21st August 2013
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VMCC Founders Day 2013
The theme for this year's classic motorcycling extravaganza celebrated BMW's 90th anniversary. Handily, Richard Jones even owns a bike of the marque...
In September 1923 at a factory in Munich, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, an aircraft production company which had seen its market disappear after WW1, produced its first motorcycle. That was a 494cc horizontally opposed twin with shaft drive designated as the R32. 90 years later BMW is still producing horizontally-opposed shaft-driven twins with the R designation, albeit with somewhat upgraded (although not necessarily better) technology (controversial or what?) To celebrate this momentous feat all sorts of BMW events are happening this year and this included a large contingent of classic machines on show at the VMCC Taverners section Founders' Day at Stanford Hall. With this in mind I thought I would saddle up Basil the B**!**d BMW and set off to join the frolics, although perhaps a few words about Basil are required at this point.
About 12 months ago I acquired a 1962 R69S as an introduction into the delights of classic motorcycling. This was a BMW with all that promised in terms of build quality and reliability. Curiously naïve and optimistic for someone who not only believes that the glass of life is half empty but also seems to have a bit of a crack in the base, I soon discovered that the machine had several foibles, the most annoying of which was a failure to start. This led Mrs Jones to call the bike Basil, being put in mind of Basil Fawlty remonstrating with his car as she watched me having a few choice words with the BMW. There I was, kicking away to get started, when I experienced what could only be described as a significant amount of pain in the kicking leg. We got home - just - and six weeks later, after two misdiagnoses of a sprained ankle (when will GP's stop 'practising' and do it properly?) I was told I had ruptured my Achilles tendon. Thus Basil had the epithet "B**!**d" added to his name. Since then the bike and I have had corrective surgery - carburettors rebuilt and ultrasonically cleaned (the bike that is, not me) and we are now able to wander through the country lanes near Jones Towers which is really rather pleasant.
So Basil and I arrived at about 10.30, expecting to find the place deserted - what a twit! The BMW main stand was packed to the gunwales and I was redirected to a secondary display area which just shows how many BMWs had turned up.
Despite what I said about Basil above I do have a soft spot for BMWs and could go on for ages but here is one that especially caught my eye.
This is a 1927 R42 so it dates from the earliest days of the 90 year BMW history. BMW were still using the 68mm by 68mm 494cc engine that was used in the R32, but power had increased to 12hp from the first model's 8.5hp. There was still one carburettor, three gears and a shaft drive with top speed about the same at 59 to 60mph but the price had reduced from 2,200RM to 1,510RM. I wonder if BMW had considered this as a marketing tool in the 21st century? Just look at that petrol tank; I'd buy this bike just for the curves and that exquisite paintwork. It's a piece of automotive art.
Of course there were other bikes as well as BMWs at Founders' Day and I couldn't resist this Coventry Eagle S293. It was manufactured in the same year that BMW started production and brings a whole new meaning to the word 'patina'. It features a 2¾ hp JAP engine with all-chain drive and a three-speed gearbox, all of which was laid up in 1939 and only reappeared 65 years later when the shed around it collapsed. The present owner acquired it in 2007 and carried out necessary first aid, principally replacing rusty spokes, wheel bearings, tyres and chains. It is a bit difficult to get going - the owner has my sympathy - but is quite speedy once started. The owner will not be restoring the bike on the basis that it took 90 years to get like this and he is not going to spoil it now.
This was on the Vincent Owners Club stand and was unlike any other HRD Vincent I'd seen before. This is a type W which was manufactured between March 1934 and May 1935 using a heavily modified Villiers engine. Changes made included water cooling; twin exhaust ports; cast alloy expansion box; adjustable ignition timing; separate automatic lubrication system. Of the 23 produced only six are believed to have survived and this one was used for commuting on the Woolwich ferry in the 1960s.
I have never seen one of these in the flesh before so it had to be photographed. This is a Danish Nimbus Model C which was supplied to the military in 1948 and had a new engine fitted in 1952. It has a four-cylinder 746cc engine with single overhead camshaft, three-speed foot change gearbox, and it produces 18bhp at 4500rpm. Even I noticed that there is no tubing used in the frame construction, and instead flat steel strips were employed with the long cylindrical petrol tank being welded in place. The latter gave rise to the bike's nickname of The Stovepipe. The Nimbus was manufactured by the Copenhagen concern Fisker & Nielsen whose other claim to fame was the electric powered vacuum cleaner, the Nilfisk, which they started producing in 1910.
It's not often that you see a unique motorcycle: this machine was built by Horace Edwin Moore who owned a garage in the East Sussex village of Hatfield Peverel. When he came to register it on 29th August 1914 he decided to name it after his village. Should you wish to own a genuine one-off then this one is for sale, presumably accompanied by the tax discs displayed with it.
This is a Triumph T100cc Double Knocker - please, gentlemen, there are ladies present - which was built in 1953 and raced in 1954. Back in the day it was quite the thing to convert SOHC engines to DOHC for racing, and the history of this bike records how one D F Warburton raced an 'interesting example' of such a conversion, housed in a Manx Norton frame, at Blandford and Brands Hatch. The present owner has undertaken what appears to be a lengthy, detailed and very painstaking recreation based on a cam box, front and rear camchain covers containing three 13-teeth camchain sprockets and a 1949 detailed drawing of cam boxes and covers. These have been turned into what you see before you which only differs from the original in that it uses a Dominator frame (the Manx frame couldn't be traced), a Triumph conical hub and all the parts necessary to make it road legal.
Let's finish with two more BMWs…
This is Neville Hayward on his R69S which is fitted with a racy looking Steib sidecar, here invisible due to the requirement to circulate clockwise around the arena (have they no thought for ageing photographers?) It was Neville who introduced me to the joys of riding classic BMWs around country lanes and what he doesn't know about these machines could be written on the back of a cigarette packet (and a packet of 10 at that).
Finally please meet Basil the B**!**d BMW, complete with period panniers. Shortly after this was taken I was getting ready to leave and was chatting to a gentleman who owned an R60. Basil, of course, failed to start and flooded his left hand carburettor - nothing to do with my ineptitude - and the gentleman offered to start the bike for me. He vigorously twisted the throttle and I blanched - Basil does not like wide throttle openings - kicked twice and the B**!**d started! Apparently this was a trick the gentleman had learned from starting his BMW and one I have since taken to heart (although whether Basil would do the same for me remains to be seen). I would like to thank that unnamed good Samaritan who not only saved me from a period of fruitless effort and bad temper but also reminded me what I like about the classic bike scene. It's only partly about the bikes - the main thing is the people you meet with their advice, experience, anecdotes and above all patience with idiots like me.
If you want to see more photos of bikes, cars, planes and people go to www.flickr.com/photos/.../sets/
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