15th July 2015
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2015 Banbury Run
It's Banbury Run Sunday and Richard Jones is bundled out of the house at first light, armed only with a camera, some water and his bike keys. Will he miss the crowds?...
Living where I do in the northern home counties can be a blessing and a curse for anyone remotely interested in classic motorcycles. A blessing because two of the biggest veteran and vintage events are, if not next door, just down the street – the Pioneer Run is a ride around the M25 whilst the Banbury Run is only 40 minutes away by Hinckley Triumph. Birmingham and Coventry motorcycle museums are a short ride up the M1/M6 and Sammy Miller’s excellent establishment is do-able in a long day. If a trip to Mallory or Donington is required the A5 and the M1 mean that I can be there in no time and the other weekend we had a very pleasant day out at Castle Combe (Silverstone is 20 minutes away but what’s the point?).
However all this classic motorcycle largesse becomes a curse too; not only can you become blasé - “Not another 100 year old motorcycle!” – but also complacent – “Do I really want to get out of bed on a Sunday morning to go to the VMCC’s 67th Banbury Run?” At this point Mrs J gives me a severe talking to and I am dispatched out of the door at 7am with camera, water and bike keys to get to Gaydon early before it gets too crowded.
One of the older machines on display was this Wolf Model B that left the Wolverhampton factory in 1914 where Wearwell of that fair city began manufacturing eleven years earlier, going on to use the name Wulfruna as well as the aforementioned Wolf. Earlier models used Stevens engines but in 1912 a V-twin featured a Moto-Rêve power plant was advertised and thereafter, until 1916, engines included Arno, JAP, Illston, Villiers, TDC and Abingdon. This example features a 269cc Villiers motor and was bought by a young man in Horsham who laid it up in a cellar before he went off to take part in WWI; unfortunately, like so many others, he did not return and the house above the cellar was demolished to make way for a car park. Many years later the car park was itself being redeveloped when a digger collapsed into the cellar, revealing the Wolf. Fortunately the young man had the foresight to coat it liberally in oil, including the inside of the frame, which gave its current owner a head start when it came to restoration.
Ten years before the Wolf was manufactured this 3hp Rex was built by the Birmingham Motor & Manufacturing Company which, two years previously, had joined the Allard motorcycle company and moved its base to Earlsdon in Coventry. The initial design changed in 1903 when the tank was extended behind the cylinder and a beehive silencer was used – this was incorporated in the cylinder and therefore no conventional silencer was required. 1904 saw the introduction of a combined battery and tool box between the seat tube, chain stays and rear mudguard; that year Harold Williamson rode a Rex to gain an new End-to-End record of, apparently, 48h 36m which he held until 1908. Given this pedigree the Banbury “A” route should have been no problem for this machine.
I’ve included this 1929 SOS (Super Onslow Special or So Obviously Superior – take your pick) not only because it looks so good but also because it is thought to be one of only two remaining vintage examples of the marque. Len Vale-Onslow had started production two years before this one was built near Worcester, using electric rather than gas welding as there was no supply of the latter for brazing. Most SOS models featured Villiers engines, although JAP did feature in the early days, and this machine is no different with its 250cc engine featuring the blue Villiers Engineering Company badge.
The prize for the least conventional paintwork goes to this 545cc 1929 Triumph CSD...
...whilst my patination prize is awarded to this 1929 Peugeot P108 with its ferrous oxide 248cc engine being quite capable of making it up Sunrising Hill – I know because I photographed it (although the passenger was required to run behind).
At the other end of the spectrum from the Peugeot was this pristine 1925 Grindlay Peerless ST1, featuring a 999cc sleeve-valve Barr & Stroud engine and three-speed Sturmey Archer gearbox, which was ridden by Sammy Miller MBE. Three years after this example left the Coventry factory Bill Lacey used a 344cc JAP example to obtain the 500cc one hour record of 103.3 miles, increasing this to 105.25 the following year. Sadly the firm ceased production of motorcycles in 1934 when it turned to other products – you have to ask what product could be better than a machine that looks as good as this?
We must include one machine from other shores before we go to Sunrising Hill, not least because riders from overseas make the effort to come over and take part in the Run. So what better than this Terrot LSO with its 175cc engine which was one of five 175cc/250cc single cylinder two-strokes the French factory was building in Dijon when this one was manufactured in 1930. Sacre bleu!
It was more by luck than judgement that I managed to photograph this Hemming but I then had no luck in trying to find it in the usual reference books. Thank goodness for the internet and I am now indebted to Martin Shelley and his article on PreWarCar.com to be able to tell you that this is a one-off machine constructed by motorcycle and cycle shop owner, Frank Hemming, over the winter of 1922-1923. He used a 4¼hp, 550cc side-valve Blackburne engine, hence the name on the tank, a Moss three-speed gearbox and Chater Lea frame lugs, registering the machine as a Hemming in April 1923. If you want to see a copy of the registration, the story of the bike and some “before and after” photographs I’d suggest you have a look at Martin’s article.
Another machine you won’t see every day is a Frera, a marque founded by Leonardo of that surname in Tradate, Italy, in 1906. He began by producing 500cc pedal-start singles before graduating to 300cc singles and big V-twins, a 1140cc example of the latter being used by the Italian military in WWI. Throughout the 1920’s Frera was a well-known Italian manufacturer, albeit not so renowned today, but was hit badly by the depression and folded in 1934. There was a re-birth in 1949 with two-stroke lightweights, mopeds and scooters but this too disappeared in 1960. This example dates from 1930 and is a 500cc RC whose owner was enjoying his first Banbury Run.
This is a 1928 Monet Goyon Auto “Muche” – I have been unable to find a translation for this word; the marque were known for building some bizarre models as well as more run-of-the-mill machines often using Villiers engines. Whilst it may look unusual it does serve a purpose – the present owner bought and restored it so his wife, who is disabled, can join him in the Run and other events. It certainly made it to the top of Sunrising, which is pretty good considering the engine is a 250cc Villiers two-stroke, although they were overtaken by the president of the VMCC riding a Brough Superior.
Let’s finish with a cheery wave to the photographer from M. Guy Rapoche riding his 350cc 1927 Motosacoche M306 having come from France to do so – vive l’entente cordiale.
I have to say I could have written volumes about the bikes and riders I saw but sadly space does not permit – how could I have even thought of not attending this unique event? If you want to see loads more photos have a look at my Flickr site at www.flickr.com/photos/cerrig_photography/sets/
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