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19th August 2015

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Jack's Hill Café Ton Up Day, 2015

You would expect to find plenty of café racers at a café, wouldn't you? Richard Jones also tracked down some more standard British classic bikes alongside some international exotica..

Apparently, author Peter de Vries is credited with first saying ‘Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be’ back in 1959 but we keep on trying to make sure that the nostalgia bug is kept in rude good health. One of the many events to do this is the Jack’s Hill Café Ton Up Day, held this year on the 12th July when the ongoing attraction of the bike and café scene in the 1950s and 1960s was clearly demonstrated.

Jack's Hill Cafe Ton Up Day, 2015

The large parking area fronting the A5 was jam packed with classic machinery and the even larger lorry park at the rear was so full that parking was a problem. It was filled not only with spectators’ more modern bikes but also those rockers who couldn’t find room at the front for their older P&Js. Of course this is marvellous for all concerned, except, that is, for the aging photographer who had to bend his aching body in all sorts of convoluted ways to get a half decent shot so please don’t judge the following too harshly.

Jack's Hill Cafe Ton Up Day, 2015

We might as well start with that icon of the period – a 650cc Triumph Bonneville which the very useful DVLA vehicle enquiry service tells me dates from 1963. This was a seminal year for the Bonneville, the road version being known as the T120R, as it saw the introduction of unit construction with the engine and gearbox integrated into one component. An additional ninth bolt was added to the cylinder head casting which, with deeper finning and twin carburettors, formed the new Bonneville look. There was a new frame and the electrics also saw an upgrade – out with the old magneto and dynamo and in with the new alternator and points system. Some 46bhp was available which was said to be good for 110mph in standard form. The paintwork on this machine may not be entirely original though; 1963 was said to be the only year Triumph used a single colour which was Alaskan White. Who cares? It looks fantastic.

Jack's Hill Cafe Ton Up Day, 2015

But what about our other beloved British manufacturers of the period? I did try to find later Nortons but the proximity of other bikes and people meant that this was the only decent shot I got – a 500cc Dominator from 1959, so probably Model 88. Introduced in 1951 for export only, the Dominator De-Luxe only became available in the UK in 1953 where its McCandless designed, Reynolds manufactured featherbed frame caused considerable interest. Designed by Bert Hopwood, the engine would have been good for 90mph but to get over the ton the rider would have had to upgrade to the 600cc Model 99.

Jack's Hill Cafe Ton Up Day, 2015

An example from the third member of the British manufacturing triumvirate, a 650cc BSA from 1969, seen here with a dustbin fairing, clip-on bars and racing number plates to add even more oomph to its performance. The tank looks like it’s come from a Spitfire or Lightning but, to be honest, I think that’s missing the point which is ‘Just look at me!’.

Jack's Hill Cafe Ton Up Day, 2015

Of course the other UK manufacturers were represented by this 1959 Matchless 650cc…

Jack's Hill Cafe Ton Up Day, 2015

…. a very shiny and very attractive Velocette….

Jack's Hill Cafe Ton Up Day, 2015

….. and where would we be without a Vincent? This Rapide dates from 1951. Don’t ask me whether it’s a C or D. It’s one or the other as it has Girdraulic forks but if you have to know the answer then ask PUB who was at the event with her….

Jack's Hill Cafe Ton Up Day, 2015

A 1955 Francis Barnett 225cc. PUB felt that the machine was very appropriate as she and her brother rode it in the golden era that the Ton Up day was recreating, although a ton wasn’t likely to be on the cards for this particular machine.

Jack's Hill Cafe Ton Up Day, 2015
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Let’s not forget our overseas café bikes – there are other photos of the BMW on the Flickr site but this was my favourite.

Jack's Hill Cafe Ton Up Day, 2015

The Land of the Rising Sun was ably represented by this 1971 Honda with what looks like bathplugs in the carburettor bell mouths. It may well be the 350cc K4 which appears on D&M Engineering’s website.

Jack's Hill Cafe Ton Up Day, 2015

Quintessential Italian café racer chic – not red but I suppose orange is almost as good for this 981cc Laverda Jota Special. The RGS initials on the sidepanel stand for the Rome design house, RG Studios, who styled it. First introduced in 1982 it featured a revised frame, rubber mounted engine, adjustable footpegs and an hydraulic clutch; apparently it was good for nearly 140mph and certainly looks it.

Jack's Hill Cafe Ton Up Day, 2015

But, I hear you say, what about those specials that typified those halcyon days when engines were wrenched, kicking and screaming, from donor bikes to be wrapped in the comfort of a featherbed frame? Well here’s an example of the daddy of them all – the Triton with Triumph power encapsulated by a Norton frame, all supplemented by clip-ons, rearsets, loads of alloy and shiny chrome. I really don’t know how they found time to ride these when you look at all the polishing that was needed to keep them glistening.

Jack's Hill Cafe Ton Up Day, 2015

Whilst Triton sounds masculine and sharp, Norvin is the name of that cousin who always embarrassed you at parties (although it’s better than Vinton which sounds like a fizzy drink). Which is a great shame because a Vincent V-twin in that frame looks tremendously earth-shattering and bold beyond reason. Why not just call it Thor?

Jack's Hill Cafe Ton Up Day, 2015

Perhaps a bit early for the café racer and coffee bar scene but splendid nevertheless. This one’s a 500cc JAP engine mated with a Triumph frame (and possibly gearbox) dating, apparently, from 1938. Again TriJAP sounds bizarre – any ideas for something a bit more in keeping?

Jack's Hill Cafe Ton Up Day, 2015

Let’s finish with a photo of the other stars of the day, the people who keep memories of this bygone era alive with their bikes and dress. Of course it’s in black and white – colour is so 21st century.

Don’t despair if you missed this event – Jack’s Hill Café plays host to a bike night on the first Friday of each month from 7pm so get yourself down there.

You’ll find more photos from this event and many other motorcycle rides and shows at Richard’s archive: www.flickr.com/photos/cerrig_photography/sets/


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