Wednesday, August 15, 2007


The Banbury Run is organized by the VMCC in England, and is open to machines built before
Dec. 31, 1931, which defines the 'Vintage' period, in their terms. This year the entry was limited to 500 machines, ranging from 1897 to 1930, and they turned away hundreds more. The event is held on the grounds of a school in the eponymous town, which clearly has the capacity to park 500 motorcycles, plus a hundred or so post-vintage machines in the adjacent fields, and a large autojumble to boot.
Top two pics show how crowded the grounds became as the day began, especially when the motorcycles were flagged off individually on a 40-mile regularity run in the surrounding countryside. First off, an 1897 Leon Bollet Tandem. I watched the riders chuff away for a while, but it takes a long time to get 500 bikes out of the car park when they must stop to be photographed before leaving.

Luckily, the autojumble (pic 3) was humming, with lots of bikes and parts for sale. Pic shows a of a lineup of interesting machines from just one stall. I saw several Velocette KSS' available, as well as Pioneer and Vintage machines of all stripes, from European to American.

The next set of pix show Velocettes! A 1923 Ladies' Model, similar to the one Keith from Oz has restored, with a USS behind. Below is a 1913 Model A 203cc two-stroke, which belongs to Ivan Rhodes, and is among the oldest Velos still extant. I doubt the paint is original, but it looks great in patina green. Single-speed belt-drive, and note spare belt on the carrier - they do break! I've ridden this machine, and it's... slow. But as an admitted Velo man, an important piece of history for me.

The variety of machines held great appeal, but not enough Continental iron is on display - only three machines (Leon Bollet, BMW R47, and a D-Rad). There were likewise only four Yank bikes (two Indians, one Harley, one Henderson).

Still, the Connaught with Bradbury 'Oil Boiler' engine is a rarity, especially pulling a sidecar. It's a 1922 293cc, so they're not going anywhere fast. What's in that big bag? Note crankcase castings which cover the cylinder for the oil cooling arrangement, inside the unit-construction engine with a wet sump cast into the cases.

Next pic is a Brough Superior 680cc ohv model, which is lovely as are all Broughs - George knew how to style a machine better than Edward Turner of Triumph, and that's saying something. Given the GTO engine with exposed rocker gear, I'd say 1927 or so.

My favorite machine of the day was this Sunbeam Model 90, ca 1927. It has been lovingly modified by a doting owner, and a click on the pic will show how. Twin front brakes with a balance beam a la Vincents (and a double-cable brake lever), friction tape on the handlebars, plus lots of subtle touches which make the machine unique, and very much the owner's machine, and not another replica showbike. Pic below is the 'yes hop on' shot - love the curved magneto and air levers, which is different.

Next machine is ultra-rare and very interesting. A Wilkinson four, made by the Wilkinson sword factory (where your father's shaving razor likely was made as well). Four cylinder water-cooled engine, plus a very comfortable-looking seat upholstered in tuck-and-roll leather! Swank. Earlier models had a steering wheel instead of handlebars.

Below that is the other end of the luxury spectrum - a wooden scooter! It's a 1922 Autoglider Deluxe 2 1/2hp, which the owner says is 'a bit unusual with suspension wobbles at both ends' ! Pic shows owner Alex Taylor aboard the approx. 300cc two-stroke, with it's engine above the front wheel - never a great location for stability, but it's easy to make adjustments on the road! Plus, checking your fuel level is easy, with the petrol tank mounted to the handlebars.... Note the crowds in the background; this shot was taken mid-morning, when half the riders had been flagged off individually (you can see their paper place-markers on the ground), and the remaining riders are suited up and awaiting their number to come up.

The lovely Brown NUT (Newcastle Upon Tyne) caught my eye, a very thorough restoration and a neat machine, ca 1921. 600cc sidevalve JAP engine, and detail photos show a profusion of NUT logos cast into the timing chest and muffler, and below that is the largest and most ex-domicile electrical switch I've ever seen on a motorcycle. Look at that wiring, very tidy, very Victorian.

More rarities; a brace of Ner-a-cars, one with an AJS sidevalve engine, the other with perhaps a JAP sv. Very similar, but different, showing how difficult it must be to restore a machine with such a low production run, but with so many individual touches. I liked seeing double.

Last but far from least, the most charismatic motorcycle at the rally; a McEvoy with JAP ohv KTOR 1000cc engine. Racing sidecar attached, twin carb setup, long racing tank with loops to attach a belly pad, mighty headlamp stolen from a car, dirty, glorious, noisy, and RIDDEN. This motorcycle is worth nearly as much as my house, but a dedicated owner keeps it on the road, and looking terrific.