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21st April 2004
Real Classic on the Road
A tiny van, a big pile of magazines, and a Little Chef map of the UK. Rowena Hoseason and Frank Westworth headed off to a weekend of events...
It's the weekend of April 17 / 18, early morning on Saturday, and we piled into the RealClassic Renault and off to The Cheltenham autojumble. It's early…
The only real downside to the Great Move South is that Cornwall is quite a long way from anywhere. This means that if we want to be at a jumble in, say Cheltenham, starting at, say 10am, then we need to get into the road bright and early. A chap needs his breakfast, too, which means allowing for an extra hour or so. Even the Renault needs a little early morning nursing and understanding, too; it's only a half ton van, and it appears, somehow, to be loaded with rather more than half a ton of magazines (as well as vital supplies, like Coke for Her and crisps…).
Cheltenham is a great venue for a jumble, and is a mature event. This means that you can be just about guaranteed to find a good range of stalls, with a goodly number of bikes, bits of bikes and products to hang your wallet over. We've known John Budgen, the organiser, for years, but this was the first time we'd been there as Trade, so to speak, and it was quite odd to drive straight inside and park up actually inside the event itself. Problem: where do you part a slightly out-of-breath Renault and a half-ton of magazines?
It's obvious: right next to the burger / tea stall. How convenient.
First things first; let's go buy a bike. An Ariel Leader in this case, which I just couldn't resist…
Then out there to chat and stroll about. Thanks! in huge red letters to everyone who came over to say hello, to buy a copy of RC The Magazine, to take out subs, to share anecdote and coffee with us. It was really good to see so many folk, and to go parts hunting (which is what jumbles are all about - for some of us, anyway!).
There was a good selection of stalls, which always helps, and although the little Ariel (I've never rebuilt a 2-stroke before…) was plainly A Good Buy, there were a lot of other bikes scattered around the baking expanse of concrete which is Cheltenham racecourse in the sunshine. Highlights? Not one but two Triumph Tina scooters. Have you ever ridden one? Tiny 2-stroke singles, mated to an automatic transmission; possibly the mighty Meriden Triumph's answer to the Honda step-thru? I've not ridden one for well over three decades, and that's a situation which seems unlikely to change.
One of the guys with a Tina was also offering a Sunbeam. Nope, not one of Erling Poppe's in-line 500 twins, but a BSA scooter. These are plainly ace, and this particular bargain example would have ended up in The Shed had it not been for a stern - nay, severe - look from Herself. Sigh. I tried to persuade her that these BSA / Triumph scooters are real classics, deserving of rescue and a complete hoot to ride, but she reminded me that I appeared to have acquired the remains of an Ariel Leader and that was quite enough scrap for one day thank you very much.
Moving swiftly on, I was attracted to a grown-up version of Herself's Snarley, the Harley-D MT350 ex-army trailbike which Rowena uses and enthuses about. Yep, although not many people know this, Armstrong (who built the Harleys as an MT500 army bike before selling the plot to H-D) built some of their army machines in civvy trim, complete with an electric foot. Ignoring the slightly better trim of these machines, the electric starter removes the biggest impediment to ownership of these otherwise excellent and super-practical bikes.
The story goes that Armstrong built less than a dozen of the civvy version, mainly for evaluation by the Forestry Commission, and although we stupidly let one go at a Shepton Mallet auction a year or two back, this one was strapped to a trailer and crying out for a new owner. 'hem.
But no; even though it fired up after a little persuasion and a jump start from the van, the engine was very noisy, the fork seals were leaking, the drain chain was deceased, and it plainly was not going to be a leap-aboard-and-ride-off moment. But there will be more.
Onward then, to look at the remains of a pre-war Ariel, a very tidy T120 Bonnie and an attractive Royal Enfield. This one was a Meteor Minor, and looked very well, but the price was a little forbidding…
Meanwhile, there was RealClassic duty to be done, and banter to be shared with RealClassic readers and Club members (wondering whether the RealClassic hat would be less use as a sunshade than a RealClassic mouse mat; that kind of thing) and tea, and coffee and tall stories, and chatting to our friends in the Trade, and then, somehow, it was packing-up time. A superb day in sunny Cheltenham; off now to Ardingly, deep in West Sussex…
…where the day broke with a monsoon. No, really. If it had been sunny Spring Saturday at Cheltenham, it was back to the winter for Ardingly Sunday. Strewth! Was it raining, or what?
We sloshed into the site bright and early, praised the lord that the event was under cover, and went in search of hot coffee. No-one, we thought, would turn up for a bike show on such a vile day as this. But they were turning up. Riders were squelching into to showroom in substantial numbers. Amazing; plainly West Sussex riders are a stern lot.
The Southern Classic Bike Show is a show (there's a surprise!), and although it's one of Andrew Greenwood's more recent events it shows tremendous promise. Mean to say; if such an impressive number of riders will bring out their classics on such a foul day, how many more would get a-wheel if the skies were a little less forbidding?
This was much more a working day than Saturday's sun-soak at Cheltenham. Somehow or other, the RealClassic Crew had agreed to judge the concours - as well as attempting to provide some sort of commentary! You know; stand about looking insane while jabbering inanely into a microphone! How does this happen? Well, happen it had…
Judging is a thankless task. I don't know whether it's easier when there are dozens of bikes involved, so that the chances of picking up a trophy are high, or when there are hundreds of bikes, and the whole thing is less personal and although more riders are going to be disappointed, that disappointment will be diluted. Either way, it is not an easy thing to do. Some folk really enjoy it, like Jeff Clew, who's done it for years, and our own Dave Minton, who knows everything about everything, is plainly a genius, is loved and respected by all and always makes the correct selections. I know this, because I've shared judging duties with him on several occasions, and have always felt humbled. I know lots and lots about AMC, Ariel, Norton - about the marques whose bikes I've rebuilt and ridden over the years -- but there are big gaps in my knowledge…
The choice at Ardingly was brilliant, particularly given the appalling weather (we'd cunningly parked the RealClassic Renault next to a huge sliding door, so that the tempests could whip inside, soak the magazines and make Rowena's stripy blue tablecloth flap like a sail), and the range of machines on display was impressive indeed.
Like a stunning NorBSA, featuring a late DBD34 Gold Star engine in a wideline featherbed. I mused to the crowd that I bet that was no easy starter - and the owner kicked it awake in seconds! How good to be An Expert.
Like the utterly pristine BSA Hornet, running loud on open pipes and making enough of a bellow to raise the spirits - and probably raise the dead, too.
Like a stunning Honda GL1000 Gold Wing, a very early K0 model, which had ridden in to the event and sat steaming while owner and I chatted on the microphone. It was the only bike there which could be left running while we talked…
Like a Hesketh Vampire, which its owner had rescued from dereliction in Germany. Its soldier owner had abandoned it and the whole bike was due to be skipped when the unit moved out…
Like a pair of flat-tankers, one Norton, one Triumph. Like a stunning Indian. Like a selection of AMC singles and Norton twins. Judging bikes like these is never easy. How can you fail to make awards to an enthusiast, Phil Jennett, who rebuilt his James Commando trials iron after suffering a massive stroke, and who stood up from his wheelchair to collect his trophy? How can you fail to make awards to a father and young son race team, Robbie and Michael Brown; dad rides a racing Bantam and son sprints his own Yam FS1-E?
So, despite the vile weather, it was a good crowd and a good turn out. The RealClassic Crew - where would we have been without Graham and The Toaster? - did monster duty, and there were lots of happy faces. Even Mick Lake recovered from his total soaking to be of good cheer. The doughnuts were fab, and Emm and Rowena slaved away behind the trestle table and blue stripy tablecloth to turn the day into an event full of fun and profit.
I still wish I'd bought the Norton 88 DeLuxe, though…
Dried out yet?
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