25th June 2014
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The 2014 Banbury Run - Part One
Richard Jones delights in finding rare vintage motorcycles to photograph, and this year he triumphed with a Magnat Debon and an Endurance, which tackled the daunting Sun Rising Hill alongside more familiar old bikes from Ariel, Rudge, Sunbeam, AJS et al...
'The Largest Gathering of Veteran and Vintage Machines in the World' proclaims the cover of the 66th Banbury Run™ programme and given that there are 550 entries to the Run from the UK, the Republic of Ireland and mainland Europe then I think it's a fair statement. Where else in the world could you see the sight that greeted entrants and spectators alike when they gathered at the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon on a splendidly sunny Sunday in mid-June? Once again the VMCC, its members, the entrants and sponsors had gathered together to provide a great spectacle for us all to enjoy. Anyway enough of this - onwards to the motorcycles.
I have been trying to find a Magnat Debon to photograph for ages and I couldn't have done better than this one which shone so much the camera had problems metering it. The marque was founded in 1893 in Grenoble by Joseph Magnat and Louis Debon to manufacture bicycles and, as was often the case in those days, then began manufacturing their own motorised cycles with in-house and proprietary Moser and Moto Reve power units in 1906. Six years later they were building ohv singles and just before WWI had developed their ohv twin as well as a telescopic front fork and were even trying out a wheel rim mounted disc break. Zut alors! During the interwar years they manufactured commuter type bicycles and 350cc ohv sporting singles before being bought out by Terrot in around 1930. After WW2 Magnat Debon became clones of the Terrot range although they did produce a 499cc ohv single with a four-speed gearbox that had its followers. The machine at Gaydon was an example of the sporting 350cc single and is a BST model from 1929 - it was worth attending the event just for this photo alone.
During WW1 Frank Baker designed and manufactured his Precision engine but producing his own motorcycle was a big step and he either merged with or was taken over by the Beardmore engineering group in 1920. The collaboration's machine's 349cc two-stroke engine had a novel pumped lubrication system, whereby the magneto drive chain also delivered oil, and both the engine and gears were enclosed in aluminium casings as a single unit. The machines also featured an unconventional leaf spring suspension, an integral fuel tank acting as a frame top-tube as well as mudguards that doubled as stressed supports for both wheels. As well as Mr Baker's Precision engines the company also used Barr & Stroud and Blackburne units and over the five years of the marque's existence the range included 496cc and 598cc side-valve models as well as a 250cc version. They even flirted with the TT but had no success and then in 1924 Frank Baker left to set up on his own and the marque disappeared the following year. This example was built in the penultimate year of Beardmore Precision's run and is a 350 Model B which won the event's Class B award in 1913.
Chatting to the owner of this 1921 Endurance 2-speed 269cc I was surprised to learn that it is a very rare machine in the UK despite the fact that the machines bearing this name were manufactured for 10 years in Birmingham between 1915 and 1925 by CB Harrison. Early models were of their day - a Villiers two-stroke engine with belt drive and petroil lubrication - but after WW1 they branched out using 269cc Arden engines and then their own in-house unit before returning to the trusted Villiers in 1920. All the models had the choice of single-speed with belt drive or two-speed - as this example - and a chain/belt hybrid final drive. The range was supplemented with a 343cc Villiers model in 1923 but the doors finally closed two years later when the Endurance ceased to endure. Apparently the reason for their scarcity in the UK is that most were exported to the Antipodes. Another machine I hadn't photographed before - result.
Oscar Hedström left Indian after a little controversy over a failed electric starter innovation and was replaced in 1916 by CB Franklin and Charles Gustafson, the former designing the Indian Scout and the latter being responsible for the Powerplus of which this 1921 machine is an example. It's a 1000cc V-twin, it's red and is not over-restored - what's not to like?
In 1890 William Riley and four of his five sons began manufacturing bicycles in Coventry and then in 1898 son Percy built a car à la De Dion. By the following year the Riley clan were building tricycles and quadricycles, using either German Cudell or Belgian Minerva engines, and then in 1901 they saw the light and built their first motorcycle. The solo had a 1.5hp Minerva engine or a 2.75hp MMC unit and was joined in 1902 when they added a forecar into the model range. 1903 saw Riley switching to their own engines and the largest - 3.5hp - was used on the forecars which had the option of fan or water cooling. This was also the year that the example at Gaydon was manufactured - five years later it was consigned to a loft above a shop where it was disinterred after fifty years and used in the 1960s and 70s. The present owner acquired it from a museum in 2013 and it looks a treat.
Given that this is the centenary of the start of WW1 it was fitting that the Run was led off a group of appropriate motorcycles piloted and passengered by WW1 'Soldiers and Nurses'. The first pair away were Richard Mummery with this 550cc Triumph H and 'Nurse Margaret' in the chair. The group were to leave a commemorative wreath at Kinteon village war memorial and each rider had chosen to portray a particular person from the Great War, in Mr Mummery's case Captain Bruce Bairnsfather who had penned the 'Old Bill' cartoons after being hospitalised with shell shock in 1915.
After seeing the first bikes off, my modern day Triumph - Tessie from Hinckley - and I set off for Sun Rising Hill where a veritable feast of machines awaited us. There were generous helpings of Triumphs, BSAs, Sunbeams and Ariels, stirred in with AJS and Velocettes together with some more exotic machines added in for flavour.
I had seen this 1930 Automoto AL9 at the Rose of the Shires Run a couple of weeks earlier and here it was again, resplendent in its fetching colour scheme. Based in St Etienne, France, Chavenet, Gros, Pichard & Cie began building motorcycles in 1901 using Swiss, French and British power units but later in the 1920's they used Blackburne, JAP and Aubier et Dunne engines to produce solid and durable machines. Taken over by Peugeot in 1931 they continued making machines under their own name until the 1960s. If you want to see how David Loveridge restored a very rusty 350cc barn find to its present state have a look at his blog at http://automoto-motorcycles.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/my-automoto-al9.html
F Aslett Coulson produced his first motorcycle in 1919 which was pretty much typical of its era - 349cc Blackburne side-valve engine, two-speed Jardine gearbox, a chain/belt drive and Druid front forks. Where the Coulson B differed was its rear-wheel suspension which featured short swinging links under the control of laminated leaf springs which you can just about see in the photograph. The range was soon joined by a 545cc Blackburne engine and the 1920 machine galloping up the hill is a rare example of this model. In order to publicise their machines, a Coulson outfit completed the London to Edinburgh run without stopping the engine whilst the novel rear suspension was put to the test by riding for 25 miles on the rear wheel rim, tyre and inner tube having been removed. Sadly this could not prevent the demise of the Coulson which, after two changes of ownership, disappeared in 1923.
You'll find more of Richard's excellent images, from a wide range of classic motorcycling events, at www.flickr.com/photos/cerrig_photography/sets/
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