If you're struggling to put oil in your motor in this endless recession (and never mind the propaganda, it is still a recession if not a full blown depression), take heart that Rolls Royce is currently enjoying record vehicle sales and coining it. Whilst half the nation is contemplating suicide, bankruptcy and/or joining the BNP, Crewe's (sorry, Goodwood's) most illustrious industrial enterprise sold 2711 Rollers in 2010—a whopping 171% jump on the previous season.
And who bought these voluptuous velocipedes for the venal, vulgar and voracious? Well, first place went to the Yanks; second place to the Chinese; and third place to us Brits (with India, South Korea and Japan not far behind)—which underlines the continuing polarisation of life on planet earth, both east and west of the Bosphorous.
Whilst a large proportion of the world's population is either trudging along behind oxen, queuing at bus stops, or generally struggling to keep their wheels turning, an increasing number is being whisked along first-world highways and third-world dirt tracks luxuriating in £250,000 Phantom Drophead Coupes built by a complex legal entity owned by BMW and Volkswagen (and of course British by birthright). With all this Connolly hide flashing by, is it any wonder that armoured-plated vehicle conversions are also enjoying a boom?
Of course, we ought to be pleased that Britain's industrial output is continuing to bring home the bacon, but it would be nice if a few more scraps fell from the table and into the mouths of those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap.
Last August, David Cameron and Nick Clegg promised to overhaul social mobility in the UK—which over the past two decades has been wound back to 1950s levels. Meanwhile, David Millband reckons he's proud of New Labour's record of social inclusion over the past ten years.
But Rolls Royce's UK sales paint a very different portrait which shows a heavily divided and fractured Britain looking less like a Gainsborough and more like a Picasso—and they tell us that Somalia, Afghanistan, Myanmar (Burma) Iraq, India and Russia are corrupt?
Meanwhile, the British classic bike world still seems, if not exactly immune, then at least heavily insulated from the shock and awe currently wreaking havoc in the mainstream motorcycle market. In fact, more than one dealer has recently told us that he's never had it so good.
After Roll Royce, that kind of Harold Macmillan optimism could be one of our biggest and most valuable exports—so better buy now before the rising interest rate reaches a flashpoint and the price goes up.
We're predicting a very rough year.
— Sam 7
Royal Enfields tend to get forgotten in the current stamped to bag a genuine WW2 despatch bike—the fortunes of which have never been higher.
A "fully loaded" BSA WDM20 sidevalve can at today's prices (21/1/11) fetch anything between £2500-£4000, depending on condition and history, with many owners asking £5000 and above.
But if you're looking for a classic military despatch bike, and can live with the extra OHV performance, you might consider a Royal Enfield WD/CO. There's a good looking example on eBay right now, with just 17 hours to go. The current price is £2600, with around 21 bids.
It's the wrong colour for military enthusiasts, but is exactly the right colour for anyone looking at getting a cheap entry into what is essentially pre-war British biking. If it sells at £3250 or so, it won't be overpriced, not when you consider how girder/rigid bikes have moved up in the marketplace.
Expect lousy brakes, a bumpy ride, reasonable handling, 60-70mpg,
55-65mph, free road-tax, cheap insurance, a whole lotta fun, and plenty of kerb attention. Moreover, you're never going to have your "significant other" hassling you for a ride on the back (not after the first ride, anyway).
These WD/CO Enfields are just plain classy. Live now, die later.
Footnote: The Enfield has now been sold for £3300.
— The Third Man
This might also be gone by the time you read this, because these watches are in hot demand by militarists, horologists and probably a whole lot of other "ists".
If you're not in the know, it's a 1940 Waltham pocket watch as worn by hundreds —if not thousands—of servicemen during the Second World War. It's on offer for $200 and is exactly the kind of thing you might want to carry whilst riding your BSA WDM20, Norton 16H, Matchless G3L, Harley-Davidson WD750, Indian 741B or similar.
We like it plenty. Only, $200 is a little rich for our piggy bank—and we've long since got into the equally old habit of asking policemen whenever we need to know the time.
It's an American watch, is in good working condition, and carries a British war department "broad arrow" logo on the reverse together with a serial number. The owner is a trustworthy military enthusiast and DR bike rider (who likes to throw himself out of WW2 transport planes when they're not even on fire). He can be contacted through Sump.
But remember; you'll have to be ultra quick. A companion 1943 watch sold within 24 hours when only a couple of dozen people had heard about it. Tempus fugit, and all that.
Footnote: The watch has now been sold.
It used to belong to "The King of Cool" but could be yours if you're willing to mortgage your house (or, at least, your garage). It's a 1971 400cc Husqvarna; a marque that's said to be McQueen's favourite
Bonhams is going to test the general appeal of this particular machine on May 14th 2011 at
Quail Lodge in Carmel, California at their sale of “Exceptional Motorcycles & Related Memorabilia”.
The bike was bought from the McQueen estate in 1984, and is being offered with a trunkload of accessories for the same. The estimate is $50,000-$70,000.
If you're interested, or want to consign a machine of your own to the auction, contact Bonhams for more details.
— Girl Happy
This rumour has been popping up a lot lately; the notion of a new Enfield V-twin designed to help consolidate the company's continuing growth in western markets—not least the USA where the firm has an appreciating presence.
But Royal Enfield's UK importer, Watsonian-Squire, say "no". There are no imminent plans to build and market a V-twin.
And why not?
"Because of the success of the EFI Bullet which is doing well both here and in the Indian home market. It's as simple as that. Yes, there has been some feasibility work carried out into a machine of 650cc-750cc capacity—either as a parallel twin or a V-twin. But Royal Enfield has already got its hand full with its current range, which includes the new Fury that's had a great reception. Maybe things will change in the future. But for the time being, the company will almost certainly be concentrating on the singles."
— Del Monte
Unit Bonnevilles have long been neglected with regard to performance parts and chassis upgrades,
but this carbon fibre frame kit developed by Taimoshan Cycle Works in Cardiff, Wales, is intended to help put that right.
Designed by John Pellew, from Adelaide, Australia, the frame weighs just 3.5kg—as compared to 12.5kg for the standard T140 chassis. A single-shock swinging arm is offered to complete the package promising you a lighter, faster and no doubt better handling Bonnie.
As with the original Meriden-built frame, the oil will be carried in the main spine. But the filler neck will be shifted up to a position just behind the headstock. That will take the oil capacity up to around 7-pints as compared to around 4-pints for the standard bike.
All frames will be hand-built by John following extensive testing and stress analysis. And yes, you can paint the frame—or just coat it with a UV lacquer to prevent sunlight degradation.
And the price? That's not been finalised. But these chassis aren't going to be cheap, and understandably so. They represent hundreds of man hours of development, and will probably end up in the hands of dedicated custom bike builders and possibly racers.
If you want to register an interest, check out the website and leave your details. The first frames should be ready over the next few months.
— Del Monte
You've got 5 bidding days left on this this (posted 25/1/11).
What is it? It's a BSA B31 plunger frame housing a 600cc Indian sidevalve lump and an A10 gearbox and clutch. Wheels are 16-inchers. We've been watching it for a day or so and have seen the price climb to £4000. Looks like a nice job, and it's bound to attract a lot more watchers than buyers—not to mention a fair number of the usual dreamers.
The bike's in south Essex. Here's a link:
— The Third Man
You can't really blame the UK car industry. They've been having a fairly hard time what with the banks collapsing, unemployment up to around 2.5 million (read: 3-4 million in real terms), the rising price of petrol, and the British economy generally on the skids. So hiking the price of new (and used) cars under cover of the recent VAT increase sounds like a fair dodge.
In January 2011, UK VAT (Value Added Tax) was raised from 17.5% to 20%, which has seen many (brave, foolish or just desperate) motor dealers ramping up the windscreen prices to levels way beyond that required by number 11 Downing Street.
Meanwhile, the motor manufacturers have, in many instances, actually cut list prices in order to ease the burden on the cash-strapped consumer and get some heavily wintering stock moving.
But what about the motorcycle industry? Truth is, we don't know. Yet.
The VAT increase amounts to an extra £125 on a five grand bike, which isn't like to scare off too many buyers. However, it's a fair guess that plenty of bike dealers are also being very creative with their sales tickets in an effort to balance their books—which are more likely these days to show red ink than black.
So if you're buying new this month, you'd better check the numbers carefully before the deal gets done. And if in doubt, stick with classics which are still good value and generally continuing to appreciate. Moreover the old bike market is one of the few areas of the British economy where the chancellor has a very poor grip on your vitals. Long may it remains so.
It used to be famous as the nominal home of Triumph Motorcycles, but this otherwise quiet English village has more lately become the new front line in the not-always-cold war between “travelling” and non-travelling British communities.
It’s not the first time that social unrest has hit the area, mind. Back in the early 1970s, the Meriden Workers Co-operative took on the might of Norton-Villiers-Triumph (NVT), blockaded the factory and won—even if it turned put to be something of a pyrrhic victory. But more recently, a local group known by the acronym, RAID (Residents Against Inappropriate Development) has taken umbrage against a (caravan?) of travellers who’ve hitched their wagons to a piece of local green belt at Eaves Green Lane, Meriden, Warwickshire and are refusing to budge.
It started back in May 2010 when "travellers" took advantage of a Bank Holiday Weekend and tried to construct the foundations of a permanent camp while the council planning dept was looking the other way. But sharp-eyed Meriden residents spotted the ploy and quickly cordoned the area intent on preventing trucks ferrying cubic yards of hardcore and sundry building materials from entering the zone.
When it was made clear that an illegal “gypsy” camp was in the offing, many—if not most—of the truck drivers complied with requests from "legitimate" villagers and turned back. That was over 250 days ago, and what’s followed is an-going clash of words and worlds with each side entrenching for a long campaign.
Now RAID is “going national” and seeking support from other UK communities similarly “blighted” by illegal traveller sites, and will be holding a pow-wow to discuss what can be done to (a) kick the travellers out, and (b) reinforce planning laws with particular regard to protection of the British green belt.
We’ve got sympathies in both directions. The idea of having a bunch of “filthy gypsies” (who are in fact usually anything but either) on your doorstep turning the neighbourhood into a fly tip isn’t exactly enchanting. On the other hand, ya gotta live somewhere, and the planning laws of these overcrowded isles are a long-standing joke that few people are laughing at and need urgent reappraisal in all directions.
Meanwhile, we learn that just down the road in Solihull, a group of travellers have just been given the permanent tenancy keys to a piece of illegally held land to prevent them from actually owning it. Having been there for almost ten years, the authorities realised that provisions in British law would have given the squatters the title deeds to the turf. The only option, it appears, was to make them tenants. Interesting.
But could the same happen at Meriden? RAID members say no. They feel that ultimately Meriden will triumph (pun intended) and they intend to fight this one and get the land restored—and “get the bloody pikeys out”.
Certainly the travellers have got rights. The EC has made that abundantly clear to Westminster. But along with rights come responsibilities, and it would be greatly in the UK national interest if the Eurocrats made that fact clear to anyone coming down the pike and putting a nasty blot on the landscape; a blot comprising of broken fridges, busted back axles, domestic refuse and all manner of urban detritus.
Live and let live? Nice idea, but here in Britain there are still plenty of things you just can't settle around a cosy biscuit and a nice cup of tea.
It's more than a rumour, and less than a fact, but Ealing Council is said to be threatening to kick motorcycles out of bus lanes following a trial that started in January 2009, and was extended until early 2011.
What went wrong? As far as we can figure it, nothing with motorcycles. Nothing significant, anyway. But an unspecified number of pedal cycles, it seems, have come to grief since the start of the scheme, and motorcycles are the scapegoat.
Supposedly, cyclists are now riding closer to the kerb to avoid being sideswiped by passing powered two wheelers. That's making the cycles less visible, and that's causing an increased number of cars to whack into them.
Sounds good in theory. But wait a minute; what about all those taxi-cabs hurtling past? Not to mention bendy-buses, coaches, and anyone illegally using the lanes? And since when were London's lycra louts intimidated by anyone?
No, the real issue here is a simple problem of lane discipline. It went to hell long ago; ever since bus lanes were introduced, in fact. Buses and black cabs routinely hurtle past slow moving and stationary traffic on the "wrong" side. On motorways with split lanes or filter lanes, the same problem arises; the old pass-me-on-the-right rule is meaningless. It's inevitable therefore that there will be negative consequences.
What's really needed is a total rethink of the entire bus lane paradigm which penalises the average London motorist and motorcyclist who, in real terms, both pay more-per-mile than any bus passenger ever did—and who rightly expects and deserves more for his/her stealth and other taxes. Maybe the time has come to abandon bus lanes entirely and go back to the old style free-for-all that at least gave us some semblance of order and allowed you a left turn into a side street without the risk of being hit by something coming up hard and fast on your port side.
The worry now is that Ealing will make good its threat to remove the most practical and efficient mode of London transport from its lanes simply because an unspecified number of pedal pushers are having a bad hair month.
— Sam 7
After a pretty bleak twelve months, Harley-Davidson is showing tangible signs of recovery with its share price up to around $34 from a 12 month low of $21. But the really low point was back in March 2009 when HD shares were changing hands for a little under eight dollars.
Bad debt was largely the problem with Harley; lending money to bike-buying customers who then defaulted. Harley subsequently sold the debt (as a short term fix), then bought it back (using "secret" US government loans; see December Sump) in order to cut the high interest payments that was threatening growth.
Unquestionably one of the most "classic" motorcycle firms on the planet, Harley isn't yet on dry land. But it is growing in confidence and expanding into new markets, notably in Brazil. So what does it mean for you? Simply that the current bargains in the showrooms might not last for very much longer.
— The Third Man
If you don't know who Norvil are, see your doctor: you might have had a nasty head injury and not realised it.
Norvil manufacture Norton Commandos and Dominators, which means they also supply spares, accessories and upgrades for the same.
With that aim in mind, they've just published a new 92-page catalogue detailing everything that's on offer. And that's a lot of goodies.
The catalogue is free to anyone who asks for one. But if you haven't any experience of Nortons, heed this warning first; these bikes are highly addictive and built to perform. Check out our Norvil feature for more on this firm.
— Girl Happy
Latest motorcycle sales figures reveal that John Bloor's Triumph is continuing to grow and is once again topping big bike sales in the UK.
Numbers crunched for October 2010 reveal that Triumph flogged 353 new machines during that miserable month. That's up 5% on October 2009, which doesn't sound that impressive until you consider that motorcycle sales overall are down a whopping 17%.
Kawasaki came second with 291 bikes sold in October (down 12%). Yamaha came third with 280 bikes sold, which was one more than in October 2009
But what about the year-on-year figures (Oct 2009 to Oct 2010)?
Well, Triumph sold 7303 bikes in the UK, which is up 2%. The next best selling brand was Honda with 6575 bikes sold (down 22%). In third place was an increasingly aggressive (and successful) BMW with 6501 machines sold (up 14%).
But remember, these figures are for large capacity bikes only. The numbers would look very different if you included all engine capacities and scooters.
Nevertheless, Triumph must be doing something right. But then. we already know that, don't we?
— The Third Man
It's said that around 2000 of these bikes (main image above) were built in Munich over a four year period between 1921 and 1925 of which only a handful survive. But Bonhams has got one on its books and will be putting it on the block at its Grand Palais Sale in Paris on February 5th 2011.
These wonderful looking German machines were built with five-cylinder side-valve radial engines, front and rear suspension, leg-shields, footboards and near armchair comfort for that laid back inter-war jaunt across the continent.
There was no clutch or gearbox, which meant that when you stopped, you stopped. To start one, you need either a push, or you can Fred Flintstone it down the street.
The front axle doubled up as the crankshaft, and output was around 14 horsepower. Another interesting detail was the front inner tube which was not a conventional circular shape, but a long "sausage" that wrapped around the wheel to preclude the need to remove the engine following a puncture.
Did it all work? Apparently so, and handling is said to be very good with a low centre of gravity and a point-and-squirt gyro effect from the front wheel. Sounds like a lot of unsprung weight to us, but what do we know?
The name Megola, incidentally, comes from the first two letters of each of the designers' names; Meixner, Gockerell and Landgraf. This example was restored in 1990. The estimate is €145,000-200,000, which at today's rate converts to £120,350-£166,000, or $187,000-$258,000. Picture courtesy of Bonhams.
FOOTNOTE (6/2/2011): The Megola didn't sell at the auction.
— Del Monte
These guys are relentless. We're talking repro motorcycle parts from Draganfly. The latest item in their knee grip catalogue are the above John Bull rubbers, as fitted (as an option) to 1927 and 1928 models, and 1929-1930 Ariel Colts—excluding the Model A which, we hear, had no grips. It's taken a while to get these back in the market, but now it's done, so you'd better get yours while the getting's good.
The part number is 5081-27. The price is £22.00 per pair plus VAT and postage, which we think is pretty good.
Draganfly are also offering these toolboxes for post-1958 A and B group swinging arm BSAs. There are two versions of these boxes, we learn; flat lids and (slightly) domed lids. These are the (slightly) domed lidded version—but will fit pre-1958 models (1954-57) if rivet counting and purism isn't your thing.
We're not even going to ask about quality, because it goes without saying. The Draganflyers up in Bungay, Suffolk own, ride, repair, restore, and sleep with their bikes. If these don't fit your A10, B31, B33, or whatever, your bike's probably bent. The part number is: 42-9189. The price is £146 plus the usual taxes etc.
Talk to Draganfly on 01986 894798, or visit their website.
Bonham's inaugural Las Vegas motorcycle auction on Thursday 6th January 2011 is being trumpeted by the firm as a "resounding success". Over 200 bikes were up for grabs including the above 1894 Hildebrand & Wolfmüller (image courtesy of Bonhams) which reached $161,000 and was bought by a US buyer. The estimate was $130,000-$150,000.
Six bikes made over $100,000.
A first year of production 1901 Indian "Camel Back" Single, once the property of Otis Chandler, sold for $131,500. It went to a "collector in the southern hemisphere". The estimate was $90,000-$110,000.
Other lots include:
A rare factory-prepared 1939 BMW R51RS - $130,200.
An unrestored "time capsule" factory-prepared 1929 Harley-Davidson "Peashooter" (found in an Australian mine) - $125,800.
A 1952 Vincent Series C Touring Rapide - $99,450.
A 1952 Vincent Series C Black Shadow sold for $87,400, said to be the highest price realized for a Shadow at auction in the US in the last two years.
So what was the total amount raised at this event? $2.5million.
— The Third Man
It's not our first eBook, but it's the first one that we're not giving away.
This 100-page, full-colour essay on BSA's classic A10 is yours for £4.99.
It's basically a "reprint" of our Sump Golden Flash buyers guide, but with dozens of extra highly-detailed images coupled with fresh insights into these wonderful British classics.
We've already posted a page with the usual hard-sell, so we won't labour it here. But if A10s are your thing, go to our BSA Golden Flash page and check it out. Can't imagine that many of you will be disappointed by this book.