L-plate car drivers to receive M-way training
Rural motoring danger highlighted
Allowing learner drivers supervised access to British motorways has been a long time coming. Way too long. But under new government proposals, L-platers could get to experience life in the fast lane before they pass their test, as opposed to after.
However, there is a suggestion in some quarters that motorway training should not be a mandatory part of driving lessons. Instead, we're hearing that driving instructors ought to have the discretion to decide whether or not a novice driver is ready for the UK motorway network before his or her test.
Which, on the face of it, sounds pretty foolish. If a driver isn't considered fit for the M-ways during ordinary instruction, you have to wonder whether said driver is fit for a licence at all.
So okay, you could argue that such a motorist might be fine on A-roads, B-roads and back roads only and need never access the big highways. However, it's becoming progressively more difficult to travel around the UK without at some point being more or less compelled to use a belt of motorway, such as the five sections of the A1 Great North Road which have long been upgraded to motorway status and re-designated as A1(M). Or the A3(M) linking Horndean to Havant. Or the A74(M) linking the M74 at Abington with the A74 at Gretna Green. And there are more than a dozen similarly upgraded A-road-to-M-road sections, many of which are likely to be used at some point by novice drivers.
Interestingly, the government is much less concerned with the notion of learner drivers making M-way errors as it is with the idea of learner drivers coming to grief on British back roads where, statistically, accidents are more likely.
Currently, deaths on rural roads far outstrip motorway deaths. Here are some numbers for 2014 courtesy of RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents).
UK deaths on rural roads: 982
UK deaths on urban roads: 591
UK deaths on motorways: 85
Of course, deaths on motorways tend to be more spectacular and often involve more than two vehicles. And the resulting impact (no pun intended) on trade, wasted industry man-hours and general public inconvenience is far more profound.
Nevertheless, the government number crunchers have highlighted the fact that new drivers are often too daunted to take to the motorways where they would be safer (statistically speaking), and therefore navigate via the rural roads. And that's what's set the alarm bells ringing.
Beyond that, there's some talk about mandating the number of hours spent behind the wheel during driving training. The figure "120" has been mooted, which:
(a) would represent a cost of around £2,400 (based upon £20 per lesson)
(b) sounds like an artificial figure plucked from nowhere in particular, and
(c) is unfair to competent and fast-learning drivers, many of whom might already have experience on motorcycles.
Naturally, as bikers we certainly don't need any more morons on the road. And we don't need the morons when we're in our cars, either. But you have to be realistic. People need mobility, and a balance has to be struck. And motorway training has to be a good move forward.
It's not clear whether, or how, motorcycle training will also be upgraded. But it seems likely that some provision will be made to offer novice riders practical experience in the noble arts of entering and exiting slip roads without paying any attention to anyone else, overtaking on the wrong side and veering dangerously between traffic lanes, how to tailgate the guy in front who's only doing 80 or 90mph, and which side of the safety barriers to pitch your picnic table.
Be careful out there...
Pre-pare yourself for secondhand Approved Triumph news
Tip: don't say "secondhand"
Everyone's using the "pre" prefix these days. Pre-book. Pre-planned. Pre-recorded. Pre-exist. Etc. It's tautological. Verbal laziness. Or, at least, verbal clumsiness. And as such it erodes the language and uglifies it [note: "uglifies" is a new word born this morning, and it's offered for unlimited use without licence - Ed]. Or on the other hand, some would say that sticking the "pre" prefix in front of whatever you can get away with simply pre-enhances the way wot we talk and allows the language to pre-evolve.
Either way, we're hardly the world's best grammarians, so when we heard about Triumph's new "pre-owned" Approved Scheme, as distinct from merely "owned", we simply shrugged and accepted it.
What it all pre-means is that if you pre-purchased your bike pre-five years ago, and if you've pre-ridden it less than 25,000 miles, and if it's otherwise in pre-tty good condition, it will be eligible for pre-enrolment under Hinckley's new sales wheeze via your local Triumph dealer. In which case a factory pre-trained technician will pre-prepare your bike and pre-fix whatever needs pre-fixing, and then pre-approve it for pre-sale to the next Joe who comes along.
The idea is sound enough. Many folks want a pre-owned Triumph, but also want certain pre-conditions and pre-guarantees. And Triumph has responded to that need and reckons that their pre-used bikes will pre-perform like "factory fresh" (which we reckon is pre-pushing it a little because nothing quite feels like a brand new virginal motorcycle). But we haven't got any doubt that most folk will be perfectly pre-satisfied, and probably post-satisfied with what's on offer.
Pre-convinced? Great. Go chat with your local dealer (and if you think we've pre-whinged about this "pre" business before, you're probably not pre-mistaken).
But we ain't pre-apologising for it.
Jaguar Land Rover booming
Triumph profits jump
In 2016, over 1.6 million cars rolled off UK production lines. It's a figure that's set to rise slightly as updated numbers come in. So okay, practically all UK car companies are foreign owned (Bristol, Morgan, Caterham and McClaren being the major exceptions). But that's hardly a new position. The Ford Motor Company established itself in Britain in 1909. General Motors (GM) bought Vauxhall in 1925. And these two firms have long been the biggest UK car producers, both by volume and revenue.
In the car production boom years of the 1960s and 1970s, British-owned volume production in the UK was dubiously managed by the likes of British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd (BLMC) which owned Austin, Morris, MG, Riley, Rover, Wolseley, Jaguar, Land Rover and Triumph (cars not motorcycles). Behind that was the Rootes Group which owned Humber, Hillman, Singer, Sunbeam and Talbot.
Britain, therefore, has long had a track record of conceiving, developing and marketing world-class (and often quirky/niche) brands, but has a less successful record of home-owned volume production (something to do with our short-term, Dunkirk-esque thinking perhaps).
Nevertheless, British motoring design and engineering expertise is still at the forefront of the international car industry. It's highly valued by manufacturers from Kansas to Korea, or Sunderland to Shanghai, and that expertise is helping generate huge sums of money for the UK economy whilst employing hundreds of thousands of people right here in Shakespeare country.
Over the past year, Jaguar Land Rover (owned by the Indian Tata Group) has done very well with UK Jag sales jumping from 4,952 to 8,680 units. UK Land Rover sales, meanwhile, have risen from 20,605 to 24,118 units.
BMW-owned Mini is still the hairdresser's choice and saw UK sales rise from 14,961 to 16,178. But note that these sales periods (broadly 2015 - 2016) don't exactly correspond, which means the numbers should be read as general trends rather than exact accounting figures. We've taken a few liberties here.
That aside, annual car production in the UK was nearly 1.7 million vehicles in 1979. That compares to 523,000 in 1950; 1.3 million in 1960; and 1.64 million in 1970.
UK car production in 2016 has apparently reached its highest level since the 1999 figure of 1.7 million vehicles, with over 1.6 million cars rolling off the assembly lines. In 2017, that number is predicted (by many, but not all, pundits) to reach a very healthy 2 million vehicles.
Of the current UK 1.6 million vehicles being produced, around 1.2 million cars will be shipped overseas. Britain, it seems, still prefers German cars with, in terms of numbers, VW, Audi, Mercedes, BMW (in that order) jockeying for position.
The top selling car in the UK is still the Ford Fiesta.
And how do the current UK car manufacturing numbers compare to the rest of the world? Well, Italy produces around 1 million cars each year; France 1.9 million; Indian 4.1 million; Germany around 6 million; Japan 9 million; the USA around 12 million; and China at 24 million.
Meanwhile, we see that Triumph Motorcycles has done particularly well over this financial year (2016) with worldwide sales rising 4.5% to 56,253 bikes. Of that number, overseas sales accounted for 85.3% (up from 84.4% in 2015). But you have to think for a minute about the phrase "overseas sales" because many Triumph Motorcycles, including all the current Bonnevilles, are produced in Thailand.
A little geography aside, Triumph's revenue was up 16% up at £407.6m, and profits have jumped by 80.3% to £16.6milion. But this figure has to be read in the context of the firm's 2015 pre-tax profits that were recorded at just £2.3million, but have since been revised to £8.7m (something to do with accountancy changes).
We're still hoping for the day that all Triumph Motorcycle production returns to the UK. But there's about as much chance of that happening as British Leyland making a comeback.
Meanwhile, take some comfort from the fact that Britain is generally punching above its weight and is set to top the 1999 high spot when more vehicles than ever were produced here.
It's not a bad note upon which to start the New Year.
Status Quo man dies aged 68
Almost five decades of Quo rockin' comes to an end
The amazing thing about Status Quo man Rick Parfitt is that he lived so long—and we don't mean that in any cynical or derogatory way. Fact is, he was a rocker by name and a rocker by nature, which meant that everything in his lifestyle was conducted at maximum amps.
He was born in Woking, Surrey into a fairly ordinary family. His father sold insurance. His mother made cakes. Rick Parfitt began his musical career in Canvey Island, Essex as part of The Highlights; a cabaret trio. Soon after, he met Francis Rossi, Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan who were playing in a band known as The Spectres. The Spectres became Traffic Jam, and that band subsequently changed its name to The Status Quo (but quickly dropped the word "The").
Status Quo enjoyed early success with the 1968 single Pictures of Matchstick Men, written with reference to Salford (Manchester) artist L S Lowry. The song reached number seven in the UK charts, and it charted elsewhere in the world. That same year, the band had a second hit with the Marty Wilde song, Ice in the Sun which reached number eight. In 1970, Down The Dustpipe hit number twelve.
In 1972 the Quo album Piledriver peaked at number five in the UK charts and stayed there for 37 weeks. What followed was a run of popular and successful songs including Paper Plane; Mean Girl: Gerundula: Caroline; Down, Down; Down the Dustpipe; Rocking All Over The World (by John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival); Whatever You Want; and Living On An Island. Other notable tracks include In My Chair; In The Army Now and What You're Proposing.
And if you want to count their albums, get yourself an oversized abacus. Aside from the dozens of studio and live LPs, there are any number of bootlegs out there laying testament to Quo's endurance.
The band quickly forged a reputation as a great live band, not so much through slick performances and dazzling light shows but simply through full-on rockin' and by playing exactly what the fans wanted to hear. This was a band that understood its limitations and stayed "true" to itself as the music scene around it changed. The combo emerged decades later as (depending on which side of the Quo divide you stood) either as Quo: The Legend, or simply as a rock'n'roll dinosaur and the butt end of any number of half-witted "three-chord" jokes.
We're not the world's greatest Quo fans. But you've got to admire these guys who (so far) have sold around 120,000 million records, have entertained millions of fans worldwide, have spent years of their lives on the tour bus and, a few hiccups notwithstanding, have remained at the top of their game.
Rick Parfitt co-wrote many of the songs (with Francis Rossi) and was one of the most distinctive figures on the British music scene. He smoked heavily, drank to excess and indulged a few other unwise lifestyle habits, all of which no doubt contributed to his numerous serious health issues, any of which might have killed him long ago. In fact, at one point, he was declared clinically dead. But clearly he wasn't quite done with the world.
Finally, at age 68, his time had come and he died in Marbella, Spain. He was married three times, fathered two children, and leaves behind the other half of a musical partnership that endured until the end. His fans will miss him, and we'll raise a glass of beer to him tonight whilst listening to our personal Quo favourite, Marguerita Time.
Join us if you will and spare a thought for Rick Parfitt.
Upgraded version of the established SonicScrubbers
£49 including VAT
"Bigger, faster, stronger." They could be talking about the Six Million Dollar Man, but they're actually talking about the new SonicScrubbers Pro which is considerably cheaper at £49 including VAT.
We've never used these gadgets. Being traditionalists, we prefer to skin our knuckles as and when we can be bothered to get down on our knees and clean the oily hardware in the garage. But for those of you with more delicate fingers who prefer to avoid having nasty gouges in your knuckles and the occasional tetanus shot, you might want to consider adding this device to your motorcycle manicure miscellany.
It's basically the same as the older SonicScrubbers, except that it's got all that Six Million Dollar Man stuff built in. For instance, the tools and heads are reckoned to be 45% thicker and stronger. The internal components have been through boot camp. There's a rechargeable battery instead of the older AA cells. And there are two charging slots in the battery pack so you can keep a spare battery (purchased separately) ready to go.
▲ That's the SonicScrubbers Pro on the left, and the older SonicScrubbers on the right. They're untested by us, but we can see the appeal.
Best of all, this new device is reckoned to oscillate at around 10,000 times per minute. That, we're told, means that you don't need to press so hard to get the grime and muck off your bike. Wheel rims, brake calipers, lugs, brackets, crevices and flat surfaces are all tackled with gyratory aplomb, etc. And apparently, you can use this thing even on chains and sprockets.
We're usually pretty cynical about the world and its multifarious products and come-ons [I think they've noticed that - Ed], but this gizmo looks the business. And if any of you good people try this gadget on your teeth and discover it removes tea and coffee stains, tip us the wink, will you?
We don't know how widely distributed is this SonicScrubbers Professional. But you can certainly buy one from Nippy Normans, the BMW accessories people. Alternately, get yourself some scouring pads, latex gloves, a tooth brush and some cleaning liquid. Works for us, even if it risks the occasional spot of gangrene.
UPDATE: Also see SonicScrubbers Professional tested
Arthur Bourne was "Torrens", a one-time contributor to The Motor Cycle magazine (aka The Blue 'Un) and later the editor. Between 1923-1951, if you needed an intelligent, reasoned, straight-from-the-saddle insight into the machinations of the British motorcycle industry and/or the state of the motorcycling art, this bloke certainly had plenty to say on both subject.
The press release tells us that this is Torrens' story. But we're puzzled. We haven't seen this book before, which of course doesn't mean that it wasn't published some time ago. However, Bourne died in Fordingbridge, Hampshire in 1977, so it's perhaps a little late in the day for this to appear in print—unless it's a reprint or the result of some newly discovered documentation. Certainly, it purports to be Bourne's own handiwork, albeit edited by his son, Richard. The publisher is Troubador. It's a firm we've never heard of, and one that offers a self-publishing imprint.
No doubt, we'll figure it all out sooner or later. In the meantime, it's enough to let you people know that this book is out there somewhere. It was published in November 2016. The price is just shy of twenty five quid.
The book is said to be "a unique and fascinating record of an unrepeatable era in British motorcycling and engineering history." But because we haven't seen a copy, we'll take that at face value (not that we've got any reason to doubt it).
Expect to read lots of amusing anecdotes about the characters and intrigues of the British biking scene from Brooklands to the TT, from Ariel to Vincent. Expect to see plenty of old black & white photography too. We'll have more to say on this as and when we see a copy. Meanwhile, check the Troubador website for more details.
THIS DAY IN HISTORY
22nd December 2016
1965: UK 70mph speed limit trialled
Until this day, you could ride a motorcycle up the M1 motorway (or other unrestricted roads) at whatever speed you wanted, assuming your bike had the muscle. But the government, growing increasingly concerned over high profile speeders and accidents, launched the four month trial. However, in 1967 Transport Minister Barbara Castle made the 70mph speed limit permanent. In 1966, 7,985 people were killed on British roads. The highest number ever recorded during peacetime.
1974: UK Prime Minister Edward Heath was targeted by bombers at his home in Belgravia, London. Why? Because in 1971 he'd introduced internment (mass imprisonment without trial) in Northern Ireland. That, at least, is still the consensus of opinion regarding the attack motivation. The IRA were blamed for the bomb lobbed onto Heath's balcony. It exploded. But the PM had attended a concert in Broadstairs, Kent. The device missed him by 10 minutes. Internment lasted until 1975 after almost 2,000 people had been jailed. Rule Britannia, huh?
1997: US drug firm Merck & Co introduced a pill said to combat male pattern baldness (the most common form). The curative powers, such as they are, were discovered as a by-product of another drug. However, in a very small number of cases serious (and occasionally fatal) side-effects resulted. For many other men temporary or permanent sexual dysfunction was the consequence. The class-action lawsuit began in October this year (2016).
2001: Richard Reid, aka the Shoe Bomber, boarded an American Airlines flight headed from Paris to Miami with high-explosives stuffed in his footwear. He was stopped before he could detonate the device, and later received three life sentences plus 110 years. Reid, 43 at the time of the incident, is British born of white and Jamaican parentage. An habitual criminal, it's said that Reid converted to Islam because Muslims received better food in jail.
Nice little ignition timing tool for two-stroke engines
Could be adapted for limited use on some four-stroke motors
You can use a drinking straw if you prefer. Or, if you've got the equipment, you can machine an old spark plug and replace the central electrode with a sliding bolt or similar. Or you can muck around with a degree disc. Or you can buy a dial test indicator. Or use some kind of depth gauge. Or you can simply guess. But if you're riding a classic (or, for that matter, a modern) two-stroke motorcycle, you might be interested in this handy gadget.
Venhill Enginerring Ltd, noted leaders in motorcycle hydraulic hoses and control cables, is currently marketing this tool. It's aimed at "men of straw" (to misappropriate a legal term) who, like us, have long been doing things the sloppy way and need to sharpen their pencils. [More...]
New "white paper" aims to boost biking in the UK
Proposals are being made to improve motorcycling road safety
Highways England, the National Police Chiefs' Council and The Motorcycle Industry Association has announced a new partnership aimed at (a) engineering safer roads for bikers, (b) improving general awareness of motorcycling, and (c) promoting the benefits of biking as a practical solution to congestion.
Sound like fairy talk? That's what we thought when we first heard it, but we're reserving judgement. For now.
It's all part of a new government white paper entitled: Realising the Motorcycling Opportunity: A Motorcycle Safety and Transport Policy Framework. Under this document, practical approaches would include more thoughtful positioning of street furniture, motorcycle friendly road surfaces and markings, non-slip manhole covers, rapid diesel-spill clear-up, and more appropriate signage. Also, it's intended that there will be more positive policy action aimed at highlighting the multifarious benefits of biking, not least with regard to industry and employment.
Check this encouraging statement from the document:
"It is entirely possible that the existing unwillingness to fully incorporate motorcycling into mainstream transport policies stems from a perception that motorcycling represents nothing but a safety problem; that in a wider societal sense, motorcycling doesn’t matter, that wider society would not miss motorcycles or scooters if they were removed from the roads. This thinking needs to be reconsidered and negativity removed – at all levels."
And this ...
"For too long, motorcyclists have been at the bottom of the pecking order in terms of priority for traffic management and road planners. Often ‘safety advice’ is a thinly veiled attempt to keep people off motorbikes and scooters, rather than a genuine attempt to reduce their vulnerability. It is important to recognise the transport choice of riders and address their needs appropriately. Ignoring motorcyclists increases their vulnerability."
The key thing to remember here is that although the messages included in this document are long overdue and represent exactly what motorcyclists at home, and worldwide, want to hear, it is just a white paper at present. It's not government policy. It's not legislation. But it is encouraging.
And remember this too. Part of the motivation for this document has to be an increasing (or at least continuing) concern regarding motorcycling injuries and fatalities which, compared to all groups except cycling, are still wildly disproportionate, and will no doubt stay that way as car safety continues to improve through enhanced safety cage design, materials technology, and autonomous control systems.
But beyond that, some of the credit for the (presumed) change in attitude towards motorcycling has to go to Triumph Motorcycles and Norton Motorcycles. Triumph, in particular, is bringing home a lot of revenue for the British economy, and it employs thousands of people, both directly and indirectly. The British government and other policymakers are well aware of this fact, so we can chalk another one up to the boys (and girls) at Hinckley. But Norton is doing its bit, if mostly in terms of prestige rather than hard cash numbers.
Meanwhile, need we remind anyone on two wheels not to get complacent out there? No, we didn't think so. We're waiting with interest to see just how far this particular white paper travels.
Copy, paste and check this address: www.motorcycleframework.co.uk
Pop-up autojumble at London ExCel
"Beaulieu" comes to the capital for two days only
Beaulieu comes to London. That's the message from the organisers of the next London Classic Car Show which will happen on 23rd - 26th February 2017. The venue is the ExCel Centre, Docklands.
Apparently, the "world famous" Beaulieu Autojumble will be staging a "Pop-up Autojumble" at the show to mark 50 years of service to essential junk hunters. But take note: the autojumble component will happen only on the 25th & 26th February. So if that's the part of this event that specifically interests you, book a ticket or turn up at the door on the RIGHT day.
If you remember the beginnings of the annual fixture in the motoring calendar that "Beaulieu" is, you'll be looking back to 1967 when the Montagu Motor Museum (as it used to be called) staged a motoring jumble. That, we're told, was when the term "autojumble" was first coined.
Whether that's true or not is something over which the historians and etymologists can argue. But few would argue with the fact that "Beaulieu" is to automobilia what Woodstock was to hippy music.
Around 60 autojumble stalls will be at the London venue flogging the usual stuff. Autojumble pitches are still available at 4m x 4m for £360 (plus VAT), or 3m x 3m for £300 (VAT). But the organisers haven't said whether that's per day, or for two days (and it doesn't pay to take much for granted in this life). If you want to rent a trestle table, it'll cost you an extra £25.
Beyond that, the organisers at Beaulieu are hoping that their presence at Docklands will help stimulate interest in the two Beaulieu Autojumble fixtures for 2017. These are:
Spring Autojumble 13th & 14th May 2017
International Autojumble 2nd & 3rd September 2017
The International Autojumble reckons it's host to around 38,000 visitors and 2,000 stalls spread over three very large fields. "If it can't be found at Beaulieu," goes the familiar message, "it doesn't exist." This event, say the organisers, is the biggest of its kind on the British side of the Atlantic.
Tickets to the London Classic Car Show are available now. The price is £24 in advance, or £27 on the gate. There is parking adjacent to the venue, but they ain't giving it away. So bring some change. Lots. London City Airport is maybe half a mile away. There are two Docklands Light Rail stations (Royal Victoria or Prince Regent) just minutes away.
Finally, if you're not familiar with that part of the world, you might consider a walk around what used to be the Royal Albert Dock. Some of us here at Sump (mentioning no names) can still remember way back to the 1960s when that dock was chocker-block with cargo ships from Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Kyoto and other exotic locales. So bring a history book if that's your poison. There are some stories there that will reward your time spent discovering them.
New cool Bobber focussed tee £19.99
Quality heavyweight cotton, double stitched, 100% pre-shrunk
Here's a cool new T-shirt from Sump that will appeal to many of you Sumpsters out there. It's by no means the most original design in our collection. But we're making no apologies for that. Since the big bang, the entire planet has been borrowing ideas. The trick is simply to make 'em yer own, which is what we've done.
The T-shirts are being produced right now, and we can despatch direct from our UK-based printers. We've got the pre-production samples right here. They look great, and we expect to sell 'em fairly quickly. And if you're quick enough off the mark, you might get yours in time for Christmas. But what with the seasonal postage rush, we can't promise that. However, we'll do our very best to give you the kind of service that we not only expect, but demand. Follow the link to read more on these great tees.
EAT SLEEP RIDE REPEAT T-shirt
UPDATE: Sorry, we've sold out of the first batch. These won't be available again until the new year.
1960's Ministry of Technology cinema roadshow
Stratford Festival of Motoring 2017 dates
What you're looking at (immediately above) is a promotional snapshot of a mobile cinema commissioned by the British government's Ministry of Technology during the late 1960s.
It's actually one of seven vehicles built to broadly the same specifications. The chassis were Bedford SB. The coachwork was by Coventry Steel Caravans which also built the trailers. The cabs came from Plaxton. As for the perspex domes above the cabs, those housed the remote control film projection units.
The vehicles were operated by the Production Engineering Research Association, or PERA if you prefer acronyms. The idea was that these mobile cinemas would tour the nation's factories spreading news, general information and propaganda related to up-to-the-minute manufacturing techniques. The trailers, meanwhile, carried display units and suchlike.
This particular mobile cinema is the last of the seven. Apparently, it's travelled a rocky road since the seven vehicles were sold off in 1974. Numerous owners have come and gone, all with the usual good intentions. For some time, the vehicle was abandoned in a field. During that period, some of the mechanicals, including the gearbox, were seized or stolen.
But finally, the roadshow was beautifully restored, and it currently lives at Bicester Heritage in Oxfordshire which is a huge 348 acre ex-WW2 airfield and home of dozens of vintage cars, trucks and aircraft. You can find it just off the M40 (OX27 8AL).
So if you want to take a closer look at this evocative mobile cinema, you can find it there. But it's a "closed site" meaning that you need to make an appointment to gain entry. Alternately, you can see this vehicle at the 2017 Stratford Festival of Motoring on 30th April to the 1st May 2017.
As for Coventry Steel Caravans, the firm was founded in the 1930s by Clifford Dawtrey. Dawtrey was an engineer and car designer who had worked with Standard and Swallow Sidecars (later to become Jaguar).
Always forward thinking, he saw a growing market for caravans and eventually struck out on his own. He founded Airlite Trailers. The company had many new ideas and gave the world the very practical and well-built Airlite Royal, financial problems brought the business to a close. Dawtrey, undeterred, subsequently founded Coventry Steel Caravans. This firm also produced a number of popular models including the Silent Knight, the Phantom Knight, and the Coventry Knight (variously described as the "Rolls Royce of Caravans" - and consequently a seriously heavy mobile home). Some of these caravans, note, featured hot water showers and central heating.
Plaxton was a founded in Scarborough in 1907 by Frederick William Plaxton. Originally, the firm focused on joinery work for the building trade. Post WW1, the company diversified into coach building. Plaxton charabancs, based upon Model T Ford chassis, soon became an increasingly familiar sight on British (and continental) roads.
Later Plaxton handled coachwork for Crossley, Rolls Royce, Sunbeam and Daimler. Post WW2, Plaxton built very stylish coaches using Bedford, AEC, Leyland and Dodge rolling chassis.
In 2007, Plaxton was bought by Alexander Dennis (think fire engines, dust carts and coaches), and the brand is still being used.
When you're tired of reading about classic motorcycles (as if you ever could be), you might take a peek into the world of British caravans and coaches. Sounds a little anorakish? Well it doesn't have to be. There are great characters, great stories and all kinds of interesting industrial connections that, as likely as not, will bring you right back round to classic bikes once again.
It's a one of a kind Series C Rapide prototype, and it's up for sale
$250,000 - $300,000 is the Bonhams estimate
What happens when you cross a Vincent with an Indian? You get a 1949 Vindian, which is a bike that many, if not most, classic bikers are well aware of. What's less well known is the (immediately) above Indian-Vincent, also built in 1949 as a collaborative venture between both firms, but in the event never saw production.
Ralph Rogers (manager at Indian in Springfield, Massachusetts) and our own Philip Vincent were, naturally enough, the driving forces behind the two-bike project. The motorcycles were aimed squarely at the US market which then, as ever, had its own ideas of what a motorcycle ought to look like.
Indian supplied the frame, such as it is, and the electrics. Other Yankee-oriented features included the left-side gearshift, the crash bars, the "high" handlebars, and the extra lights. Vincent supplied the Series C Rapide engines, forks, tanks and sundry cycle parts. Both the Vindian and the Indian-Vincent were assembled at the Vincent factory in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, England. The bikes were paraded a little and displayed to the media. But neither saw extensive road testing.
Phil Vincent subsequently took the Indian-Vincent to Australia where it remained for most of the past 60-odd years. But now these hallowed wheels are headed for a freshly waxed auction block in Las Vegas courtesy of Bonhams, and if you visit the Rio Hotel on Thursday 26th January 2017, you can plant your peepers on this machine and cross it off your must-see-before-I-die list.
Bonhams is estimating $250,000 - $300,000 for this Indian-Vincent. And we reckon you can pretty much write the headline for that one. But then again, it's still a fickle world, even where classic bikes are concerned. And if this one doesn't lure the hardcore Vincent boys and girls, there are currently another 16 Vinnies on the January consignment list. [More on the Indian-Vincent]
"Forgotten" American motorcycle marque resurfaces
Bonhams auction at Las Vegas, January 2017
Bonhams is to auction a rare and little known Feilbach Limited V-twin. The sale will happen on 26th January 2017 at the Rio Hotel, Las Vegas, USA. Currently, there's no other information from Bonhams except that it's part of the Larry Bowman Collection, which is unknown to us.
But we have got some information on the motorcycle and the company if any of you Sumpsters are interested.
The Feilbach Motor Company was a short-lived motorcycle marque founded in 1907 by Arthur Otto Feilbach. The firm was based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That made it something of a local challenger to Harley-Davidson which had formally established itself in 1903, two years after the Springfield, Massachusetts-based Indian Motocycle Company was created (correct spelling of "Motocycle").
A O Feilbach had actually been building bikes since around 1904. Among his early creations was a single cylinder belt-driven machine with a capacity of possibly 350cc (no details are available). The price was $250, which was around $30 - $40 dollars more than that being charged by Harley or Indian for an equivalent model. [More on the Feilbach Limited]
UPDATE: The bike (Lot 250) sold for $195,000 (£155,492)
Greetings cards that play engine sounds
Two bikes, a bunch of cars, and a lot of wildlife...
These things have been around for some time. Usually they play little jingles or squeaks, or you get the sound of a dog barking or similar. Well, Really Wild Cards has introduced what we think is a new collection of cards aimed at "petrolheads" [do we have to use that word? -Ed], and we've been trying 'em out for size—as no doubt many of you Sumpsters will the moment you finish this news item, if not sooner.
There appears to be just two motorcycles in the collection. The first is the above 1936 Brough Superior 11-50, and the other is a 1961 RC162 Honda as campaigned by the late Mike Hailwood. Both are priced at £5.99, which is pretty reasonable, and both make a pretty convincing engine racket. And so they should. These things are digital samples on modern embedded soundchips or something as opposed to the cheesy, synthetic first generation Stylophone stuff. You can test them on the firm's website.
And if neither of those engines does it for you, there are a couple of dozen cars on the list including a 1969 Jensen Interceptor (not exactly famous for its exhaust note), to a 1930 supercharged Bentley to a 1903 De Dion Bouton. And there's a 1947 Land Rover in the collection somewhere.
You could argue that these cards are now a little passé when most of the planet is toting smart phones and MP3 players, etc. But people still like to buy greetings cards, so these will no doubt find a healthy market. However, Really Wild Cards might be missing a trick by not including a little scratch-and-sniff panel that's infused with the evocative aroma of Castrol R.
One more thing. If you prefer animal noises (pigs, chickens, cows and whatnot), you're gonna love this outfit.
Note that you'll need to copy and paste the link (immediately below) into your browser. We have no way of knowing if this firm is in it for the long haul or the short haul, so we deactivated the hyper-thingy.
Ministry of Justice is canvassing your views
New motoring offence and penalties mooted
The UK government is looking at imposing possible life sentences on dangerous drivers who kill. The idea is that those who become involved in a fatal "accident" whilst using a mobile phone, or when speeding, or when fooling around on the street, or when under the influence of drink or drugs could soon find themselves in pokey for up to 15 years. Effectively, that will put the charge of "Causing death by dangerous driving" on par with manslaughter.
The Ministry of Justice is currently canvassing views on the proposed sentencing increase, and you've got until 1st February 2017 to make your point or express your concerns.
The government is also looking at creating a new offence of "Causing serious injury by careless driving" which will carry a maximum sentence of three years. Additionally, convicted motoring killers could be faced with a minimum driving ban of X number of months or years, thereby curtailing judicial discretion.
It's perhaps worth mentioning that part of the reason drivers kill is simply because they can. In other words, allowing people to exercise high-powered vehicles on the road is inevitably going to lead to fatalities no matter how much legislation is in place. And arguably, pretty much anything above 100bhp can be considered high-power for cars, and anything above 50bhp can be considered high-power for motorcycles.
In other words, throwing the book at a man or woman for accidentally shooting someone when society licensed him or her the bloody weapon is a little ... well, inequitable. And that's not to totally excuse the moron who did whatever the hell he or she did. Clearly some kind of sanction has to be in place as both a deterrent and a punishment, especially where outright criminality is concerned. Dangerous drivers, as opposed to "merely" careless drivers, therefore deserve a heavier hand. But the culpability for motoring offences, to a greater or lesser degree, goes way beyond the nut behind the wheel or the handlebars. It's simply a question of where you draw the line.
Naturally, most bikers and motorists will baulk at any suggestion of power limits. And we're not necessarily advocating that. Nevertheless, if you want to rig the system to prevent death on the road, you have to exercise the necessary controls on the relevant factors. And there's not a lot of point doing that after the fact when the damage has been done.
There simply has to be mechanisms in place that help limit the natural, albeit unwanted, excesses of human behaviour, and it's not clear that extra time spent in the slammer will do that.
Generally, it isn't the issue of maximum speed that causes the problem, note. Most accidents occur between around 25mph and 50mph, or thereabouts. Rather, it's the raw acceleration of modern vehicles which, when something goes askew, is generally way too fast for human reaction. And yes, modern ABS braking and traction control systems have dramatically improved road manners and stopping power. But nought to sixty in just three or four seconds is, sooner or later, whether you're on four wheels or two, a guaranteed recipe for disaster of some kind. And even the average family saloon has the capability of propelling itself to way beyond the national speed limit at double or treble the acceleration rate of a generation ago.
It's worth keeping all this in mind when you cast the first stone.
Ministry of Justice Consultation
Also see Sump Classic Bike News January 2015
▲ Peter Vaughan in a 1964 episode of The Saint starring Roger Moore. That innocent expression was typical of his, especially when playing a killer, as he was on this occasion...
British character actor Peter Vaughan has died aged 93
We're having a sober beer tonight (if such a thing is possible) in memory of the great British actor Peter Vaughan who had died aged 93. One of the great characters of stage and screen, he was born Peter Olm in Wem, Shropshire.
Most folk think of Vaughan as "Grouty" in the British TV comedy series "Porridge". But for us here at Sump, we mostly think of him as Mr Roper, the good natured but hyper-thrifty insurance investigator in Smokescreen, a classic 1964 B&W low-budget (but essential viewing) British crime caper with a wonderful twist about halfway through.
▲ Peter Vaughan as Harry "Grouty" Grout in the 1980s prison comedy series Porridge. Famously, he appeared in just three episodes of the show alongside (the late) Ronnie Barker and (the late) Richard Beckinsale. But his comedic-menacing presence lingered throughout the series.
However, his first film role was in the 1959 remake of The 39 Steps starring Kenneth Moore. Peter Vaughan appeared briefly as a police officer on the London to Edinburgh train used by Richard Hannay to make good his escape. The role was uncredited, but Vaughan steadily refined his craft and took on numerous small supporting parts until Smokescreen put him in the director's starring spotlight.
Three years later he was second on the billing to Frank Sinatra in the movie The Naked Runner (1967). His British agent role was, however, not well received and was roundly criticised as being a little overblown. Nevertheless, he was established, and in 1971 he appeared in Straw Dogs with Dustin Hoffman and Susan George. In 1981 he took a part in The French Lieutenant's Woman alongside Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons and David Warner (another British acting treasure).
In 1983, Vaughan gave one of his most memorable performances in the movie The Remains of the Day and starred alongside Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Christopher Reeves and James Fox. And in more recent years he found new fame with a new generation in the US fantasy drama Game of Thrones (2011 - 2015).
But these are by no means all his movie credits. Vaughan appeared in over 70 films and still found plenty of time to take on theatre and television roles, often appearing unexpectedly in shows such as Randall & Hopkirk Deceased and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. He was invariably the face that everyone loved to love, or loved to hate, but frequently found it hard to put a name to. Overall, he spent seven decades in the public gaze on stage or screen.
He was twice married, once to the late actress Billie Whitelaw (yet another great British treasure). He served in the British Army during WW2 and was present when the notorious Changi Prison in Singapore was liberated by the allies.
Towards the end of his life Peter Vaughan found his eyesight failing, but he was still acting almost to the very end.
He died peacefully at his home in West Sussex, another long and well-lived life put safely to bed.
Venhill Engineering's VT86 torque spanner kit
£111.02 including VAT.
For some of us here at Sump (mentioning no names) it took years to really appreciate the value of good tools, and even now one or two of us (still mentioning no names) need occasional reminding. That's because we're "amateurs", and amateurs (in the cruellest sense of the word) tend to do thing the amateur way.
But try removing, say, the crankshaft pinion on a Triumph T120 without the correct crankshaft pinion extractor, and you'll see what we mean. Or try fitting pistons to a Triumph Trident without a decent set of ring compressors. Or try to manage without a pair of circlip pliers on a high-gear bearing or a front fork leg when only circlip pliers will do. And don't even think of valve removal without a spring compressor.
Cylinder head bolts are, okay, slightly different. You can always clamp a head onto a barrel without a torque wrench. But your "mechanic's feel" simply isn't good enough if you want even-pressure on your gasket at the correct torque. And when it comes to a 500 mile re-torque, what are you gonna do? Guess? [More...]
World's cow population wiped out to make one coat!
Here's the recipe. Take one whole cow (or possibly two or three). Kill it (or them). Skin it (or them). Flog the meat. Reduce all the nasty bits into glue or pies or whatnot. And then do whatever you have to do with the skin to transform it into classy, upmarket, sophisticated leather.
Nasty world, huh?
Next, hand over said leather to the Matchless elves, shape it into a fashionable item of high class menswear, give it a cool name (such as an M47 Tank Coat, so named after the main battle tank once deployed by the US Army and US Marine Corps), then stick a £2,999 price tag on it and wait for the orders to roll in.
And here at Sump, if we were really cool guys and gals, and not arf so bloody poor and ugly (and weren't half-hearted vegetarians/vegans), we'd probably go and buy one or more of these coats. With a furry dead cow such as this wrapped around you, there ain't a London cabbie who would dare call you "mate" instead of "sir". Moreover, only high class whores would consider flipping you the wink, and you could swan up and down Regent Street like Oscar Wilde if that's what takes yer fancy.
Matchless calls this thing a "Tank Parka", and the firm has even included a cigar pocket. Yes, you read that right. A pocket. For a cigar. Or two. And in case you think only poofs would actually wear something like this [we ought to make it clear that we haven't actually got anything against poofs - Ed], you might want to know that this piece of artfully expensive hide is part of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Collection, and the ex-Governor of California is allegedly as hetero as 85 percent of the population (but you have to wonder about all those muscleman dressing rooms that he "hung out" in for most of his life, and he did pose nude for a gay magazine, and he did perform two gay marriage ceremonies during his time in office—but only because he said he was more or less obliged to).
Meanwhile, if the M47 Tank Coat is too rich for your pauper's pocket, and if you still want to buy into the burgeoning Matchless fashion thing, click on the cow's rear end (above) and be whisked to the Matchless Inverness Bomber Jacket, at just £799. Cheap.
But whether or not the Terminator really is a fag [we ought to make it clear again that we haven't actually got anything against fags - Ed] Matchless has nevertheless created something that's probably gonna find a lot of buyers and worthy of the hallowed Matchless name.
It's the coat of a lifetime. In fact, it's the coat of two or three cows' lifetimes. But alas, we'll be sticking to our humble Indian-made Brando-style jackets at eighty-nine-quid a pop.
It's only natural at our end of the social spectrum.
New V-twin from the Confederate Hellcat Speedster designer
$29,995 is the asking price
It's a "new American Motorcycle conceived, designed and built in New York City", USA and it's set to be unveiled at the International Motorcycle Show, also in New York, on 9th December 2016.
The bike manufacturer is a new outfit called Vanguard, and there will be three models (Roadster, Cruiser and Racer) all built upon a common platform; specifically a 1,917 cc (117 cubic inch) S&S V-twin engine. That's the plan, anyway. According to the over-hyped press release:
"Form and function have never been more complimentary..."
"...with its forward-thinking design and pioneering features, [it's] a product without equivalent..."
"... the potential to bring new perspectives to the motorcycle industry..."
"... a dynamic team of passion and vision..."
"...[the] Vanguard promises to be a premium motorcycle brand of revolutionary effect..."
Features include an engine-as-stressed-frame-member, a "unitised crankcase" (whatever that it), an "integrated exhaust" (whatever that is too), and "a tablet-size digital dashboard with rear-view camera".
The manufacturer has said that the modular Vanguard will be using worldwide sourced components (read what you will into that), but the motorcycles will be "assembled" (note the word assembled) at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York, aka "The Can-Do Shipyard" which built at least eight aircraft carriers since 1942, and plenty of Battleships and Heavy Cruisers.
The guys behind (or should that be "riding"?) the Vanguard project are designer Edward Jacobs (of Confederate fame) and "serial entrepreneur" Francois-Xavier Terny. And any similarity between this new bike and, say, the 2,163cc Confederate Hellcat Speedster is ... well, pretty obvious.
If you're headed for the International Motorcycle Show in New York, you'll find it at the Javits Center in Manhattan. Look for booth #438.
As for the retail price of this machine, it's being pitched at $29,995, which at today's sterling-dollar exchange rate is around £23,605. Now, we're no experts in motorcycle manufacture. Actually, we're not experts in anything. But does £23,605 look like a realistic price tag to you?
UPDATE: See Sump Motorcycle News December 2016 for info on Vanguard's crowdfunding pitch.
See Sump Confederate Hellcat Speedster page.
See Sump Confederate P51 Fighter page.
April 2017 Kickback Show
Stoneleigh Park is the venue. Adults £9.50 advance (£12 on the gate)
As ever, this might sound like a premature reminder, but four months ain't a lot of time to get prepared for the first Kickback Show of 2017. Actually, four months ain't a lot of time to get ready for anything. Not for some of us, anyway. This show will take place at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, and it's a two-day gathering between 1st and 2nd April.
Here are some opening and closing times:
Saturday 1st April: Show opens at 12 noon and closes at 6pm.
Sunday 2nd April: Show opens at 10am and closes at 5pm.
This event appears to get bigger and bigger, and it looks like there's plenty of headroom yet. The current bobber, bratster and shed-brewed custom bike scene (some of it from pretty big sheds) is still turning up some weird and very whacky stuff such as Chris Edward's Steam Powered drag bike, or Rocket Bob's Cycle Works' Speed Weevil which took 1st Place in the Artistry in Iron 'Masterbuilder Championships' in Las Vegas, USA in September 2016.
Meanwhile Sinroja Motorcycles' minimalistic air-head BMW (image immediately above) shows that interest in these classic two-valve Boxers is far from depleted. Rahul Sinroja is the builder and was rewarded with a Young Builder Excellence Award.
If you missed these machines (at Kickback's Olympia Show, September 2016), you might yet get a second chance at Stoneleigh. But if not, whatever else happens on the day, you can be sure that there will be plenty of fresh surprises.
Regarding Stoneleigh exhibitor info, it doesn't look like any details have yet been posted. But when we hear, you will. Meanwhile, if you're interested in taking some show space, or exhibiting a bike, check with Lorne Cheetham, the Kickback organiser.
"The large face design sits stylishly on your wrist, while polished hands and hour indicators glistens its undoubted class through its crystal glass, a white Kawasaki logo on black face with lime anodized crown is completed with a comfortable silicone strap and long life battery."
Short story about a guy, an unusual bike, and a dangerous game
Could be the start of a series (or the beginning and the end of one)
So okay, we're not expecting Hollywood to buy the film rights to this one. Not yet, anyway. It's just a little biker tale that we threw together a few years back, and since then it's been percolating on the hard drive awaiting a few readers. So we dusted it down a few times in the intervening years and held it up to the light and wondered what the hell we were going to do with it. Kill it quietly after midnight? Pretend someone else wrote it? Donate it to charity?
Finally we figured it was better out than in, and it was coincidentally exactly the right shape to plug a hole on this page, so now you can read it by thumping the next link that comes your way.
The story's called THE BET. It's a tale about an unusual motorcycle, a very cool character, and a high risk game that could end well, or very badly. If fiction ain't your thing, biker style of otherwise, you'll have to content yourself with all the other stuff going on around here. But if you're up for a good (or mediocre) yarn, strap in and hunker down.
Meanwhile, we've got a few other tales that might come this way once we figure out where the hell we left 'em. Any feedback will, as ever, be welcome.
Hope you enjoy this little adventure...
Visitors asking about Sump's future plans
Sump subscription clarification
No, we're not going onto the newsstands. At least, not yet. But we've been asked this once or twice in the past, and more recently too (like yesterday, actually). And that got us fooling around with a few ideas and concepts. So we decided to make Sump look a little more like a magazine (which it is), as opposed to a website (which it also is). Hence the above graphic.
If you take a trip to our current HOME PAGE you'll get a better view. We've revamped the image on that page into a kind of magazine cover, and if the mood takes us, we'll be producing a new magazine cover every month until we think of something else.
So as it stands, there's still no paper magazine, and the only (free) subscription we're offering is to this digital edition—and you can do that via this Sump subscription link.
Meanwhile, we're grateful to all you Sumpsters who've taken sufficient interest in our—ahem, modest organ—to bounce an email off a satellite and ask what our plans are. Clearly plenty of you people love Sump and want to see it in print.
And we're thinking about it...