3rd August 2013
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VMCC Festival of 1000 Bikes, 2013
In a weekend packed with festivals, Richard Jones moved on to Mallory Park and the VMCC's essential celebration of classic motorcycling, the Festival of 1000 Bikes...
Saturday was spent recovering from Friday's heat and lack of fluids with too much time spent talking pictures and not enough drinking water. Sunday dawned rather cloudy and so it was pleasantly cool as Tessie, the Hinckley Triumph, and I set off for Mallory Park race circuit. Passing through Towcester I realised that I was going to miss the Jack's Hill Café Ton Up day as the forecourt was already full to the gunwales with bikes and people. 'Merde' as the French people say.
The clouds were just dispersing as I reached Mallory which was, like Friday's gathering, also extremely busy but without the overwhelming crush of Goodwood.
First port of call was the Avenue of Clubs where you can always find something of interest and for the purposes of this piece of prose I'll focus on a few of the more esoteric entries.
I almost walked past this bike but realising what I was seeing - a V-twin Norton - I decided to have a closer look. The owner is Tony Harris who founded BT-H Magnetos although these days is engaged in different pursuits including the design and manufacture of this special. He built everything from the barrels down including the crankcase, crank, cams and ignition system (natch) together with all the other mechanical bits needed to make the 1010cc engine and drive train work.
The bike looks incredibly well formed which belies its bitza origins; these include a Honda CX500 tank, Harley-Davidson starter, a BMW mudguard and a Yamaha headlamp. I did ask Mr Harris if he intended to go into production but he has other interesting things he wants to do which is a shame; perhaps there's an enterprising manufacturer out there who would be interested in a joint venture?
I am always on the lookout for marques I haven't seen before and this Aurora fitted the bill very nicely. Aurora were manufactured between 1902 and 1905 at 22 Norfolk Road, Spon End in Coventry by Swiss national and watchmaker Charles Borquin, who allegedly absconded to London with the firm's money and was never seen again. The marque used a variety of engines from Coventry manufacturers including MMC, Condor and Coronet & Whitley in their 2½hp motorbicycle and 3½hp forecar which were produced in limited numbers. Apparently the machines had a tendency to 'skid quite freely'; this 250cc example with Aurora-badged engine has no suspension, brakes or clutch… and so was presumably not the deluxe model.
What, you may ask, is esoteric about this Cotton? In the first place, this 1928 350cc example originally belonged to Bill Martin who was a well-known sand racer in the north east back in the day. The current owner, Chris Sawyer, has restored it and included a BSA piston which means it's now closer to 400cc. And in the second place I just want to let you know about a couple of Cotton related events, one this year and one next. On the 10th August 2013 the Cotton Owners and Enthusiasts Club will be holding their annual rally at the Gloucester Folk Museum when a blue plaque commemorating the marque's home will be unveiled. Then in 2014 the Club will celebrate the anniversary of Frank Willoughby Cotton patenting his design for a triangulated frame layout in order to cope with the alignment problems peculiar to the motorised cycle. The intention is to have a least 100 Cottons at Brooklands for the celebration from all decades of the marque's production between 1920 and 1980. Be there or be square, as they used to say.
I recently met the owner of this Cyclemaster powered bicycle at the VMCC Training Day and he recounted a tale of when he had been out riding it. He was pulled over by a sinister SUV with smoked windows and feared the worst when a large man approached him in a somewhat threatening manner. It turns out the driver was a local chimney sweep thinking that the rider of this humble machine was trying to poach his customers and he wished to remonstrate with him…
I have included this 1979 Gillette Special 195cc simply because I have been unable to find any reference to it in 'Classic Bikes for Beginners with No Knowledge Whatsoever'. Presumably it is cutting edge technology?
[A frequently overtaken Festival of 1000 Bikes participant writes: "The Gillete is another home built special, like the Tony Harris' ES4. The frame and some of the cycle parts are based on a Gilera sports moped, while the engine comprises the cylinder-heads and barrels of three Mobylette step-through mopeds, brought together on one-off crankcases by builder Geoff Bouchard to give a capacity of 195cc. It's a tiny bike but it flies round Mallory Park, passing most of the bikes it's sharing the track with including my own 350 Morini." MG]
At this point I took my position for the Past Master's event on the hairpin to take what turned out to be several hundred photos despite my best intentions not to get carried away. Don't worry - there are only two here.
This is Ivan Rhodes riding the Mellors 500cc Velocette - a Mark VII think - ridden by Ted Mellors who was the European Grand Prix champion on a 350cc machine. Mr Rhodes is well known as a Velocette guru and author of seminal works on the marque; he certainly looks the part of an inter-war rider here.
And finally I had to include this one - the Wicksteed Triumph. In the 1930s, two young enthusiasts, Ivan Wicksteed and Marius Winslow, approached Edward Turner with a plan to supercharge a Triumph twin and beat the Brooklands lap record for 500cc machines. Mr Turner apparently said 'A very logical conclusion. Good afternoon, gentlemen,' and that was that. Undaunted by this rejection from the great man they purchased their own Triumph, supercharged it and took the lap record at 118.09mph in October 1938. Needless to say Triumph and Turner capitalised on this with full-page advertisements congratulating Wicksteed and Winslow on their achievement. As Brooklands was dismantled during WWII, the record was never beaten.
I will end by saying what a wonderful country we live in when you can go to two events like this in one weekend and even the sun shone. It doesn't come much better than this.
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