26th February 2014
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London Motorcycle Show 2014
Richard Jones risked a trip to the big smoke and was pleasantly surprised by what he discovered in Docklands this time around...
I have to say I was somewhat unimpressed by the London Motorcycle Show when I went some years ago, spending a day on Robin Hughes' VFR NZ stand. My recollection was of a seemingly endless trip on the Docklands Light Railway followed by a long, boring day in a cavernous hall with only a small number of visitors to keep me amused. So it was with a fairly heavy heart that I set out on Valentine's Day to walk through the rain to Badger's Halt, the small rural railway station near Jones Towers. I have to admit that I turned back at one point but then remembered I was Welsh and so was bred for this sort of weather as well as long boring days (if you had spent a Sunday in a small Welsh market town in the 1960s you will know what I mean).
Once in London things didn't seem so bad and the DLR journey was not as long as I recalled, enlivened as it was by a view of Paul Reichmann's Canary Wharf; not great architecture but impressive nevertheless. I handed over my £20 for a ticket to the show and was again pleasantly surprised - the show was busy to the point of bustling.
Most of the main manufacturers were present, albeit with smaller stands than at the NEC, including Royal Enfield. Here men of a certain age were sitting on the Continental 535 with wishful expressions, trying to convince themselves, and their other halves where present, that this was a good way to invest the nest egg.
This gentlemen, who was trying the new Indian Chief Classic for size, told me that his first motorcycle ride had been on an Indian when, at the age of three or four, his uncle had taken him around the family's market garden. He had been hanging on to the petrol tank as his uncle had done his best to avoid the greenhouses, much to the concern of the young man's mother. With a price tag of £18,499 for this 1811cc, 354kg monster, it will be a brave man or woman who takes this Indian off road.
There were plenty of customised machines on display and although they are not particularly my cup of espresso, this one did catch my eye. Andy Stewart at Lamb Engineering (lamb-engineering.com) in Wiltshire has taken a 1959 Norton Dominator frame and then modified it to accept a 750 Norton engine and AMC gearbox. He then added one-off Lamb Engineering carburettors, a Hayabusa front fork, his own front brake and a 1940's rear brake of unknown origin. The result was painted by Joeby's Airbrush Art in this Gulf Oil livery and I think the result is rather pleasing to the eye.
The classic machinery was at the other end of the hall from the custom scene in aptly named Classic Zone; here H&H Auctions were displaying some of the machinery they will be selling at the Imperial War Museum in April, including this 1938 DKW SS250. The bike has a water-cooled 250cc split-single rotary-valve two-stroke engine which is supercharged by means of a third large piston fitted into a pumping cylinder in front of the crankcase. Fuel is then taken from the carburettors through into this cylinder which forces the mixture into the working chamber. The approach was designed by Swiss-born Arnold Zoller, whose superchargers were imported by Laurence Pomeroy and Michael McEvoy when the latter's motorcycle business closed, and developed through the 1930s by DKW's August Prussing.
The result was a highly successful, although loud, racing machine that won the 1938 Lightweight TT for Ewald Kluge who came home almost twelve minutes ahead of second-placed Stanley 'Ginger' Wood on his Excelsior 250. A DKW also allowed ER 'Ernie' Thomas to win the last 250cc race ever held at the old Donington circuit in August 1939 when he arrived home 21 seconds ahead of second-placed Leslie Archer. Only a few road machines were made due to their high cost and this one has an estimated selling price of £110,000 to £120,000 which presumably reflects the rarity value.
If you have less to spend but want a piece of racing history then H&H will also be selling this 1971 Yamaha TD2 at Duxford with an estimate of £30,000 to £35,000; the attraction is that it was ridden by Phil Read in the 1971 and 1972 250 World Championships. In 1971 he rode it to his fifth world championship title with wins in the German and Dutch Grands Prix, another win at the Isle of Man Lightweight TT and a second place in the Spanish GP. The bike was fitted with an Eric Cheney frame, number 101, with the result being that it handled somewhat better than the standard Yamaha. Read rode it as a privateer with no factory support which makes his championship win all the more remarkable. So for your money you will get all this race provenance as well as the great man's autograph on the fairing. At this point I should thank the kind men from H&H for allowing me on to their stand to photograph the machinery on display.
If the thrill at buying at auction doesn't appeal to you then Godin Sporting Cars & Motorcycles are selling this Brough Superior SS100 with Matchless engine and Brough 1150 frame for £89,995. Godin's web site tells us that the machine was exported to Australia in 1934 or 1935 where it remained complete until 1999 when it was in an accident that damaged the frame and the left hand side crank case, apparently beyond repair. As a result it was put back into order by replacing the crankcase with one from a Brough SS80 and grafting the whole into the 1150 frame from another machine. The bike came back to the UK in 2000 although in a sorry state and it was restored over a five year period by a Brough Club member to its present condition.
Continuing the theme of V-twins have a look at this Norton Superior which has been crafted - I can think of no better word - by owner Bill Higginson, ably assisted by his friend Maurice Cross. Mr Higginson took a 1938 Norton Model 16H, which was in a very poor state, and into its modified frame he assembled and installed a replica Matchless MX2 engine which Mr Cross had built with his own castings and having manufactured almost all the internal parts himself. Mr Higginson also undertook the frame modifications and fabricated the oil and petrol tanks, the engine plates and the exhaust system, the latter appearing to be a work of art in its own right.
There was a tribute to Mike Hailwood in the Classic Zone and on display were several of his bikes including the 864cc Ducati 900SS OM-TT upon which he rode to victory in his Isle of Man comeback at the 1978 Formula 1 TT. Although everyone wanted him to win it was not clear whether it was possible given it was eleven years since he had last raced at the island. Mr Hailwood had no doubts though and in his first circuit of the mountain course he completed his fastest ever TT lap of 109.87mph. He went on to victory with an average speed of 108.51mph after his nearest rival, Phil Read, retired with engine problems on the fifth lap.
Top Gear presenter James May and David Silver, restorer and provider of Honda spares par excellence, had come together to provide a display of twelve of their favourite classics from their Honda collections.
This 1960 CS71 Dream Sports caught my eye, mainly because of the blue and red colour scheme - yes, I know I'm shallow. This was a street-scrambler version of the C71 Dream Tourer with a 247cc single overhead camshaft twin-cylinder 4-stroke engine, apparently producing 20bhp which was unheard of at the time, in a pressed steel frame. The upswept exhaust pipes and heat shields presumably led to the street-scrambler marketing ploy although I would still have bought it for the red seat covering.
Ensuring that balance was maintained with all this overseas machinery on show, the BSA Owners' Club stand had good display of the marque including this 1953 A10 Golden Flash 650 with plunger rear suspension. At the other end of the scale - and the stand - was this 1951 D1 Bantam 125, again with plunger suspension.
Finally I have included this shot of the Britannia Ferries Retro Zone where a display of 1970's super mopeds had a backdrop of 1970's popular art - it all looked rather marvellous but that's David Bowie for you.
Was I glad that I had persisted and made my way through the rain drenched metropolis to get to the show? The answer is a resounding yes.
To see more photos of classic bikes and vintage vehicles from Richard's travels, visit www.flickr.com/photos/cerrig_photography/sets.
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