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17th May 2004

Coleford Carnival of Transport

In search of something different, Will Morgan went to Coleford. And there he found plenty of WD machines, a super A7 cafe racer, and a ferocious canine anti-theft device...

I went to the Coleford Carnival of Transport on Easter Bank Holiday Monday. It was a wonderful sunny spring morning that had drawn out the crowds including Emm, who was introducing Toaster to the Forest of Dean, Alun from Monmouth and plenty of other old friends and acquaintances. This is an excellent annual show. The whole town is closed to traffic and every available space is filled with vehicles of one sort or another. It's not a question of 'getting your money's worth' as the whole thing is free for both visitors and exhibitors, but it really is worth walking round the whole town as you never know what you'll find just round the next corner. There are set areas for different categories but there is a certain amount of cross-over, such as the WD Norton amongst the military trucks, a Matchless-engined Morgan next to a Shelby AC Cobra, and the custom bikes and trikes mixed with the Hot Rod cars.

'59 A7SS - Twin-carb head and siamesed exhaust.

As always, there was a fine selection of classic motorcycles on show. It seems that locally the marques of choice are Ariel and BSA. There were lots of Ariels including an early Huntmaster, a couple of Leaders and two civilianised ex-WD W/NG 350s and various other singles, but no Square Fours. Amongst the BSAs were a Gold Flash, a ZB34 in café racer trim, a 1968 A65 Lightning (with only two owners from new) and a modified A10 with Watsonian Palma sidecar providing comfort for the owner's wife and canine anti-theft device. Those modifications included an oil cooler and disc brakes front and back.

A10 (left) and A65. Modified wife and dog not shown.

But for me the top BSA was a 1959 A7SS café racer in British Racing Green belonging to Merv Morgan. He'd bought the bike as an unfinished project, which included original contemporary Italian Superleggera special parts as used by Eddie Dow. It featured an unusual twin carb cylinder head. This had been achieved by careful cutting and then welding on Triumph carb stubs... another piece of authentic period go-faster engineering!

Perpendicularly challenged flat-twin Douglas.

There was a particularly nice fore and aft Douglas Aero 500cc with a wealth of history owned by a Mr Allison, which had come all the way from Hampshire. The bike had been dispatched from the factory in 1936 to Pride and Clark, then distributed to and sold by Jenkins and Purser of Bournemouth. In its early life it had been fitted with a sidecar but a catastrophic accident demolished the chair and seriously damaged the forks and frame. A new frame was acquired and by 1963 it was back on the road and still in the Bournemouth area. The present owner had bought it as a box of bits in 1979 and carried out the entire restoration himself.

1931 Norton 16H

A 1931 Norton 16H was owned by Graham Vaughan who'd bought it about five years ago, theoretically restored, but he was quick to point out the shortcomings of this job, so it's an on-going project. Never the less, a nice machine being put to the use for which it was intended.

There was another sidevalve Norton to be found, in full War Department trim. It was not in the main motorcycle display but amongst the military vehicles. To me it looked fine, but Emm felt there was something not quite right about it. Something she couldn't put her finger on. The only omission I could see was the lack of an oil puddle underneath! I don't know, but maybe it had only had a cosmetic restoration?

Ex-WD Norton, fitted with Mk2 Deckchair as a makeshift sidecar during the days of post-war rationing.

Amongst the latecomers were a two superb Vincents, a 500cc single and a Black Knight, and an unrestored Douglas Dragonfly in exemplary original condition.

Hidden away down a little side alley was a gem of a display by the West Gloucestershire and Dean Forest MCC. Here, no doubt missed by many passers-by, were some of the most interesting machines. There was a DKW trials bike and a pretty BSA Bantam Major. But lurking like outcasts at the back were three outstanding sidecar outfits. A competitive BSA Victor, a 1952 Vincent 1120cc racing 'big wheel' kneeler and a Royal Enfield engined moto-cross special, apparently built from parts left over from other projects. It had a Dutch(?) made BSU mono-shock frame with disc brakes and a 736cc Enfield engine. All three outfits exuded a 'built-for-purpose' aura.

In the limited autojumble area there was little to be found of interest to motorcyclists as the emphasis was definitely towards four wheels. But there was one trader offering several bikes for sale, including a Triton with 6T engine at £3995. Nice bike, but not so keen on the price!

Through out the event there was only one Harley-Davidson to be seen, and I had not seen the like of it before. It was also for sale at 'only' £2000. You might think that's cheap for a 1975 Harley, but it was only a two-stroke AMF Harley-Davidson X90 monkey bike!

At least one person at Harley Davidson (tm) has a sense of 'humor', then.

The warm spring sun shone making it an excellent day out for both the perambulating public and the exhibitors. There were plenty of mobile food stands alongside the town's full compliment of take-aways, cafes and pubs to refresh the weary. In the square the public address system pumped out good old 50s and 60s rock 'n' roll to the drifting smells of candyfloss and frying onions. The children screeched on their fairground rides and the hammer thump and bell ring of the Test-Your-Strength stall chimed out regularly. Everything combined into a real carnival atmosphere.

Let's hope it continues to thrive, as it certainly deserves to. The crowds ebbed and flowed all day and the town was still packed as early departures threaded their way through the throng to the open road. A big 'thank you and well done' to the volunteer organisers; I hope to be there again next year.


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