Friday, February 29, 2008

Harley-Davidson Recalls Police and Escort Motorcycles for ABS Brake Fluid Leaks

Harley-Davidson has issued a recall of certain 2005-2007 police and escort motorcycles.

Harley-Davidson is recalling certain FLHP, FLHPI, FLHTP, FLHTPI, FLHPE and FLHPEI police and escort motorcycles equipped with anti-lock brake systems (ABS). Inconsistencies in the routing of the brake lines can cause abrasion of the brake lines and hoses. In some cases, this condition has caused brake fluid leaks.

5947 units are affected.

Check out my Motorcycle Recalls feature for more details.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Further to my previous post about the Brighton Centenary, Chris Illman sent me photos and detailed information about the Norton-JAP sprinter, which it turns out has quite an interesting history. Chris, by the way, is the one riding the bike in these photos, so he has a special interest in keeping the record straight. The beast was also published in 'Built for Speed' (John Griffith, 1962, Temple Press), although it has evolved a bit in the past 45 years. Chris and his son Mark run the VMCC Sprint Section website, which documents the activities of the various ancient sprinters being campaigned in the UK, and has lots of great photos and movies of bikes from past and present.

Chris writes: "Brief History: The machine was fabricated in 1953 by Francis T Williams. It was built specifically for riding at Brighton (FTW lived just up the road at Saltdean). It was the 3rd and final version of the Norton-JAP series he built.... The bike was bought in the late 50's by Ernie Woods who named it 'THOR' and rode it at Brighton and other venues for many years. It achieved many wins both for FTW and EW. It made Fastest Tim of the Day at Brighton on several occasions with the highlight years being in the early 60's. It was retired by Ernie Woods in the 709's and remained in his ownership until his death. It was bought at auction by a good friend of mine, and I have been privileged to work on it an ride it at selected events. The opportunity to ride such a Historic Machine at the Centenary Brighton event was too good to miss and I have ridden it every year since!"

"The particulars of 2005 (your video) is that I achieved two runs of 12.24 sec and 12.25 sec ET (114mph Terminal Speed) over the Standing Quarter and won the John Rich Memorial Shield for the Class win. Interestingly, at a faster time than Ernie Woods FTD in 1961!"

"The fastest I have achieved is an 11.9 second run at a Sprint event in 2006. I am sure it would go quicker but in deference to it's age & value, we are not prapared to push it too hard!"

"Technical: Although it is based on the 'Stronger' 1100cc JAP mk2 Crankcases, it is fitted with 2 Speedway heads and barrels giving a nominal 998cc. It is indeed the 'Two of Everything' version of the Ultimate Racing JAP and has the normal Mk2 oil pump which is NOT Total Loss. For the Cooper cars and circuit racing, Total Loss was unacceptable so a recirculating system was employed. The GP carbs are in fact 1 1/4" and the SU floats came from an XK Jaguar. It runs on straight Methanol and gives circa 100 BHP. The JAP is mounted in a 1952 350cc Manx Norton rolling chassis (the 350 version is lighter than the 500 being made in lighter gauge tubing)."

Top pic is Chris at Brighton with the machine and John Rich shield for FTD in his class; middle scan is taken from 'Built For Speed', which has a nice technical exploration of the bike; bottom photo shows Chris warming up the rear tire before a run at Brighton... This marks the first Smoky Burnout photo on the Vintagent site - what's next, breasts? Harleys?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Honda to Stop Making Motorcycles in the USA

Honda has been making motorcycles in the USA since 1979. Today Honda announced that they will stop manufacturing motorcycles here to concentrate on automobile production.

Here's an excerpt from

"Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. announced today that it will discontinue production of motorcycles in spring 2009 as part of what the company calls 'a global strategy that will focus on its leader role in Honda's North American automobile operations.'"

Read more.

Here's another story from

Here's what Honda says on its Web site.

Definitely the end of an era.

What do you think? Leave your comments below.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

J.A.P. Sprinter

I spotted this JAP (J.A. Prestwich)-engined sprinter at the Brighton Speed Trials in Sept. 2005, and managed to catch a short video when the bike made a run up the strip. British 'Sprints' are the equivalent of American 'Drag Races', but they're racing against the clock only in England, no side-by-side racing, and the film shows several competitors lining up and making a run.

The Brighton event is really worth attending, as the list of machines is invite-only, and the organizers try to cover a range of ages and capacities of cars and motorcycles, from brand-new superbikes to ancient hammers, and the cars range from Vintage Bentleys to newish F1 cars. 2005 happened to be the Centenary of the BST, so the lineup included vehicles which had raced on the seaside from all decades. I should mention that the Brighton event is held on the promenade at the beach, which is normally a pedestrian area full of tourists enjoying the sea and the lousy food. The street level of the town is about 40' higher than the beach, so it's possible to watch the vehicles take their speed runs from above. The second video shows the bikes and cars making their way to the start line - the run itself covers 1/4 mile. Despite all the new machines taking part, often the fastest machines/riders are decades old - this JAP-engined special is normally one of the top contenders, but was a little off-song that day (although it won it's class).

It's an interesting bike; the engine is a 1100cc ohv JAP v-twin, probably from the 1950's, and was developed for speedway sidecar racing and use in Formula 3 cars (eg, Coopers). The engine is housed in a nickel-plated Norton Wideline Featherbed frame, which may well have originally housed a Manx engine - the wheels are certainly magnesium items from a Manx, and the gearbox is a pre-1952 Norton item as well. Sparks are courtesy of two BTH TT magnetos, and the carbs are two whopping 1 1/4" GP items with giant SU float chambers (courtesy of some car, no doubt). The bike would make an awesome road special!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Motorcycle Tattoos - Art or Ego?

I have a Motorcycle Tattoos Gallery that is quite popular. I make it a requirement that each person submitting a tattoo must be a motorcyclist and must state what bike they currently ride.

Now some think that tattoos are done impulsively without much thought. Others create whole galleries of tattoos on their bodies to reflect their own outlook on life or to characterize their experiences. Still others view tattoos as art -- motorcycle art.

What's your take? Leave your comments below.

Have you got a tattoo to place in our Motorcycle Tattoos Gallery? Send it in and see your art on our site.

Ural Has Recalled 6 Models for Transmission Defect

Ural has issued a recall of certain 2007 Gear-Up, Patrol, Retro, Tourist, Tourist LX, and Wolf motorcycles.

On certain motorcycles built with a sidecar and equipped with Herzog transmission gear sets, the transmission main shaft is outside of acceptable tolerance due to incorrect manufacturing of transmission main shaft and specific retaining clips. The main shaft and retaining clips may be defective.

308 units are affected.

Check out my Motorcycle Recalls feature for more details.

Motorcycle Pictures of the Week - Jim Finlayson

Here are my Pictures of the Week as displayed on the Motorcycle Views Web site. These are taken from the Moto Pic Gallery.

See Jim on his Yamaha V-Star 1100 Classic.

If you'd like to see your bike as Picture of the Week, submit a picture of you and your bike along with a description of the bike.

H.C. Lamacraft

Dennis Quinlan sent these photos of H.C. Lamacraft, which are all from the Keig Collection books - which are unfortunately no longer in print (but which can be found online via ebay or - there are 6 volumes).

Top pic is from the 1934 Junior TT at the Isle of Man, and a youthful HCL is sitting stride his mkIV KTT Velo, which is the machine mentioned in my post as having been sold to David Vincent (and on which he earned his Gold Star at Brooklands in 1935). Henry finished 10th in the '34 Junior TT, earning a Silver Replica (of the statue of Hermes, used as the trophy) at an average speed of 71.17mph. He rode in the TT races every year between 1934 and 1939 (when racing ceased due to WW2). The mkIV KTT can be distinguished from the mkV model in the following 3 photographs by the changes in frame design; the earlier bike has twin front downtubes (from the steering head to the engine), and is an open-type frame utilising the engine crankcases as a stressed element of the frame. The later frame (introduced in 1935) was identical to that used on the KSS mk2 and MSS models, and is the 'full-cradle' type, which means the engine sits within a continuous loop of tubing.

The next two photos both show the same machine, in 1935, on which he entered both the Junior (#10) and Senior (#16) TT's of that year. The mkV KTT Velo would have been brand new, and knowing how Veloce worked, had probably come into Henry's hands about a week prior to the race! Interestingly, HCL did better in the Senior TT on his 350cc Velo against 500cc opponents (making 10th place) than in the Junior TT, where he won 12th place.

Dennis adds,
"Often their times on the same bike in the Senior were faster... HCL was a remarkably consistent rider [with lap times within 10sec/lap over a ~32min lap], and [his lap times] show slowing on the 5th lap in both events...due to the pit stop for fuel...These [pit-stops] appear to be a bit hap-hazard & no real effort made to minimise the time for the stop. Although there is the story of the fuel rep delivering a fuel nozzle to the Velocette camp & Harold Willis [development chief for Veloce - and one of the Great Minds of motorcycling] being very interested in the smoothness inside the pipe, which, presumably allowed fuel to flow more quickly. Shortly afterwards, the rep returned, and embarrassed, asked for it back... of course it then went to the Norton camp of Joe Craig..."

It's interesting to compare his riding kit with some photos from just a few years earlier - he's wearing what became the standard racing outfit from the late 20's until around 1950 (when Geoff Duke had one-piece racing leathers made up by his tailor, to gain a little extra speed). Lace-up high-top boots, leather jodhpurs, double-breasted button up jacket with collar, gloves with long gauntlets. In the third photo, he's switched to horse-riding boots with no laces (or just laces at the ankle, to make them easier to pull on and off).

The motorcycle is the same, presumably, in the last photo, taken at the 1938 Junior TT, but time has taken a toll on the bike - the lining and logo on the petrol tank are gone, as is the chrome on the wheels, curiously. I will speculate that this is the very machine to which he added a supercharger (seen in the earlier post), as the tank looks identical. The question - did he remove the blower for the TT, or did he add it afterwards, searching for more performance. Lamacraft did purchase a mkVIII KTT by 1939, so perhaps the mkV was surplus, and he felt free to experiment with the obsolete machine.

Monday, February 18, 2008


I mentioned in an earlier post that I hadn't found a good source for old goggles to match the items in this period (20's) photograph...but now I have! A fellow in Oporto, Portugal has an ebay store, Luis Collectibles, which carries a huge variety of authentic, original goggles, helmets, gloves, sunglasses, etc. Check it out! The reason I'm telling you this? I already have 15 pairs of riding goggles... Bear in mind that you'll usually have to replace the elastic on an old pair, which shouldn't be too difficult. The rubber within tends to degrade after only 20 years or so (well beyond the original service life if you think about it).

A word of caution about old rubber - some pairs of vintage goggles have rubber pads around the eyes, which can be very small or very large indeed, almost like a mask; if you're buying something online, make sure the rubber isn't perished/perishing, as it will be impossible to replace without making a mould and casting your own... Also, celluloid doesn't age nearly as well as glass, so it's important to check the condition of whatever the 'clear' part of your goggles might be. Some celluloid (which is an early form of plastic - geek out and check the wiki:celluloid entry) has survived remarkably well, others have yellowed and cracked or have become too scratched to be useful. Replacement lenses are easier to come by than rubber bits, as any good eyeglass place should be able to help. I've also had great luck using Allyn Scura for new lenses. They also sell the best vintage sunglasses (and sometimes goggles - I got my Spaceman Spiff items from them).

If you don't want the hassle or uncertainty of vintage items and are looking for new goggles, the best I've found are made by Aviator Goggle (Leon Jeantet) in France, which are shown in the bottom photograph. I've seen them advertised at

1928 HUMBER 3.49hp OHC

Here's a rare bird; Humber was one of the original motorcycle makers in Britain - according to 'The Autocar' of June 6, 1896, ' the first practical motorcycle made in this country was completed last week when Humber & Co finished a bicycle fitted with a Pennington two-horsepower motor...'.

Humber started life in 1868 making bicycles, and branched out to making cars about the same times as they added an engine to one of their bicycle frames. By around 1903 the cars especially became very successful, with motorcycle and bicycle production developing alongside. The factory backed a racing team in the Isle of Man TT in 1911, and won the Junior TT (PJ Evans aboard) with their 350cc inlet-over-exhaust-valve v-twin. The factory also made sporting flat-twins (a la Douglas), and a machine which they copied from no-one; a 3 cylinder flat triple! One cylinder in front (78 x 78mm), two at the back (58 x 78mm), nominally 6hp, but which works out to 785cc... I'll try to find a photo!

The success of the Humber cars and their excellent construction became the undoing of the motorcycle branch, as the Rootes Group (which had already absorbed Sunbeam, Hillman, Singer, Commer, and Talbot cars) took over the factory in 1930. Rootes had no interest in motorcycles, and rather than selling off this side of the business (it was, after all, the worst year of the Depression), they 'hauled down the motorcycle flag'.

This 3.49hp ohc machine (no catchy name like 'Lark' or even 'KSS') therefore represents the pinnacle of 34 years of motorcycle production, and was the top of their line, 'a very refined and sporting mount', according to 'The Humber Story' (Demaus & Tarring, 1989).

It's a very interesting little overhead-camshaft engine of their own make, with and adjustable oil feed directly to the cams via an oil pump on the cambox, although the engine lubrication is still total-loss. In general layout they certainly took their cues from the best, as it looks very much like a Velo K series, and even more closely resembles a racing Koehler-Escoffier 500cc ohc machine, which also has a total loss system, although not the oil pump directly on the cambox. The cambox itself shares the same rocker mechanism with the unfairly maligned Walter Moore Norton CS1 of 1927-29, in that the rockers exit the SIDE of the casting (see drive side detail photo), and don't move up and down through a leaky slot one either end of the cambox. It's so much easier to add an oil seal to a rocker shaft as on this machine, than try to seal a 1.5" long open slot....look at the back of any Manx or my mkIV KTT after a hard ride, and you'll know immediately what I'm talking about.

The rest of the machine is typical of the late Vintage period; bought-in forks (Brampton), gearbox (Albion), wheels (Webb or Enfield hubs), carb (Amac), magneto (ML), etc. The factory would have of course made their own frames, and probably petrol tanks, as they must have had sheet metal pressing capacity for their cars...
Ohc machines are very rare in the Vintage period, and a motorcycle of such limited production like this one is an especially unusual discovery.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Pictures of the Week - Jim

Here are my Pictures of the Week as displayed on the Motorcycle Views Web site. These are taken from the Moto Pic Gallery.

See Jim with his Honda Gold Wing in picturesque Helen, GA.

If you'd like to see your bike as Picture of the Week, submit a picture of you and your bike along with a description of the bike.

Ducati Recalls Hypermotard for License Plate Problem

Ducati has issued a recall of certain 2006-2007 Hypermotard motorcycles.

On certain motorcycles, the license number plate holder support bracket posts can crack. The license plate can fall off the motorcycle.

865 units are affected.

Check out my Motorcycle Recalls feature for more details.

Cam-Am Spyder Roadster Recalled for Front Brake Problem

Cam-Am has issued a recall of certain 2008 Spyder Roadster three-wheel motorcycles.

On certain passenger vehicles, there is a presence of an abnormal quantity of air in the hydraulic circuit of the front brake. The brake pedal may go almost to the floor when depressing. A driver may be unable to stop the vehicle as expected increasing the risk of a crash.

476 units are affected.

Check out my Motorcycle Recalls feature for more details.

Hyosung Recalls GT650 and GV650 Motorcycles for Fuel Tank Leaks

Hyosung has issued a recall of certain 2005-2007 GT650 and GV650 motorcycles.

These motorcycles were built with fuel tank cap gaskets that prevent proper tank ventilation. This could result in vehicle stalling which could result in a crash and/or fuel leakage which could result in a fire.

3292 units are affected.

Check out my Motorcycle Recalls feature for more details.

Kawasaki Recalls 2008 Ninja EX250 for Tail Light Failure

Kawasaki has issued a recall of certain 2008 Ninja EX250J8F and EX250J8FL motorcycles.

The tail light bulb may prematurely fail. Inappropriate lighting could reduce visibility creating the possibility of a crash resulting in injury or death.

532 units are affected.

Check out my Motorcycle Recalls feature for more details.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Daytona Bike Week - March Madness on Motorcycles

The 67th anniversary of Daytona Bike Week is being held February 29 - March 9, 2008 in Daytona Beach, Florida. The start of Daytona Bike Week is often announced on the morning TV news shows. You know, where somebody sticks their face in front of the camera and announces: "We're at the opening of Daytona Bike Week. Good Morning America," and then you see a whole line of bikes roar off in front of the camera. Unfortunately, most of the remainder of Bike Week will not be seen by non-motorcyclists.

Check out my article, Daytona, for details.

Here in the frigid Northeast, I hear plenty of people talking about going to Daytona. Some are riding down with friends. Riding sometimes means riding in a car and towing a trailer with the bike on it. After all, the 1500 miles down with uncertain weather conditions has left many a rider stranded in a snow storm or Nor'easter. After that happens to you once, you tend to be a little more cautious the next time you go.

Maybe you want to skip Daytona and concentrate on planning to go to some smaller rallies this year. Be sure to read my article, Motorcycle Rallies, where I discuss rallies and give you information about the top rallies that I like. Of course, your views may be different -- this is Motorcycle Views after all.

I just got my registration information for the Americade Motorcycle Rally. That one is my favorite and I've gone every year since 1994.

It can get expensive going to lots of rallies, especially if you're taking two bikes. Double gas, double tolls. You just have to pick and choose what appeals to you most. Motorcycle rallies are a lot of fun. If you've never attended a rally, you owe it to yourself to go. You just might find a rally or two that you'll want to go to every year, just like I go to Americade, regardless of the weather.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Supercharged Velocette

I became interested in HC Lamacraft after doing some research on racing Velocettes at Brooklands, and came across these two photographs of his ca.1935 mkV KTT, to which he added a blower in 1938. Supercharging a single-cylinder motorcycle isn't easy, as the intake comes in pulses - by contrast, multi-cylinder engines draw more evenly from a forced-air chamber. They work best when a chamber equal to the engine capacity is added between the blower and the engine; I can't tell whether the large sheet-metal enclosure over the blower is has an air chamber, or is a protective cover for Henry's tender parts! Superchargers spin at very high rpm, and were known to blow up in those early days, so he was certainly being prudent.

I owned a supercharged Zenith for a while - subject for another day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I was saddened to learn today of Brian Verrall's death on Saturday the 3rd of Feb. I know he had endured various health problems, but seemed well and in good spirits when last I saw him in June. I knew Brian since 1984, when as a fresh from college youth I entered his emporium and was agoggle at all the amazing bikes on display. He helped me at various times in my motorcycling career in tangential ways, making a connection or suggestion for me, supplying literature, helping place a value on an odd machine. I always found him very professional and up front about his business practices, and always willing to stand behind what he sold. I can honestly say that I held him as a model of a respectable motorcycle dealer, and have incorporated some of his philosophy into my own business dealings. Godspeed, Brian!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dennis Loveday

In my previous post on David Vincent, I couldn't recall the name of the 'other' Gold Star winner at the Brooklands Velocette Centenary in 2005. Dai asked Michael Sands, who filled us in on Dennis Loveday's background. Here is Michael:

"The Gold Star holder to whom you refer is Dennis Loveday who won his Gold Star on a Velocette, although most of his Brooklands racing was on Ariels. Denis told me that one of his techniques was 'grass cutting'. He said, 'If I could keep as near the bottom of the track as possible, I would be going round a smaller route than those riding way up on the banking, so I might save a bit of time and that meant that some of the time I had my elbow in the weeks. I fitted a pair of bicycle drop-handlebars to get lower [note -see top photo of 'getting lower'!] and one time Noel Pope said to me, 'That looks a bit agricultural' (meaning the Ariel) but I beat him in one race and he never forgave me!'
"Dennis is now a very keen carp angler and although he cannot see the float on his line, he has an electronic bite detector so he can fish day or night. He is still driving short journeys on very familiar local roads because his sight is too poor for general just beware if you are on the road in south-east Devon!!"

I found some great photographs in 'A Clubman at Brooklands' (AC Perryman, Haynes, 1979), where Dennis is mentioned ten times.
Top two pix show Dennis on his mkI KTT Velo, during the Brooklands Clubman Junior GP, August 31st 1935 - which he won. Bottom photo shows, l to r, Dennis, John Bottomley, Paul d'Orleans, David Vincent.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


This is a before-and-after post, but there's a lesson in here about appearances and intuition. I found this terribly funky Velocette Venom Endurance way down in Southern CA, at the actual edge of the desert in Riverside County - the scrub and sand began across the street and stretched out for hundreds of miles. This bike was amongst a pile of basket-case Velo dirt bikes, but the Endurance seemed to me a possible goer... so I took it home and disassembled it completely, down to the last nut and bolt, and cleaned it thoroughly, removed the corrosion (the desert air had preserved the bike, and there was almost no rust) and sludge and bird's nests and cut off the stiff old tires.
Then began reassembly, and the number of replacement parts included a set of fork seals, a pair of tires, a new seat cover and foam, taillight and headlmap lenses, and most significantly, a new gearbox cluster, as the old one had rotted away. The piston was reused (with new rings), as were the big end and main bearings. After it was deep cleaned and rubbed down with an oily rag, it looked pretty good, and now can still be called 'original', as I really didn't change any of the cosmetics or major parts, just did the necessary repairs.
The bike went to my friend Jeff Scott as a partial trade for his Sprinter van, and he proceeded to ride it TO the last Velocette Summer Rally, in Montana. Then he rode it the 1000 miles of the rally, then rode it home - a total of around 4500 miles in about 14 days. Mechanically, the bike did very well, requiring only the odd adjustment, but it ran through magnetos like I've never seen... Jeff went through two of his own before borrowing one of mine, and eating it as well.


This wasn't my find, but a pic from my friend Matt (affectionately known as 'Flipper', not because he resembles the dolphin, but he finds the most amazing deals on cars and bikes, and Always sells them along at a profit).
Matt responded to an ad for an Alfa Romeo Guilia Sprint Veloce (he's an Alfa nut) in Southern CA, and lurking at the back of the garage was this ca '58 Norton Manx. Not something you find every day - the bike deserves some scrutiny.
It was ridden on the street at the end of it's racing career, evidenced by the generator attached to the front downtubes, standard handlebars, speedometer, sidestand, and full wiring harness. You might also note the lack of paint on the front fork tubes where the headlamp brackets were undoubtedly bolted on.
The bike is remarkably standard otherwise... I had a '57 Manx for a minute, and wouldn't mind it back! Gotta love the cobwebs hanging from the frame... truly a 'barn find'. Unfortunately, the bike is going to rot a while longer, as I called, and the fellow doesn't want to sell.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


This photo comes from Mike Jackson, who at the time masterminded some interesting advertising and racing support, drumming up quite a bit of business in the US especially. That's why the Norton club here is so Commando-heavy... they sold a lot of them in California during the 70's, and they seem thick as fleas in the Bay Area.

I love this photo, the angle of the barrier striping perfectly accenting the racing crouch of the speeding dirt-tracker, who is probably flat out at 120mph, with no brakes! The Norton logo has a massive 'green globe' beside it (logo of NVT)- too bad the pic isn't in color. That number plate might just about nail the year of the photo.

Mike Jackson comments,
"RE: that wonderful picture of racer Frank Gillespie on the #76 Norton,
in the daytime at Ascot, underneath our little Norton billboard. I was actually the latterday owner [from about 1979 onwards] of Andover Norton Ltd, the worldwide Norton parts supplier, which I purchased from NVT Ltd, and which still operates happily today under the proprietorship of Joe Seifert, former Norton importer for Germany...the same man who sold the Norton intellectual rights [that he held for a clutch of European countries] to Kenny Dreer, a few years ago.

I worked for Norton Villiers Corporation in Long Beach [as General Mangler] between June 1970 and June 1972, at which time we were selling Commandos and AJS Stormers; thereafter I was sales director of Norton Villiers Triumph through the difficult mid-1970s period, right up until the time the plug was pulled.

Back to the Ascot photo. The photo-call was arranged by Roger Stange, who went on to manage Norton Triumph for the whole of USA, and oversaw the rundown of the British company's affairs long after all the trading had ceased. Roger then went to work for Yamaha, and rose thru their ranks to Vice Prez; a truly excellent fellow all round. I had returned to UK by time that Ascot daytime pic was taken, but from what
I know the snapper was either Dan or Walt Mahoney. Jared featured the pic in the 08 Legends Program.
I hope this will clarify what -- for historians -- is a very complex situation. "

Thursday, February 7, 2008


It was my great pleasure to have met David Vincent at Brooklands in 2005; he was one of two men of the 'old school' being honored that day, who had won 'Gold Stars' at the track before WW2. A Gold Star (see pic 2) was won during any race meeting, if one managed to lap the course at over 100mph. David earned his medal ("Gold Star, pah! It's brass!" was his quote on the thing itself) during his second year of competition at Brooklands (1936), riding a '33 mkIV Velocette KTT, which ran on methanol.
He was inspired to begin racing (living in nearby Weybridge) after his friends grew tired of being blown off by his fast riding, and suggested he try his hand at the track instead. He rode his mkI KSS in the first-ever Clubman's race in 1934, and finished rather farther down the field than he thought himself capable. Thus he sought out a proper racing machine, and purchased the ex-HC Lamacraft (well known Brooklands habitue) mkIV, which presumably was sold to buy a newer model [mk6? - Lamacraft rode a long string of Velos . As an aside, I note that Lamacraft's mkI KTT was sold to AC Perryman, who wrote about it in ' A Clubman at Brooklands' (Haynes, 1979)].

The Lamacraft bike which David purchased was two years old, but within a few races he had gained his coveted Gold Star, quite an achievement on a 350cc - only 29 racers were so honored, compared to 100 on 500cc machines, 25 on 1000cc, three on sidecars, and only ONE on a 250cc machine - MB Saunders in 1933. Two people won 'double Gold Stars' for lapping at 120mph; Noel Pope and Eric Fernihough, both on Brough Superiors. Only one 350cc machine earned a Gold Star using petrol - KTT813 in 1939, ridden by Vic Willoughby (noted moto-journalist and author), the remains of which sit about 6 feet from me....(I'm working on it - slowly).

Third pic of of the two Gold Star racers (Dennis Loveday being the other), plus John Bottomley of the Brooklands Museum, and myself. Next pic shows David in conversation with Ken Boulter (note Dai's sprinter in background). Pic 5 shows Dai, David, and myself standing in front of the sprinter, and a Harrier jet, which David had a hand in developing (how apropos - see below).

Here is an extract from the Feb 2008 VMCC Newsletter:
"David Vincent died on 7th December, aged 91. He was a regular competitor at Brooklands in the 1930's. His claim to fame was a lap at over 100mph on his privately entered 350cc KTT Velocette, a rare achievement on such a small machine.
In 2005, David visited the Brooklands Museum stand at the Southern Classic Bike Show at Kempton Park. When invited to be photographed with a Gold Star winning Grindlay-Peerless JAP, his idea of a 'photographed with' was to climb aboard the machine and get down to a racing crouch. [see pic]
David revisited Brooklands twice that year, as a special guest at motorcycle events at the Museum. While being interviewed astride the Grindlay, he recalled how much of his award-winning lap was ridden standing on the footrests to absorb the worst of the bumps.
After the Second World War, David was involved in research and development with Hawker Aircraft, working on the Hunter at Dunsfold Aerodrome near his home in Cranliegh. As Hawker began to experiment with VTOL aircraft, he worked on the P1127 and the development of the Harrier.
He did not forget his love of speed. One of his friends recalled, 'He was a devil in a car. He got pulled up by the police in Norfolk for doing 120mph....and that was before the days of motorways!'
Davids' death breaks on more connection with the brave and modest young men who achieved amazing results on the Brooklands track. He leaves a daughter, Pamela, and a son, Ian. - Michael Sands "

Godspeed, David.

Super Bowl Sunday on a Motorcycle Trike

I'm thankful that I have at least one day a week during the New Jersey winter when I can take a ride on my motorcycle. Of course, my motorcycle is now a motorcycle trike and that ride is to one of the destinations on the Polar Bear Grand Tour.

I look forward to these rides since I take all the pictures and videos to update the Web site each week. I created that Web site myself back in 1996 when the Internet was new. This is my twelfth year of updating the site and I've taken, processed, and published over 6000 pictures of Polar Bear activities. In recent years I've begun publishing short videos each week as well.

The ride last Sunday was to the Exchange, a restaurant in Rockaway, NJ. Now it just so happens that my son lives less than five miles from there in Boonton. Jane and I thought that it might be nice to add an overnight visit to our son, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren to precede the Polar Bear sign-in. So we rode up on Saturday afternoon.

It was a 75 mile ride to our son's house. He lives in a wooded, secluded area north of Route 80. We pulled up to the front door, blew the weak Gold Wing horns and out popped three male grandkids all under the age of 10. Of course, we were dressed in our finest black apparel with heated vests and gloves and Nolan flip-up full-face helmets. The helmet colors matched the color of the trikes. We pretty much looked like a cross between Darth Vader and the Frankenstein monster to Jordan, Jayson, and Ian but our voices gave us away as they shouted in unison, "Hi Grandma and Poppy. Can we go for a ride?"

"Later," I said. We had promised them that we would take each of them for a short ride up and down their extensive driveway sometime before we left. But right now, we were too tired for that.

Our other son also came up with his wife and our granddaughter, Andi Jaye, 2. We were also going to kinda celebrate a milestone birthday of mine. Andi would not be getting a motorcycle ride.

We pulled the trikes over into their 3-car garage and left them for the night.

We had a great visit with the family and a good night's sleep.

The next day we planned to ride to the Polar Bear destination at Rockaway starting out at 10:45 a.m. We got all the gear on and I backed my trike out of the garage to try to program my GPS with the destination. Now, it was only five miles away over a simple course but I wanted to try to setup the route anyway. First off, I couldn't get a satellite signal in the isolated area surrounded by trees. Then when I tried to enter the address of the Exchange, it accepted the town and the street number, but it balked on the street name and proceeded to freeze up. I tried it again and got the same result. I rebooted the GPS and got the same result. Even the map would just sit there and jiggle back and forth. All the usual GPS controls also stopped working. After five minutes of this, Jane was on my case so I just forgot about the GPS and rode over to the destination with no problem getting there.

When I arrived, the GPS was still not working. One of my buddies suggested I pull out the internal card and reinsert it. That did nothing. It still wouldn't work.

We signed-in and I took my usual pictures and videos. After about an hour, we decided to call it a day and got back on the trikes and headed back to our son's house. I almost missed a turn going back because the way going was different from the way coming back. Don't you hate that?

By the time we got back to our son's house, the GPS had mysteriously started working again. (And it worked flawlessly all the way home too.) I felt like my trike had just spent a few hours in the Boonton Triangle. Strange things seem to happen in those woods.

As we pulled up to our son's house we expected to find the three grandsons all lined up for the motorcycle rides, but no one was there. I went into the house still with full gear on and yelled for the kids. They were not ready to go at all. So we sat there waiting for all to be ready and for them to find their helmets.

The 10-year-old was ready first and took a seat behind his grandma for an extended trip down the third-of-a-mile driveway and back.

The six-year-old wanted to ride with me on my red trike. I had to make sure he was firmly seated and holding onto the side handles next to the pillion seat. I cautioned him before every turn what I was going to do and to "hang on tight." He did. Near the end of the loop, I blew the horn twice and then dropped him at the front door.

Then I took the four-year-old on my trike. He's a tiny guy with a wide smile. I took him on the same route and blew the horn twice as I had for his bro. Kids like to be treated equally.

After that, we had lunch and then departed for home about 3 p.m. The trip was speedy and uneventful. We listened to the Super Bowl pre-game show on the trike's radio as we each rode home. As usual, Jane and I communicated with each other over the CB.

We pulled into our garage about 4:30 p.m., unloaded the trikes, phoned the kids that we had arrived safely and awaited the Super Bowl XLII game between the NY Giants and the New England Patriots. We all know how that came out. It was the perfect end to a perfect riding day.

Take a look at the pictures and videos taken on the Polar Bear run to Rockaway, NJ on Super Bowl XLII Sunday.

Motorcycle pictures courtesy of Steven M. Kern.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


While researching the mkVII KTT, I was reminded of Les Higgins, who rode such in the '38 Isle of Man TT, and wrote a book about his racing exploits, 'Private Owner' (Foulis, 1948 - I suggest, or ebay). He was never in the top ranks of riders, but writes about the life of a typical 'clubman', the uber-enthusiast who spent all his money and free weekends racing at Brooklands, the TT, the Ulster, Donington Park, etc, filling up the ranks of the 'also rans', and the principal customer for racing machinery such as the KTT, Norton Model 30, Excelsior Manxman, etc.

Top pic is a scan of the cover, showing Les racing his MkVII, and the second pic is Les at the '38 TT (from the Keig Collection Volume 1). The caption from the photo: "Between 1938 and 1951, fairhaired Londoner Les Higgins had seven goes at the TT and finished once, 29th in the 1939 Junior on the machine pictured. His infinitely more memorable achievement was the original 'Shell History of the TT' which he painstaking compiled in 1953." Higgins also wrote 'Britain's Racing Motor Cycles' (Foulis, 1953 -he was clearly busy writing two books in 1952!), which is a well-written historical survey, full of anecdotes and details, although the photographs are sparse, the opposite of the modern trend in motorcycle books ('chopper' books have almost no text at all, probably for the better...).

Here are some extracts from 'Private Owner' : " agent whispered into my ear the news of the birth of a new KTT. I straightaway parted with the Mark V and placed an order for a new Mark VII...a few weeks later the agent telephoned to say that Veloce were despatching thr KTTs very shortly but were only supplying them to TT entrants. This was a step I had not considered taking, but I decided that if competing in the Island races was the only way to get the KTT then I had better enter!"

More Efficient Motorcycle Trike Engine - It's About Time

I got an email from a company in Australia that makes GTM trikes. I was not familiar with GTM but am interested in trikes.

It seems that GTM has been making trikes for awhile using VW engines and has just signed a deal with another company, Revetec, to provide them with a new type of engine called the X4v2.

The X4v2 provides much higher torque than the VW engine, especially in the lower RPM ranges. This results in much greater acceleration and increased fuel economy. That caught my attention. I was beginning to wonder if anyone out there was even thinking about engine efficiency to help us poor riders try to beat the high price of gasoline.

I know when both my wife and I take out our Gold Wing trikes we end up getting killed with double gas cost as well as double toll costs. Our governor here in New Jersey is now proposing a plan to help pay off the state debt by raising tolls 800 percent! To even manage my costs I may have to go to a single trike, take the back roads more often, and try to trade the trike in on something that gets more than 28 mpg.

I don't know if the Revetec technology will pay off in Australia but I thought maybe you'd like to take a look at a video of the trike in action. Maybe someday, we can get some more efficiency out of our own trikes. I'm not holding my breath.

Take a look at what I currently have on trikes. If you own a trike, send me a picture of it and I'll put it in my Trike Gallery.

The picture above is courtesy of Revetec Holdings Limited.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Dai Gibbison, Sprinter

These images are from the Velocette Centenary celebration at Brooklands Relived, 2005. Dai brought his '37 Velocette MSS sprinter for a few blasts up the Test Hill (built as a technical challenge for early motorcycles - which often had no clutches and little power in the early years - all part of the 'racing improved the breed' philosophy). The Brooklands Association used an image of Dai being push-started by Bob, for some advertising - doesn't he look formidable! The bike is really well sorted, running on methanol, and plenty fast. Enjoy the video, and turn up the sound! The 'yeehaw' you hear is the film-maker, a bit of a yahoo himself!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

All At 7's and 8's

I saw a photo of a mkVII KTT Velocette recently, and asked Dennis Quinlan of Sydney if he knew the owner or the history of the machine (Dennis knows more about KTT's than anyone I know, and I love picking his brain about particulars of their rider history and mechanical changes).
The upper pic shows the bike, which looks like a fairly correct mkVII - the factory only made about 39 of these machines in 1938. Veloce developed the KTT engine from it's all-iron origins in 1929, to this all-alloy configuration with enclosed cylinder head (something Nortons never got around to on the Manx, even in 1962!). The frame is still rigid and based on the mkV KTT, which is geometrically identical to the road-going KSS/MSS frame. Stanley Woods was contracted to ride the Velo in the TT in '38, and after a few test rides of the works machines, complained of poor handling with the KSS frame, and suggested moving the engine further forward for better balance. Thus, the mkVII front downtube sits at a steeper angle than earlier models, and apparently does handle better - it should be called the 'Woods' frame.

While the works were playing around with the frame geometry of the last of these rigid racers, Harold Willis had the brainwave of contacting the Oleo strut company, to make miniature airplane landing gear hydraulic shock absorbers, small enough for a motorcycle, as he thought this would work well at the back of a bike. Thus was born the modern rear swingarm/shock setup found on all motorcycles to this date, and the MkVIII KTT created, which was certainly good enough to win the Junior TT for Stanley, and come second in the Senior!

See second pic, showing a confident Stanley at practice for the '38 Junior TT. The photo has some great details if you look closely, including the bike's handgrips, rivet details on the mudguard, and the 'Huntley and Palmer' cylinder head, used on the works machines. (This photo is from the 'Keig Collection Vol.3', which is an invaluable resource for old IoM racer photos).

The third pic shows the 'before', an earlier incarnation of KTT701 (and who would want to alter it?); basically it's a mkVII with a mkVIII frame. In fact, everything barring the frame and petrol tank is mkVII - you'll note that the wheels have steel hubs and steel rims, and the engine is KTT 701 (the first production mkVII), etc. It all fits nicely around that swingarm frame, but a mkVIII would have had magnesium hubs and alloy rims, and an engine starting with 8xx or 9xx (or at the very end in '49, 10xx). As an aside, note the Andre damper attached to the swimgarm, Guzzi-style - the shocks pictured are from a batch produced by Phil Irving, which aren't hydraulic at all, but rely on friction from stacked fiber washers on the internal rod - Paul Zell has a pair from his mkVIII KTT, which he promptly replaced, as they don't work too well. Hence the damper in the photo (which is very odd, since the shock is all-friction damped as well as the Andre).

Dennis thought he recognized that rear hub with a shrunk-on aluminum muff in the bike for sale, as perhaps being the same as the bike in the second picture. He knew that the 'special' shown above had 'found' a mk VII rigid frame (#7TT2), and had been converted back to a proper mkVII, making the bike complete and correct as in photo #1.

The correct frame (#7TT1), by the way, sits in the Bathurst Motor Racing Museum, with a 500cc 'Dog Kennel' works engine inside, see pic 4! I took this photo in 2005 at the Velocette rally in Sydney. Interesting bike, to say the least, with a lot of factory special bits. The bike in a prior incarnation was known as 'the Monster', and was assembled for the museum in this configuration; the engine is an ex factory 500cc sohc 'dog kennel' engine (#KTT624), so called because of the pent-roof shape of the cambox. The Bathurst bike is owned by a trust (Western Suburbs MCC in Sydney), so there's little chance that the frame will reunite with engine KTT701.

The lower two photos are of Cown Shennan's mkVII KTT, which his family has owned since new. I crawled all over the bike at the Velocette Centenary Rally in 2005, outside of Sydney - a lovely machine, and it stirred up a deep desire to own one myself!

After contacting the owner of KTT701, it turned out that Dennis' sleuthing was correct, and that his memory of a finned rear hub was enough to track down the history of the machine. Pretty impressive, Dennis!

Below is Dennis' thought process, straight from his email:
Interesting pic...the rear brake drum with alloy finned muff looks horribly familiar.
I had a 6" dia. & a 7" dia. rear brake drum with just such muffs.
The 6" drum I used on a Smith framed Carey headed MAC racer which I ultimately sold & which is owned still by a chap in Sydney & makes cameo appearances, although in fairness he has taken it to Pukekohe in NZ etc.
To the 7" drum.
I no longer have it & really can't remember who I sold it to. If I sold it to somebody it would have been for a racer.
I certainly sold a 20" rear wheel with Avon racing tyre ( cracked & so only suitable for parades etc) to Ian Brock for his Mk.7 & this makes me think I may have included the drum, so the bike could be the ex. Bill Roepke/Brock bike.
See the attached photo, before Ian & I did a frame swap.
Hullo.... "Stop the presses..." I was not quite right...when I found the Roepke pic to attach, you can see the rear muff appears to be identical to the Roepke bike, so who knows where the 7" drum & alloy muff I had went.
This therefore is the Ian Brock, ex Roepke Mk.7.
I'm pretty hazy about it's history with Roepke, who came from South Australia & the KTT was likely imported into Adelaide by the SA importer Lou Borgelt.
His sales records are in the SA State library archives.
How it came to be in a Mk.8 frame...??
Those Andre dampers Ian insisted on keeping & the rear units, which were one of a special batch of three made/organised by Phil Irving while at Veloce I kept & are now with Chris & Graeme Roberts, to who I disposed all of my KTT stuff/bikes to in 1996.
These units came into Sydney on one of two KTTs imported in 1939 by P & R Williams.
Strange how they ended up in Adelaide...
We also swapped petrol tanks. I gave him a Mk.7 tank & he gave me back a mk.8 tank from memory.
Checking now my records....
The Roepke KTT engine number was KTT701, the frame I swapped to Ian was 7KTT2.
The frame I got from Ian was SF55.
The correct frame should have been 7KTT1, which was owned at this time by Ron Kessing & who wouldnt swap it with us.
'Kesso' gave it to Gavin Campbell for his restoration of "The Monster" ..." on permanent loan..."
'Kesso' is now dead.
7KTT1 now has the ex works 500 SOHC racer ( know as "The Monster"), e/no.KTT624 ( this was sent out to Sydney to P & R Williams & notated in the factory KTT records as such, but with no date or frame number, but it was after June 1936) & is in the National Motor Museum at Bathurst. You would have seen it when you visited it at the Centenary Aust. Velo rally.
Last owned by Gavin Campbell of Goulburn NSW & who seeded it to the Western Suburbs MCC & not to be resold. They have legal tenure.
I also see in my notes that Ian sold the mk.7 to Mike Farrer in Qld..

Here is a video of Roger Loyer's MkVII KTT being revved up!