28th June 2013
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The 2013 VMCC Banbury Run
With over 600 vintage motorcycles displayed before him, Richard Jones selects a dozen of the most interesting veteran bikes for your delectation, including a Quadrant, a Wolf, a Calcott, and the amazingly-monikered Lincoln Elk...
There is something deeply unnatural about an alarm going off at 6.30 on a Sunday morning. During the week it's just about tolerable and I can live with Saturdays because I'm getting up early to do something interesting. However Sundays are for a lie-in and so to be awake before the rest of the world has arisen is not something I enjoy one little bit. However this Sunday was the day of the great Banbury Run™ and it's not every day you get to see 600 pre-1931 motorcycles in the same place at the same time. So it was off with the covers, in the shower and off to get Tessie the Hinckley Triumph ready to leave Jones Towers for a day of bikes and pictures.
Unlike the previous day it didn't rain - it wasn't a day of tropical sunshine but neither were there any tropical showers and this time we arrived at Gaydon dry and in relatively good humour. The road from Banbury to the Heritage Motor Centre - assuming you avoid the M40 - is wide with long straights and sweeping curves - nothing better to shake off the effects of that early alarm call. Traffic management at the venue was, as ever, excellent and this year there was hard surface parking by the Jaguar Land Rover Gaydon Centre. There was even a bus to transport you to the event itself - the VMCC really had this sorted.
I don't know if you have been to the Banbury Run but you walk down the drive with the Heritage Centre in front of you and to the right there is what seems to be a sea of motorcycles and people
My first instinct, as always, is to rush in like a child in sweet shop and photograph everything I come across in something of a frenzy. However this time I was determined to resist and focus, if you'll excuse the pun, on motorcycles that were just a little bit different. As such my apologies to owners of Triumphs, BSAs, Scotts, Sunbeams and even, dare I say it, Broughs - your machines are as magnificent as the rest but…..
And they don't come much more different than this. Quadrant was founded in 1883 by the Lloyd family to meet the growing market in bicycles and tricycles. Located in Birmingham, Quadrant entered the motorcycle market in 1901 with its Autocyclette - essentially they attached a 211cc Belgian Minerva engine producing 1¾hp to one of their bicycle frames. The four-stroke engine has a surface carburettor, a single lever to control the throttle, an ignition switch, spark advance and a valve-lifter. A tricycle based on the same design was launched the following year and in 1903 Lloyds designed their own four-stroke engine to replace the Minerva unit. Also that year a former Hussar's officer, Tom Silver, set a new Land's End to John O'Groats record on a Quadrant which boosted sales greatly and he also joined the Quadrant board.
Engine capacity increased to 392cc in 1904, sprung forks were designed and added and in 1907 a high tension magneto was provided. However in 1907 the Lloyds and Mr Silver parted company in less than happy circumstances to set up separately, the Lloyds to manufacture the LMC and Silver to manufacture the, not unsurprisingly, named 'Silver'. Then in 1911 the Quadrant Cycle Company (W J Lloyds' faction) and the Quadrant Motor Company (Silver) merged and started production once again in Birmingham where it continued until 1928 when the company folded.
This Autocyclette dates from 1901/02 and is clearly using the Minerva engine. She is an old hand at the Banbury Run - there is a photograph of her at the 1960 event in Richard Rosenthal's 'Encyclopaedia of Classic Motorcycles'. In fact the Quadrant's attraction was so great that it was being sketched
Next up is this 1914 Wolf, ridden by Mr Michael Chenery.
Wolf motorcycles were manufactured by a company called Wearwell from Wolverhampton and were in continuous production from 1901 until 1939. Their first Wearwell model was a 2½hp Stevens engine placed in a diamond framed cycle and they continued to use these engines until 1906 when the motorcycle was re-launched as the Wolf. By 1914 the manufacturer was known as the Wolfruna Engineering Co Ltd, and the company had a range of two-stroke powered bikes in production entitled A or B dependent on which type of proprietary engine was provided. C models were 500cc four-stroke twins and D denoted anything from 770cc to 1000cc. Dependent, presumably, on the depth of your pockets you could have anything from a clutch-less direct drive transmission to a three-speed gearbox with clutch. Postwar engines used by Wolf included Blackburne, JAP and Villiers but by 1927 the range was down to two models and in 1928 production ceased until 1931. Wolf then returned with a range of Villiers powered lightweight machines but production ceased in 1939 and was never resumed.
This is a 269cc Model B, so it's a two-stroke engine from the start of the Wolfruna period with a Villiers engine and what appears to be a Albion gearbox. Mr Chenery reported that on last year's run he had two punctures but only one spare tube; hopefully 2013 saw either fewer punctures or more spare tubes…
Unlike the two previous marques Calcott had a very short production run in Coventry from 1910 to 1915. Based in the city's Gosford Street, William and James Calcott began manufacturing motorcycles that featured a 3½hp White & Poppe engine which was also produced in Coventry. 1911 saw the addition of a 1½hp model with belt drive and sprung forks and in 1912 the range was further extended with 2¼hp 237cc and 2½hp 292cc machines. However by 1915 only the 2½hp model was listed and this was the final year of motorcycle production. Calcott also produced cars from 1913 and the company was sold to Singer in 1926. As a matter of interest James Calcott was described as 'a devout nonconformist and would quote the Bible at any given opportunity' whilst William 'liked a glass of beer or whiskey and died a fairly young man in rather distressing circumstances.' What these circumstances were and how the two brothers got on is not recorded.
Calcotts are rather rare and this 1913 model is a 2¾hp version.
I'll admit I included this one as I like the name; Lincoln Elk has a ring about it. These machines were designed by James Kirby and manufactured by Kirby & Edwards of Lincoln from 1902 to 1924. The first models were essentially powered bicycles but in1905 a 2¼hp machine with a loop frame, braced forks and a belt drive was introduced; thereafter the firm made their own engines of 3hp and 3½hp of 225cc and 400cc capacities respectively, which also used Druid forks. The engines featured an automatic inlet over side-exhaust valve and drove by direct drive to the rear wheel. 1912 saw the introduction of a two-speed transmission which had a chain-driven counter-shaft with two clutches which meshed with either a belt or chain to the rear wheel and provided two ratios. The largest motorcycle produced by the firm was a 770cc V-twin which was manufactured after WWI together with 349cc and 597cc singles. By 1924 James Kirby was in his eighties and production came to an end.
The machine I photographed is one of the 3hp machines from 1908; the owner, Rick Haidon, reports that the bike is a comfortable and easy veteran to ride.
As a BMW owner myself, albeit of a 1962 machine which at present refuses to start, I thought I'd include the only example of this marque which I came across. The R62 flat twins were built in the late 1920s and the 750 cc engine was linked via a shaft drive to the rear wheel, a design that BMW still use today in their R-series machines. This 1929 model was having its first Run; it was restored in 2011 by owner Ian Murley who confessed that he himself was unrestored.
I was chatting to a gentleman about this machine and we both commented on the fact we had never seen one before. We then set off down the line and - lo and behold - there was another one. Talk about buses arriving in pairs - it would seem Veloces do the same. In 1905 a German immigrant, Johannes Gutgemann set up in business with a cycle trade supplier, a Mr Williams, who provided the backing to set up Veloce Ltd in Birmingham. In 1910 they were joined by Johannes' sons, Percy and Eugene, and the former designed a 276cc inlet over side-exhaust valve, two speed unit construction power and drive train to drop into a rolling chassis. With its foot gear change and pump lubrication it was well ahead of its time, so well ahead in fact that it wasn't what you might call a success.
Their next attempt was based on Triumph's 499cc engine - these days it might be referred to as being reverse engineered - which had more success but didn't set the world on fire. About the same time the ever industrious Percy noted the success of lightweight two-stroke machines such as Levis in nearby Stechford. This time he designed an ultra-light 206cc machine from first principles with a deflector piston and oiling from an integral sump which was powered by the exhaust. This was launched as a Model A Velocette, ie a small Veloce; the rest, as we know, is history.
The one I have photographed is the 499cc model from 1913; it's owned by Pete Young from San Francisco who restored it and then shipped it to the UK for its centenary celebrations. That is what I call a dedicated enthusiast - thanks Pete.
Before we leave Gaydon I must mention one more motorcycle, mainly because it's from Chester where I worked for five happy years. Edmund were first based in Crane Wharf and then Milton Street and were in operation from 1907 to 1924 (or 1910 to 1926 depending on which source you rely on). They used proprietary engines - MAG, JAP, Fafnir, Barr & Stroud, Villiers and Blackburne - and introduced rear suspension from 1911, essentially a separate sub-frame supporting the seat and foot rests which was attached to the main rigid frame with leaf springs. The company suffered a financial collapse in 1923, recovered but then finally failed in 1926 (or 1924).
This one dates from 1922 and is 350cc; the owner, Jim Brown, lives in the motorcycle's home county of Cheshire and reports that the adjustable frame provides a nice smooth ride, especially on rough country roads (they never had those in Cheshire in my day).
At this point, machines set off on the Run at a rate of five a minute, leaving only those who chose not to partake in the event, but to take life a little easier…
I hope you've enjoyed these photographs which will appear at www.flickr.com/photos/cerrig_photo graphy/sets/ together with many more (once I get around to processing them!)
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