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10th October 2012

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Founders Day 2012

The VMCC's annual autojumble and static show fell foul of the weather initially, but all went splendidly on the rescheduled date. Richard Jones reports...

And so it was we set off for Stanford Hall once again - me, Mrs Jones and Vanessa, the latter's interest piqued as she used to ride her brother's bikes in Zimbabwe. We were driving, not only because there were three of us but also due to a recent altercation between my leg and the kick-start of a newly acquired BMW R69S. Not unsurprisingly the kick-start won and I am still struggling with bruised bits and pieces that live between the heel and knee of my right leg. Please don't snigger - I've had enough of 'isn't it about time you acted your age?' at work.

I like Stanford Hall - it's how you would imagine an English country house to be. Fine architecture and acres of rolling parkland in which to hold garden fetes, gymkhanas and motorcycle shows. However the rolling acres got a trifle soggy this 'summer' which resulted in the VMCC Taverner's section Founder's Day event being delayed until September. I'm not saying the ground was dry but at least local farmers weren't subsidising their reduced milk cheques by towing luckless car drivers out of a muddy bog.

I was road testing a new camera - a digital compact with more functionality, features and gizmos than Apollo 11 needed to get to the moon. Needless to say I struggled, so apologies in advance for some of the photos. Mrs Jones has decided that point-and-shoot mode is more than enough for her and will no doubt go on to take far better photos than I will. It was ever thus.

First off was a visit to the Brough Superior stand - is it just me or do they look like crocodiles basking on a river bank when they are gathered en masse? I must be getting jaded because the only one I wanted to record was this wonderfully patinated SS80

You can't beat a bit of patina...

You have to admire the courage of the owner of this machine - it's actually appears to be being used to ride and enjoyed rather than restored, polished and asset managed. I don't think I could be similarly courageous - with values heading upwards of £50,000 I would be asset managing like mad (did I mention I work for a bank?). Sorry but there it is. I like the look and I admire people who can do it but for me I'd have to see my face in the nickel plated tank. Bang goes my Christmas card from Patninators Reunited.

All the usual suspects were in attendance - Vincents, Velocette, Nortons, Triumphs and the inevitable Gold Stars - so I went looking for something a bit more exotic

You can't beat a pair of coffin tanks...
You can't beat a pair of white tyres...

And there it was - on a small but perfectly formed display I came across these three ABCs. The All British (Engine) Company was founded by Ronald Charteris in Byfleet in 1912 to produce piston engines. They became involved in motorcycles the same year when their designer, the famed Granville Bradshaw, was asked to produce some special parts for a 350cc Douglas that was raced at nearby Brooklands. During the following years some bikes were manufactured and a there was also a degree of competition success.

Then in 1919 ABC was bought by Sopwith and moved to Walton-on-Thames as the latter company attempted to diversify its activities following World War I - presumably Camels were no longer required. Sopwith put Bradshaw's latest creation into production - a transverse mounted 398cc OHV flat twin with a 4-speed gearbox, all chain drive, spring frame and forks, automatic lubrication and internal front and rear expanding brakes (although kick-starts were not provided as the bike could be easily push started).

Given all of this, it's understandable that this machine is regarded as a predecessor to BMW's output. However the design was under developed with unreliable valve gear and poor lubrication which, together with an order book where demand exceeded supply, led to Sopwith ceasing to trade in 1921. However nil desperandum - paradoxically the All British (Engine) Company continued to be made under license in France until 1924 by Gnome & Rhone who also produced a 493cc machine

Classic projects on now...

If it's red, looks beautiful and has two cylinders then it must be from Italy:

You can't beat a Morini...
You can't beat a carb hiding under the tank...

Unless, that is, it's is a beautiful red Douglas from Bristol.

You can't beat a flat twin...

More exotica was on display at the Vintage & Veteran ( stand:

Based at Courbevoie, Seine, the well-established Griffon Bicycle Company built its first motorcycle around 1901 using one of its cycles as the basis. Griffon's new business venture expanded rapidly and within a couple of years the company was exhibiting a variety of models at the Paris Show. Numerous competition successes followed - in 1904 one of their machines achieved the then astonishing speed of 65mph - and Griffon remained at the forefront of European motorcycle racing until it was acquired by Peugeot in the late 1920s. The last Griffon-badged motorcycles were made in 1955.

You can't beat a slack chain...

This is a 1907 example with a 250cc Zedel engine and a 4-1 multiplier gear which allows the engine to run at a higher than normal speed for the travelling speed; very useful at low speeds on a single gear machine. Incidentally. the artist Hugo d`Alesi (1849-1906) who was credited as the 'inventor of the landscape poster typical of the first period in poster design' produced a poster of the Griffon.

Vintage & Veteran also had this 1913 Rover TT - one of a multiplicity of machines and marques produced in Coventry back in the day.

You can't beat a tight belt...

Coventry must have been a wonderful place back in the first part of the 20th century - every street must have had a motorcycle manufacturer producing machines. Now you need a factory the size of Coventry cathedral which is fitted out like an operating theatre, all financed by an unavailable bank loan; where did it all go wrong?

Like many Coventry marques. Rover had its antecedents in the bicycle industry but it didn't produce a motorcycle until 1903 - a 2¼ hp machine designed by Edmund Lewis who had been poached from Daimler. In 1910 a belt driven 499cc 3½ hp bike was manufactured with a Bosch magneto and a Brown & Barlow carburettor. After WWI Rover produced a 645cc JAP engined V-twin and in 1921 the TT model arrived. However car production was becoming increasingly important to Rover and in 1927 they stopped making motorcycles - after the disaster of British Leyland and all that came after the Rover marque is now owned by Tata.

You can't beat a long footboard...

And finally this 1912 FN shaft driven single. The Belgian Fabrique Nationale single cylinder engines ranged between 225cc and 286cc although they are probably better known for their 4 cylinder in-line engines, the first of which was designed by Paul Kelecom back in 1904. FN were also early adopters of shaft final drive and used it until 1923.

You can't beat a FERC..

I'm starting to worry that I'm developing a liking for Ariel Arrows…

You can't beat a hand-change..

I may be speaking with all the confidence of the uninformed but this looks like a circa 1929 Sunbeam TT90 with its 496cc ohv engine. Presumably Charlie Dodson's wins in the Senior TT in 1928 and 1929 had something to do with its model name. Given its Sunbeam's centenary this year it seemed appropriate to include this one.

Once sated with bikes, autojumble and Mrs Jones' picnic we wended our way back to the car. On the way I just happened to notice this hapless example of something I didn't recognise -- I'm useless unless there's a name on the tank. I'd guess it's a Triumph* (although goodness knows what's been done to it)

You can't beat a mystery. Or not..

One look from Mrs Jones made me realise that this was one motorcycle that was not going to be rescued and restored to within an inch of its life, at least not by me. She is more than well aware of my shortcomings when it comes to things mechanical, not least kick-starts. However Vanessa went on to tell us how her brother's classic bike collection grows as if by magic - machines just appear in his shed. Perhaps a trip to Zimbabwe is required, not only to check out the classic bike scene but also understand how bike collections can grow without the need for the necessary approval process required at Jones Towers…


As always more photos at
The Vintage Motor Cycle Club main site at
Founder's Day is organised by the Taverners' Section of the VMCC:


*A better guess would be an Ariel: the clue is on the engine where it says 'RH 350'

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