He was better known simply as Joe Cocker, one of the most distinct rock and blues voices of his era. Born in Sheffield, Cocker's greatest claim to fame, and his springboard to hit success, was his unmistakeable cover of the Beatles' song With a Little Help From My Friends taken from their Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. It reached number one in the UK in 1968.
But there was much more to him than that.
Armed with that song and enough personal gusto to start a riot, Joe Cocker took his act to Woodstock in 1969, turning the hit from a tuneful, unhurried, mellow, soul-searching ballad into a tortured (and some would say "tortuous") angst-ridden musical melodrama. The audience loved this on-the-edge white British bluesman with a voice like a gravel slide, and quickly took him into their hearts, lounges, bedsitters and squats.
What unquestionably heightened the song's impact was Cocker's compelling on-stage performance underpinned by his trademark body spasms interspersed with bursts of something approaching rigor mortis. The world had seen nothing quite like it (not from a white man, anyway). The press was unsure how to deal with it. But his record company knew they had a winner.
And something of a loser too.
His flirtation with hard drugs soon turned into a heroin addiction. His all-too-frequent visits to the bottle also gave him an alcohol problem to wrestle with. And he liked his ciggies (up to 80-a-day according to some Cockerites)
He toured extensively, not least the USA, and invariably travelled as part of a motley group of musicians and supporters. He was something of a gonzo-artiste in that he never merely "reported" a troubled world through his numerous song covers, but also lived life in the hard lane and experienced as much as possible. He wrote and co-wrote some of his material, but never penned anything that took him as high as The Beatles had taken him.
Soon enough, his weaknesses led to various public embarrassments from freezing on stage, to collapses, to arrests, to forgetting who the hell he was, and who the hell anyone else was around him. During particularly bad times he was hospitalised. On good days he rode motorcycles—notably around his Colorado, USA ranch or across Snake Pass in Derbyshire, England.
For many years, he all but vanished into the wilderness, then cleaned up his act and reappeared and began the slow climb back to where he needed to be. But now, sadly, he was (arguably) famed more for merely being a musical survivor rather than being a contemporary rock and blues God.
Nevertheless, he enjoyed some great highs (of various kinds) and compiled a more than respectable back-catalogue of hardcore warbling material. And he continued working almost until the end.
Joe Cocker's singles include:
Delta Lady (1969)
You Are So Beautiful (1974)
Up Where We Belong (with Jennifer Warnes, 1982)
His albums include:
With a Little Help From My Friends (1969)
Sheffield Steel (1982)
Have a Little Faith (1994)
Fire it Up (2012)
In the course of his career, he appeared on stage with such musical luminaries as John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, Leon Russell, B B King, Carlos Santana, and even Luciano Pavarotti. And he was "out there" with hundreds of song covers, all of them bearing the gritty, pain-wracked Joe Cocker signature. The best British blues voice ever? Some think so.
Joe Cocker is survived by his wife, Pam (of over 25 years), and a stepdaughter. He was aged 70 and lived life to the max, and even one or two steps beyond.
British Bike Bits? You'll know this company better as Burton Bike Bits (based in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire) which currently supplies parts for dozens of classic motorcycle marques, not least Triumph, BSA, Norton and Royal Enfield. The business claims to have around 30,000 lines on its shelves, and we're not doubting that for a second.
Well Burton is now developing a new and purely online web portal through which you can buy those essential spares—especially if you're a Royal Enfield Interceptor Mk2 pilot. Burton has a large stash of New Old Stock (NOS) items for these bikes, and many of these parts will fit other models in the Enfield range.
So does that mean that Burton Bike Bits, as a trading identity, is dead? Not at all. It's got no intention of going anywhere, not when there's so much goodwill tied up in the name.
For the foreseeable future at least (and possibly well beyond), the two sites will run side by side. But there will be some rationalisation going on, so what you don't find on one, you'll probably find on the other.
Also, British Bike Bits (or Burton if you prefer) is now catering to Hinckley Bonneville owners. It's early days yet for these bikes (parts wise), but the range will undoubtedly grow.
Meanwhile, keep the websites on your "favourites" list.
— Del Monte
When it comes to classy and classic actresses, you can't get much more classy and classic than the late Billie Whitelaw who has died aged 82. Women, in particular, loved her for the tough (yet somehow fragile) characters she frequently played in the theatre, the cinema and on TV.
If you needed a female who could hold her own against pretty much anyone, Billie Whitelaw might well be the actress to send for. And if you needed an actress with depth of character and wit and intelligence, that was definitely Billie Whitelaw.
▲ Albert Finney and Billie Whitelaw in Gumshoe (1971). If you haven't see this movie, it's a gem. A Liverpool bingo caller by day, and a private dick by night. Cue all kinds of games and intrigue. Frank Finlay fans will also enjoy this one. And Billie Whitelaw gives a great performance.
Her career began in the early 1950s and, arguably, reached its peak between the early 1960s and the mid-1970s with movies such as Payroll (1961), Charlie Bubbles (1967), Gumshoe (1971) and The Omen (1976). But she was active right up until 2007 when she appeared in her final movie, Hot Fuzz.
Fans of gritty crime stories will remember her as Violet Kray (mother to Ronnie and Reggie) in The Krays (1990) for which she won an award as best actress. Fans of Daphne Du Maurier will remember her as Aunt Patience in the TV series Jamaica Inn (1983).
If you were generally growing up in the Mods & Rockers era of the 1960s, you might recall Billie Whitelaw for her role as (daughter) Mary Dixon in the police series Dixon of Dock Green (starring Jack Warner as the avuncular East London beat bobby). She also handled more multi-dimensional roles as Margo in The Dressmaker (1988), and as Grace Poole in Jane Eyre (1996).
But it's perhaps her Mrs Baylock character, nanny to Damien (the child-of-Satan) Thorne in The Omen that sent a chill through millions of hearts and made her face so memorable.
If her career had begun and ended there, it would still be notable. But she also enjoyed a 25-year professional theatre relationship with Irish playwright, Samuel Beckett, and played numerous roles that were often written especially for her, or at least heavily reworked to bring her personality and acting talents to the fore.
▲ Billie Whitelaw in Hot Fuzz (2007). Not as we'd like to remember her (she was usually tough without a gun). But it was her last movie role.
Billie Whitelaw—who was born in Coventry, Warwickshire and grew up in Bradford, West Yorkshire—was twice married (once to actor Peter Vaughan) and had a son, who survives her.
She received numerous BAFTA awards, and in 1991 was appointed CBE. Billie Whitelaw was an unmistakeable face with an unmistakeable presence. She was, quite simply, a great English actress.
The Auto Cycle Union (ACU) has some leftover Mike Hailwood prints that it wants to unload. But it's all in a good cause; that being the ACU Benevolent Fund.
We must confess that we don't actually know what that is. But if it's got the word Benevolent and Fund in the title, we're making the (not unreasonable) assumption that any revenues are probably going to do some good to someone who needs a little help.
The prints are £50 each. They were painted by artist Rod Organ (we don't know anything about him either, but we're suspicious of his name). And the image shows Mike Hailwood (we know who he is) at the 1967 Isle of Man (we know where that is) Junior TT riding a Honda Six (and we more or less know what that is).
The prints are 28” x 20”. The fifty quid cost includes postage and packing. Send your cheques (we remember what those are) to: The Auto-Cycle Union Benevolent Fund, ACU House, Wood Street, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV21 2YX.
UPDATE: We just checked, and the fund was started in 1951. Its object is to help the families of ACU members "in times of hardship". It's not an insurance scheme, and it's quite possibly a lifeline for some. So support it if you can please.
— Big End
▲ The Small Faces. Left to right: Steve Marriot, Ronnie Laine, Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones. Their star burned briefly, but very brightly.
Spare a passing thought, if you will, for Ian McLagan who has died aged 69. He was the keyboard player with sixties band, The Small Faces—a four piece Moddy Boy combo that most of you modern rockers out there wouldn't know much about.
But The Small Faces, who morphed into The Faces, briefly enjoyed huge success in the flower power era with hits including Sha-La-La-La-Lee, All or Nothing , Lazy Sunday Afternoon, and their most well known, Itchycoo Park.
They were highly flamboyant fashionistas who partied hard, indulged themselves with whatever pleasures were available, and unsurprisingly featured heavily in the mainstream and music press of the day. Publications such as New Musical Express, Rave and Jackie collectively dedicated hundreds of pages to the group's hedonistic exploits.
Lead singer Steve Marriot (1947 – 1991) was fast becoming a huge teenage idol when the band suffered the usual internal tensions and began the inevitable (indeed almost obligatory) meltdown.
In 1968, at the height of the group's popularity, Marriot left the band. Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart arrived to replace him. All too quickly however, Stewart's star was soon outshining the other members causing The Faces to become little more than a backing band.
▲ Left to right: Mojo (2014), New Musical Express (1966), Record Collector (2013) and Uncut (2012). Seems that The Small Faces are still a band that a lot of people are closely listening to. In 2007, a plaque was erected in Carnaby Street, London W1 in recognition of the band (and legendary producer Don Arden, 1926 – 2007).
Ian McLagen was a Londoner, born in Hounslow. He came into pop music via skiffle and rock'n'roll by learning the concertina, the guitar and keyboards. Just as The Small Faces were about to sack their own keyboard player, McLagan appeared on the scene. He was the right age, had the right image, enjoyed the same music, and generally hit the right notes, both instrumentally and socially.
So he was hired.
The Small Faces, however, weren't his first professional musical outing. McLagan had earlier formed a band called The Cherokees which later became the Muleskinners.
After The Faces collapsed in 1975, Rod Stewart went entirely solo. Ronnie Laine (1946 – 1997) left the band too and eventually went solo. Ronnie Wood joined the Rolling Stones. Ian McLagan looked for new musical avenues to explore and unsuccessfully reformed The Faces. He briefly formed his own group (Ian McLagan's Bump Band), and later worked with Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones.
Ian McLagan was twice married, and is survived by a daughter and a step daughter. He was 69 years old.
It's a modern classic. The Ducati Monster. The Bologna factory knows it, and is milking it for all it's worth, and has just given away a prime example of the species to some lucky Italian sod. Why? Because:
"Between 1946 and today we have designed, built and delivered one million dreams that have become reality to Ducatisti."
That's according to Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali, and that number represents a huge production run of motorcycles for a "small" manufacturer and is a cause for celebration (we felt much the same way after our one millionth beer, and our one millionth call girl; it puts a drop of moisture in the eyes, ya know?). [More...]
How is it that when the British use girls in motorcycling advertising— such as the tacky, slutty 1970s Norton Commando ads—the females look like a bunch of bimbos, but when the Italians do it, they do it with exuberance and panache?
Take the poster above. This is Lot 12 at Bonhams' Bally's Hotel and Casino sale at Las Vegas, USA which goes down on Thursday 8th January 2015. It's a limited edition Ducati poster that's being flogged with five advertising prints. The estimate is a reasonable $150 - $300 (£95 - £190).
So okay, the Norton slappers were symptomatic of another era when the British couldn't get enough cheap smut and giggled at the word "bum".
Whereas the Ducati 60 hailed from a time where there was still a little innocence left in the world (which is amazing when you think that the 60cc, 40mph, 3-speed, four-stroke air-cooled single was introduced just four years after the end of World War Two).
Nevertheless, the wops have shown us once again just how classy they can be and have managed to stay well clear of mild pornography and have instead given us memorable images such as this.
We can almost forgive them for Mussolini.
— Del Monte
There's no such word as "pre-book". Okay? Everyone is saying "pre-book" lately, and it's driving us nuts. You either "book" or you don't "book". But you can't book before you book because ... well, because you've already booked.
So nobody needs to pre-book for the 2015 Harley-Davidson 24th European H.O.G.® Rally which, apparently, is going to set light to Andalucia, Spain. You simply need to book because this is a ticketed only event, and you might want to get your entry pass while it's going.
The date it's all booked to happen is 18th - 21st June 2015, which is a Thursday to Sunday. Andalucia is the very hot bit at the bottom of Spain where all the illegal immigrants die trying to paddle across on inflated truck inner tubes from North Africa to Europe.
The specific location is Puerto Sherry which is between Cádiz and Jerez. And if you need directions, just follow the Harley in front. This four-day event will draw Harley-Davidson riders from all over the world, and you can expect all the usual attractions from food, to booze, to a custom show, to bike games, to new bikes from the factory, to music, to biker gear, to wild sex in the woods, and so on.
It's not clear if you need to own or ride a Harley to attend this shindig. But when it Rome, etc. And if you do attend, upon your return to wherever, you'd better check for illegal immigrants hiding in your saddlebags or clinging to the underside of your swinging arm.
These days, they get in everywhere. And none of 'em book or pre-book.
— Del Monte
It costs £24.99 and Christmas is coming. So take a hint, why don't you? This is a comprehensive box-set designed to look after those expensive leathers that's you've been riding around in all year. Come to that, it will help look after those nasty cheap leathers too.
Either way, you need to keep the water out, and keep your kit fresh and supple. And yes, it's a pain in the saddle having to do these duck-waxing and dubbing-yer-boots chores. So get the missus to do it (or whoever your significant-other happens to be).
But it makes a real difference to the whole riding experience if you simply feel good and can move about without squeaking/cracking/crunching clothing (cue brassy fanfare and cut to a shot of a smiling biker steaming off down an empty switchback road somewhere in the Lake District).
Goldtop, suppliers of motorcycle gloves and sundry riding apparel to the likes of thee and we, have put together the above kit with instructions on how to deploy it.
So either you're smart and you want it. Or you're stupid and you don't. And yes, we have laid that on a little thick, and we didn't mean it. But there's a reason why these products exist, and the great British weather (or filthy foreign weather) is at the heart of it.
Go check Goldtop's website and read all about this and other leather care products. They've got gloves, rocker scarves, rocker socks, leather boots, and ... well, we can't remember what (all that beer has overtaken us again).
But if nothing else, look after your leathers this winter, or risk a bad case of trench foot, finger fungus and various other bodily ailments that we're too squeamish to mention.
It happens, brother. It happens...
That's Dick Mann in action (above), one of the greatest motorcycle riders in the history of the sport. He's newsworthy once again on Sump because two of his bikes (a 1962 500cc Matchless G50 road racer, and a circa-1965 500cc BSA Gold Star flat tracker) are being auctioned by Bonhams on Thursday 8th January 2015 at Bally's Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, USA.
To make the sale even more exciting, a 1957 FB Mondial 250 Bialbero Grand Prix Racer owned by the inimitable Mike Hailwood will be on the same block.
And to put a cherry on this particular cake, a 1961 Norton Manx 350 GP Racer built by legendary tuner Francis Beart is looking for a new owner.
▲ Lot 196: Ex-Dick Mann circa 1965 BSA Gold Star Flat Tracker. Estimate: $90,000 - $100,000 (£57,000 - £64,000).
▲ Lot 195: Ex-Dick Mann 1962 Matchless G50 Roadracer. Estimate: $100,000 - $120,000 (£64,000 - £76,000).
▲ Lot 154: Ex-Mike Hailwood 1957 F.B. Mondial 250cc Bialbero GP Racer. Estimate: $100,000 - $130,000 (£64,000 - £83,000).
▲ Lot 155: Ex-Jimmy Guthrie 1961 Beart Norton Manx 350cc Manx Racer. Estimate: $50,000 - $70,000 (£32,000 - £45,000).
Overall, Bonhams (which supplied the images) is fielding a formidable line-up of classic motorcycles at this sale including a 1959 Harley-Davidson KR750 flat tracker ridden by National Champion Joe Leonard.
We counted 335 lots (assuming there are no breaks in the sequence). And there are one or two motorcycles that we've seen before doing the rounds and searching for new owners including a Triumph TR6C custom painted by Kenny "Von Dutch" Howard which failed to launch at Las Vegas in January 2014. See Sump December 2013.
Nevertheless, there's some very exciting stuff on offer, and we expect to see one or two records broken at this auction.
Other top lots include bikes from the Herb Harris Collection, such as:
Lot 236: 1949 Vincent Touring Rapide with Blacknell Bullet Sidecar. Estimate: $100,000 - $120,000 (£64,000 - £76,000). Full Harris Vincent restoration with electric starter
Lot 250: 1954 Vincent Black Prince Prototype. Estimate: $250,000 - $300,000 (£160,000 - £190,000). Development machine and Earl's Court show bike
Lot 237: 1946 Vincent HRD 1X Prototype Series B V-twin. Estimate: $350,000 - $450,000 (£220,000 - £290,000)
▲ Lot 237: This, we understand, is the first Series B Vincent HRD. It was used as a development bike, then relegated to a works sidecar hack. Decades later, Herb Harris recreated the bike using the original engine. The £220,000 - £290,000 estimate is a lot of money for a "parts bin special". But the motorcycle, or what remains of the original, has "history". So decide for yourself what it's worth.
▲ Lot 236: Herb Harris is no ordinary Vincent collector. This 1949 Rapide c/w Blacknell Bullet sidecar is one such gem. The chair was originally fitted to a Black Shadow, but has since parted company. The Rapide is fitted with an electric starter and is painted in a rare Vincent factory colour.
[more information and images here]
[Dick Mann BSA Gold Star flat tracker sale]
[Dick Mann Matchless G60]
[Mike Hailwood FB Mondial 250 Bialbero sale]
[Francis Beart Norton 350 Manx GP Racer sale]
Norton Motorcycles has announced the launch of a new Dominator called the Dominator SS. Tentatively priced at £19, 950, the firm reckons they'll be initially manufacturing just 50 of these "fully homologated road going bikes". A "private preview" at an "exclusive evening" will be held at Donington Hall, Derbyshire in January 2015. A world launch will follow sometime after.
The engine for the new Dommie will almost certainly be the existing 961 twin. But that isn't the new Dominator SS (above). That's just an artist's mock up.
The original Dominator SS's were the 600cc and 646cc parallel twins of 1961/1962. The SS stood for Super Sports or Sports Special, depending on who you ask and believe. Twin downdraught Amal carburettors were standard. Ditto a Slimline Featherbed frame (a narrowed Wideline Featherbed chassis). And the bike is still highly regarded by Norton fans as one of the best of a very good bunch. Top speed was around 110mph with a claimed 49bhp on tap. The model was discontinued in 1967.
Finally, it might be worth mentioning that when a firm talks of an "exclusive evening", it means that only certain people will be included, and everyone else will be shut out. That's in stark contrast to, say, Triumph which builds "everyman" motorcycles and are happy to have anyone's bum on their saddles.
Worth a thought or two maybe. Here's a larger shot of the new SS.
If you thought that the Slovenian firm, Akrapovič, made only exhausts, you've got some homework to do. Rather, this company likes to get the funk out every now and again and shake a little dust from the world's preconceptions. This is exactly what their Full Moon motorcycle concept (above) is all about.
[Read more about the Akrapovič Full Moon custom]
You'll have to be quick if you want this one because classic bike trader Andy Tiernan feels he might have underpriced this, and he's toying with the idea of raising the ante.
But for the moment (9th December 2014), he'll let it go for £5,000, and that's a pretty good price for a decent example.
"And this one is a very nice example," confirmed Andy when we got him down off the roof of his premises where he'd been repairing tiles. "It was a lot cleaner than I realised and came in about a week ago. We've photographed it and made sure it's running well and have written our usual report. And now it's for sale."
The 3HW isn't as rare as some of the military bikes of WW2. But they don't chug around the block anywhere near as often as, say, a BSA M20 or a Norton 16H.
These OHV 350cc pushrod singles are just as reliable and good for around 60-65 mph. They're generally reliable and sorted (subject to the usual age-related woes). They clatter like almost all Triumphs (of that eras, anyway), and most of them were snapped up by the RAF—hence the RAF blue livery (which looks a little pale to us, but there's no Pantone number for the correct hue because there IS no correct colour; just whatever's in the tin at the time it was painted).
The drum brakes are merely okay (at best), but there's a little engine-braking available too if you handle it right. Handling is surprisingly nimble. Suspension is typical girder/rigid. Sounds crude, and it is. But you could tour the world on this attractive low-tech single if you had a mind to.
Built in 1944, this bike was registered for civvy street in 1947. The 4-speed gearbox is, we hear, doing what it should. The bike starts (hot and cold) and it rides nice. It's running on 6-volt electrics. The mileage is 30,597. And the lower rear bush on the girder fork link is slightly worn. Otherwise, it's a peach, so what are you waiting for?
— Girl Happy
Now here's a new old idea. Police courts. In the good old days of TB, rickets and typhoid, that's what they used to call magistrates courts, the idea being to have magistrates—which are lay people drawn from ordinary walks of life—sit in judgment of their fellow citizens and deal with all the low-level crime from stealing a loaf of bread to throwing rotting food at the local beadle to lifting handkerchiefs in the town's marketplace.
Only, times have changed, and the usual suspects have got trickier and trickier to process, and that means expending time, money and energy that the government simply can't stomach in the current scorched-earth campaign of cutting public services.
It's not entirely clear how these new courts will work, or even if they'll be introduced. But spending weeks of valuable magistrates court time dealing with some scrote who's nicked a bottle of Brut and a pair of trainers from Poundshop simply isn't good value. What the advocates of police courts want is a system whereby a suspect can be fast-tracked into prison, community service or a stiff fine within "24 hours of being charged".
That, of course, will mean having a hanging judge close at hand able and willing to dispense justice at the drop of a policeman's hat, and it will rely upon the aforementioned scrotes actually pleading guilty to whatever offence is being thrown at them.
Under the plan, serious offences (murder, rape, armed robbery, etc) will still be dealt with at Crown Court level. And magistrates courts will also be maintained for looking after the slightly trickier stuff. The police courts, on the other hand, will be a third level, or a first level depending on which way you're looking at this thing. And each court will have limited sentencing powers at its disposal.
▲ The infamous Special Patrol Group (SPG) of the 1960s morphed into the Territorial Support Group (TSG) in the 1970s. These guys here are hard at work interviewing a "likely" suspect. In 1979, New Zealander anti-racist demonstrator Blair Peach (image immediately below) was, allegedly, coshed to death by an SPG/TSG officer. No charges were ever brought.
In the 1960s, the London Metropolitan Police Special Patrol Group (SPG) used to rove around in vans persuading people, both guilty and innocent (and more often black than white) to admit to any number of crimes. But that kind of behaviour, although still prevalent, is frowned upon these days. So the dubious concept of fast-track police courts are the next best/worst thing.
Now don't get us wrong. We're all for rapid justice, as long as it IS justice. But justice sometimes DOES take time. That's how it works. That's how the weak minded (in particular) are protected from the over-zealous antics of the men and women charged with upholding the law.
Put another way, we can see huge scope here for all kinds of abuses of powers. We don't want to shoot this one down before it's got wings, but we're keeping it in our sights.
And so should you.
By the end of this month (December 2014), the first seven Hesketh 24s will be ready to ship. At £35,000, these are no cheap imports. Rather, they're expensive British-built exports. And Hesketh supremo, Paul Sleeman, reckons that 60 percent of bikes will go overseas.
Displaying the new motorcycle recently at the Classic Bike Show (NEC Birmingham, 14th- 16th November 2014), Sleeman (pictured immediately below) was upbeat about the future of the business. His staff of 6, operating from the Hesketh factory in Redhill, Surrey, are building 24 examples of this limited edition model. Following that, we understand that Sleeman is anticipating manufacturing 50 bikes per annum, the details of which have yet to be determined.
The overall commercial strategy is to keep the business at a "manageable size", thereby avoiding the huge investment required for high volume production whilst maintaining the all-important cachet of exclusivity.
The bike clearly "wowed" visitors at the NEC show with numerous orders being placed there and then. The build quality is said to be high, the bike looked "sorted", and the general specification is impressive.
But what's equally impressive is the speed with which the project has unfolded. As with most overnight successes, there are usually thousands of long nights in preparation. And so far, Sleeman hasn't done much wrong and appears to have managed the brand with the kind of professionalism lacking in many rival businesses.
Sleeman, who in 2010 bought the Hesketh name and chattels from Mick Broom of Broom Development Engineering, has taken giant strides and appears to have a very viable product ready to market.
See Sump June 2014 for more on the Hesketh 24.
— Del Monte
Triumph is promising a Limited Edition Rocket Three X for 2015. Five hundred bikes will be built, each numbered, and each painted by Joe Black's 8 Ball outfit in Ripley, Derbyshire (the custom colour maestros).
The idea is to celebrate ten years of the Rocket Three. At 2,294cc, it's still the world's largest capacity production motorcycle. At around 770lbs (wet), it's still one of the heaviest.
The X model shares all the basic underpinnings of the stock Rocket, but will be supplied with a very special paint job, said to be as deep as the Grand Canyon, and as black as Stalin's heart.
The side panels will be hand numbered. The black wheels will be pinstriped in silver. And Triumph will be hoping that this one keeps them squarely in the black too (but maybe someone should tell Hinckley that black ain't the new black anymore, and that it's actually passé).
So what's with the X initial, anyway? Well it could refer to an unknown quantity or a mystery. And it could simply mark the spot. But it's probably just X for ten, as in Roman numerals.
Let's hope the Rocket is still around in another decade. And to celebrate that auspicious day, let's also hope that Triumph can offer a little more than a refresher paint job and a number on the side.
— Big End
Did you hear the one about the British bike manufacturer that's just secured a 500-bikes-per-annum sales deal with the Australians?
Well we've just heard it. And we're not sure if we're laughing.
The punch line came recently from Norton's international sales manager Mark Pinfield. And that 500-bike deal is said to be good for 500 machines per annum for the next five years. Additionally, Norton Motorcycles (we hear) is said to be anticipating annual sales of £350,000 of clothing and Norton branded goods to this lucrative Antipodean market. [More on Norton motorcycles exports to Australia...]
Back in Sump July 2013 we reported that insurance firm Swinton had been fined £7.4million by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for "mis-selling". In other words, the company had been aggressively flogging add-on services to ignorant customers.
Well three Swinton ex-directors have now been given a collective £928,000 kick where it hurts for doing things they ought not to be doing.
Such as what?
Such as "performing significant influence functions" (don't you just love this legalese?). Peter Halpin (former chief exec) is one of the offenders. Anthony Clare (former financial director) is another. And the third monkey is Nicholas Bowyer.
The trio stood to collect bonuses of around £90 million if they could ratchet up operating profits to £110 million. All they had to do was "run a sales-focussed company to the detriments of customers". We don't know either exactly what that means. We're just little people, after all.
Various bans have since been imposed on these guys preventing them from doing normal business-type things. But what difference does it really make? Chances are that they'll retrench, regroup and come out fighting again.
We're in the wrong bleedin' game here. How about you?
— Del Monte
▲ Remember John Reed aka Uncle Bunt? He was the UK's premier custom bike builder back in the 1970s and 80s, a man who was always pushing the envelope and daring to be very different. Well there's more than a touch of Reed in Alec Sharp's work. Distinct. Surprising. And challenging. Watch this new contender closely.
Alec Sharp is the guy behind Old Empire Motorcycles. The firm is based in Diss, Norfolk.
Sharp is one of those rare custom bike builders with energy, vision and flair. His latest creation is the above 1995 Ducati 900ss artfully re-crafted into the tubular belle pictured here.
[more on Old Empire Motorcycle's Ducati Typhoon]
This is bound to be a pretty divisive motorcycle. One camp will tell you that it's a cool, latter day replica of an 1920s flat tanker motorcycle, but with the convenience of a modern engine, oil-tight mechanicals, decent brakes, "classic style" and a reasonable turn of speed to boot.
The other camp will tell you that it's a cheesy fake; a grotesque and misplaced homage to a style of motorcycle that died a natural death almost one hundred years ago.
And they'd both be right. And wrong.
[more on the Sterling Autocycle replica flat tanker]
▲ Sump's own 1983 Triumph TSX. Soon we'll be expected to pay £12.50 per day to ride this "factory custom" into Central London ...
▲ ... but our 1968 Triumph TR25W Trophy will be exempt.
A week or so ago, the London Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) proposals threatened to charge all pre-2007 vehicles including motorcycles) £12.50 per day to enter the capital. Well we've since been contacted by Sumpster "Mick", who runs a 2006 Bonneville and a 1973 Daytona.
He advises us that there's now a supplementary statement from Transport for London (TfL) proposing that pre-1973 vehicles will be exempt from the charge.
It's not clear yet if this is a firm position, or merely a talking/negotiating point. But it does imply some flexibility (and sanity) on the part of TfL. Here's the exact working from the supplement:
"It is proposed that the small number of vehicle types that are currently exempt from the LEZ would also be exempt from the ULEZ. These include agricultural vehicles, military vehicles, historic vehicles, non-road going vehicles which may be driven on the highway (for example excavators) and certain types of mobile crane. These vehicles typically use engines certified to different standards than road-going engines. Some of these vehicles are proposed to be exempt owing to their unsuitability for conversion to an alternative fuel or engine replacement. The Mayor continues to seek improvements to these other vehicles, such as non-road going vehicles, as set out in the MAQS."
Note that TfL has qualified historic vehicles as "pre-1973".
▲ Meanwhile, our "dirty" 1945 BSA M20 will also be exempt ...
▲ ... but a "clean" 2006 Bonneville will cost you £12.50 per day.
All sounds a little ... unfair? Well that's how it works when you introduce any rule, or law or "bedroom tax". There are winners and there are losers, and there ain't always a lot of sense in between.
Best you can do is to tell it to TfL and remind them that motorcycles ain't really the problem, air-pollution wise. There simply ain't enough of them on the roads these days to have an impact on the environment.
Just be careful how you word your electronic missive, mind. We wouldn't want City Hall deciding that they might as well rope in all powered two-wheelers regardless of age.
It could happen.
See this story: £12.50 per day classic bike charge
— Del Monte
If you're into Brat style bobbers, and an awful lot of you evidently are these days, you might want to check out this guy. He's only recently come our way, and we don't know much about him except for what we've read on his site. But he's clearly got a little bike artistry in his soul. And although it ain't exactly our thing, we can't knock the other's guy ride and vision.
It's not the first CX500 based custom kit we've featured on Sump. And it probably won't be the last. Most of the Brat scene revolves around cheap bikes that are cut, shut, chopped, bobbed and generally deconstructed, and then reconstructed in often (but by no means always) unexpected ways.
This guy has done exactly that, and he appears to be an industrious so-and-so, so we're giving him a free plug. And no, he ain't related to us, and we wouldn't know him from Adam. He's just some creative type guy named Andrei who's beavering away on the other side of the pond (in Michigan, USA actually).
The kits include a wrapped exhaust system, a carbon fibre seat unit, various bracketry, a modified swinging arm, a dual LED tail light, a replacement rear shock and some other funky stuff. The price is around £850 (at current exchange rates), and you can earn that kind of money in a few weeks of serious begging outside of your local railway station or cash machine.
He's on eBay if you hunt around, and he looks like he's got his particular hobby horse by the throat and knows exactly what he's doing.
Anyway, we're done talking here. Go check his site and see if he's got anything for you this Christmas.
Also see Sump August 2013 for another CX500 kit.
— Big End