Take a close look, because the sun is setting on the British paper road fund licence, aka "the tax disc". Come October 2014, you will no longer be required to display one on your bike, as there won't be any.
Why? Because the paper disc is outdated. Modern computerised technology allows the coppers, the traffic wardens and other interested parties to quickly and easily check a vehicle's taxation status. Meanwhile, printing paper discs and sending them out in the mail costs time and money, and the nation simply can't afford such luxuries. Also, there's a thriving industry in counterfeit discs, and that will be snuffed out too (instead, some other scam will probably take its place).
You'll still be required to tax your bike or car as usual, note. But "failure to display" will no longer be an offence.
Also, it will bring to an end the time-honoured sale-sweetening practice of flogging a bike with "a couple of months left on the tax". Instead, every new owner will be required to tax a vehicle at the point where he or she takes possession (or declare it SORN: Statutory Off Road Notice).
Why the change? Officially, it's intended to prevent the new owner from inadvertently keeping an unlicensed vehicle on the road.
For instance: You tax a vehicle for six months. You sell it with three months left unexpired. And you tell the new owners that it's still taxed.
However, you've actually claimed a refund on the tax disc, which the new owner is unaware of, and supposedly can't check. Except that anyone can go online to the DVLA website and inspect a vehicle's tax status.
What will actually happen is that the government stands to make a lot of money because you can only claim a refund on a FULL month of unexpired tax. Therefore, all those "half months" and "bits of months" will go in the government's coffers.
The changeover happens on 1st October 2014, just a couple of months away. So dry your eyes and get over it. The times they are a changin', but they ain't really changin' all that much. You've still got to pay.
More on this UK tax disc story: Sump December 2012
— Del Monte
You're not likely to have one of these on your classic bike. But plenty of Sumpster's have modern machines too. So watch out because these Slovenian manufactured tyres, we're advised, could kill you in an unexpected way.
Here are the ones to watch:
120/70 ZR17 (58W) TL SPORTFORCE MI
150/60 ZR17 (66W) TL SPORTFORCE MI
160/60 ZR17 (69W) TL SPORTFORCE MI
180/55 ZR17 (73W) TL SPORTFORCE MI
190/50 ZR17 (73W) TL SPORTFORCE MI
Savatech tell us that the first symptom could be a tyre bulge on the tread. That will lead to vibration. And in the worse instances, the tread will detach and you'll be temporarily airborne.
The fix? Don't ride the bike in anger. Instead, take the tyre back to the people you bought it from (without or without the bike attached) and tell them about the recall (they'll probably know, anyway). Demand your rights or just buy another tyre.
It doesn't look like anyone has yet come to grief over this (unless you know otherwise). Instead, it seems that the company has been conducting tests and has discovered the problem.
Here's what Savatech says:
"Customers can determine whether their tyre is subject to recall by checking the brand name “MITAS”, tyre name “Sport Force,” inscription “tubeless” and DOT* codes from 0114 to 2614, on the tyre sidewall. No other tyres are affected. The recalled tyres were made in Slovenia."
Okay? So be smart and check your tyres without delay. Be even smarter and have your tyre shop take a look. Be smarter still and check whatever tyres are on your other bikes. How many riders ever do that as often as they're supposed to?
— Big End
There's no reserve on this rare 989cc (60 cubic inch) 1912 Harley-Davidson Model X8E, but because of its connection to the late Steve McQueen and Kenny "Von Dutch" Howard, we can expect some big bucks to change hands. The estimate is $225,000 - $275,000.
It's Lot S177 and it will be on the block at Mecum Auctions' Monterey, California sale on August 14th-16th 2014.
The 8hp bike is Harley's first "Big Twin", meaning the firm's first "1000cc" model. Prior to this, the largest capacity HD was 810cc (49 cubic inches. But in mid-1912, the company rolled out this (first) all-chain top of the range model which came with a $10 premium over the standard 6.5hp bike.
▲ Legend has it that McQueen and Von Dutch got drunk one night and stripped the paint from the left fuel tank.
A gearbox was still three years into the future. But this Inlet-Over-Exhaust (IOE) Harley flat tanker was supplied with a clutch (located in the rear hub), a pair of bicycle pedals to help get you rolling, and magneto ignition. The crank spun on ball bearings, and the saddle was "Ful-Floteing" (sic). Sounds pretty sophisticated, and in its day it was. This bike helped put the horse out of business and offered a more "rebellious" alternative to the Model T Ford (introduced in 1908).
The top speed of this 45-degree V-twin Harley-Davidson is around 65mph. The weight is 312lb. The wheelbase is 56-inches. Glass insulators on the spark plugs were a feature (allowing the rider to check the ignition). The price new was around $285.
▲ The world's most classic and charismatic motorcycle brand? The legend "Harley-Davidson Milwaukee" certainly puts up a convincing argument for that coveted accolade.
▲ The lever above the pedal crank (barely visible in this shot) operates the rear hub-located clutch. It was a crude mechanism, but effective. And if chain drive was too modern, a more traditional rear belt was an option.
It's not clear when Steve McQueen (1930 - 1980) purchased the motorcycle, but it was sold in 1984 when his estate came under the auctioneer's hammer. Since then, this twin has been in private hands and has (we hear) been raced in pre-1916 competitions.
Over the years, the rims, spokes and tyres have been replaced. And that's a pity, but you have to be realistic, and this bike deserves a decent pair of hoops. Finally, the period headlamp has been added to allow the X8E to be roadworthy for vintage rallies.
Interested? Got any money? Talk to Mecum Auctions. But be quick. It's always later than you think...
— Sam 7
The usual price is £299, but for the next four weeks you can get your greedy hands on a pair for £150 plus postage. We ain't seen them up close, but we're told that this is quality, hand-made footwear built to put exactly the right kind of attitude on your lower extremity.
Good clobber is essential to psychological health and a successful sex life, so if you're having problems in either department, or just want to look cool and get some branded foot protection, go and tell it to Foundry.
Alternately, if you just want to commission a custom motorcycle project and like to sup good coffee, take a trip to the South Coast and chinwag with some guys who've been there and done it many times before.
Foundry is based near Chichester and they flog all kinds of essentials for people just like you.
— Del Monte
It's easy to forget just how good an actress she was, but the late Dora Bryan, who has died aged 91, was one of the best actresses of her 1960s heyday; a performer who was equally at home with comedy or drama, on TV, on the stage or in the movies.
She is perhaps best remembered for her role in the 1961 Woodfall Films production, A Taste of Honey, in which she starred with Rita Tushingham playing the part of an inadequate, irresponsible and generally dysfunctional alcoholic mother. For that role, Dora Bryan was awarded a richly deserved Bafta and soon trod a rare path that led to her becoming something of a national treasure.
This Lancashire lass (born Dora May Broadbent) subsequently starred in a number of TV series including Our Dora (1968), According to Dora (1968) and Dora (1972), but check out The Fallen Idol (1948), The Blue Lamp (1950), The Cockleshell Heroes (1955), The Green Man (1956) and Carry On Sergeant (1958) and you'll see that Dora Bryan is right there mostly playing the kind of role which she later became noted for—hapless, common, frazzle-headed and simple.
But she was actually far from simple and was a lot shrewder than many gave her credit for. On the national stage, she handled parts written by Harold Pinter and Henrik Ibsen, and was supremely comfortable in musical revues.
However, she suffered from what used to be called "nervous depression" and spent much time in various hospitals recovering whilst trying to reconcile personal and professional needs. Real life alcoholism also added to her woes.
In the 1970s, she took a break from acting and ran Clarges, a hotel in Brighton. It was not a success, and in the early 1980s, after struggling with bankruptcy, she returned to her stage career.
If you're British and of a "certain age", you'll remember Dora well from the 1960s when she was a frequent TV celebrity guest with one of the most recognised faces and voices of her generation. But if you're of a later generation, you'll probably remember Dora from her appearances in the TV shows Absolutely Fabulous and The Last of the Summer Wine.
In 1954, she married the Lancashire cricketer Bill Lawson (who died in 2008). They had one natural son, but adopted another son and a daughter (the daughter died at the age of 36 of alcoholism).
Dora Bryan was never a star that shone with continued brilliance. But in her best years, she was a steady trooper who always brought a homely appeal to her roles and was a woman with whom thousands of other women identified.
She died peacefully on July 23rd 2014.
— Del Monte
We don't know anything about this event except what Sumpster Rolf Mazenauer has told us, and that's not much more that it says on the poster. But it seems that on 8th - 10th August 2014, the BLACK SHADOW MOTORCYCLE CLUB will be holding a British Biker meeting in Switzerland.
Rolf advises us that it's their 42nd such meeting, and the club would be very pleased to meet bikers from anywhere on the planet. Expect a free campsite, a barbecue, a campfire, a bar, a ride out and music by "sixties party band", The Rubberneckers.
That's it. Have fun. Meanwhile, check the website and see if you can figure out the rest of the details.
— Girl Happy
These single track rocket ships have been at large for around a dozen years, and we figure they've earned the right to be called classics (and they're certainly future classics).
But even if they haven't yet earned that right, Harleys are okay with us (as long you don't get carried away with them), and we know that plenty of you Sumpsters either own one, or aspire to one.
The original V-Rods are out there right now at pretty competitive prices. And one or two haven't been molested and will eventually ring up some big money on the tills. But what's the deal with these Yankee kettles anyway?
Follow the link and check out Sump's guide to one of the most divisive Harleys of them all. And if the Rod doesn't actually kill you on your first test ride, you might find that it begins to grow on you. Some bikes are like that.
Meanwhile, the ink is still drying on this feature, and we'll be tweaking it over the next few weeks. So if we've screwed up somewhere, it's email time. Okay?
VRSC V-Rod Buyers guide
— Big End
We got the news today that Kieran Shortall, the man who owned and ran War Department trading in 1936 - 1948 era Harley-Davidsons and related memorabilia died on 30th May 2014.
Kieran (pictured above at Ashford in 2009) was a genial, decent and knowledgeable trader who frequented numerous events from Kempton Park to the War & Peace Show to the Ashford Show, and further afield.
We knew him slightly and were naturally a little shocked at this information. He was just fifty-five years old, which is no great age anymore. He had been ill for some time, however, and his death had been expected.
We spoke to Kieran's widow, Sandra, who confirmed that he was gone. She prefers a little privacy at this time, so we're not prying any deeper into his life or this loss, except to say that Kieran's business is in suspension, and no decision has been made about what will happen to it.
We're all as sorry as hell here at Sump, and we know that there are plenty of people out there who'll feel the same.
James Garner, the genial, gentle and generous Oklahoman who famously brought card sharp Bret Maverick (Maverick, 1957) and chronically-hard-done-by private eye Jim Rockford (Rockford Files, 1974) into our homes has died aged 86.
He was one of the first actors to successfully make the jump from big screen to small screen and starred alongside an A-list of Hollywood talent including Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Audrey Hepburn, Clint Eastwood, Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Walter Brennan, Doris Day, Charles Bronson, Richard Attenborough, Katherine Ross and even Bruce Lee (Marlowe 1969).
Never one to take himself too seriously, Garner enjoyed an early TV role in the unsuccessful western series Nichols. The show which, as far as we know, was not aired in the UK featured a small town Harley-Davidson riding sheriff who refused to wear a gun and preferred to solve his problems by deploying what he referred to as "moral authority".
▲ James Garner in the short-lived role of Nichols (1971), the US TV series featuring an pacifistic, Harley-Davidson riding, cerebral sheriff. It was role that Garner is said to have enjoyed, but the network killed it early.
His best known movies include Up Periscope (1959), The Great Escape (1963), Move Over Darling (1963), Grand Prix (1966), Support Your Local Sheriff (1969), Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971), Victor Victoria (1982), Maverick (1994), The Notebook (2004).
A keen motor racing enthusiast, Garner formed his own team called American International Racers (AIR) between 1967 and 1969 and (with some success) campaigned cars at Sebring, Daytona and Le Mans. He was also a keen golfer (which underlines the fact that no one is perfect).
▲ Left to right: James Coburn, James Garner, Steve McQueen and director John Sturges on the set of The Great Escape (1963).
In 1958 he won a Golden Globe for the Most Promising Newcomer. In 1990 he was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1987 he won a Primetime Emmy.
In 1991 he won a Golden Globe (Decoration Day, 1990). In 2005 he received the Screen Actors Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award. For his role in The Notebook, he was also nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role. Beyond that, he was nominated numerous times for other awards (and won many), but despite his on-screen presence and evident acting prowess, an Oscar eluded him.
▲ James Garner (second from left), with members of his AIR team photographed circa-1967.
Garner was a democrat and donated money to various US election campaigns. During the Korean War, as a serving soldier, he helped support a Korean boy, and was said to be generally altruistic by nature. He was awarded the Purple Heart during that conflict.
In 1956, he married Lois Clarke and fathered a daughter (there was also a step-daughter in the family). All survive him.
Garner was a fairly private man and avoided the Hollywood glitz. "I got into the business [he's quoted as saying] to put a roof over my head. I wasn't looking for star status. I just wanted to keep working."
He was a long-time smoker and suffered various health problems that in turn led to bouts of severe depression. Towards the end of his life, he's reported as saying that he "had nothing left to live for".
He died on 19th July 2014 at his home.
Note the inverted commas in the heading. That's because this is a reproduction of the scooter thrown over a chalk cliff (near Brighton, West Sussex) in a fit of pique by actor Phil Daniels in the 1979 cult movie Quadrophenia.
You all know the story. Set in England in 1964, Jimmy Michael Cooper desperately wants to be a cool Moddy boy like "The Ace Face" played by Sting, but finds that the realities of life fall short of his romanticised and immature expectations.
Via an orgy of sex, drugs and violence, this realisation propels him through frustration into depression, hence the chalk cliff and the scooter that tumbles over the edge in the closing scenes.
Pete Townsend of The Who (one of Britain's greatest songwriters) penned the music to this seminal rock opera (released in 1973, six years before the film) which is as good today as it was back then and withstands repeated listenings.
It's now 50 years since the infamous 1964 Whitsun Bank Holiday clashes between the Mods and the Rockers, as dramatised in the movie (and exaggerated by the British press). It's also 50 years since the formation of The Who, which makes this auction very timely.
Various replica scooters were created when the Quadrophenia DVD was re-released some years ago. The builder is scooter specialist David John Wyburn who based the bikes on the original circa 1966 Lambretta Series 3 model.
Three replicas were built, but this example carries the number "2". Along with the other replicas, it wears on the front mudguard the registration number: KRU 251 as used in the film. We're waiting to hear if that's an official registration, but we think that it's unlikely to be (and note that in the UK, motorcycles and scooters are no longer required to carry front number plates). UPDATE: This scooter comes with a separate V5C "logbook.
Additionally, the tyres are said to be old stock from the 1970s and not fit for the road, so the bike is offered for display purposes only.
So what's the price for this iconic ornament? Bonhams, which will be auctioning the Lambretta at Beaulieu on 6th September 2014, expects between £10,000 and £12,000.
As a footnote, Bonhams sold the original KRU 251 Lambretta in November 2008. It fetched £36,000 including premium.
— The Third Man
But what's it got to do with you as a biker, classic or otherwise? We'll get to that in a moment. But first we'll explain what's going on.
One hundred and fifty electric vehicles are about to be introduced into the government motor pool. Meanwhile, 10 Downing Street is going to get its own charging point. Or points.
Additionally, another 135 electric cars or vans are likely to be offered to local council, police and NHS fleets. It's part of a £5 million scheme intended to demonstrate that the government is leading by example in the quest for cleaner transportation and a fresher atmosphere. In view of the dirty air that's always circulating Whitehall, that sounds like a good move. But let's not get too snide here.
Currently, the Government Car Service handles the motor transport fleet headed by the Jaguars and Range Rovers that the Prime Minister and friends are routinely ferried around in. But as vehicles are retired following their usual two year service, electric transport will be considered as replacements.
There are around 25,000 cars and vans in the central government fleet; 9,000 with the Ministry of Defence; 5,000 with the Environment Agency, and 1,500 with the Ministry of Justice. Another 85 vehicles are earmarked for ministers, down from 142 in 2011, take note.
So will the Prime Minister's armoured limo soon be battery powered? There's no official word on that yet, but here's more evidence that the electric vehicle revolution continues to gather pace (despite a slower-than-predicted growth).
Harley-Davidson already has an electric Hog. Triumph is bound to get in on the act sooner or later. Other manufacturers are campaigning their own developments.
At the risk of being alarmist (which we try hard not to be), we can certainly foresee a time when running a direct-to-atmosphere internal combustion engine of any kind is as socially reprehensible as smoking in a car full of toddlers. And anyway, there has to come a point when the existing petroleum infrastructure is no longer cost-effective making classic bikes harder and more expensive to own. We ain't there yet, of course. But it's usually later than you think.
— Big End
If you were at Woodstock (and one or two of you out there might well have been), you'll know all about Johnny Winter who has died aged 70. And if you were a fan of the Old Grey Whistle Test and/or a regular listener of any number of rock or blues radio stations, you'll also be familiar with Winter and his music.
He was a hard rocking, bluestompin', guitar-pedal-to-the-metal musician with a high-speed finger-pickin' and slide-playing style unlike anyone else on the planet. He had a voice like a grinding gearbox and the kind of hard-edged vocal projection that any heavy metal warbler would be pleased to be at the back of.
Commercially, Johnny Winter never hit the big time, but as a record producer he helped revitalise the career of the legendary Muddy Waters by handling four of his albums, three of which won Grammys.
Winter fought heroin addiction and later became dependent on anti-depressants. He also suffered from various health issues that dogged him until the end. And if the wider general public is only vaguely aware of him (if at all), there isn't a bluesman north, south, east or west of the Mississippi who doesn't know and respect Winter's brand of Chicago-influenced 12-bar rock'n'roll.
Winter also played or worked with Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan, but this Mississippi-born, Texas-raised albino, famous for his striking mane of white hair, claimed that fame was never the goal. He simply wanted to play the blues, and that's pretty much what he did, cradle to the grave (or as near as dammit).
He died on July 16th 2014 in Zurich, Switzerland during an European tour, and leaves behind a wife (Susan) and his equally famous (or equally unknown) brother Edgar. And Johnny Winter also leaves behind a long back catalogue of blues and rock'n'roll music that will survive for generations to follow.
On Saturday 19th July 2014 Cheffins is holding its Cambridge Vintage Sale. Cheffins is renowned for its agricultural lots rather than its motorcycle stock, but the firm has nevertheless got one or two bikes in its sights that have caught our attention.
The first is the above pre-unit Triumph twin (Lot 1342). Specifically, it's a 1956 500cc 5T. The bike is fitted with what appears to be a Harley Sportster fuel tank and shortened forks. It's also running a 5.10 x 16-inch rear wheel and boasts a stainless steel exhaust. And we think it looks pretty cool (if you like that kind of stuff). The estimate is £3,300 - £3,800, which sound about right.
But if that doesn't float your boat, the 1953 500cc BSA A7 custom immediately above (Lot 1341) is estimated to sell for between £2,000 - £2,500. From where we're sat, this Beeza looks a little .... "individual". Then again, there's nothing wrong with a little individualism in this life, is there? But that exhaust has surely got to go...
Overall, we counted 26 bikes in the sale. Nothing too exciting is on offer, except perhaps Lot 1336 which is the 1964 750cc BMW with Steib sidecar (image immediately above) estimated at £5,000 - £6,000. This bike is actually a R60 with a R75 engine, and it looks to be pretty good value.
By the time most of you guys get mobilised, the sale will be over bar the shouting. But check out the results. Classic bike prices are all over the place at the moment. You need to keep a close eye on them if you want to make a little money or get your mitts on that desirable object that's always been just outside of your budget.
UPDATE: The Triumph 5T bobber sold for £5480 The BSA A7 sold for £1808. The BMW R60/75 sold for £5041.
(Note that prices shown reflect the hammer price plus 8% commission, and VAT on the commission).
— Del Monte
▲ Rob Mear aboard (or is that aloft on?) his 1965 500cc methanol-fuelled ESO Metisse. Rob, a member the Mortimer Club in Berkshire, also entered a 1966 600cc methanol Jawa. Sounds like a speedway fan.
Pic: Brian Crichton
The Northampton Classic Club (NCC) staged a debut classic scramble at Woodford, Northamptonshire, on Sunday 6th July 2014. Though the entry was small for this inaugural event, it was a brilliant success played out on a superb Corby AMCA permanent track.
The scramble is a significant step forward in terms of potential expansion for pre-65 style events which are currently held mostly held in Essex. The central (Northampton) location makes the event easily accessible to riders from most parts of the country.
▲ Pre-65 club member Aaron Graves Won seven races on the day. That's him with his 1965 BSA B44 taken out to 500cc. Pic: Brian Crichton
NCC chairman Pete Griffith hopes the club can make this scramble an annual fixture. Pressed on the possibility of two events a year, he said he had thought about it, the main hurdle being the difficulty in obtaining dates.
The club staged 17 races on Sunday, seven of them won by 27-year-old Aaron Graves (1965 500 BSA) from Malden, Essex. Also in cracking form and making Graves work for his wins was 49-year-old Gene Womack (1964 540cc Jawa Metisse/1864 750 Triumph Metisse) from New Buckenham, Norfolk.
Joining Graves in receiving winners' awards at the end of the meeting were Roy Crisp (1965 350/440 BSA), Aaron's father Paul Graves (350cc BSA), Greg Speed (1965 356cc Cheney BSA), John Bateup (1958 650cc Tribsa/1965 500cc Triumph), Gordon Adsett (1964 360cc CZ), and Neil Harris (1974 360cc Bultaco).
Race classes were for Pre-60, Pre-74, Pre-68 over 355cc, Clubmans, Pre-65 350cc, and Allcomers.
Event co-organiser & chief marshal Colin Hill and club chairman Pete Griffith are both active classic motocross competitors. But both gave up the pleasures of riding on the day to concentrate on running the event. To help bolster the entry, former bike dealer Hill lent riders his three classic scramblers (Tribsa, Matchless/Metisse and Bultaco), the latter of which carried 20-year-old Neil Harris from Northampton to a well-deserved win.
Pete Griffith on 01604 768812 or Colin Hill on 01536 521006
— The Admirable Crichton
It's happening today, Friday 11th July 2014 at 1.00pm, and it goes down at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire (home of the 11th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and birthplace of Winston Churchill). Coys is the auction house, and they're fielding over 90 motorcycles.
Coys hasn't featured on Sump before. But we're doing what we can to address that now by presenting you with some of the motorcycles that have caught our eye (not that all motorcycles don't do that anyway, you understand).
The above (and below) 1923 Harley-Davidson WF650 (Lot 166) is one machine that's made us sit up and pay special attention. This ultra rare bike is an older restoration and carries an estimate of £25,000 - £30,000.
The 584cc W-Series Harley's were loosely based on the (British) Douglas fore-and-aft flat twins that acquitted themselves so well during WW1 and became a reliable despatch rider's mount—and a popular post-conflict bike when surviving machines were released into civvy street.
But the American market was never quite so keen on the flat cylinder arrangement even though this design offered very smooth engines and kept the weight low thereby helping provide good handling and balance even in the toughest conditions.
The F-head opposed twins were first sold in 1918 and supplied with a three-speed hand-change transmission. They were marketed as the Sport Twin. The horsepower was rated at six which gave them a top speed of around 50mph. The wheelbase was 57-inches. The weight was around 265lbs. And Harley-Davidson sold them new for around $330.
This particular example is the WF model which featured magneto ignition (as opposed to coil for the WJ) and gas lighting. We've got no idea if the estimate is realistic or not. These bikes are simply too rare to count let alone value. But this example is clearly one for the HD collector or long-term investor. We're watching it with interest.
Meanwhile, the 1927 Indian Prince (below) is Lot 112. Coys reckon that it will change hands for around £26,000 - £30,000. The 350cc Prince was designed by the redoubtable Charles Bayly Franklin (who was to Indian pretty much what Val Page was to BSA). It was intended as a low cost entry-level sidevalve single, and it first appeared in 1925. The following year, however, an OHV option was offered.
Top speed was around 55mph. The short (54-inch) wheelbase coupled with a low (260lbs) weight made this modest 21-cubic incher fairly sprightly. Indian asked a not-unreasonable $195 for the Prince, and promised easier maintenance from the single-cylinder engine, but the firm seduced few customers. By 1929, life support was switched off and the model died a reasonably dignified death. The chassis number is: BLS146. The bike is carrying Italian registration plates (no details).
Next, the above BSA Rocket 3 has got us puzzled a little, pricewise. Styled by Ogle, the famous design house (that also gave us the Bush TR82 radio, the Chopper bicycle, the Bond Bug and Luke Skywalker's Star Wars Landspeeder), these first-of-type machines appear to be struggling lately for buyers. At least, they're struggling at anywhere around £10,000.
Nevertheless, Coys certainly feels that £8,500 - £10,000 is a realistic estimate, and normally we'd agree. But these 750cc Beeza Triples appear to have fallen from grace a little and are gathering dust in various dealerships around the country. There's no obvious reason why. It's probably just one of those wonderful whims of the classic bike world that will sort itself out. But right now, these Rockets are in the doldrums, so someone could be picking up a bargain.
We like 'em plenty. But then, we like more or less anything we can't have. As a motorcycle design that's of-its-time (mid-1960s), you have to look hard to find anything that tops the Rocket. It's brash, bold, over-the-top, improbable, and definitely kitsch. Tip: wear flared trousers, platform heels and an Afro when riding this one.
Meanwhile, we're studying the rest of Coys' catalogue and amusing ourselves by reading the sales copy that looks like it was written by a nine year old (sorry, Coys, but you'll have to do better than that if you want to snatch Bonhams' crown).
All eyes on Blenheim now, please ...
— Girl Happy
▲ Dave Bickers riding a 350cc Greeves at the 1965 Experts Grand National at Larkstoke, Warwickshire. Image courtesy of Eric Miles.
He was a Greeves man, a CZ man, a sidecar man, a stuntman, a Suffolk man and—from all accounts—an all-round gentleman. Dave Bickers, who died on Sunday 6th July 2014 was one of the most respected motorcyclists of his generation.
He began competition in the 1950s and was sponsored by DOT Motorcycles from Salford/Manchester. That recommendation caught the attention of Essex-based Greeves, and Bickers was soon headhunted and riding their machines.
In 1960, as a member of the Greeves factory team, he won the 250cc European Motocross Championship. Motor Cycle News was impressed enough to bestow upon him their Man of the Year award.
In 1961, riding with another Greeves team, Bickers again won the European Motocross Championship thereby consolidating his riding prowess and making him the man to beat.
That same year, and in 1962, Bickers was riding in teams that won the Trophée des Nations event. He seemed unstoppable, and for many competitors he was.
In the mid-1960s, Bickers campaigned CZ machines to much success, and he was associated with Matchless and Husqvarna bikes. But it will always be Greeves for which he will be remembered.
In 1976, he launched Bickers Action, a firm which made stunt equipment for the film and TV industries. He even enjoyed a few celluloid moments of his own doubling for Roger Moore in the James Bond film, Octopussy, and had a small stunt role in the film Escape from Athena. His son, Paul, has of late been managing that company—which in (fairly) recent times has built and sold equipment used in other James Bond productions (Casino Royale and Skyfall), plus various Harry Potter movies.
Bickers also founded Bickers Anglia (Accessories) Ltd and supplied tyres, luggage equipment and other parts to the motorcycle trade.
He continued to ride motorcycles and was happy to pass on tips and experience to younger competitors. He was a man of many anecdotes and was generally very agreeable to be around. His friends numbered just about anyone who's anyone of his generation, not least BSA man Jeff Smith.
▲ Former British Motocross champion Vic Allan (left) and Dave Bickers in 2012. Dave could smile plenty, but evidently not necessarily on demand.
Said Suffolk-based bike dealer Andy Tiernan, "Dave had a truly lovely nature, and helped me many times over the years—and, as I recall, he once lent me an outfit for the Irish Rally. He'll be missed by everyone."
Dave Bickers leaves behind a wife (Sylvia), son (Paul), and daughter (Andrea). With his family present, he died in hospital after a short illness.
— Del Monte
Well that was a close one, depending on which side of the argument you happen to be. But it seems that Prime Minister David Cameron (and that other has-been LibDem bloke currently keeping a very low profile for fear of being asked again to resign) had been thinking of dropping some motorway speed limits to just 60mph between the hours of 7.00am and 7.00pm, seven days a week.
Specifically, that would be two stretches of the M1 totalling 30 miles, and a three mile stretch of the M3. No, it might not sound like much, but the government always takes it away bit by bit. Are we right?
The idea was to improve air pollution levels to keep the Eurocrats happy and meet new targets. But now it seems that the Highways Agency, the department which would have been tasked with replacing the signs and generally carrying the onerous can, has been told to find other solutions.
Only, there aren't any really, except perhaps by converting everyone to electric vehicles (which is a non starter at the moment), or by taking more drastic measures to (a) limit general access to fossil fuel, or (b) by cutting the population overall, which is ultimately at the root of our manifold national and global woes—and we've got a pretty good idea where those cuts ought to start (isn't Luton on the M1, more or less?).
However, we were kinda hoping that motorway speeds might actually be reduced even further to around 40mph. That would give our old sidevalves a fighting chance on the major national arteries; something that hasn't happened since around 1963. But it's not going to happen, so remember to clear a path for white van man whenever you're out on the national slabs.
It's 70mph as normal across the country, except where temporary special reductions are required.
— Big End
Telling fibs, lies, porkies, untruths, falsehoods and whoppers to your insurance company will be significantly more difficult after the summer of 2014. That's because the driving records of all British motorists and motorcyclists will be posted on a database for underwriters to check.
Actually, they can already check you out by picking up the phone or firing off an email to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). But it takes time and money, so they rarely take this route.
But come the autumn, it will be pretty much an automatic check from computer to computer, and that could see many premiums rise, but could also see many fall.
That's because although sixteen percent of drivers/riders under-report driving convictions and their accrued points, another seven percent over-report and mention penalty points that have lapsed. But soon your insurers will know automatically and will adjust your policy accordingly.
The program was originally called: Insurance Industry Access to Driving Data. But this has been re-branded to: MyLicence. Except that the licence is never yours. Ultimately, it always belongs to the government.
Regardless, if you're under-reporting simply to get an insurance certificate to flash to the coppers, your lying days are numbered (at least as far as this issue is concerned).
— The Third Man
Feel like sponsoring a couple of ex-squaddies on their European tour? If so, talk to Harry Glover of 4/73 Special OP Battery, and Pete Bray of 22 SAS and ask them about their "Triumph over Tragedy" ride.
These guys are hoping to raise money for three charities, specifically:
British Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association
Alder Hey Children’s Charity
Soldiers off the Streets
According to the press release, the ex-soldiers will be leaving Buckingham Palace on 1st August 2014, and then riding across the European continent travelling as far north as Helsinki, as far east as Bucharest, and as far south as Athens. The intention is to visit all 26 European capital cities over a 28 day period.
Glover and Bray are looking for anyone who can provide them with equipment, supplies and (not least) the bikes. They'll also be staying in hotels and are looking for finance for that.
Sounds like a gruelling journey, huh? Riding around Europe for a month on a couple of motorcycles at someone else's expense. Call us a bunch of cynics, but these kind of charity rides would no doubt draw a lot more support if they didn't sound like such good fun.
Don't get us wrong. We LOVE charitable events, and the charities listed above are no doubt very worthy causes. But this ride is expected to cost around £50,000, which is pushing £2,000 per day. Moreover, our two intrepid riders launched a new business nine months ago offering "security services" to whoever needs it (which could be us when this news item hits the www). That business is called .... well, let's not embarrass them further. But they'll be promoting that on the trip.
There will, apparently, be general Meet-the-Press pow-wows throughout the month, and we also hear that Harry Glover's daughter will be undergoing surgery at Alder Hey Hospital, which prompted him to set up the charity.
So we telephoned Chris Barnes at Famous Publicity who is handling the PR and asked if we had our facts right. The upshot was that yes, this is a 28 day tour to 26 European capitals, costing around £50,000, ideally on borrowed motorcycles (but possibly on their own bikes if a sponsor can't be found).
"What's the target amount they're hoping to raise?" we asked.
"There's isn't one," said Chris. "Just as much as possible."
"Will they be promoting their security business on the tour?"
"Is this by any chance a new business?"
"Yes, it was set up nine months ago."
"Don't you think that this is going to look like a couple of self-interested guys having a holiday around Europe at someone else's expense?"
"I can understand how it might look like that."
The date will be July 27th 2014. The place is Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA. Two hundred motorcycles are listed. And the star bike lots hail from the famous Mike Quinn Collection which is a stunning back-catalogue of over 100 motorcycles that have been collected by Quinn since 1962.
Quinn, of Coos Bay, Oregon, began his obsession with a 1942 Harley-Davidson 45, and developed it with various Panheads, Duo Glides, Electra Glides, Sportsters and, not least, the predecessor of the Sportster, the Model K sidevalves—one of his favourite machines, we understand. The images immediately above and below show Lot U23, a 1933 1207cc Harley-Davidson VLE from the Quinn Collection. In its day, this 45-degree sidevalve was good for 104mph.
Additionally, Quinn has incorporated into his collection rare Harley racing WRs, KRs and XRs; bikes that are attracting a lot of interest from international buyers anxious to carve off a few slices of rare American beef.
▲ Lot U40. 1956 Harley-Davidson KH (Quinn Collection). This 55 cubic inch (901cc) sidevalve is the last of the Ks and is offered with original paint, a 4-speed transmission (with trapdoor access). A cool flathead Hog.
But having amassed this fabled collection of iron, steel aluminium and rubber (many of which have been displayed in museums and as special exhibits), Quinn now wants to sell up put a little space back in his shed. And that's what Mecum Auction ("The world's largest seller of antique motorcycles") intends to do.
So has he ridden any or all of these motorcycles? "Yes, about sixty percent of them," he says. "But I am finished collecting and feel I achieved my goals in putting together a display of the wonderful variety of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. I truly see them as works of arts.”
But they're not all Harleys. There are a few classic Hondas and Kawaskis in there too. And what's it all worth? We don't know, not until after the sale. But if you accept an average price of, say, $10,000 per bike, (which could be way too low, or too high), you're looking at a cool $1 million—plus forty or fifty years of a man's life. And what's that worth?
▲ Lot U91. 1970 Boat Tail XLH Sportster. Harley-Davidson was trying to break out of its Electra Glide mould and hoping to excite the world with this 900cc factory custom. It bombed. But today, the wheel has turned...
▲ ... and these 55-inch Ironheads are highly desirable, especially by us lot at Sump. This example is offered with original "Sparkling Green and White" livery and electric starter (no kicker). Last year of the Boat Tails.
Meanwhile, check the images below for some of the other lots that are not from the Quinn Collection.
▲ Lot U175. 1972 Izh Planeta. These were built by the Ruskies and are based upon an East German DKW design. This is a "brand new" bike with only 24 miles on the clock. With its "art deco" design, the build quality is actually "very good". Not just Russian good, but just good.
▲ Lot U13. 1953 Indian Chief and sidecar. This bike has covered just 8,966 miles. The warpaint on the Chief is said to be original. But 40 years ago, the sidecar saw an extra splash of colour. Still looks good though.
— Del Monte
We're looking for feedback on exactly who you guys, and girls, are out there in Sumpland. We already know plenty about you because you write and send us pictures and buy our products and tell us interesting tales.
But we're greedy and want more. Why? Because it will help shape the future of Sump, and we've got plans.
So spare us an email (and we know you've got plenty and wouldn't miss one little one). Just tell us what you own and ride. That's all. No home addresses. No banking information. No personal details at all. We just want to hear about the bikes.
And we're not offering anything in return. No freebies. No bike show tickets. No visiting call girls (or boys). Absolutely nothing—except Sump itself which is currently carrying well over a quarter of a million free words on your favourite (or is that, second favourite?) preoccupation.
— Girl Happy
It's called the Merlin, and it reads "Francis Barnett" on the petrol tank, but beyond that it's a Chinese-built HMC motorcycle. Francis Barnett aficionado and current owner of the FB name, Andrew Longfield, recently displayed the above trials model at Coventry Motofest and has expressed a desire to put it into production alongside a road-going version, the name as yet unspecified.
The above 124cc, SOHC, air-cooled, Chinky-dinky single puts out a claimed 10.7bhp with a modest, noodle-stretching 6.3ft-lbs of torque. The front brake is a disc squeezed by a twin-piston caliper. The rear brake is an unspecified drum. The dry weight of this new standard bearer is 235lbs (107kgs), and we suspect that the brand-conscious, status hungry, technology thieving Chinese are very happy about the tie-up between their product and the Francis Barnett name.
But we also suspect that most FB men will be choking on their cornflakes over this affront to the dignity of a once great name and will subsequently be demanding that Longfield rethinks, recants and retreats.
The Francis Barnett name, after all, has a lot of worthy historic baggage. The company was founded in 1919 by Gordon Inglesby Francis and Arthur Barnett. The business operated out of Lower Ford Street, in Coventry (Longfield's home town, by the way) and largely built its fame and reputation around a straight tube triangulated frame concept that could "fit into a golf bag".
"Built like a bridge" was the proud Francis Barnett boast. The bikes, meanwhile, were largely powered by the ubiquitous Villiers two-stroke range of engines. But later (1947), under the ownership of Associated Motor Cycles, AMC engines crept into the picture. By 1966, however, AMC was in terminal trouble and Francis Barnett went down with the ship.
The Merlin was one such model from the FB stable. But other birdy names included the Hawk, Plover, Falcon, Kestrel, and Snipe. So much for the potted history lesson.
But slapping such a respected monicker on a cheap Chinese import and having the audacity to put it back on the market at any price is likely to earn Longfield a biking fatwah not to mention a few nasty emails.
But we've given up getting aerated about such marketing machinations. The motorcycling back-catalogue of available brands has already been soundly raided, adulterated, largely gentrified, bent out of shape and priced out of reach of many Joe Bikers. So if someone wants to flog trendy Belstaff clothing and Lewis Leathers to people who like to stand beside rusty old motorcycles and look "cool", who the hell are we to argue? We're just little people.
And if Andrew Longfield wants to resurrect this particular corpse and create a rolling mausoleum from it, we're not sneering. Seriously. You have to light your own torch in this world. Are we right?
However, we'd rather Longfield had made this bike just a smidgen more British, or at least European. Or okay, at least Western. Why? Because Francis Barnett were noted for building quality motorcycles, and the Chinese ain't. There's a painful disconnect there.
And Andy, if you're out there, ya gotta do something about that awful website of yours. Or was that built in China too? Good luck with your project.
The (legendary) 74th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally (set in the equally legendary Black Hills of Dakota) is coming around again and kicks off this year on 4th August 2014 and ends on 10th August (Monday to Sunday).
Sturgis was founded way back in 1938 by the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club. The idea was to create a venue for motorcycle hill climbs and stunt riding whilst generally hanging out with the boys and getting drunk, etc.
The event exploded in the 1970s and 1980s, and today it boasts around 400,000 visitors spread over "Sturgis Week", depending on who you ask. But nobody is challenging the fact that the entire town of around 6,400 hardworking, sunburned Dakotan souls is overwhelmed by an army of denim- and leather-clad brothers happy to strut their stuff, get stoned, get laid, get another tattoo, hang out, ride the strip, listen to the music, maybe have a fight or two, spend (allegedly) around $800 million, and generally enjoy the carnival and have a good time.
Think Glastonbury, on two wheels.
Well Indian Motorcycles will once again be there in as much force as this tribe can muster and will be fielding a range of "all American" bikes. And it was at last year's Sturgis, note, that Indian displayed its new Chief (see Sump May 2013).
The firm is very bullish (or is that Sitting Bullish?) about the future and is more determined than ever to cut a large slice of Harley-Davidson's cake. They send us press releases about every ten minutes, and Polaris Industries, which owns the name, has clearly put a lot of money into this firm. So good luck to 'em.
The 2014 Chieftain is powered by Indian's beautiful looking Thunder Stroke 111 engine. That's 1819cc of 49-degree V-twin.
The bore and stroke is 3.976 inches x 4.449 inches (or 101mm x 113mm in Brit-speak). The compression ratio 9.5:1. And the bike kicks out 119.2 ft-lbs of torque at a soporific 3,000rpm.
This bike, we're told, is the first factory-built Indian with a hard fairing and hard luggage. Other standard features include a cast aluminium frame, cruise control, anti-lock brakes, constant tyre pressure monitoring and keyless start.
And the UK price? Around £20,000 (check eBay for dealers).
“This bike is all I expected and more,” says David, an otherwise anonymous Indian® Chieftain™ owner from somewhere unspecified speaking via Indian's website—which is as dull a soundbite you're ever likely to hear, and (we hope) one that's unworthy of a cool-looking machine such as this.
Since the firm was founded in 1901 by George M. Hendee and Carl Oscar Hedström, Indian has had more than its share of commercial ups and downs. Well we'd like to see this latest incarnation ride a long, long highway, and giving Harley-Davidson a run for its money can only raise the game to the benefit of everyone.
Meanwhile, regardless of where you are in the world, if you haven't visited Sturgis, it's got to be one of the major events on the international biking calendar. So just go.
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
— Girl Happy