Bonhams flogged the bike in 2007 for seventy grand plus change
The firm's just sold it again for considerably more...
Auction house Bonhams is sounding pleased and upbeat regarding the results of the firm's sale at Stafford on Sunday 15th October 2017. The top selling lot (Lot 223) was the (immediately) above 1,068cc Henderson Model C Four which achieved £113,500 including premium. The bike was carrying an estimate of £70,000 - £90,000.
Manufactured in 1914, the Henderson's first owner was Frederick Burnett of 11 Grindlay Street, Edinburgh, Scotland. When World War One kicked off, Burnett was posted to Norfolk and took the motorcycle with him.
In 1960, the bike was still in Burnett's hands, so to speak, albeit stored in an Edinburgh cellar. A Scottish collector named Michael Mutch presently acquired the Henderson and displayed it at the Myreton Motor Museum in East Lothian, Scotland. The following year the motorcycle was entered in a Vintage Run organised by The Perth & District Motor Club where bike and rider took a Finisher's Award.
A "sympathetic restoration" followed, and the Henderson was once more displayed at the museum where it stayed for many years. But that's not quite the end of the tale. It seems that US collector Peter Harper bought the bike some time after (no details), and the motorcycle was sold again in San Francisco at the May 2007 Bonhams Sale. The price was $93,600 (£70,382) including premium. Therefore, in the intervening decade the value has increased by £43,118, or roughly £4,300 per annum. Not a bad return for holding onto (and presumably enjoying) a prize example of vintage Americana.
The next owner brought the Henderson back to the UK and later entered it in the 2013 Pioneer Run. That was the last year the bike carried "road tax". We don't have information on who bought the Henderson at Stafford on 15th October 2017. But it would be nice to think that it's going to remain here, ideally in Scotland.
Features of the Henderson includes a Powell & Hanmer acetylene lighting system, a Gloriaphone hand-operated klaxon, a Cowey Engineering Co Ltd 0-80mph speedometer, and a Brooks leather saddle. A large quantity of documents were also provided including a Pioneer Run Certificate, a V5C registration document, various old MOT certificates, and assorted technical literature.
The bike has been restored and, following long periods of inactivity, it's been recommissioned. But that restoration, note, was many years ago (in the 1960s as far as we can tell), so it's since acquired a reasonably convincing and appropriate period patina that most people would accept and be happy with (purists look away and be silent, please).
Another satisfying result for Bonhams was the 48 piece Ivan 'Millennium Man' Mauger speedway collection which included a 1969 Jawa Model 890 Speedway Racing Motorcycle which sold for £18,400; a 1977 Jawa DOHC four-valve speedway racing motorcycle which hit £17,250; and a 1971 Jawa long-track racing motorcycle which pulled in £9,775.
That collection, by the way, is said to have achieved a 100% sell-through rate. The total raised was £140,000, an unspecified amount of which will go to the Speedway Riders Benevolent Fund.
Here are some other significant results:
Lot 228. 1932 Brough Superior 981cc SS80 De Luxe, £107,900. Est: £55,000 - 65,000
Lot 224. 1911 Pierce 688cc Four, £107,900. Est: £80,000-120,000
Lot 225. 1912 Pierce 644cc Model 12 Single, £89,980. Est: £45,000 - 55,000
Lot 204. 1972 MV Agusta 750S, £84,380. Est: £50,000 - 60,000.
Lot 322.1950 Vincent 998cc Series-C Black Shadow, £79,900. Est: £70,000 - 100,000
Lot 244. 1949 Vincent 998cc Series-C Black Shadow, £70,940. Est: £50,000 - 60,000
Lot 236. Ex-Bill Beevers 1955/56 Norton 500cc Manx, £64,220. Est: £30,000 - 35,000 (not to be confused with the 348cc Bill Beever's Norton below)
Lot 222. c.1978 MV Agusta 837cc Monza, £66,460. Est: £35,000 - 45,000
Lot 278. Finally, the ex-works, Jorge Lorenzo, 2007 world championship-winning, 2007 Aprilia 250cc RSW grand-prix racing motorcycle sold for £101,180.
Also price check these more modest lots...
▲ Lot 131. 1966 650cc Triumph TR6 Trophy. £4,025 including premium. This bike was listed with just two owners from new. Restored. Rebuilt. Hyde 7-plate clutch. Stainless 'guards and spokes. Boyer ignition.
▲ Lot 251. 1988 Peraves Ecomobile. Tandem seating. Kevlar bodywork. BMW K100 engine. "Geared for 150mph, and smoothest at 100 - 120mph." The hammer came down at £11,500. Premium is included. This is the motorcycling future that never was. Yet.
▲ Lot 216. 1963 348cc BSA B40. Running condition with Netherland registration papers, this little Beeza fetched £2,990 including premium. Not original, but looks like a decent little rider's bike.
▲ Lot 118. 1956 Triumph 197cc Tiger Cub. £4,025 including premium. Nice little Trumpet shows that Cub prices are holding reasonably well.
Beyond the very respectable Henderson sale, Bonhams is claiming a 95% conversion rate both with regards to lots shifted and value. The overall turnover was £2,752,416. That compares to £1.6million at Stafford October 2016. And to widen the context, Bonhams turned over £2,132,257 at Stafford in April 2017, and £3,454,501 at Stafford April 2016.
Overall, it looks like Bonhams has plenty to crow about. Over the next few days we'll be analysing the sale further. Check back to see what updates we have, if any.
▲ Bernard (Ben) Noble, third owner of this illustrious hard-boiled 348cc Manx Norton which has seen more action than John Wayne. It's up for sale, and it could be a great bargain.
Dee Atkinson & Harrison are the auctioneers
Saturday 4th November 2017 is the date
Here's a bike with chequered history, much of it within sight of a chequered flag. It used to belong to Sheffield-born racer Bill Beevers who notched-up 43 TT races between 1933 and 1960 and was awarded 27 replicas (bronze or silver "Finisher's Medals").
Beevers was 55-years old when he fought his last race riding this bike. In his time, he competed in the Lightweight, Junior and Senior TT. In 1936 he rode in the Ulster Grand Prix, and he left his calling card in Belgium, Holland, Brazil and on many other circuits. If there was a major race between the early 1930s and the end of the 1950s, there was a pretty good chance Bill Beevers was in it, and innit to winnit.
Eventually the FIM took away Bill Beevers' licence (shame), and he was unable (but perfectly willing) to race. So he opened a motorcycle shop in Firth Park Road in the Page Hall district of Sheffield. There he sold BMW motorcycles and Isetta bubble cars. Later, he became the first motorcycle dealer in the area to take on a Honda franchise.
▲ Bill Beevers with what looks to us like a Norton International (unless you know better?). In his day, this man was a very serious contender and is fondly remembered by his fans and customers. He later sold bikes and retired to the IOM. Sadly, he's no longer on the circuit.
That same year, the British MOT (Ministry of Transport) test was introduced, also known as the "Ten Year Test" due to the fact that most vehicles over ten years old were (then) required to be checked for road-worthiness. Bill Beevers was once again in the vanguard and opened an MOT testing station.
He was well known in the locality, not simply for his motorcycle shop and racing successes, but also for the E-Type Jaguar he owned. Sometime after he established the shop, he gave or sold the business to his nephew and retired to the Isle of Man with his wife Lily, or Lilly. Later the business was sold to a non-family member. That business is still trading as an MOT station (and if you know anything else about Bill Beevers, or if you spot an error here, we'd be pleased to know about it and put it right).
The next owner of the Norton was Noel Stephenson from the village of Preston, east of Hull. He campaigned the bike in five Manx Grand Prix races between 1961 and 1965. Stephenson retired once (1961), and had his best shot at 12th place (1964).
Then came Bernard (Ben) Noble who hailed from Driffield, East Riding of Yorkshire, who bought the bike in 1965 or 1966. Noble had raced a BSA Gold Star in the 1964 Manx Grand Prix but didn't finish. It's said that it was that Goldie that funded the purchase of the Norton. It's also said that Noble was "the first member of the Driffield and District Motor Cycle Club to compete at the TT, and he was given £5 by the club to help with his expenses."
▲ Bernard (Ben) Noble at the office. We know almost nothing about his racing history, so please clue us in if you're more enlightened. But if there was track, and if he had wheels, he was usually somewhere in the pack.
Riding the Manx, Noble competed in dozens of other races at Darley Moor, Cadwell, Oulton Park, Scarborough, Croft, Mallory, Brands Hatch—and, of course, the Island. Naturally, the bike evolved over the years with gearbox changes and even a complete engine switch. Consequently, it's not clear exactly how much of this bike would be recognised by Beevers or Stephenson. So it's a moveable and changeable feast, and buyers will need to factor that into whatever value they place upon these wheels.
The bike is being sold exactly as it last raced in 1996 with an 8-inch twin leading shoe front brake, a 7-inch rear brake, both wheels laced to 19-inch rims (with Avon tyres), an 1-3/8th Amal GP carburettor, a metal 5 gallon tank, a spare fibreglass 3-gallon tank and "the distinctive red fairing that Ben always used".
▲ Ben Noble's lid getting a haircut. Or maybe it's some kind of pre-race check. Or maybe numbers and stickers are being applied. Either way, that lid could be yours for around £15,000 - £20,000, and you'll get a 350cc 1960 Manx Norton chucked in.
Also, interested/prospective purchasers will notice the webbing wrapped around the rear frame used to absorb the odd oil leak and so prevent it from coming into contact with the rear tyre. And while we remember, Noble's pudding basin crash helmet will go with the bike.
The auction estimate is £15,000 - £20,000 which doesn't sound much for a bike with this much history behind it. But then there's the question of the engine swap.
Meanwhile, see the bike immediately below for another auction lot in the same sale that caught our attention. The auction address details for both bikes are down there somewhere.
Beeza pre-war single carries a low estimate
Would suit a rider from (Kingston upon) Hull
It was manufactured for just a couple of years between 1937 and 1939, and it was hardly the most glamorous model in the BSA range. Nevertheless, the 249cc OHV B21 De Luxe was good, solid, reliable transportation for the working man (or woman) of the day and could haul a rider around at maybe 45 - 50mph—which was a respectable enough velocity in those pre-war, cobblestone, gritty and grimy years.
Originally, the bike was a 3-speed hand change model, and if you know your Beezas, you'll see Val Page's fingerprints all over this piece of everyman engineering.
This example was registered in Hull (or Kingston upon Hull if you prefer), in the East Riding of Yorkshire. And it appears that the bike has pretty much remained in that locality through to the present day. The registration number is FRH 316, and we don't know if that's original or transferable or non-transferable (but we have our suspicions).
In 1940, a certain Sidney Wilson was the registered keeper (or custodian if you prefer). James Wilson took over in 1950; possibly the son of Sidney. The last tax disc on the Beeza dates from 1958.
Nothing much is known about the bike for a few decades until a certain Andre Lauet sold the B21 to a certain John Dawson. That was in 1982, and the price was £250. Dawson, we understand, added the bike to his collection, and it's been languishing since then and no doubt hoping to see a little more action on the street before the apocalypse, etc.
In unrestored condition, this BSA is said to "appear very complete and original" but prospective buyers will have to do a little snooping and exploring of their own in the usual way. The original RF60 logbook is available, and there's also a V5C on tap. But take note that the frame and engine number are listed the "wrong way around". You can figure out what that means without further explanation.
▲ In 1937, Valentine Page, one of Britain's greatest motorcycle designers (if not the greatest) was commissioned to revamp BSA's "ageing" range of singles and twins. What followed was a new lightweight B Range and heavyweight M range.
▲ With a bore of 63.5mm and a stroke of 78.7mm, these sprightly 249cc sports singles gained foot gear change from 1938. Brakes were notional rather that practical, but fuel consumption was a very reasonable 70 - 80mpg in the right hands. Investability? Not great. Riding fun? Lots.
If you're a romantic at heart (and most classic bike riders/owners are), and if you live in or around the Hull area, this modest motorcycle will probably have a particular charm and appeal. It looks to us like a perfect oily rag specimen, and we suspect it wouldn't take more than a few afternoons to get it rolling—and the notion of it put-put-putting again around the quaint old cobbled streets of what was once England's greatest fishing ports makes us reach for the Kleenex.
One more thing: the bike carries a SUMP: NO RESTORATION order, so don't say you haven't been bloody-well warned.
It's going to be auctioned by Dee Atkinson & Harrison on Saturday 4th November 2017 at Sledmere House, Sledmere, East Yorkshire which is a Grade 1 listed stately pile roughly 27 miles from the mean streets of Hull. The postcode is YO25 3XG.
Interestingly, the estimate is just £600 - £800, so if you can bag it for anywhere near this price, you'll probably have another very nice little toy to play with. We might even put in a bid ourselves. And if we do, and if you outbid us, you're dead.
UPDATE: There was some question of whether or not this bike was still for sale. Having routinely checked the company website, we noticed that it was no longer listed. But we've since contacted Dee Atkinson & Harrison and have been assured that the BSA B21 is indeed available. It will soon be listed in an online catalogue, we hear. Look for lot number 1020.
9th December 2017 is the date
The National Motorcycle Museum is the venue
H&H Auctions has announced the latest entries for the firm's forthcoming sale on 9th December 2017 at the National Motorcycle Museum.
The (immediately) above Indian Scout 741 will be on offer with an estimate of £15,000 - £17,000. Indian prices have for some time been all over the place. Actually, most classic bike prices have been all over the place as the quirks of the information age continue to manifest themselves in the most unlikely ways.
Nevertheless, in this instance we think H&H's expectations are fairly reasonable (as much as any expectations are reasonable these days). The Scout is an older restoration. It's got matching numbers, is ride-able, and has an Indian Club Dating certificate.
These 42-degree, 750cc V-twin flatheads produced around 22hp (claimed)and were good for around 85 - 90mph under the right conditions. The US Army took around 30,000 bikes, many of which returned to civvy street post-war and were rebuilt, repainted and redeployed. Today, there are plenty around.
Reliability wasn't the 741 Scout's strongest selling point. But the bikes were reasonably nimble, easy to work on, strong general performers, and in their day were riding a high wave of popularity thanks largely to the racing successes of Indian rider Ironman Ed Ktretz (1911 - 1996) who won the first Daytona 200 in 1937 piloting an Indian Sport Scout. Ktretz later worked as an army motorcycle instructor, and when the shooting stopped he founded his own Indian dealership.
In 1940, Indian introduced full-skirted fenders which instantly divided the Indian camp—and split public opinion in general. The 1930s had been an age of streamlining, and Indian finally caught the bug and made the full-skirted concept its own.
The Scout 741 above, however, features more abbreviated fenders and looks to have been modified in numerous ways, not least with regard to the exhaust system and extra chrome plating. The price new would have been around $390.
As an investable motorcycle, we don't see a lot of headroom with this lot. Not at this price, anyway. But Indians are always in demand, and long term the prospects look reasonably good. However, they are fun to ride, have pretty good parts back up, enjoy a good club scene both in the UK and overseas.
Other new entries at this sale include the following bikes:
1989 Benelli Sei
Estimate: £16,000 - £18,000
1981 Yamaha XS1100 Combination
Estimate: NO RESERVE
1969 Triumph T120 Bonneville
Estimate: £8,000 - £9,000
c.1977 Honda CB400 F
Estimate: £5,000 - £6,000
Russian main man is now a fashion icon
Matchless London gets political with its "Heroes Collection"
Yes, we know; faking-up images of world leaders wearing crash helmets and other items of biking apparel is the other thing you're supposed to grow out of when you're in your teens. But when we heard that Matchless London is soon to be retailing a Putin bomber jacket, we felt compelled to reach for the mouse and open Photoshop.
But why shouldn't the Russian antidote to Donald Trump get himself inside a bomber jacket? When you think about it, there's no reason at all. He's got a million bombers, so he ought to have a jacket to go with them. It's just one of those things that we've never thought about, s'all.
So what's the full story to this modern fable?
Well if you can remember as far back as 2010 or 2011, you might recall that the President of the Russian Federation (who was 65-years old on 7th October 2017), joined a Ruskie motorcycle club called the Night Wolves. It was some kind of PR thing that, like pretty much all Putin PR things, looked kinda dumb (but was no dumber than most of the dumb stuff that the other world leaders get up to).
Anyway, riding a three-wheeled Harley-Davidson (not a Ural or a Cossack, take note), Putin sallied forth dressed in a suitably menacing outfit (which looked suspiciously like a Spetsnaz assault suit or something), but was clearly minus a leather jacket.
Matchless London, it seems, later caught a whiff of that story, checked with its accountants, and duly created something appropriate for the Russian leader to wear on those long dark, freezing nights with the Wolves. So now we have the Putin bomber jacket (but it's not clear if Vlad the Lad has actually been given one for his wardrobe).
▲ Vladimir Putin riding with the Night Wolves. To Matchless London he's a modern hero, and millions of Russians agree. Harley-Davidson, however, probably has mixed feelings over this particular Hog ride. Check this www.newsweek.com link for more on this story.
Manuele Malenotti, the managing director of Matchless London apparently said (but we're not sure if we can believe it), "Matchless London is famous for its luxury jackets inspired by real and fictitious super heroes—from Marlon Brando to Arnold Schwarzenegger and from Batman to James Bond.
"We consider Russian President Vladimir Putin a modern superhero as well, giving personal respect to his strong character, brutal image, sense of humour and calmness as a world leader. As a 65 year old, Putin rides horses, plays ice hockey and practices judo, among other things. This is not the usual routine even for much younger leaders. And yes, he runs Russia, the global super powerhouse."
Well there goes a true Putin acolyte (who's conveniently forgotten some of the other things that Mr P gets up to when he's not kicking-ass on his Harley-Davidson).
The price for this piece of sycophantic cowhide is £1,286 ($1,699). Matchless London told us that it's made from some new kind of "innovative" leather (we'd tell you more, but who needs a cuppa with polonium-210 instead of sugar cubes, huh?). The jacket is supposedly good for "up to" 40-degrees below, but we reckon that even Iron Man Putin will feel his testicles shrivel long before the thermometer drops that low.
If you want one of these jackets, forget Christmas or sooner. It won't be available until January 2018.
Matchless London is owned by the Malenotti family who bought the brand and rights in 2012 and had since upset pretty much every Matchless classic bike rider on the planet. Luckily, the founding Collier Brothers died long before they could witness what happened to one of the world's great motorcycle marques. Lucky Hitler ain't still alive, huh?
More on the Matchless London brand
Travis Pastrani back-flips a bike on the Thames (but does anyone care?)
Classic Bike Live, East of England Showground reminder. 28-29th/10/17
Rumble e-bike. Orders now welcomed. 44mph. 50-miles. 3-4 hrs. $3,495
Ujet electric scooter Brussels launch. 28mph. 90 miles. 2 hr charge
Skully crash helmets new ownership. Fresh start? Or tainted brand?
Lonnie Isam Jr, Motorcycle Cannonball Run founder has died: 1969-2017
September reveals further bad tidings for new UK bike sales
Adventure Sport and 651cc to 1,000cc registrations are, however, up
It ain't as complicated as our headline might make it sound. So stick around for another minute or two, if you will. The basic story is that new motorcycle sales in the UK are, overall, continuing to decline. But not all manufacturers are on the downward slope, and not all bike categories or engines sizes are off the front burner.
For September 2017, total new bike sales are down 23.6 percent when compared to September 2016 where 16,002 bikes were sold. The overall number of new bikes sold last month in the UK was 12,226. That's a drop of 3,776 units. Around 85,000 new motorcycles were sold in the UK between January and the end of September.
And September ought to be a good month. Why? Because in more recent years, this is when the home market gets a second registration plate change (March being the first plate change). You might expect to see a mild fluctuation, year to year. But a fall of nearly 4,000 bikes goes way beyond a seasonable blip.
So okay, there are other factors affecting the sales figures, such as the recent switch from Euro 3 to Euro 4 emissions standards which led to various issues of supply, demand, overstocking and "pre-registration". Nevertheless, even when you factor in these modifying influences, new UK motorcycle registrations are down again.
Honda Motorcycles, however, bucked the trend. The firm was top of the heap with a 9.3 percent growth. Yamaha, meanwhile, flogged fewer bikes in September and saw a 19.5 percent fall. The firm took second place on the new bike sales podium. BMW fell 13.6 percent and took bronze.
And Triumph? Well our Anglo-Saxon homeboy came fourth and was down by 21.9 percent. The other September consolation prizes go to Kawasaki, Lexmoto, KTM, Harley-Davidson and Suzuki (pretty much in that order).
▲ You need to watch stats and block graphs and suchlike. Yamaha's XT1200Z Super Tenere didn't really outsell BMW's R1200GS in September 2017. But looked at more "holistically", this is the UK new bike sales podium for last month. Adventure sport and big bikes are up. Everything else must try harder. Triumph came fourth.
But remember, these are just September 2017 numbers. Triumph, for instance, is actually having a great year overall thanks in part to its chronically successful Bonneville range (which includes the new Bobber). It's simply that for this month, for whatever reason, Hinckley saw a sales reduction when compared to the same month last year. It happens.
In terms of which bike styles and engine sizes are in vogue, and which are out, only the adventure sports bike market (as championed by the currently all-conquering 998cc Honda Africa Twin) raised its game with 665 bikes sold. Everything else was down. As for engine capacities, the 651cc - 1,000cc sector grew by a modest 1.3 percent.
What does it all mean? Who knows? It just seems to get worse and worse, and we suspect that Brexit (always a convenient whipping boy) has little or nothing to do with it. But the western world is continuing to polarise, and market stability looks a far off dream—and there's been some weird Biblical planetary alignment going on, and no doubt the pundits and economists and religious leaders have other explanations. We're drawing no conclusions.
But for what it's worth, the UK car market is also down. For September 2017, the drop is 9.3 percent when compared to September 2016. And over the past twelve months, the drop is 3.9 percent. Unsurprisingly perhaps, electric and hybrid car sales are up. Diesel is way down. Petrol is still king.
Amen to that.
British Home Secretary's under 18 acid test
New legislation to stop people doing bad things
UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd (image immediately above) has devised a cunning way to halt the modern national phenomenon of scooter jacking. Speaking at the recent Conservative Party Annual Conference in Manchester, 54-year old Rudd (MP for Hastings & Rye) has proposed "drastically limiting" the sale of acid to under 18-year olds. Or, looked at another way, 19-year old scooter jackers will still be at liberty to purchase as much acid as they desire, and then hand it over to younger siblings and friends to deploy at will and at leisure.
Of course, the police will correspondingly enjoy new powers to explore the reasons why anyone is carrying acid in public and, if necessary, arrest them for possession of a dangerous substance—never mind that the coppers already have such powers and it hasn't done much prevent the hundreds of acid attacks that have taken place so far in 2017—and we include the revenge attacks usually perpetrated by disgruntled lovers and husbands, the majority of whom are of Asian ethnicity.
Once again, the government knee-jerk reaction has focussed upon the method of the crime rather than the underlying problem—which is simply that scooters and motorcycles are easy to locate, easy to steal, easy to hide, and easy to dispose of (in whole if not in parts).
Rudd has been quoted as saying, "Acid attacks are absolutely revolting. We have all seen the pictures of victims who never fully recover—endless surgeries, lives ruined. So I am also announcing a new offence, to prevent the sale of acids to under-18s."
This, take note, is the same woman who has just announced a clampdown on people repeatedly viewing forbidden jihadist internet site material by threatening them with a proposed 15-year prison term. "I want to make sure those who view despicable terrorist content online, including jihadi websites, far-right propaganda and bomb-making instructions, face the full force of the law.”
That, at least, is the quote she's credited with. But we haven't heard it directly.
▲ As reported in The Indian Express and other newspapers, 200 London delivery riders held an anti-acid attack demo on 18th July 2017. Their messages has clearly reached the right ears, but does the space between those ears really know what to do? We don't think so.
All the government now has to do is figure out which substances will be covered by the new laws. Hydrochloric acid is, of course, a given. Ditto for sulphuric acid, nitric acid and phosphoric acid. But then there's acetic acid (in vinegar and ketchup); citric/ascorbic acid (in general cooking); lactic acid (used for making beer and vegan cheese); tartaric acid (used as a leavening agent in baking); and carbonic acid (for soda water, etc).
Don't forget tannic acid used in wood stain, and dozens of other noxious alkaline products such as ammonia and caustic soda which have all kinds of "legitimate" domestic uses and which, logically, ought to be covered by the same dubious legislation. And if Rudd can sort that out with a meaningful executive directive that will make sense in front of a judge, then she's a better man than us.
Beyond that, there's no point in framing new legislation if the frame can't contain the bigger picture. And that picture is simple: people steal scooters because they can. Fix that problem, and the scooter jacking issue will go away—but the usual scumbags will doubtlessly pop up somewhere else until wider social problems and issues are adequately addressed (poverty, unemployment, overcrowding, religious fundamentalism, multiculturalism, and too much crap on TV, etc).
The moral here? That's simple. When the country is headed to hell in a handcart, there's nothing like a swift knee-jerk reaction to put the world to rights. Are we right?
Way ta go, Amber.
See also: Classic Bike News August 2017
See also: Acid attacks. What should you do?
See also: London scooter acid attack solution
▲ These stats reflect the ongoing sales decline of Bauer Media magazines over a 10 year period. Classic Bike and Ride Magazine are doing best. Practical Sportsbikes was launched in 2012, so the stats show its slide over a 5 year period. See below for the 2016 numbers.
Bauer Media's six biggest bike titles are down again
Morton Media steadfastly refuses to have its sales ABC checked
UK motorcycle magazine sales are continuing to fall under the weight of the internet steamroller. A decade ago, Motorcycle News (aka MCN) was flogging around 120,000 copies per week. Here at Sump, we can well remember a time when MCN was pushing around 200,000 copies every seven days. More recently, the world famous title has been giving copies away with issues of Classic Bike in an effort to bolster the appeal of both titles and keep advertisers happy.
Since 2016, MCN has seen an 11.5% drop (down to 64,278 weekly sales). Bike Magazine, over the same period, has fallen 1.9% (33,740 per month). Performance Bikes is down 9.6% (13,758 per month). Ride is down 2.8% (31,022 per month). Classic Bike is down 9.7% (33,546 per month). Practical Sportsbikes is down 9.3% (18,017 per month).
It has to be said that all the titles except Classic Bike and Practical Sportsbikes are claiming matching reader numbers with their digital editions, but we're not sure if there's a reliable way of checking the figures.
▲ Still no independent stats regarding Darth Mortons' bike magazine and newspaper sales. But our best guess is that the company is also looking at significantly falling print numbers and diminishing returns.
Meanwhile, Morton Media is facing similar sales woes and is struggling to keep its number buoyant. But the Horncastle-based empire, which publishes numerous motorcycle titles including Old Bike Mart, The Classic Motorcycle, Classic Bike Guide and (more recently) Back Street Heroes has also been busy giving away copies of its titles (including Old Bike Mart)—all of which it heavily uses to promote the various bike shows and autojumbles owned and managed by the firm.
In other words, Mortons desperately needs the maximum number of eyes on its pages to keep the tills ringing, so giving away copies such as Old Bike Mart and Motor Cycle Monthly is a necessary evil. We'd give you exact sales numbers of the titles that are not being given away, except that the Empire still refuses to have its sales checked by the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC)—and you can read what you want into that.
Certainly, of the Mortons advertisers that we spoke to, many reported significantly reduced responses and sales of products or services. But without further (and unrealistic/uneconomic) analysis, it's impossible to uncover the causes. The falling response claim, take note, was similar with Bauer titles.
On the plus side, from an advertiser's point of view, advertising costs in the bike mags and biking newspapers have also fallen over the past decade or so. Magazine production costs, meanwhile, have more or less correspondingly dropped—and pretty much all the print magazines are running with what we'd call skeleton crews. But how long the situation can continue is anyone's guess.
We're not suggesting for a moment that print magazines in the biking sector, or any sector, are in terminal decline. But a rationalisation of some kind is undoubtedly coming.
Vive le Sump, we say.
See: Sump Motorcycle News February 2016
Emphasis on structural and non-structural issues
"Keep dangerous vehicles off the road, "— ABI
Think you know your A, B, C and D? Well think again because it's now A, B, S and N. We're talking about insurance write-off categories which, in order to reflect modern car repair techniques, solutions and problems, are changing.
Currently here's how the old categories apply:
Cat A: Write off. Burned, smashed, dropped off a cliff. No usable parts
Cat B: Seriously damaged. Some parts may be salvaged
Cat C: Major damage, but can be repaired (albeit uneconomically)
Cat D: Safe to drive, minor issues, but not economic to repair.
Here's how the new categories will apply:
S: Structurally damaged repairable
N: Non-structurally damaged repairable
Put simply, the A and B categories are pretty much the same as before. The real difference lies in the new S and N categories which are intended to differentiate between structural and non structural issues.
For instance, the "old" Cat C could involve a car that's had damage on all four corners (lights, bumpers, panel scratches, bent wheel rim), is not driveable at present, but is otherwise sound enough and worth sorting out. Alternately, you might have been looking at a motorcycle with lots of similar scuffs and panel damage and maybe bent stanchions.
Meanwhile, the old Cat D category might have involved a car with superficial damage that would cost more than the value of the vehicle. Ditto for a motorcycle. Often, this category reflects labour costs as opposed to parts costs.
The new S and N categories will now draw a clearer line between "trailer away" and "drive/ride away". In both instances, S and N vehicles will be allowed back on the road subject to the usual inspection.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) tells us that the aim is to keep "dangerously repaired vehicles" off the road. And apparently, due to the complexity of modern car and motorcycle engineering, "motorised death traps" are becoming an increasing problem. Safety cells are being compromised. Electronic control systems are being bodged. Many modern alloys require specialised welding. And qualified motor engineers are, we're told, in short supply. In short, the days of the back street bodgers are supposedly numbered.
Or is this new orthodoxy nothing but a shrewd and timely move by the motor manufacturers intended to at least partly limit the supply of repairable vehicles thereby encouraging more new car and motorcycle sales? Or is that too cynical? You decide.
As with all systems, the A, B, S and N categories are bound to be imperfect with considerable overlap (and maybe even underlap). But broadly speaking, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the motor industry (and we include the motorcycle industry) has welcomed the changes.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how the insurance companies will handle cover on Cat S and Cat N returnees.
Watch this space.
"700" anti-bike theft protesters in Bristol. Saturday 30/9/17
White Helmets Display Team held their final show. Saturday 30/9/17
Italian Tacita unveils T-Cruise electric cruiser. 3 models. £8,000 - £21,000
Triumph's £4 million Hinckley visitor centre opens. 5-days a week. Free
Birmingham cops mark with "tickets" unlocked bikes. Wise? Not wise?
KTM knocks £700 from RC125 (now £3,599) and RC390 (£4,399)
Royal Enfield opens £97 million 3rd factory in India. 300,000 bike capacity
Ex-Racer Colin Seeley's Spitfire ride: £2,550. 20mins. Biggin Hill. 19/9/17
Watsonian-Squire reports increased demand for sidecars. Business up
Holeshot Racing's theft near Leeds. Two Hayabusas and van torched
Isle of Man Steam Packet: "4,237 bikes to 2017 Festival/Manx. Up 5.6%"
15,000 Moto Guzzistas flocked to Mandello del Lario factory. Sept 2017
4th Motorcycle Live event at the National Motorcycle Museum. 4/11/17
13% drop between 2015 and 2016
Fatalities rise for other road groups and users
According to Department for Transport stats, motorcyclist deaths have fallen from 365 in 2015, to 319 in 2016. That's a drop of 13 percent. What makes the stats more significant is that bikers were the only road-going group to show a drop over this period.
So what's behind the improved news? Who knows? The increase in vehicle numbers with ABS and traction control might well play a part. Better tyre technology has also perhaps helped. Increased rider awareness is a possibility. And the type of bikes being ridden (cruisers, bobbers, adventure bike, as opposed to sports bikes) might have had a role to play.
Or is it simply that over the same period, there were 2% more bikers on the road? This reflects a school of thought which suggests that if you want to make the highways and byways safer for motorcycles, better have more of them scooting about thereby increasing their collective visibility. However, even if that was true in principle, the relatively small increase in numbers would probably make little difference in practice.
But you never know.
Meanwhile, 319 deaths is still way too many and continues to represent disproportionate losses. But it's the best number since 2006 when the current statistic capturing methodology was established.
Here are some more hard numbers between 2015 and 2016:
Total UK road fatalities: 1,792
Car passenger fatalities: 816 (up 8%)
Pedestrian fatalities: 448 (up 10%)
Motorcyclist fatalities: 319 (down 13%)
Cyclist fatalities: 102 (up 2%)
Other fatalities: 107 (up 4%)
Total UK road injured: 24,101
Slightly injured: 155,491
Total UK miles travelled: 324 billion
A lot of groups and organisations are claiming credit for the lack of kills. But the truth is likely to be a combination of factors.
And consider this if you will; generally speaking, over the past ten years (these latest stats notwithstanding), deaths on UK roads have fallen by 44%—down from 3,172 in 2006 to 1,792 last year.
You may take your hands off the 'bars and put them together for a minute or so in the usual manner, but only if you're stationary, please.
Important details missing from Sump classic bike ads (reminder)
Your cooperation is appreciated, etc...
Okay. We'll keep this one brief. What's happened is that we're getting an increasing number of BIKES FOR SALE and BIKES WANTED adverts landing in our inbox without sufficient information to post the ads online.
Typical missing details include everything from THE PRICE to THE ITEM LOCATION to a CONTACT TELEPHONE NUMBER. We've also had a few ads where the telephone number was included, but looked wrong and didn't check out. And at least one advert had a suspicious email address that also didn't check out after we emailed back for clarification.
Might have been a scam. But it might have been a genuine ad that was just badly framed and sent from a dodgy or overloaded inbox, etc. It happens.
The bottom line? We're happy to run most ads on Sump, but we need the details—although we're willing to suppress some information on request if it's appropriate.
Just send us as much detail as reasonably possible, and if you include two points of contact, that would help. We're not harvesting data, we hasten to add. We just want to be able to contact advertisers as and when there are legitimate queries. In fact, we suggest that you create a new temporary email address or mobile phone address for your advert that you can trash following a successful transaction (your buyer will no doubt know where and how to lay his/her hands on you should any grievance arise).
And while we remember, we're not strict about advertising only classic bikes. We'll entertain just about anything if it looks reasonable and honest.
CLASSIC BIKES FOR SALE/WANTED
Bobber gets a rear seat
New bike is set for lift off
From October this year (2017), Triumph's Bobber concept looks set to be enhanced with a pillion seat. At least, that's when the new Speedmaster is tipped to be launched. Why the hell Triumph first released this motorcycle platform with only a rider saddle is a mystery. But no doubt Hinckley had its reasons.
However, the firm is putting that seating arrangement right (or wrong, depending on your point of view), and has developed a suitable perch for your significant other or riding friend. Along with the revised seating, a new sub-frame with provision for luggage is anticipated, and we're expecting new colours plus one or two other treats to keep fans salivating. We note too that the 'bars are flatter, and that a grab rail is being provided (possibly as standard).
If you check out YouTube (and for complicated reasons we're not providing a direct link), you'll get a few glimpses of the new bike. Typically, the images don't give much away, but behind all the techno smoke and mirrors is the latest incarnation of the most successful name in the firm's catalogue, and we can see this selling well.
If Triumph's new Speedmaster currently has any particular bike in the gunsights, it has to be the Harley-Davidson Sportster. And that's interesting because it's the old rivals slugging it out again for your coin.
Moreover, with Norton steadily upping its game, and with BSAs set to make a more significant return to the market, we'll naturally wonder if a new "British invasion" of the USA is building steam. Of course, the new Beezas won't be British at all, except in heritage. The giant Indian group, Mahindra, bought the name and rights last year from Southampton-based BSA-Regal. And although there's been loose talk that the new Beezas could be built in the UK, that's seems unlikely. Even Triumph has to look to Thailand to make the Bonneville economics work. However, as John Bloor might have said, never say never.
Amusingly, we note that the Triumph Speedmaster is touting "British Attitude" as a selling point. However, in view of the fact that much of the rest of the world currently sees us Brits largely as overweight, foul-mouthed, socially confused, sexually repressed, arrogant football hooligans, it makes you wonder if Hinckley's advertising and marketing people ought to have looked beyond national horizons and come up with something a little more globally inclusive and more internationally enticing.
No prices on the new bike—and take note that Triumph appears to have dropped the "Bobber" name in favour of "Bonneville Speedmaster". Or are we going to see both bikes on the showroom floor?
We'll have to see...
Mahindra buys the BSA brand
Triumph Bonneville Bobber launch (2017)
All the Commandos from 1968 - 1978
Peter Henshaw's latest contribution to biking literature
The Norton Commando story has been told hundreds—if not thousands—of times. And we've spun a few Commando yarns right here on Sump (and we'll no doubt spin a few more as and when the need arises). Consequently, shining a light from a new angle and offering any kind of interesting illumination is a tricky expedient.
Nevertheless, Peter Henshaw's latest tome on one of the greatest classic British motorcycles of all has managed to dispel a few shadows whilst reacquainting us with a bevy of Commando facts and fables that we'd forgotten.
Overall, we think The Norton Commando Bible is a pretty good book. It feels like the "right size package" (i.e. offers enough detail but without ladling it on); it's well-illustrated with plenty of B&W pics, colour snaps and line drawings (163 actually); has utilised a decent size font (important stuff for the visually challenged among us); is suitably reverential (but without putting the bike on an unreachable pedestal); and generally rattles along competently, narrative-wise.
A variety of relevant voices from the likes of Mick Ofield, Mike Jackson, Peter Williams, Robin Clews, Bob Trigg and, of course, the much (and often unfairly) derided Dennis Poore (who did so much to preserve and develop the British motorcycle industry) help provide colour and context. The technical material is presented in everyday, matter-of-fact terms. And the general pacing transports the reader easily from one section to another.
That said, the chapter on Living with a Commando is, for our taste, a little thin. And (dare we admit this?) we pretty much skipped over the racing stuff even though that's an important facet on the Commando jewel. But we've been reading this book pretty steadily and, for the most part, have been enjoying it. It's not intended as handbook or manual of any kind, take note. So the Living with a Commando section can be enjoyed as a side dish rather than part of the main meal.
Beyond that are some handy tech specs covering all Commandos built between 1968 and 1978. There's a nod towards clubs and suppliers, plus some insights into the second-hand market and the restoration world. But it's not a full-blown restoration guide. If that's what you're hankering after, look elsewhere.
The book's not very witty. It's never profound. And it certainly ain't poetry. But if a Norton Commando fan or acolyte stumbled across this publication on a bookshelf, he or she would certainly find it an enjoyable diversion for a few hours in an armchair with beer and biscuits (or whatever takes his/her fancy).
It's a hardback, by the way. Veloce is the publisher. The pages number 144 (the last few of which are, as ever, adverts for other Veloce books). And the asking price is £35.
And while we remember, we've no idea why the word "Bible" on the cover is printed so small, like an afterthought. Or has it been given diminutive proportions for fear of antagonising the hardline religious zealots? We may never know (but then, a little idle speculation is more fun. Right?).
It's not the best book on the market regarding the history and development of the Norton Commando. And it's certainly not the definitive book it claims to be. But it's a fair account and is likely to be a worthy addition to your collection (if you have one), or a decent starting point if that's where you currently happen to be.
DGR campaign gets a boost
Two men's charities are in the spotlight
Triumph Motorcycles has created a one-off T100 Bonneville in support of the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride campaign. Check Sump's Motorcycle News story, September 2017 for more details.
Electric bikes to test ride
Are Zero & Tesla coming?
It's the first of its kind, and it's gonna be "electric!". The juice will be flowing at this year's Copdock Motorcycle Show at Trinity Park, Ipswich, Suffolk on 1st October 2017, and then again on 7th October 2017 at Elveden Inn in Thetford, Suffolk.
Three new bikes from the Zero Motorcycles range will be showcased; specifically the FX, the S 11KW and the DSR. Two learner-legal Super Soco's will also be in tow.
▲ Built in China, these Super Socos were introduced to the UK this summer (2017) and are aimed at the commuter market, hence their 28mph top speed. The retail price is £2,350. A government grant of £500 - £600 takes the full price to around £3,000. Drink up those last few drops of petrol while you can. The future is on the way...
The demo hours are 10am - 2pm. The Elveden Inn gathering will be held on the road, take note (as opposed to riding around the Copdock Showground). And to help add a few more interesting amps, Tesla cars will be bringing along a few models—possibly with demo drives (to be confirmed).
Food and drink will be available at both venues. And note that the Copdock Show is a major motorcycle event with or without the battery bikes).
For more information, email Alec Sharp who's organising (or co-organising) the event. Sounds good to us.
Eight months jail for dangerous riding
The rozzers get off Scot-free for dangerous policing
Did you hear the one about the biker who's just been jailed for eight months for dangerous riding on the M6? No? Well his name is Pawel Zietowski, he's from Harlow, Essex, and he was followed for 16 minutes (count 'em) by a couple of rozzers from Staffordshire Police. It happened on 3rd June this year.
The cops were in an unmarked Audi. Zietowski was riding a Yamaha sportsbike, and he was doing the usual moronic stuff such as popping wheelies, standing up on the pegs and enjoying the view, riding with his hands off the 'bars and removing his backpack, finding a camera and taking selfies.
Pretty much all of this was beyond the 70mph motorway limit, and some of it was well over 100mph. When the judge got to hear the tale of woe, he promptly gave Zietowski eight months in pokey and banned him from riding for 28 months.
Riders like that light our fuses too (partly because they demonstrate skills of which we ain't possessed). But the real story here is the one about the coppers who followed Zietowski for 16 minutes just to make sure they'd got sufficient evidence to throw a very large book at him.
And that means that the coppers forgot the first rule of policing which is to prevent crime, not to mosey around with a video camera and a note book watching some fool on a Yamaha dig the hole deeper and deeper. After the first wheelie, the cops could/should have jerked Zietowski's lead and gave him a stiff talking to at the roadside (and maybe a clout round the ear in the bushes). But instead, they also drove along at way beyond the speed limit and allowed Zietowski's "dangerous antics" to continue.
▲ If you want to know where your policing dollar is going, ask the Staffordshire Constabulary. They might not entrap you, but they're happy to give you plenty of rope before they jerk it. Check the badge design...
So who are the real morons here? Hint: It's the Staffordshire cops. These are the same misguided characters who routinely hurtle along through busy streets chasing miscreants not only for serious offences, but also for the trivial stuff too. These are the misguided characters who spend hours, days, weeks surveilling criminal gangs and ignoring their minor offences in readiness for the "big bust" and the chance of promotion. These are the misguided characters who persistently persecute and prosecute the populace for possession of a little cannabis (or similar mild recreational substances) whilst more serious issues are overlooked.
Don't misunderstand us. Aside from coffee and alcohol, we haven't got any interest in other drugs. We dislike criminal gangs as much as the next guys. And up to a point (and that's a very sharp point), we think the cops should pursue offenders or suspects. Trouble is, the twats in the M6 Audi evidently didn't know when to apply a little preventative policing and clip Zietowski's wheels. Or maybe they just didn't care.
▲ Now is this motorcycle control? Or lack of control. The answer is that is largely depends on which side of the handlebars you are. Publicly, we think this guy was pretty stupid to do this on a public road. Privately, we still think he's pretty stupid. But 28-months? Strewth.
Inspector Sion Hathway, from Central Motorway Police Group (CMPG), has been quoted as saying: "Such dangerous riding will not be tolerated on our roads. Zietowski showed a blatant disregard for the rules, and for fellow motorists. His antics could have easily resulted in tragedy."
And there's another angle here. As much as guys like Zietowski make us groan, maybe he wasn't so dangerous after all. The cops followed him for 16 minutes, and from what we've seen of the video footage, he looked pretty much in control at all times.
Put another way, you have to contextualise this kind of stuff. Imagine two vehicles on the M6. One vehicle is a top flight BMW saloon. ABS. Traction control. Airbags everywhere. Seat belts. Head rests. Padded dash. State-of-the-art crumple zone. And four very fat wheels. The other is a modern sports bike. Or cruiser. Or adventure bike. Or scooter. ABS and traction control. But no airbags. No state-of-art crumple zone (except the rider). And two relatively skinny wheels.
Now let's talk about dangerous.
Ultimately, it sounds more like vindictiveness on the part of the state. Zietowski was having fun (always suspect in the eyes of the law). He was showing off (and that usually irritates a significant section of the population). And he was clearly breaking the rules (and the coppers and magistrates are generally inclined to come down hard on rule breakers, no matter how dozy those rules happen to be).
Bottom line? Eight months sounds very heavy-handed (especially when the public purse has to pick up the prison tab). And a 28 month ban? That sounds a little harsh too. Here at Sump, it looks more like a suspended three month sentence (at most), and a year off the road.
But of course, we weren't there at the trial. It's always worth keeping that in mind.
Kickback Show reminder
Sunday 24th September 2017
Lorne Cheetham's next groovy motorcycle show (and we think the word "groovy" is entirely appropriate) will happen at Cheltenham Racecourse on Sunday 24th September 2017. That's in four days. This event, which builds upon the success of the established series of Kickback Shows, goes from strength to strength and is for many the perfect antidote to the depressingly shrinking days and the gloomy lengthening nights.
But it's not all about big numbers, note. This show is about the dedicated few who understand the subtleties and nuances of custom motorcycle engineering, and that's exactly how Lorne Cheetham wants it to stay.
The doors open at 11am. The doors close at 5.30pm. That gives you six-point-five hours to microscopically study the 100 or so customs, specials and classics on display—with a sufficient margin to stuff your face, buy some essential merchandise, talk the talk, make new contacts and press some greasy flesh before heading home with a satisfied soul and a head full of ideas.
All ticket holders get a free poster. Car parking is free. And kids under 16 can enter gratis. But the tickets ain't free. For one of those you'll pay the very fair price of £8.50 (and it really is a fair price when you consider the organisation that's involved). Or you can pay ten quid on the door.
Supporters of the show include:
Allstyles Motorcycle Insurance
Central Wheel Components
The full address of the venue is: Cheltenham Racecourse, Evesham Rd, Cheltenham GL50 4SH.
We've visited the inaugural Kickback Show and we were impressed. Chances are we'll be in the neighbourhood of Cheltenham this weekend, and if we do, we'll be sure to drop by.
See you there perchance.
▲ Nastassja Kinski and Harry Dean Stanton in Paris, Texas. He was often overshadowed on screen, but developed a loyal fan-base that loved his quirky characters and their inverted coolness. He's a minor movie legend.
Star of Paris, Texas is dead
He was working into his nineties
US actor Harry Dean Stanton has died aged 91. Perhaps best remembered for the cult indie movie Paris Texas (1984), he was also noted for appearances in the road movie Two Lane Blacktop (1971), the dystopian sci-fi movie Escape From New York (1981), and more recently in the Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick The Last Stand (2013).
Lean and edgy looking, Harry Dean Stanton was at his best playing lost, amoral and socially marginalised characters (creeps, beatniks, gang members and suchlike). He was born in Kentucky, saw military service during WW2, and had once considered music or journalism as a suitable career path befitting his peculiar talents. But acting was also high on his personal agenda, and following some TV work in the early 1950s, he took a role (credited as Dean Stanton) in the western movie, The Tomahawk Trail (1957) starring Chuck Connors.
▲ Warren Oates was really the star of Two Lane Blacktop, a nihilistic road movie featuring singer James Taylor and drummer Dennis (Beach Boy) Wilson. But Harry Dean Stanton typically breezed in and out of the narrative, this time playing a homosexual hitch-hiker. We mention this movie because it always warrants a mention. Highly recommended.
Later, Harry Dean Stanton appeared in How the West Was Won (1962), The Man From the Diner's Club (1963), and enjoyed more TV in westerns such as Bonanza, Rawhide and The Rifleman.
Other movie credits include:
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Kelly's Heroes (1970)
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)
The Godfather Part II (1974)
The Missouri Breaks (1976)
Repo Man (1984)
Red Dawn (1984)
Wild at Heart (1990)
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
The Green Mile (1999)
The Avengers (2012)
But it's fair to say that later in his career, Harry Dean Stanton was largely famous simply for being Harry Dean Stanton rather than for any specific acting plaudits. Indeed, he was frequently the on-screen face that audiences vaguely recognised, but were unable to put a name to (until the titles rolled past on the screen).
However, he enjoyed a secondary—albeit less constant—career as an occasional singer/guitarist and worked with the likes of Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Art Garfunkel and Ry Cooder.
Of all his roles, it will be the part of Travis in Wim Wender's Paris Texas that he'll be remembered for—a movie that (arguably) runs out of steam half way through and is mostly enjoyed for the haunting Ry Cooder musical score.
Harry Dean Stanton, however, didn't run out of steam quite so quickly. He was still working until age 90 when time and tears caught up with him. His last film was Lucky (2017); a tale about a 90-year old atheist on a spiritual journey (with more than the odd echo of Paris, Texas).
Despite being "romantically" linked to numerous Hollywood actresses and personalities, Harry Dean Stanton never married and has no children to his credit.
The world's first driving simulator?
Sotheby's is anticipating $6,000 - $8,000
Here's something unusual we spotted tonight (17th Sept 2017) whilst trawling the classic bike and classic car auction schedules, and we thought we'd pass it on as ... well, as an amusing curio. That's all. No big deal.
Apparently, it's an educational tool from the thirties. It hails from Chicago, and it claims to be the first of its kind in the world. It was created for students at Lane Technical High school.
The driving positions are fitted with a steering wheel, clutch pedal, brake pedal and accelerator/gas pedals. There's no mention of a horn button, indicators/trafficators and clearly there are no mirrors. So it's driving at its most basic.
Driving students sit in the respective positions, and the teacher/educator switches on a film projector—presumably showing the view of the road ahead as witnessed from the perspective of the driving seat. The rest is down to imagination.
What we like (aside from the obvious appeal of all that time-worn wood and ancient riveted iron) is the quaintness and the innocent charm. For us, there's never enough of that in the world. But we don't understand why the seats are arranged tandem fashion—unless it's intended to inculcate in the minds of the students the notion of following the car ahead and/or queuing in traffic. Or maybe it's got something to do with managing back seat drivers.
Either way, if we owned a trendy loft apartment, and if we already had a British K2 telephone box in the corner, a sofa made from the boot (trunk) of a '57 Chevy, a Dalek from the Dr Who TV series, and maybe one of those funky hanging fibreglass chairs from the 1960s, we'd probably buy this driving bench and try and have some fun with it whilst watching the Dukes of Hazzard or something.
But at Sump, we live in more modest accommodation, so we'll pass up this antique opportunity. However, if you're interested and live a more trendy lifestyle, the auctioneers are Sotheby's.
The auction will be held at The Hershey Lodge, 325 University Drive, Hershey, Pennsylvania 17033, USA. The date is 5th and 6th October 2017. The estimate is $6,000 - $8,000.
Paul Sample's hero book
Prices from £85 to £250
We have to declare an interest here. Or, rather, a disinterest. That's because we hate Ogri and have never had much time for him or his madcap adventures. But then, we hate a lot of things, and most of the world doesn't seem to care much. It's a problem.
But don't misunderstand us. Yorkshireman Paul Sample's biker-famous Ogri cartoons are a great creation. They were a huge success, and they entertained tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists both at home and abroad. It's simply that we don't count ourselves among that number. That's all.
However, the real story here is that you can now buy The Complete Compendium of Ogri Strip Cartoons 1972 - 2013 and enjoy his antics all over again.
The humour is unarguable. The artwork throughout is fantastic. There are wonderful flashes of human insight everywhere. And as a biking character, Ogri is second to none. That said, we still see all this with the same kind of dispassionate interest that we reserve for the Financial Times.
Important stuff, but we're not subscribers.
In total, 443 Ogri cartoons were published. Bike Magazine had most of 'em and ran the strip between 1972 and the end of 2008 (and Ogri was a major draw to Bike Magazine, no pun intended). Then Back Street Heroes carried the fun until 2013 when Paul Sample parked his pen and contented himself with other matters.
Why did the strip end? We don't know. But we've heard various explanations, all of which went in one era and out the other. Regardless, the amount of creative effort that went into producing Ogri is staggering, and that no doubt played a part. If cartoonist Paul Sample had nothing else to his credit, it would still be a major achievement. But he's also illustrated numerous paperback books, posters and advertising literature.
The compendium has reproduced those 443 strips and has included a couple more that were never published. The covers of the book will be foil-blocked in antique gold. The main image shows Ogri leaping off a bridge in one of his time-honoured poses. And if it makes a difference, the Queen's own bookbinder, Blissett's, are throwing this package together.
Throwing? Well actually, it looks like this is going to be a high-quality collectors item which will be available in three binding options:
Bound in black buckram book cloth, £85.
Bound in black buckram book cloth, presented in a hand-made slipcase and numbered from 101 upwards, selling for £125.
A limited edition of 100 copies, bound in Wildman and Bugby black leather, individually signed and doodled by Paul, and presented in the slipcase. £250.
A paperback version is planned for release in 2018. We haven't seen a copy, and it would be wasted on us anyway. But if you were an Ogri fan back in the 70s, 80s or 90s—or even beyond—you're exactly who this compendium was aimed at. It's available from 29th September 2017.
You live only once, but you can laugh million of times. And this book, we're sure, will give you a few more to add to your allocation.
Rolling MOT exemption plan for forty year old motor vehicles
"Road tax" will be free for pre-1978 cars and bikes
The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has published plans to scrap the MOT requirement for almost all motor vehicles over 40 years old. The new rule will kick-in on 20th May 2018, and it will be a rolling rule—meaning that vehicles built before 1978 will be exempt, but come 2019, that will switch to vehicles built before 1979. And so on.
Additionally, by May next year the road fund licence (road tax) will become duty free for forty-somethings. And that will also be rolling.
▲ When the Leader of the Pack throws us a bone, it would be churlish not to be grateful. But aside from the odd comment in the House regarding scooter jacking in the capital, it's not clear if Queen Theresa knows what a motorcycle is. Still, a vote is a vote, and the classic world is significant.
Why the change? Ostensibly because classic vehicles are under-represented in accident statistics and MOT failure rates. But underlying that, cynics among us can assume that Theresa May's (weak) Conservative government is looking to make a few friends in anticipation of some very choppy Brexit waters ahead.
Or maybe that's a little unfair. The government has for some time been trying to save a cash and simplify motoring life, so we'll be generous and will leave it right there.
It's reckoned that 197,000 vehicles on UK roads are currently MOT exempt. By 20th May 2018, that will increase to an estimated 293,000. We don't know whose figures these are, incidentally (presumably the DfT's). And take note that vehicles which have been substantially modified will still be required to suffer an MOT test after May next year—but it's not clear if that will now include pre-1960 vehicles, all of which are currently MOT exempt. And it's not clear what "substantially modified" really means. We'll look for clarification on these points and will update this story when possible.
One final thing. Owners of exempt vehicles will still be able to have their wheels MOT checked on request. But what happens if such a vehicle fails?
Our guess is that, for practical purposes, there will be no sanction. You fail, you ride or drive away. But owners of all motor vehicles are reminded by the Department for Transport (and UK insurance firms) that vehicles must still be maintained and kept fit for the road.
Nice weather today, innit?
Demo a Trumpet. Buy it. Get a "five hundred quid" sweetener
2nd October 2017 is the cut off date
Okay, here's the pitch. Go to your local Triumph dealer. Test ride any of the (immediately) above motorcycles between the 16th and 23rd September 2017. Next, buy the demo bike and have it registered before 2nd October 2017, and Triumph will give you £500 which you can spend on accessories, clothing, insurance or finance packages (all Triumph branded, please).
These are the models that the offer applies to:
Speed Triple S/R
As far as we know, there are no other hoops through which you need to jump. Just ride the bike and buy it either with cash, or through your choice of finance packages—such as Triumph's own.
We should make it clear that this offer is tied in to handing the money back to Triumph, one way or the other. In other words, you won't be walking out with £500 of your own cash. You buy the bike, and you get the accessories, clothing, insurance or finance support.
Still not a bad offer. Just be sure you know what's on the table before you sit down to eat.
Campaign to stop the police misusing your custody photograph
A petition has been launched
If you've been arrested by the coppers, had your mugshot taken, and later released without charge or found innocent in court, you might be disturbed to know the coppers have retained your image and may use it for computer "line-up" purposes without consent.
Moreover, the police are able to use your image for biometric facial recognition programs or systems. Put simply, they own your image. Or act as if they do. In fact, back in 2012 the courts declared it illegal for the rozzers to behave in this manner. But as ever, the police are a law unto themselves wherever possible.
Well, Big Brother Watch has launched a campaign called "FaceOff". The idea is to force the government to act, jerk a few leads and have this image retention policy stopped.
Currently, if you were released without charge or found innocent in court, you can apply to the coppers to have your image removed from their database. And in certain circumstances you might be able to have your image removed if you were found guilty. But you have to apply "manually"—which means that your image won't automatically be deleted. You can also apply to have your fingerprints and DNA sample deleted.
It's a serious issue that affects hundreds of thousands of people. It means that one of your neighbours could find himself sitting in front of a computer "helping police with their enquiries", perhaps having witnessed a robbery, and then see your ugly mug flash up on the screen. That neighbour won't know if you're innocent or guilty of a crime. But they'll probably make the assumption that you've been up to no good.
If you're happy with that, and happy that big brother can monitor your progress through the world via high-tech cameras with face recognition software, then do nothing. If not, sign the petition and/or write to your MP. Big Brother Watch has made that easy through their website by creating a draft letter.
Next time you're sat in front of a police camera, remember it's not the birdie you have to watch; it's the government and their agents who have arrested your image and will use it in whatever way they choose.
Spread the word if you will, please.
Details of Mortons' autumn shindig at Stafford
Tickets are £12. Usual programme
You've got about a month to get ready—and when you're of a certain age, one month feels like ten seconds. So start looking for your bike keys now.
The underlying (or is that overarching) story is the Empire's autumn Carol Nash Classic Mechanics Show which will take place this year on the weekend of the 14th - 15th October 2017. The venue is, as usual, the Staffordshire County Showground.
Motorcycle racer Aaron Slight will be at the show. Apparently, he's the best rider never the win the World Superbike. Means nothing to us. But he'll be chatting and pressing flesh and telling tales of derring-do on and (possibly) off the track.
Regardless, Mortons events manager Nick Mowbray is apparently pretty chuffed about it. So we're probably a long way behind this particular curve. Meanwhile, it's reckoned that around 1,000 trade stalls will be at the show along with zillions of people, dozens of bike clubs, Jim Moody's record-breaking factory TT bike, an unspecified number of off-road bikes, a Restoration Theatre courtesy of the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club—and Bonhams will be holding another auction. If this sounds like your kind of fun, you know where to go from here.
Tickets are £12 for adults, £11 for seniors (aren't all Stafford visitors "seniors"), or £3 for under-12s if bought in advance. Parking is free.
Telephone: 01507 529529
Builders of specials and customs glance this way, please
Handy bench tool for brackets and stuff
Here's a handy little gadget that over the years we could have used a hundred times. Or more. It's a multi-purpose vice-mounted metal bender that will handle sheet metal 40mm wide and up to 4mm thick, 10mm solid bar, and pipe of 4, 6, 8 and 10mm OD. And we're talking steel here. Okay?
What would you use it for? Well if you're building bikes, you probably won't need to ask that question. But we'll tell you anyway. This will handle stuff such as custom seat hinges, exhaust brackets, clamps, hooks, stays, oil tank mounts, mudguard supports, chainguard brackets—and a hundred other things. It will enable you to get well-formed and accurate bends rather than the random and unlikely shapes we usually end up with (and then have to hammer back into something we can actually use).
Chronos currently has these on offer at around £72. The item reference number is: 230200. And this is a long established firm that we've got some association with (we've used and tested their products, etc), and we trust 'em to deliver the goods and deal with any problems.
You can talk to this firm for all kinds of engineering equipment from vernier gauges, to drill bits, to cutting tools to ... well, all kinds of stuff that we've got no idea what it's used for. But you engineers will figure it out.
Tel: 01582 471900
Hamstreet motorcycle autojumble reminder
Meet biking adventurer Gordon May and buy his book
The date will be Sunday 17th September 2017. The place is Hamstreet, Romney Marsh, Kent TN26 2JD. The event is Elk Promotions Classic Motorcycle Bikejumble.
Of special interest to many will be the Ride-in-Show feature. There are spot prizes of £25 for (a) the Best Classic (pre-1990) and (b) the Best Post-Classic. Apparently, all you have to do is turn up on the day astride your bike, pay your regular entry fee (£4 adults), and park in the designated red zone. If your numberplate is up, you'll know by 1pm. Then you can collect your money and spend it at one of the bikejumble stalls, etc.
Also on the agenda is the Auction of Motorcycles, Spares and Automobilia. Auction lots are accepted from 10am. The sale starts at noon. There is no entry fee for items, but a 10% commission will be levied against vendors and buyers (actually, just 5% over £100). All sales are strictly cash.
Regular Hamstreet stallholder Gordon May who rode a 350cc Matchless G3L 11,500 miles from the UK to Vietnam will be in attendance. We're advised that his new book entitled Overland to Vietnam has just published.
So if you attend the jumble, you can meet Gordon and buy your signed copy. He also sells a range of goggles, motorcycle clocks and gel-pad seat covers, and he'll be happy to chinwag with all you motorcycle adventurers.
Julie Diplock—long established classic biker and BSA & Velocette aficionado—runs the show. She'll look after you properly. So if you're in the Kent or Sussex area (East or West), it's worth a ride. Actually, it's a nice jaunt down from the Smoke too as we know from personal experience.
Check Sump's classic bike events listing for more.
Telephone: 01797 344277
Mixed bag of results
The National Motorcycle Museum was the venue
The estimate was £20,000 - £23,000. But come the day (2nd September 2017), the (immediately) above 1972 Triumph Hurricane changed hands for just £19,125 at H&H Auctions latest sale.
Nineteen grand plus change still sounds to us like an awful lot of money to pay for an X-75, even though we reported on one that sold last August for a claimed £25,000. That Hurricane was in fact asking £29,999. However, the word is that the buyer, who hailed from Switzerland, got a VAT-free deal, hence the final £25,000 price tag.
Do we believe it? Sort of. It sounds plausible enough, and we've no reason to doubt the vendor. Either way, (asking) prices of other UK Hurricanes quickly appeared to be rising, perhaps encouraged by this sale. So we watched and we waited, and then came the latest H&H auction which looks suspiciously like the power of this Hurricane is fading significantly.
That said, the price quoted is the hammer price. There will be a buyer's premium of 15 percent, plus VAT @ 20% on that premium. That will add another £3,440 to the bill (these auction boys ain't stupid, huh?). Therefore, the price of that X-75 is (by our numbers) actually £22,565.
The deal is looking less sweet now, but it still seems like someone got a bargain with this bike. Or did the aforementioned Swiss guy simply overpay? You tell us. Meanwhile, we ought to remind ourselves that one auction sale doesn't necessarily set a bench mark or indicate a trend. And of course, you have to see the bike up close (and hear it running) before you commit to top dollar. Nevertheless, we thought it was worth commenting on, and we'll be watching X-75 prices a little closer.
If you can get beyond all that, the headline bike at that sale was actually the (immediately) above 1998 1,200cc RTV-Vincent (Lot 70). It's a rare beast (just one of four) and was built by ex-Egli man Terry Prince. The £40,000 - £45,000 estimate was, however, evidently an exhaust pipe dream because no one pulled out a wallet or purse.
Are we surprised? Nope. These more specialised bike interest a lot of people, but the potential buyers are a fickle bunch and are not always where you want them when you're wielding that auction hammer. This bike will probably come around again sooner or later.
Of the 110 motorcycles offered for sale (that number actually includes one c.1920 exercise bike), a total of 66 bikes found buyers. That represents a conversion rate of 72 percent (once again, by our dodgy numbers)—which is lower than the auctioneers would have wanted, but in raw figures it's not bad. There were also 23 automobilia items (prints, engines, boots, etc). But nothing caught our eye, so we've concentrated on the bikes.
The auction took place, by the way, at the National Motorcycle Museum (NMM), Solihull, West Midlands. It's the second time at this venue for H&H which has recently sidelined Donington Park, Derbyshire. The inaugural NMM sale was in June 2017.
Here are some of the other bikes to give you a taste of what happened:
▲ 1935 Excelsior Manxman. Lot 56. The reserve was £15,000 - £16,000. The bike sold for £13,620. It was raced in the 1930s, then saw some hill climbing and sprint action in the 80s and 90s. For the last seven years it's be dry stored. Shame.
▲ 1963 Harley-Davidson Sportster. Lot 31. The reserve was £2,000 - £3,000—which is the price of, say, a fairly well sorted Tiger Cub or a cheeky BSA Bantam, and which shows that H&H has a good sense of humour. We would have expected this bike to find around £4,000 - £5,000. But in fact, it sold for £7,650. Dry stored. Engine spins. "Might require some re-commissioning". Hmm.
▲ 1961 Vespa 150. Lot 21. We know as much about Vespa scooters as H&H apparently knows about 1963 Sportsters. But this fully restored hairdryer, estimated at £2,000 - £2,500, sold for £3,937.50—or was H&H just being shrewd both with this machine and the H-D above? Your guess is as good as ours. Either way, this looks like good value and stylish transport.
▲ Lot 51. 1945 Indian Scout 741. This very cool piece of Yankee iron chugged past its lower estimate of £15,000, picked up speed at the £18,000 top estimate and kept rolling all the way to £21,093.75. So what's the 75 pence all about? Exchange rate issue probably. Or a bit of whimsy.
▲ Lot 35. 1923 Harley-Davidson Model J. Banbury Run eligible and not run since being totally restored, this very pretty 989cc inlet-over-exhaust V-twin was looking at £23,000 - £25,000. But it failed to sell.
London's cops are experimenting with hydrogen
...and a few words on fuel cell technology
It's probably completely unfair (and bordering on irresponsible journalism), but whenever we hear the word "fuel cell", we think of the Hindenburg disaster of May 1937 and feel compelled to mention it.
Fuel cells, after all, are supposed to be the next big thing in automotive technology (and will help save the planet from global hysteria). That's because unlike electric car batteries, the cells, which are pumped tightly with hydrogen gas, can be "recharged" (actually refilled) in a matter of 4- 5 minutes. Apparently, you can even drink the H20 that drips (or clouds) out of the exhaust pipe, and the hydrogen gas can be produced very efficiently via steam reforming, electrolysis, or thermolysis.
Here at Sump, we know very little about how safe fuel cells really are. But even though the cell tank (or tanks) are pressurised to withstand 10,000psi and are built from carbon this and Kevlar that, and even though the experts have taken "ineffective" potshots at the aforementioned tanks with armour piercing rounds, the ghost of that ill-fated German dirigible is nevertheless still hovering overhead.
▲ 11hp and a 75 mile range doesn't sound much. But it's enough to help keep the Met on message, environmentally speaking, and Suzuki has a chance to air its forward thinking togs. Is it the future? And do we care?
The underlying story, meanwhile, is that London's Metropolitan Police is currently trialling 7 Suzuki Burgmans, each fitted with a fuel cell. The long term aim is to upgrade all the patrol cars and paddy-wagons with the same earth-saving technology.
Hydrogen, for the benefit of all you armchair physicists, is the most abundant element in the universe. So far, anyway. It's 16 times lighter than air, and it's reckoned to be considerably less volatile/flammable than petrol—and note that we might be expressing this attribution clumsily, technically speaking). Either way, when a petrol tank leaks, it either drips down your leg or pools beneath a car, and that's not ideal in terms of health and safety.
Hydrogen, on the other hand (chemical symbol "H" for, well, "Hindenburg"), rises very rapidly and will go right up to the stratosphere if it can't find sufficient oxygen atoms with which to combine and return as rain (which is what usually happens). Consequently, a leaking fuel cell is "much safer" than a leaking petrol tank.
So how comes the Hindenburg lit up the New Jersey, USA sky so spectacularly? Well, the hydrogen burned. That's for sure. At least, most of it did. But much of the fire was actually fuelled by diesel oil in the Zeppelin's engines coupled with the lacquer used on the airship's fabric covering. That's what the experts say, anyway (many of whom are now busy trying to flog the world fuel cell technology).
Of the 97 Hindenburg passengers, 35 died. The other 62 lived to tell the tale, and as far as we know none of them (or their descendants) has since bought fuel cell vehicles.
The disaster wasn't the only Zeppelin crash. The Deutschland went down in 1897 (killing two). La République crashed in 1909 (killing four). The Akron exploded in 1912 (killing five). The British NS11 lost 12 in 1919. The British R38 lost 44 in 1921. And the record for the number of civilian passengers killed in airship disasters (all filled with hydrogen, take note) is 48 when the British R101 went down in 1930 (but Germany, we think, holds the record for the actual number of crashes—and the US Navy had its fingers seriously burned whilst experimenting with dirigibles).
And now the Met's got a scooter with a fuel cell. Well, 7 scooters actually.
Chances are that nothing evil will come of it. Science has moved on (even if the Met hasn't). The real problem, of course, is public perception and fear of the technology. But that, we hear, is hugely overshadowed by the fact that hydrogen infrastructure related both to production and delivery is in its infancy and still isn't getting the political and commercial backing it needs to grow and establish itself—meaning that it could be some time before a Hindenburg crashes anywhere near your neighbourhood. And given that fuel cells promise a range that's roughly double that of (current) battery powered electric vehicles, it's easy to see why the new breed of environmentally minded automotive entrepreneurs desperately wants to sell the cell.
But the worst thing about hydrogen, we reckon, is that it simply doesn't smell as nice as petrol. In fact, we don't think that hydrogen smells at all.
And for petrolheads everywhere, that is a disaster.
Cool SS80 outfit to sell at Stafford, 15th October 2017
Bonhams is estimating £50,000 - £60,000
We figured that patina junkies, hardcore classic bikers and serious sidecar sojourners might appreciate a few extra images of the 1938 Brough Superior SS80 featured at the top of this page.
However, aside from the info already posted, Bonhams hasn't yet given anything else away with this lot (we're advised that more info will follow "in due course"—but don't leave your motor ticking over while you wait).
Meanwhile, we can tell you that the Brough Superior SS80 range ("SS meaning "Super Sport") was manufactured between 1922 and 1939. These solid and durable bikes were powered initially by 981cc V-twin sidevalves from JAP, and from 1935 982cc Matchless sidevalves. Both carried Brough Superior branding on the timing side. Operating from Haydn Road, Nottingham, the company built around 1,000 SS80s of both types (sources also quote 1,085 or 1,086 units).
Blacknell Sidecars Ltd hailed from 9 Derby Road, also in Nottingham. Later, the company relocated to The Wharf, Gregory Street, Nottingham. These craftsman-built "chairs" were produced in a range of styles from sports to domestic to touring to commercial. Safety featured high on the Blacknell manufacturing agenda, and those worthy aspirations were variously realised in the shape of the firm's "Safety Loop Chassis", hydraulically damped leaf springs, rubber-in-torsion chassis couplings, and a sidecar brake that could be operated automatically (via the rear brake) or independently.
There are still a fair number of Bracknell's on the road, and no doubt a few more in sheds and barns looking to be rediscovered.
This particular combo has clearly been modified in numerous ways. Non-standard indicators have been fitted. The wiring needs a haircut. Various forms of corrosion have got a grip. And we'd be prepared to do any number of immoral things to get our hands on this. But it's not the Brough Superior name or fame that primes our carburettors. It's simply that this motorcycle looks like it's shed a lot of rubber over the years and has seen plenty of action.
Yes, that might simply be biking fantasy on our part. Then again, if you think it's true, it's true. Kinda, anyway.
£50,000 - £60,000 is the estimate. We'll be watching this one closely come the 15th October 2017 when the Bonham auctioneer puts this motorcycle in the spotlight at Stafford.
Steely Dan co-founder is dead
End of an era for fans of "The Dan"
Walter Becker, co-founder of Steely Dan—the world's greatest jazz-rock-funk-fusion band of balladeers—has died aged 67. We heard the soul-wrenching news yesterday (Sunday 3rd September 2017) whilst listening to Johnny Walker's Sounds of the Seventies, and the announcement stopped us in our tracks.
Walter Becker (pictured left with Donald Fagen).
If we'd been paying closer attention to the general fan news, we might have seen this coming. He'd recently missed a few significant gigs, and that was highly unusual. His absence was simply cited as "recovering from an illness."
Walter Becker met Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen in Bard College, New York State. That was back in the 1960s when this pair of world-class cynics were just teenagers. After discovering that they shared similar tastes in music, humour, sci-fi authors and movies—and being disillusioned at academia—the duo finished their studies and moved to Brooklyn, New York. There, they began tentative careers as jobbing songwriters working from the world famous Brill Building; that great cauldron of talent which gave us Bacharach & David; Leiber & Stoller; Goffin & King; Boyce & Hart; Greenwich & Barry; Neil Diamond; Marvin Hamlisch; Laura Nyro; Phil Spector and Paul Simon (to name just a few notables).
Fagen had plenty of experience working with pretty much every college band that could strum a chord or rattle a drumstick. Becker's "practical" experience was considerably less. However, he was already becoming a competent guitarist (having started out on the saxophone), and the pair worked for 18 months or so with the band Jay and the Americans. It was not an entirely happy or satisfactory time which culminated when a job offer of staff writers at ABC Records in Los Angeles came their way.
However, if their time at the Brill Building had taught them anything, it was that their songs were largely unsuited to the requirements and talents of other artistes, and shifting to ABC did little or nothing to change that view. But the duo had faith and ambition, and if they didn't have all the skills needed to make their music walk and talk, they knew where to get them.
In 1971, the embryonic Steely Dan was formed. In fact, Steely Dan was effectively always embryonic because pretty much every song featured a different line-up, hence a different band and a new beginning with each tune. Notable Steely Danners include Larry Carlton, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Jeff Porcaro, Denny Dias, Jim Hodder, and David Palmer. Musical support came also from the likes of Mark Knopfler, Lee Ritenour, Wayne Shorter, Victor Feldman, Elliott Randall, Michael Omartian and Michael McDonald.
▲ Left to right, Can't Buy a Thrill; Countdown to Ecstasy; Pretzel Logic; Katy Lied; The Royal Scam; Gaucho; Aja; Two Against Nature; and Everything Must Go. Perfect they're not. But this is slick, smart and soulful music for thinking jazz-funksters. Tip: Get Danned before it's too late.
The album Can't Buy a Thrill was released in 1972. Becker and Fagen wrote all the tunes and gave the world the classic hits Do it Again and Reelin' in the Years.
Countdown to Ecstasy (also written entirely by Becker and Fagen) was released the following year (1973). It achieved lesser commercial and critical success, but songs such as My Old School and Bodhisattva have long since become firm Steely Dan favourites both at home, on the radio and at live gigs.
Pretzel Logic was cut in 1974, the best known song being Rikki Don't Lose that Number. Once again, Becker and Fagen's writing fingerprints are all over this platter with the exception of East St Louis Toodle-Oo (written by Duke Ellington and Bubber Miley).
The album Katy Lied arrived in 1975. Becker and Fagen once again wrote the whole thing. The tracks Black Friday and Bad Sneakers were released as singles with varying success.
In 1976 Steely Dan released The Royal Scam from which the single Haitian Divorce is the best known song.
Aja came along in 1976. The singles Peg; Deacon Blues; and Josie have since become the quintessential sound of Steely Dan, an outfit which has rightly built a huge fanbase with its eclectic mix of sharp jazz chords, cutting funk chops, inscrutable and highly evocative lyrics underpinned by impeccably timed rhythms and driving lead solos.
Gaucho was the last of the "classic" Steely Dan albums. It was released in 1980 and was notable for the single Hey Nineteen, and the track Babylon Sisters—which could easily have been another single. Becker and Fagen were once again the driving force, credit-wise. But the track Gaucho was co-written by Keith Jarrett.
Steely Dan had never been much of a touring band. Indeed, the combo all too quickly quit the live show scene and retreated to the studio where Becker and Fagen were in their element meticulously crafting songs and polishing every musical detail to what is widely considered near perfection.
Early demos aside, Walter Becker never sang on any of the "classic" Steely Dan tracks. But following the break-up of the band in 1981, Becker retreated to Hawaii and became involved in record production (notably working with Liverpool band China Crisis) and subsequently released 11 Tracks of Whack (1994), and Circus Money (2008).
A singer he was not. But as with (for instance) Bob Dylan, Becker was perfectly capable of expressing his songs with exactly the right blend of wry introspection, social commentary, humorous asides and general story telling. In short, he delivered the goods and is highly recommended.
Becker was born in New York City. We've heard numerous accounts of his early life, but because the tales are conflicting and unreliable (and possibly litigious), we're simply not going there. Suffice to say that he was a great guitarist, a clever songwriter, a shrewd lyricist and a highly skilled producer possessed (like Donald Fagen) of a dangerous wit and an appropriate contempt for politicians, critics and journalists.
In 1993, Steely Dan reformed. Becker and Fagen were the only two original members, but they still had many friends in the business to draw upon, and the band began touring. Donald Fagen had since released a solo album: The Nightfly (1982—produced by Gary Katz who handled the classic Dan albums). Fagen's Kamakariad (1993) was produced by Walter Becker. Both are highly recommended.
With Steely Dan on the road again, Two Against Nature was released in 2000. Three years later (2003), Everything Must Go arrived. Neither album has exactly the old Steely Dan magic. The sound is a little more tame and measured (read "mature" and "laid-back" if you must). But there are notable high spots on both platters, and Walter Becker's lead guitar work is right at the front and reveals a cleaner, bluesier and highly distinct sound (as opposed to his more hidden bass and rhythm work of yore).
▲ Check out Walter Becker (left, with Donald Fagen) singing Slang of Ages from Everything Must Go. Corny chat-up lines and sleazy delivery doesn't come much better than this. Masterful stuff from the reformed Dan.
Since then, Becker and Fagen have largely been reprising their material and playing more to hardcore fans and acolytes. With a hugely impressive back-catalogue, the duo could afford to sit back and chill. But new material has always been in the pipeline.
And now this news.
Walter Becker was gone too soon. We'll regret this passing for a very long time to come. If you haven't yet made the Dan-leap, buy the band's greatest hits (Remastered: The best of Steely Dan), then remember to check Walter Becker's solo catalogue. And, for that matter, Fagen's.
To mark the moment, tonight we're listening to Becker's Circus Money, and it's a wonderful way to round off an evening if you've got 59 minutes and 59 seconds to spare.
He's worth all that, and much more.