Okay, this is a new publication from Panther Publishing and will be launched at the Classic Mechanics Show at Stafford on 17th - 18th October 2015.
Written by the late Norman Vanhouse (with a foreword by Jeff Smith), it's the tale of three "randomly selected" 500cc production BSA A7 Star Twins that entered the 1952 ISDT, then took the coveted Maudes Trophy. The narrative follows the daring exploits of the oily and muddy snow-bitten riders (Vanhouse, Fred Rist and Brian Martin) through Austria, Germany, Denmark and finally to Oslo, Norway for the flying quarter mile tests (at over 80mph on average). The bikes then returned to the UK having covered 4,958 miles.
Accompanying the launch of the book will be the famous Maudes Trophy itself which you can go and gawp at or touch or steal if you're so disposed. You can find it at the Panther Publishing stand (149 - 150 in the main hall). The special show price for the book is £12, but we don't have any other details.
George Pettyt of Maudes Motor Mart (based at 100 Great Portland Street, London W1) started the Maudes thing way back in 1923. The idea was to put the various motorcycle marques through a gruelling series of endurance tests under supervision of the ACU. Pettyt provided a silver "challenge trophy", earned a lot of publicity for himself, and didn't do the motorcycle industry much harm either.
The event's popularity (and relevance) has waxed and waned over the decades. The motorcycle manufacturers were generally half-hearted about the whole thing. But a few factories rose (and rode) to the occasion and supplied teams.
Norton dominated the early years (1923 - 1925). In 1926, BSA took the trophy. Ariel reigned supreme between 1927 and 1931. In the 1930s, Triumph, Panther and BSA were the leaders of the pack. The Japs came along in 1962 when Honda fielded three 50cc Super Cubs that covered 15,800 miles (collectively) at Goodwood averaging 31mph over a continuous week of motoring. Honda held the trophy for eleven years. Currently, Yamaha are the "custodians". But the cup doesn't really mean that much now. The heyday has been and gone.
If, however, you want to explore the adventure of the 1952 Maudes Trophy, talk to Rollo Turner at Panther Publishing.
— Del Monte
It's 102-years old, and Charterhouse Auctions reckon it will make between £50,000 and £60,000 when it goes under the hammer at Netley Marsh Eurojumble on the 4th - 5th September 2015. Specifically, it's a 1912, 3.5hp, 592cc (600cc), single-speed, sidevalve single and is one of the rarest motorcycles in the UK—and not exactly as common as muck anywhere in the world.
The Pierce Arrow Motor Car Company was founded in 1901 in Buffalo, New York, USA. The firm ceased trading in 1938. George Norman Pierce's manufacturing plant was noted primarily for its six-cylinder and eight-cylinder luxury cars, but between 1909 and 1914 the business also built motorcycles. In fact, the Pierce Four is said to be the first four-cylinder motorcycle manufactured in the USA.
At one time, the company occupied 1,500,000 square feet of space at Arrow Bend employing 10,000 workers. Studebaker came on board in 1928, and the two firms pooled resources and expertise until Studebaker collapsed in 1933. After that, Pierce Arrow found new owners. But times were tough, so the business rationalised its motor car product and introduced a line of Travelodge Trailers (caravans).
Unlike the cars (and Pierce Arrow trucks and bicycles), the motorcycle side of the firm was not successful, neither in numbers built, nor in profits. Actually, the company recorded mostly two-wheeled losses. But the bikes were well designed, and as reliable as anything else of the era.
Breaking ranks with most competitors, Pierce Arrow designed its bikes with petrol and oil contained within the 3.5 inch steel tube/copper coated frames. Much of thinking behind the four-cylinder "vibrationless" machines came from studying Belgian FN bikes. But there was no question that Pierce Arrow manufactured its own product in its own way and deserve a place among the American greats.
The multi-cylinder, shaft-driven machines (image immediately above) are well known. But in recent years, on this side of the Atlantic at least, the singles have been largely overlooked except by the most ardent collectors. Well this (Charterhouse) example (main image, this story) might help re-establish the firm in the minds of the singles-set.
"Pierce Arrow Motorcycles are not made to compete in price, but to surpass in quality. It is a deluxe motorcycle for discriminating riders."
— Pierce Arrow Motorcycles, 1912
Pierce Arrow cars, incidentally, also enjoy the distinction of being the first vehicles used by the US White House for presidential transportation. The Arrow Bend factory premises are still in existence and are occupied by numerous unrelated companies.
— The Third Man
It might not be news to a lot of folk, but it's news to us (and news to all the Triumph dealers we spoke to). We've just been on the Triumph Motorcycle website looking for our nearest dealer, only to discover that Triumph charges 7 pence per minute for the privilege of talking to said purveyor of its products using the website-supplied number.
Here's how it works. You go on the Triumph site. You aim your pointer at a drop-down window called: DEALERS. You punch your postcode into the necessary field, and then a list of local dealers pops up. You dial the supplied telephone number, and as you wait, you notice that calls are being charged at 7 pence per minute, plus your normal landline or mobile phone rate.
Alternately, you could look up the dealer on the web and obtain their own business number (as opposed to the number Triumph offers) and call them direct. Most direct calls are charged at the ordinary national rate. Some calls are freephone (or at local rate). But as far as we can tell (and our explorations weren't exhaustive) no one charges for the privilege of chin-wagging about buying a new bike (or buying spares or booking a service) except Triumph Hinckley.
Penny pinching? Or no big deal? You can decide that for yourself. But this thrifty news comes just a few months after we posted a story revealing that John Bloor, Triumph supremo and house builder to the washed and unwashed masses, has become a billionaire over the past year (see April 2015 Sump).
Naturally, we did contact Triumph Motorcycles looking for a response, but nobody suitable was available. However, if we do get some feedback, we'll be sure to post it, no charge.
Remember the old British Telecom slogan that read? It's good to talk. Well, when you call a Triumph dealer via the Triumph website, you can see why. Could it be that it's just a question of time before we're charged for the privilege of merely entering a Triumph showroom?
Makes you think.
Update: We've just received a response from Triumph explaining that the 7 pence per minute is not being charged by them, but by British Telecom.
And why? So Triumph can record conversations between the customer and the dealer and thereby check (a) that the dealer is "on message", and (b) that the customer's needs are being addressed. And naturally, the information is also used by Triumph to gather general feedback on its product and services.
Does all this sounds a little sly and crafty? Maybe that's putting it too strongly. But certainly, you'd think a firm like Triumph would fund its own intelligence gathering operations rather than pass the cost onto its customers. Note that before you connect with a dealer via the Triumph website, Triumph (sorry, BT) does warn you (according to UK law) that conversations are being recorded.
Actually, the message reads: "Please note that some calls are being recorded for training purposes".
Training purposes, huh?
In practical terms, this strategy probably works. But in public relations terms, it probably does more harm than good. And wouldn't it be easier to simply hard-wire GPS transponders, microphones and lie-detectors into the bikes? That would gather a lot of useful information.
In an age of rampant and wily data gathering from the likes of, say, Google, YouTube, local councils, MI5 et al, we can live without our favourite motorcycle manufacturer climbing on board this overloaded bandwagon.
At the moment (Tuesday 21st July), Cheffins is fielding just 14 bikes at its forthcoming Cambridge Sale which takes place this Saturday. There's nothing much to get too excited about here, but the 1969 650cc Norton Model 18 Mercury (Lot 704) might fire someone's motor.
The Mercury and the Norton SS were the last of the Dominator line. It's said that just 750 examples of the Mercury were manufactured, allegedly to use up excess stock. Indeed, the engine number of this bike carries the "SS" prefix (18SS/129302/P). The letter "P", incidentally, is said to refer to Plumstead, or Plumstead-built.
Around 100 Mercurys remained in Europe. The rest were exported to the USA. Some have since been repatriated, but it's not known exactly how many are still out in the wilds.
Norton reckoned the Mercury was good for 47bhp. That's a little exaggerated perhaps, but there's no arguing about the lustiness of these surefooted twins. Features include; capacitor ignition, a single Amal carburettor; and a featherbed frame. Colours included Atlantic Blue and Quicksilver.
This example is said to be original aside from "the chain guard and a few caphead screws". A V5 is offered. The estimate is £3,000 - £4,000.
Also on offer at the sale is the above 1911 2-3/4hp Royal Enfield Model 160. This bike has on a number of occasions tackled and completed the Pioneer Run, but was dismantled in 1970. Recently, however, it was reassembled but hasn't been started. The vendor reports that the engine turns, "but feels tight".
The engine is a 344cc V-twin from Motosacoche. The carburettor is from AMAC. The lights are acetylene. And it looks like a two-speed all-chain model (but you'll need to check this if you're interested). A V5, V5C and old style continuation logbook is present.
Before bidding, you might also want to consider the following:
In July 2009, Bonhams sold a Model 160 ("Slim Jim") that was restored in the 1950s, but looked unrestored. The engine in the frame was not the original, but the original unit was supplied. The bike fetched £15,525 including premium.
In 2011, a similar Model 160 (to the Cheffins bike) turned up at Silverstone Auctions with an estimate of £14,000 - £18,000. But it didn't sell.
In 2013, the same bike (not merely a similar model) made an appearance at Historics of Brooklands' June sale. This time, the estimate was lower at £12,000 - £16,000. But it still didn't sell.
The bike currently on offer at Cheffins (Lot 700) carries an estimate of £9,000 - £11,000. The registration number is: AF 607.
And if that doesn't float your boat, you might consider Lot 712 which is a 1914 770cc Royal Enfield Model 180 running a JAP V-twin. See the image immediately above. The bike has been restored.
— Big End
This news item is going to upset more than a few hardened Matchless men. So if you see one crying, do what you can to console him, please. They're a sensitive bunch.
As you can see, the famous Matchless brand takes another step towards unashamed gentrification with these new Speed 1899 sunglasses priced at just under three hundred quid. The lenses are offered in "violet", but shouldn't that be "rose tinted"?
We generally nick our eyewear from Boots the chemist, or buy it wholesale from Machine Mart, which is why we're struggling to understand why anyone would pay that much dosh for a pair of shades. Except that some folk like to show their friends and fashion rivals exactly how much they're prepared to shell out for trendy eye bling. So that's probably the explanation right there.
▲ New Belstaff Roadmaster jacket. Priced between £300 and £600 (depending on how much you want to be seen spending). If being mistaken for a Hollywood A-list celebrity isn't your thing, you might not feel comfortable in one of these.
The Matchless brand is currently owned by the Italian Malenotti family. They first bought Belstaff in 2004 (2005 according to some sources) and opened a dozen or so stores across Europe and remanufactured the famous waxed cotton jackets with trendy new cuts. Franco Malenotti had, however, been working closely with Belstaff since 1996). In 2011, after the financials went west (said to be due to over expansion), the Malenotti clan unloaded Belstaff onto Harry Slatkin and the Labelux Group.
So who's Harry Slatkin? Well, he's an American entrepreneur who launched the Slatkin brand and successfully positioned it up there (or down there) with the likes Ralph Lauren and Christian Dior. He's since made a lot of money flogging perfume and other smelly essentials to the stinking rich. The Labelux Group, incidentally, also owns the Jimmy Choo brand (if that means anything to you).
Belstaff, which pioneered wax cotton jackets, is historically associated with the likes of actors Steve McQueen and Peter O'Toole (as worn in the movie Lawrence of Arabia). In recent times, Belstaff is more commonly associated with actors Brad Pitt, Hilary Swank, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp.
The Matchless name and rights were bought in 2006 by a Greek consortium. That outfit paid just £45,000, but their plans for world high class fashion domination soon fell as flat as the current Greek economy. The Malenottis stepped into the breach and decided that they could do for Matchless what they hadn't entirely been able to do for Belstaff (but the family did make a huge killing on the Belstaff sale; said to be around €110 million).
So okay, on the one hand you can't blame a firm for trying to make a few quid. These iconic heritage acquisitions keep folk in gainful employment, and they help ensure that the international money river doesn't silt. But it's disappointing to see the famous Flying M brand go the way it has gone. Meanwhile, we can keep in mind that Matchless was in fact making motorcycle clothing way back in the 1930s. So there's something of a genuine tradition there.
The Malenottis, incidentally, are busy developing a Matchless Museum to showcase the brand and their range of trinkets (more of that when we hear about it). To their credit, the motorcycle connection is very real. The Malenottis have been known to straddle the odd motorcycle or two. And last year they announced plans for a new Matchless Model X, and even released some computer generated mock-ups. The firm is based in London, England.
We don't know at what stage is the Model X project. But if and when the bike finally arrives, chances are that most of us won't be able to afford it anyway.
As for those Matchless sunglasses, Franco Malenotti launched a Belstaff range of eyewear back in 2004/2005 when he bought the company. So he's treading familiar boards here.
See Elvis Presley found alive on the moon (Sump September 2014) for more on the Malenotti family and their ambitions.
— The Third Man
Over the years, we've seen a lot of weird things done to BSA Bantams. Chops. Bobbers. A cafe racer or two. A number of very proud rat bikes. One with a Honda engine. Another with a Suzuki engine.
But we can't remember having seen a diesel BSA Bantam, which makes the above example our first. It came our way via a Sumpster named Rod from Chorley in Lancashire. Presumably he's got a surname, but we haven't got a hold of that yet.
No matter; it's his motorcycle that we're interested in (no offence, Rod), and this is a very interesting motorcycle. The engine displaces 125cc. It runs on chip fat. It returns around 180 miles per gallon. It has a V5C (overseas Sumpsters read: registration document). It's classed as a historic vehicle. And it doesn't need an MOT (Ministry of Transport test). So there's little to do but ride it and show it off.
▲ The engine is a Chinese Yanmar clone (complete with electric starter). It cost just £275 and weighs around 59lbs.
Some folk will scoff at this one. But we like this motorcycle plenty—and you've got to admire the man's persistence, stubbornness and ingenuity in simply getting the bike finished. Or as near as damn it. These things always look easy when they're done. But as any bike builder will tell you, this humble Bantam represents hundreds of hours of sweat and graft, a lot of very smart thinking, a lot of scabbed knuckles, and probably a few gallons of midnight oil (possibly chip oil).
More to the point, this BSA Bantam looks like very practical transport and will carry a rider from London to Edinburgh (just shy of 400 miles) for about three-and-a-half gallons of diesel (or chip oil).
Top speed? We don't know, but we're guessing around 35 - 40mph, depending on the gearing and the wind shear.
The built cost target was £1,500. But Rod broke the budget and spent £1,991, which isn't bad. We know from working on our own projects, especially when prototyping, how easy it is to rack up the costs.
▲ This BSA Bantam diesel special is running a Comet Industries torque converter. Think of it as an automatic clutch.
And if building the bike isn't impressive enough, Rod has also documented the project and has built a website to share the experience. So okay, his site has the odd spelling and grammatical error, but it's still good work, and we recommend you take a closer look.
Rod is now looking for a buyer for the Bantam, not because there's anything wrong with the bike or because he's tired of it, but simply because he needs a trike. So if you're interested, get in touch and make a bid. But don't be cheap. You'll save a fortune on fuel, and if you live long enough you'll get your money back sooner or later.
We're supporting the Brighton Speed Trials as much as we reasonably can these days. Why? Because the event has been under threat in recent times, and we want to help ensure it remains a permanent annual fixture.
You can read the back story in Sump August 2014. But for now, just remember that the trials take place on Saturday 5th September 2015. The racing will start at around 11.30am. The venue, as ever, is Madeira Drive.
We're advised that the Brighton Speed Trials is thought to be the world's longest running motorsport event. The distinguished Brighton & Hove Motor Club are the organisers, but the motorcycle entries are handled (by invitation of the B&HMC) via the Sprint Section of the VMCC. Machines from the early 1900s to the modern day will be ruining the atmosphere and spreading a cocktail of carcinogens along the English South Coast. But we wouldn't have it any other way.
The only other event that weekend that we've (so far) got on Sump's listings is the Eurojumble at Netley Marsh. Netley's okay, but we recommend the Speed Trials.
See you there.
vmcc sprint on facebook
— Girl Happy
There are three new limited edition 500cc Royal Enfield Bullets headed for production. Two models are destined for the Indian home market, and one is destined for export.
The Bullet immediately above will be marketed as the Desert Storm model. It's aimed exclusively at the increasingly affluent Indian consumer. Just 200 will be manufactured.
The Bullet immediately below will be marketed as the Squadron Blue model. It's also aimed only at the Indian consumer, and 200 will also be built.
We'll get to the third option presently.
The official idea behind the bikes is to "pay homage" to the soldiers of "World Wars" (and presumably to make a little money too).
According to Royal Enfield: "Each of these  motorcycles carries a unique camouflage pattern made possible by a hydrographic print transfer achieved by hand." We don't know if that means every bike has an individual camouflage pattern, or if the uniqueness refers to a single camouflage design limited to the complete production run of each model.
But we suspect the latter.
▲ Does this look cheap and nasty? Or just cheap? Or just nasty? Royal Enfield clearly thinks that this livery is what its home market wants, but it's making us liverish. Officially, you won't see this one (or the blue example above) in the UK or Europe. But one or two will probably arrive via the back door.
The tech spec looks like standard RE Bullet fare, so you'd be buying purely on looks and maybe investment potential. But is there really any significant investment to be had from a modern Royal Enfield Bullet (as opposed to an original British built bike)? We doubt it. Not in the foreseeable future, anyway. Then again, RE just might have hit upon something worth leaving in the crate for a few decades.
Our guess is that the more serious/dedicated military bike buff would demand something far more serious (i.e without all the chrome and bling). And that's where the Battle Green model fits in (image immediately below).
This one is the third new limited edition model in the trio, and it's arguably the most attractive (but it's still a little too shiny in places for our taste). Like its stable mates, it will be supplied with an Italian leather saddle; but in this instance, only 100 examples will be built.
▲ Royal Enfield's new limited edition Battle Green edition "military homage". You can have it in camouflage, or you can buy the standard Battle Green model (picture immediately below) in ... well, green.
▲ We prefer this standard Battle Green model for its simplicity. But all that chrome and polished aluminium alloy desperately needs dressing down and a bucket of mud. What's with the stupid headlight peak, anyway?
Note that Royal Enfield already has a "Battle Green" model in its arsenal (image immediately above). You can check out the more obvious differences between this bike and the new limited edition offer.
To improve its cachet, Royal Enfield is also fielding a large range of biker essentials including wallets, T-shirts, belts and suchlike. And some of it looks not too bad at all.
If you're interested in any or all of this, you can "book" your limited edition bike after 15th July 2015, or buy your standard Battle Green example today and/or pick and mix from the rest of the merchandise. Talk to your local Royal Enfield dealer.
UK prices for the limited edition bikes haven't yet been announced.
— Big End
The image above, apparently, is a real X-rayed rider astride a real X-rayed Matchless motorcycle. It's a piece of artwork by 53-year old British artist Nick Veasey who gets his kicks by snapping away at the innards of pretty much anything. Bikes. VW Beetles. Typewriters. And the odd Boeing 777.
We're advised that he works in some kind of ex-Cold War bunker in Kent. A derelict radar station or something. Because the rays are so dangerous, Veasey has created a studio using 4-inch thick lignacite blocks. The floor is made from "radiation absorbing concrete". The door of his studio is made from steel and lead and weighs around one ton.
Hospital X-ray machines apparently use about 100 kilovolts and take picture with a 0.2 seconds "shutter speed". Veasey’s box of tricks operates at up to 200 kilovolts and emits x-rays for as long as 20 minutes.
Seems to us that there must be cheaper, safer and more interesting ways to earn an artistic crust, like cutting a sheep in half and displaying it in formaldehyde, or revealing the sordid contents of your unmade bed, or just chucking a few dozen bricks on the deck. But if you can't suffer for your art, do you deserve it?
No, we don't know either.
If you want to see more of Veasey's inside out high-tech, high-risk blueprints of the world, you'll need to go to Geneva and check out the M.A.D Exhibition. M.A.D is an acronym of Mechanical Art Devices. The exhibition is called X-Ray. If you're interested, you can try the link below, but note that it worked for us only intermittently. Note too that the gallery is also represented in Taiwan.
If you want a framed pictures of the Matchless & rider (841mm x 594mm) it will cost you 4,450 Swiss francs. Alternately, you can lure some fool on a Matchless to a hill in a lightning storm and maybe ... well, you get the idea.
The press release doesn't specifically give us much info on the Matchless rider, by the way, but the website tells us that he was already dead.
It's a sick world, baby...
— Big End
This one caught our eye this evening (7th July 2015) while we were trawling eBay, and it might interest someone else out there in Sumpland. You can read for yourself what the seller has to say (and the grammatical errors and spelling mistakes in the listing ain't ours. Okay?):
"this is my 1964 Triumph bobber, i built it a couple of years ago and have not ridden it more than 100 miles since putting it on the road, i owned this 25 years ago and it hasnt been on the used since then ..unfortunately and regrettably i need to sell it now to finance my recording studio.......
500cc twin unit, 4 1/2 inch stretch 2 1/2 drop on a factory metalworks hardtail, original frame loop, dna springers 4 inch under and another 2 inch with reversed rockers. aluminium inverted levers, custom leather solo seat, 3 mm steel base , pill oil tank, stainless parts/ nut bolts all over. powder coated frame etc powder coated wheels/ hubs with stainless spokes, 21 front 16 rear..new avon speedmaster tyres. fuel tank was never finished but i liked it as is slightly polished. motor is 1960 5ta and has had new pistons, starts first time and runs well, sparx alternator electrics/ battery eliminator, french art deco aluminium lights, speedo never connected, new bushes and bearings throughout the gearbox, i have ribbed rear fender but has never been fitted, rides nice but it is how you would expect a rigid with springers to be. never been showed and ive been asked to have feature on it but never got round to it....clean as a whistle barhopping bobber ready for the summer....new mot before purchase tax free....any questions please call 07941846245
pleaes note this wont be available to view or purchase before june 30th as im away at Glastonbury all next week."
The price is £5000, which is a little steep for our pockets. It's a classified advert, so there's no bidding. Just offers (presumably). The bike is in Southampton, Hampshire. The seller's name is "hoovervillegal". His feedback score is 258, and it's 100% positive.
If you like the sound of this pint-sized speedster and fancy a little haggling, go check eBay now and make your play. The 500cc Triumph twin engine is a little gem, and on a lightweight bike like this, you can still have plenty of reckless fun. And who the hell needs lights, mudguards and mirrors anyway?
You pay your money, and you take your chances in this life. Are we right?
— Girl Happy
Chances are that most Sumpsters won't know who Chris Squire is, or was. But some will.
Chris Squire was the enduring bass guitarist of the British progressive rock group, Yes, and one of its founder members.
More than that even, he became the lynchpin this prodigiously creative combo; an outfit that suffered numerous line-up changes since its formation in 1968. Squire was the constant factor in a complicated musical equation; and was an engine of prog rock creativity.
And now he's gone.
The seeds of Yes were sown in 1967 when Chris Squire was introduced to Jon Anderson, both of whom shared musical tastes and ambitions. Within a year, the band was created. Soon after, a deal with Atlantic Records followed.
In 1969, the band's eponymous debut album was released. Within twelve months, Time and a Word followed. Other key studio albums (as differentiated from live albums) include:
The Yes Album 1971
Close to the Edge 1972
Tales from Topographic Oceans 1973
Big Generator 1987
Check out the track listings on these (and later) albums and you'll see Chris Squire's name splashed liberally around as either a co-writer or co-musical arranger. His lyrical bass guitar grooves and driving riffs effortlessly underpin songs that, in their day, were seen by many as a little too clever and pretentious, but are now increasingly being recognised as musical masterpieces.
If you were motorcycling in the 1970s, stopping at pubs or cafes or clubs, Yes would have provided much of the soundtrack of your life. The band sold anywhere between 20 million and 40 million albums depending on which source you trust. By the end of the 1970s, the band had notched up eight consecutive top ten British and American albums. And looking back, Yes without Squire (or Anderson) was unthinkable. So okay, Anderson left the band in 1987 shortly after Big Generator. But Squire remained, soldiering on with a musical road show that was sadly past its best, but was by no means a spent force.
He was born in Kingsbury, North West London, attended Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School (and was expelled for having long hair), and at an early age joined his local church choir. Most closely associated with Rickenbacker guitars, his musical heroes included bassist and former Beatle, Paul McCartney, and Who bassist, the late John Entwhistle.
Squire also released a solo album Fish Out of Water in 1975, and was a member of the "supergroup" XYZ (featuring Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, Yes drummer, Alan White and Dave Lawson).
In the 1970s and 1980s, Squire did more than his fair share of drugs and boozing. Later he was reported to have developed a well-stocked wine cellar at his mock-Tudor mansion in Virginia Water, Surrey.
In 2005, Chris Squire's health began deteriorating, and he was replaced in the Yes line up. He died on 27th June 2015 at the age of 67, and is survived by his wife and five children.
If you haven't listened to your old Yes albums for a while, or if you still haven't discovered this game-changing band, you might want to rectify that situation poste haste. Progressive Rock has finally come of age, and Chris Squire and his 1984 Rickenbacker bass is right there at the centre.
▲ Mr Roper played by Peter Vaughan. As an advert for the insurance industry, he's a one man campaign. Vaughan currently lives in West Sussex, not too far from where Smokescreen was made.
If you're interested in classic black & white British crime capers (and why the hell wouldn't you be?) we can highly recommend Smokescreen (1964). It's on the TV in the corner even as we're typing these words, and it's a gem.
Yes, there's at least one other movie called Smoke Screen, but that's a 2010 TV flick that doesn't come even close to the one we're eyeballing.
Starring time-served character actor Peter Vaughan as Mr Roper, Smokescreen is the tale of an insurance investigator looking into the sudden death of a policy holder whose blazing car has motored off a cliff on the English south coast and hit the water below. Only, there's no body. So was the corpse washed out to sea? Or is there some other nefarious game afoot? Such as a £100,000 insurance fraud?
Roper, with his bowler hat, briefcase, umbrella and ever-ready smile will sniff it out. And naturally, we soon discover that things aren't as they seem.
▲ The inimitable Deryck Guyler and Peter Vaughan discussing the mystery man in the dogtooth check raincoat, while John Carson looks on. Guyler died in 1999 aged 85. Peter Vaughan (born 1923) and John Carson (born 1927) are still with us.
The movie perfectly captures the atmosphere and optimism of the early 1960s, specifically that of another world far removed from Teddy Boys, Elvis Presley, The Beatles and the burgeoning Flower Power movement.
There are great supporting parts from John Carson, Yvonne Romain, Glyn Edwards, Gerald Flood, and Barbara Hicks. But it's Peter Vaughan who carries the film with his portrayal of thrifty and tenacious Roper, ever much the mild-mannered British gent and insurance-claim ferret hot on the case.
▲ Peter Vaughan is perhaps best known to UK TV viewers as hardman Harry Grout (Grouty) in the prison sitcom, Porridge starring the late Ronnie Barker. But he's got long back catalogue of movies. Born as Peter Olm, he was once married to the (also late) Billie Whitelaw. If you like his acting style, watch Smokescreen before you croak.
Jim O'Connolly is the writer and director. The film was made at Brighton Studios by Butcher's Film Distributors; a lesser known outfit which specialised in low-budget productions. But in spite of what some say, this is no B-movie. And neither is it an A-movie. Instead, it's a nice little 70-minute celluloid creation that fits somewhere twixt the two.
You'll particularly enjoy the location scenes in and around Brighton plus some memorable lines of dialogue including:
"You know you've got mildew on this Betty Uprichard?"
"Just thought it would be more economic to ring you on the cheap evening rates."
"He lived up to his income, but who doesn't?"
"What comes out of a woman's mouth isn't always what's on her mind."
So what's that all about? Watch the movie and get to the bottom of it, copper.
Between being born and dying, there aren't many more important things to do with your life than watch this much-overlooked minor masterpiece. If you're in the UK, the film comes around fairly frequently on the Movies4Men channel. If you live overseas, you're cordially invited to emigrate and watch it on our home turf.
Seems that at the moment, everyone else on the planet is around here someplace...
This one sounds a bit upmarket for us (here at Sump, we're just a bunch of boozy street urchins and scallywags). But no doubt some of you more discerning and sophisticated men folk will like the sound of the gathering.
It's called The Mile, and it's organised by Robert Nightingale and Jonathan Cazzola (image immediately below, and we don't know which is which). These guys manufacture tool bags under The Malle brand. But not any old sacks. Rather they "initially set out to create considered and purposeful motorcycle bags that would out-perform any plastic nylon pannier – employing natural robust materials, simple mechanisms and design aesthetics that would be more appropriate for classic and custom motorcycles."
We don't know why this particular dynamic duo used the word "initially". Maybe things have changed, but they haven't said as much. So we're treating that word as superfluous, as so many words are.
They continue, "Some of our clients do not ride, but they want bags that are designed to meet the performance requirements of the ‘moto-lifestyle’, which will surpass their daily needs. Each Malle is crafted with full-grain leather, durable (military spec.) waxed canvas and solid welded brass hardware – they are built to last."
So much for the sales pitch. The event will take place this Saturday (4th July 2015) at Kefington Hall, Crockenhill Road, Orpington, BR5 4EP.
It's a "celebration of motorcycling, racing, custom machines, music, British motor-sports heritage and the British summertime. It's also a Gentlemanly race for the men and women who share our ideology."
We're not sure if you can really call this fringe distraction an ideology, but we're not in jousting mood just now, and neither are we sneering at these guys. They've clearly got a serious itch, and they want to scratch it, and you can go and scratch yours with 'em if you're so inclined. Different strokes, etc.
It sounds like it could be elitist fun for some. So if you're of a similar bent, and if you can deposit yourself in South East London on Saturday, you can see exactly what it's all about.
The word Malle, by the way, is apparently derived from the French word for tool chest or travelling trunk. The tool bag design just above is the "John" model ("John" being American for toilet or lavatory). Consequently, the firm might want to take a second look at that moniker. Either way, it's asking a smoking £279. And we have to say, it's growing on us, especially when we can say, "Hey, we just dumped all our tools in the John again." Some sad people are bound to laugh at that.
Anyway, have fun gents, and bring us back something in a doggie bag, huh? We get seriously peckish at the weekends.
— Girl Happy