17th July 2009
This summer show could be developing into the biggest all-marques old bike event of the year. Chas E Godden reports on the day the sun finally shone...
This was the third Classic Motorcycle Show the Vintage Japanese MCC organised at Uttoxeter's scenic racecourse, a mere ten miles from the more familiar County Show Ground of the long established April and October exhibitions. Third time lucky for the weather, with the sun shining both days and just a brief shower early on Sunday morning to lay the dust and cool the atmosphere.
900 individual bikes entered, 76 clubs taking space and even more traders booking in suggests that this is a show that the trade should be taking serious notice of. And in the established tradition of classic gatherings they had a Guest of Honour, on this occasion that blessed son of Yorkshire racing Mick Grant, who ranks high amongst the best people to bring along to be nice to the public; he really is an outstanding ambassador for the classic movement.The Gold Star Owners Club were celebrating their 50th birthday with a display of 50 - what else? - bikes, including the production Number 2 next to a fine example of the DBD34 to illustrate the development from 1938 to 62.
Uttoxeter Racecourse and its very friendly staff should take a lot of credit for the success of the weekend. They smile, they listen and try to help and they make the Parade Ring available for interviews with the owners of outstanding bikes and then let them parade their machines around for public scrutiny. Fine if you have a prime example of a standard machine - the Laverda RSS1000 was very nice - but accommodating temperamental racing machines is a service beyond standard.Doug Perkins is a recognised Kawasaki authority in the VJMC, but is persuaded to take on the job of riding such exotica as this ex Barry Sheene RG500 rolling chassis that next year will be reunited with its original power unit. Behind in check shirt is modest owner Suzuki Steve, who has at least two dozen RG500s and some ex-works watercooled 750-3s in his collection. He flew in from Finland on Sunday morning to attend - no lack of enthusiasm there, then.
So Doug Perkins of the VJMC was able to fire up demanding Japanese two-strokes like a Suzuki RG500 that was a blend of a genuine ex-Barry Sheene rolling chassis and another engine and one of the 750-3 strokers that was loosely based on the GT750. The transformation from docile cruiser to sharp British Formula 750 Superbike Championship winner was remarkable, and one has to admire Mr Perkins' devotion to duty in riding such machines around a narrow track."And you get how many miles to the gallon?" The Diesel Motorcycle Club got good coverage in the weekend's interviews and impressed with the quiet good manners of their heavy oil burners.
Amongst the 76 clubs on show were the Diesel Motorcycle Club, whose varied display included a Triumph Tiger 3 with a three-cylinder Italian oil burner transplanted, apparently capable of 60plus mpg at cruising speeds we really shouldn't mention this side of the enlightened German border. And out in the Sidecar Village - a new addition for this year - was Diesel Dave with a remarkable three wheeler featuring a BMW K100 rolling chassis hitched to a home made sidecar chassis that incorporates a Vauxhall Astra 1.8 litre turbo-diesel power unit behind the seat and driving the sidecar wheel. The sidecar body hinges forward to expose running gear of a substantial nature that includes the Vauxhall's stub axles and wheels.
Diesel Dave claims that cruising at 65mph (or thereabouts) with camping trailer he can get 55 miles to every gallon. And when the speedo in the instrument binnacle of the donor vehicle stopped, he went back to the breaker's yard and got a complete instrument cluster for £10! Compare that with the Harley-Davidson 883 combination that Charnwood Restorations are rebuilding after the driver parked the outfit in a ditch. The bill looks like comfortably topping the £4,000 mark, which may exceed the value of the 883, and that includes a new speedo at a cost of £400. When you hear such figures, you realise what a sane person Odgie is.
Mick Grant fitted in with the informal atmosphere of the weekend, sitting on a bench outside the Parade Ring to be quizzed by established Show host Jim Reynolds and then linger as visitors asked for his autograph and talked about the golden days of the Grant and Sheene combat for the British Superbike title. Reynolds dug deep into Grant's past and revealed what the more shallow interviews don't extract, like his early ambitions to go scrambling, but as an impoverished student art teacher with a Velo Venom he had to opt for road racing because he couldn't afford the knobbly tyres and other costs of converting a road bike to off-road racing. So short of money was he that at his debut meeting, at Croft Autodrome, he hid the bulge in his front tyre from the scrutineer by dropping the pressure until the bump disappeared, then pumping it up again and tolerating the bumpy progress it gave around right-handers.Mick Grant, interviewed by show host Jim Reynolds, was an approachable and relaxed pleasure to listen to, with some very revealing tales of his early racing days and a considerate listener to visitors' stories.
When you realise how humble his beginnings were, to progress to factory rides for Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki, you warm to a thoroughly decent and modest man. And we should add that at the end of the show, when some stars with larger egos would have departed, Mick Grant waited to present the Visitors' Choice trophy to the President of the National Autocycle and Cyclemotor Club, who was suffering from a leg injury and sent a delegate in his place. When Grant heard this, he insisted that he walk down to the NACC stand to present the trophy to the winner in person. A good guy in anyone's book.The Royal Enfield OC stand showed off the old Redditch company's versatility with a range of bikes from this 1948 125cc Flying Flea through to the mighty 750cc Interceptor.
Winner of the Best in Show award amongst this huge entry was the 1967 Honda CB125SS that Phil Denton and son Stephen of Phil Denton Engineering had just finished for a Dutch customer. Whether that extra acclaim would be added to the bill was not discussed, but what a wonderful extra to send off with the bike to its new life.
Organiser George Beer morphed from worried nail-biter on Friday evening to smiling and benevolent star on Sunday evening, delighted to report that every one of the 76 clubs had confirmed that they wanted space again in 2010. The topping clot of cream was a stallholder walking into the office and saying: 'I've been on the circuit 15 years and this is the nicest show I've ever done. Can I have the same plot next year?'Mike Wainwright delighted lovers of rarer machinery when he ran up his dohc works 350 CZ single cylinder racer from 1956, complete with the full dustbin fairing that the FIM banned the following year. This is probably the only example of this model in the UK and will be back in the Czech republic to race in its homeland.
The VJMC organise several shows and autojumbles throughout the year, many of which welcome all manner of classic bikes and not simply vintage Japanese ones. Full details of the Club's activities and forthcoming events can be found at www.vjmc.com
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