Gold Star when it lapped the circuit at over 100mph.

The 'Hundred' will be sold at auction this autumn, at the Bonhams sale which forms part of the Stafford Show, on Sunday 21st October 2012. It's expected to attract bids of over £50,000.


Auction information:
Show information:

Words: Rowena Hoseason
Illustrations: Bonhams, RC archive


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