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13th January 2014

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2014 Stony Stratford Vintage Car and Motorcycle Gathering

Richard Jones braved floods, downpours, cats, dogs and stair-rods to photograph this get-together of hardy souls, celebrating the New Year...

It's thought that Stony Stratford has been around since the Romans were tramping up and down Watling Street, now less interestingly known as the A5, as it was a crossing place over the River Ouse and presumably a point where foot-weary legionaries would stop for a paddle. In 1194 it was granted a market charter and in 1483 it was where the young Edward V was met by his uncle and 'protector', Richard of Gloucester; Richard was very protective, so much so that Edward didn't survive his protection and was never seen alive again.

In later years the town was a busy stop for coaches travelling from London to Holyhead although the railway brought this to an end in the nineteenth century. However the railway wasn't all bad news as the nearby Wolverton works necessitated some of the world's largest tramcars - each holding 100 people - to operate between Stony Stratford and Wolverton. Given all this history it's not surprising that Stony hosts a couple of vintage car and motorcycle events, the most recent being the New Year's Day Vintage Car and Motorcycle Gathering in the centre of the town. Regrettably the weather was not all that it could have been, which is subtle understatement for pouring rain, and it is to the credit of the many motorcycle and car enthusiasts who attended the event that they took their pride and joy out in such miserable conditions.


And none so brave as RealClassic's own PUB, Jacqueline Bickerstaff, who piloted this 1896 Leon Bollée for a mile in the torrential downpour with Clive walking in front with the red flag you can just see in the passenger footwell. It was even more remarkable when PUB mentioned that she had been unable to get the machine out of first gear. Monsieur Bollée founded Leon Bollée Automobiles in 1895 at Le Mans and the following year he patented his three-wheeled 'Voiturette' which featured rubber tyres and a single cylinder horizontal engine, developing either 2hp or 3hp. Ignition was by means of a hot tube using an oil-fired burner and an ingenious Bollée design allowed the axle to move backwards or forwards to increase or release belt tension for changing the three gears (or one, as was the case on 1st January 2014). One was sold in 2008 for a mite short of £70,000 so I think you will agree that it incredibly courageous to bring it out on such a day.


It would also have taken a fair bit of courage to ride this New Hudson autocycle given the road conditions but nevertheless here it was. These machines first appeared in 1940 when the marque produced this rigid-framed, single speed autocycle featuring a 98cc Villiers Junior De Luxe engine at its Garrison Lane factory in Birmingham. So successful was the concept that BSA acquired New Hudson and re-started autocycle production after the war, initially with a JDL engine and then, from 1948, with the upright cylinder 98cc Villiers 2F power unit. By the late 1950s the influx of continental mopeds brought about the end of the autocycle and BSA dropped the New Hudson marque. Incidentally the activity in the background were attempts to start another lightweight machine which was refusing to co-operate. Whether success was achieved I can't say although when I came back sometime later both machines had disappeared, hopefully ridden rather than pushed.


One machine that did arrive under its own steam was this 1925 BSA Lightweight Model B 'Round Tank' that was originally parked up on the square and then moved undercover where you see it in the photograph. BSA launched this no-frills and inexpensive model in 1924 which featured a 249cc single cylinder side-valve engine with two-speed gearbox and the 1½ gallon petrol tank which gave rise to its name. So popular was this machine and the later three-speed de-luxe option with a 'Wedge' tank that 35,000 were sold worldwide.


Now I am the first to admit that if there isn't a label provided to identify a model then I am going to struggle to come up with the answer. However on this occasion I'm going to have a go and suggest that this AJS is a 350cc Model 6 ohv machine based on the marque's factory bikes which won the Junior TT for three years running from 1920 and, despite a 150cc capacity disadvantage, the 1921 Senior TT when ridden by Howard Davies . Production models of the successful racing 'big ports', so named due to the enormous size of the exhaust port and 2¼ inch diameter exhaust pipe, became available in 1923 and production continued to 1928. The engine was rated at 2¾hp and had a three-speed gearbox. Again this is another machine that can command a five-figure price and its presence at Stony shows that the true spirit of the motorcyclist is alive and well and that not all machines of this vintage are trailer queens, never seeing a cloudy day let alone one that might encourage Noah to get his carpentry tools out.


Once again I am going to take a wild guess and say that this 1952 Ariel is the KH500 model designed by Val Page and which was manufactured between 1948 and 1957. The ohv vertical twin cylinder engine was said to develop 28bhp at 6500rpm and was good for about 90mph when top gear was selected on the four-speed Burman box.

The absence of chrome and use of paint, particularly on the wheel rims, was the result of the nickel shortage in this production year brought about by the Korean war. The proud owner told me had only acquired the bike the previous Sunday - a later Christmas present perhaps; it was certainly a baptism of fire, or perhaps water, for his new machine.

Not unsurprisingly given the weather there were not many motorcycles in attendance so let's finish with a couple of the more unusual machines on display, one with three wheels and one with four.

Ariels on Now...

Busy Yellow

This Busy Bee is unique and was built by Mr J A Mills of Mansfield in 1919 for a total cost of £120; he then proceeded to use it as his daily transport for the rest of his life and covered over 100,000 miles. It was originally powered by a 4.5hp Stag engine but this was replaced by a 6hp AJS V-twin in 1928 and which is still used today. Drive is by chain to a mid-mounted Sturmey-Archer clutch and three-speed gearbox and thence by another chain to the single rear wheel. The frame is tubular steel and just ten bolts secure the three-piece plywood body to it. It is really a very small piece of automotive history.

Electric Orange

This seemingly nondescript car demonstrates that the UK was well ahead of the electric car revolution and that the Nissan Leaf is, by comparison, a Johnny-come-lately. In 1966 the Electricity Council ran a competition for electric cars and Enfield Automotive, based on the Isle of Wight, beat off the likes of Ford with this 8000 prototype. With a top speed of 48mph and a range of up to 56 miles the Enfield was powered by eight 6V battery monoblocks and an on-board charger meant it could simply be connected to the domestic mains through a socket in the back. However at a price of £2600, which would have purchased two Minis, sales were always going to be sluggish and production ended in 1976. Considering the concept is approaching its fiftieth anniversary this example looks remarkably modern and could well be taken for a 21st century machine.

Low Blue

So why is this 1952 Volkswagen 'Barn Door' Camper van here, with its 2276cc engine making a great deal of noise? Well I have to admit that when the weather became too much Nick, who regards this as his pride and joy, allowed me shelter to dry off the camera and cups of coffee brewed on his gas stove to warm an old man back to life.

More photos of this and the show back in June last year are here and should you want to come along to the next show at Stony it will be on 8th June 2014 with more details at See you there and Happy New Year.


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