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Bike Review - Posted 27th January 2016
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1912 Trump-JAP V-twin

A new - but very old - classic racer has joined the displays at the UK’s National Motorcycle Museum. Titch Allen: "It's one machine I would not risk testing flat out"...

Trump Motors Ltd was founded by Francis McNab and the firm produced their first machines in around 1906 from a makeshift factory in Liphook, Hampshire. With the opening of the famous Brooklands circuit McNab recruited his cousin, Angus Maitland, and the firm relocated to premises adjacent to the circuit. For a relatively small concern Trump punched well beyond their weight; this success was attributed by The Motor Cycle partly to the firm’s location within easy reach of Brooklands for testing, but also because ‘their designers are practical riders’ who personally put the firm’s bikes through their paces. ‘Write for our catalogue and long list of successes’ suggested the firm’s advert: ‘they are interesting.’ Indeed…

In common with many manufacturers of the time, Trump motorcycles were powered by JAP single and twin-cylinder engines with belt drive and Druid front forks. A 3.5hp-rated single-cylinder Trump set a new record for the 500cc one-hour race in 1909, covering 48 miles in 60 minutes with McNab in the saddle. Most of the firm’s machines would have been individually built on a bespoke basis to suit their customers’ requirements; Titch Allen suggested that ‘it’s unlikely that any two were alike.’

1912 Trump-JAP V-twin
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As the firm grew, record-breaker Colonel RN Stewart was brought in as managing director and since McNab, Maitland and Stewart had all enjoyed racing success at Brooklands on Trump machines, the firm also maintained a facility in the paddock area. The firm’s racing efforts were sponsored by the Duke of York whose royal patronage gave Trump a degree of prestige. Production moved to Lombard Street, Birmingham and continued until 1923 when McNab retired due to ill health and the last Trump was built.

The National Motorcycle Museum’s bike is a 1912 976cc Trump-JAP, a formidable veteran racer known as the ‘90 Bore’. This particular V-twin racer was campaigned by Colonel Stewart until Guy Fawkes day 1921, after which he swapped to a Trump-Anzani eight-valver. The Museum’s Trump is one of a few which were built specifically for high-speed riding at Brooklands. The JAP engine fitted to this machine is the forerunner of the ‘90 bore’, a production engine with a bore of 90mm. This engine is an experimental 85mm by 85mm unit made as a small batch by JAP and based upon their V8 aero engine top end grafted onto a twin-cam sidevalve bottom end.

1912 Trump-JAP V-twin

Although the handlebars on the Museum’s bike are positioned as we might expect to find them today, back when the Trump was new McNab preferred to have them swivelled around so that the rider’s hands were in front of the steering head. This arrangement, he believed, ‘rendered the steering steady at all speeds’ – useful, when you’re regularly chasing speed records around a banked circuit…

The customer version of the supersports Trump-JAP 976 V-twin had a guaranteed top speed of over 80mph and was ‘also suitable for pulling a sidecar’ – although not at 80mph, we’d wager. When Titch Allen rode one he found it unexpectedly mannerly, as he explained. ‘A thousand cc ohv motor in a spidery frame with no gears, no clutch, no way of disconnecting the direct belt drive… and no brakes. It must have been pretty frightening! Sorry to disappoint, but the Trump, for all its forbidding appearance, is an old fraud. It’s so docile and well-behaved that it would be ideal for pioneer machine learners.’ In this, he agreed with the firm’s marketing which suggested the Trump-JAP was ‘the most perfect development of motorcycle construction. The machine for the expert. The machine for the novice.’

Even so, Allen reported that the big V-twin was ‘still good for the mile a minute which used to be regarded as the sound barrier in vehicular progress. 60 on a bone-shaker like this is quite an experience. The steering is not at all bad, very good at moderate speeds and so encourages a bit of bend swinging. But the faster you go the lighter it gets and you most certainly do not feel like taking a hand off the bar to pump oil into the engine.

‘The Trump is surprisingly docile at the bottom end and midrange but too fast – for me – at the top. It’s one machine I would not risk testing flat out, not from respect for age or frailty, but because of sheer performance. There are not many machines which can go from six to sixty with no more than a tweak of the throttle and a twiddle of the air and spark controls.’

1912 Trump-JAP V-twin

The Trump-JAP is on display in Hall Two of the National Motorcycle Museum. See www.nationalmotorcyclemuseum.co.uk/


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