Some of us around here remember well when Telstar 1, the world's first communications satellite, went into orbit in July 1962.
Along with Sputnik 1, Yuri Gagarin, John Glenn, Apollo Eleven, Dr Who and Star Trek, Telstar was one of the high spots of the 1960s (literally and metaphorically).
And when the hit instrumental song "Telstar" took off a month or so later, the record went ballistic and reached number one on both sides of the pond—and is often said to be the first number one hit in the USA for a British pop group. But in fact, Acker Bilk's "Stranger on the Shore" pipped it to the post earlier that same year.
Roger LaVern, born Roger Keith Jackson, was the keyboardist for the Tornados, a studio band assembled by legendary producer Joe Meek. But LaVern/Jackson wasn't the guy who laid down that evocative, memorable and even haunting theme. That was handled by another musician named Geoff Goddard playing an overdubbed clavioline (an early electronic keyboard).
Meek—who in 1967 shot both his landlady and himself allegedly in a fit of depression—needed a band to stand behind Billy Fury and make the right noises at the right moment, and so brought together the five piece combo.
For a while, the band (when not accompanying Fury) enjoyed a run of hits including "Globetrotter", "Ice Cream Man", and "Robot". But men (and women) of a certain age might better remember their tune "The Scales of Justice" that opened the legal TV series of the same name and was introduced by Edgar Lustgarten.
The Telstar line-up included Clem Cattini (drums), Alan Caddy (lead guitar, George Bellamy (rhythm guitar), Heinz Burt (bass) and Roger LaVern (piano).
LaVern, it seems, never made much money from his involvement with the Tornados. But girls were endlessly throwing themselves at him and other pop stars of the era, he says, and claims that he slept with 3500 of them. He married numerous times, sired four children by four women, did a tour or two with the British Army, was a social worker for a while, later forged a career as a house pianist and a band manager, and suffered from a debilitating disease of the hands (Dupuytren’s Contracture) that required multiple medical operations and took a decade to fix—a particularly cruel fate for a pianist.
But Roger (top left in the image immediately above) continued “playing” as and when possible, and in more ways than one he kept himself pretty busy.
He leaves behind a wife, Maria, and possibly a lot of other women who'll remember him perhaps for taking them into another kind of orbit.
If ever a man was appropriately named, it was Roger.
The numbers still ain't good, but they're a lot better than they were.
We're still looking at almost one motorcycle rider death per day in the UK, which mercifully shows a drop of 34 over last year's figure of 362.
But note that motorcycle usage also decreased by around 2 per cent last year, which means that the drop isn't as good as it might be.
For all road users except cyclists, fatalities on the roads from
2011-2012 are down.
Here are the 2011-2012 statistics at a glance.
Motorcycle rider fatalities are down to 328, a drop of 9 per cent
Seriously injured motorcyclists fell to 5,000, down 5 per cent
Total rider casualties fell to 19,310, down 4 per cent
Pedestrian fatalities are down to 420, a drop of 7 per cent
Car occupant fatalities fell to 801, down 9 per cent.
Car occupant serious injuries fell to 8,232, down 1 per cent
Cycling deaths rose to 118, up 10 per cent
It hardly needs saying, but we're going to say it anyway. Ride defensively. That still offers you your best chances of getting home in one piece after another day in the saddle.
Be careful out there.
— Del Monte
There were two of these characters actually. The other example made "just" £880, which is a lot of dosh for something that not that so many years ago would have been left to rot in a barn and/or used for firewood.
The underlying story is that auctioneers Cheffins are looking for similar items of fairground memorabilia for future sales and have reminded us that there's potentially a lot of money to be made if you stumble into the right barn.
In short, there's a niche market out there that's every bit as enthusiastic about general roundabout animals, Galloper horses, Gag boards, fairground booths, sideshow figurines and suchlike as you are about those classic motorcycle rarities that turn up from time to time at the jumbles. As ever, one man's junk is another man's treasure.
The two bikers in question are made of wood and came from a fairground ride built by South London firm A J Lakin. Each rider is around 56 inches in length, and the paint is said to be original. The date of manufacture isn't known, but we figure that these probably hail from the 1960s, or maybe a little later. But what do we know?
Either way, the 1930s look is bound to be popular with a lot of people, and Jeremy Curzon at Cheffins will be happy to appraise whatever you've got in a similar vein.
— The Third Man
The Ford Motor Company has tipped us off about its new early warning system for cars; a system that looks around bends and "talks" to other vehicles in traffic queues. Clever stuff, but it seems to us that for decades we've been hearing about this kind of Tomorrow's World technology.
Back then, however, it was mostly wishful thinking. But Ford has recently put a lot of money where its corporate mouth is and has equipped a fleet of 120 vehicles in Germany and has been testing the set-up which they reckon is nearly ready.
The idea relies, naturally enough, upon car-to-car communications systems which are now so sophisticated that there are already plenty of vehicles out there which need almost zero human input.
A further development of the concept are cars (and presumably motorcycles) that also talk to traffic lights to help smooth out the lumps and keep everything flowing smoothly.
In terms of road safety, such a "fly-by-wire" system is bound to be a great leap forward. These things usually are. But in terms of motoring or motorcycling fun, this kind of technology is ultimately likely to be as exciting as flying on EasyJet and will drive many of us further into a past that just might not be so accessible in the foreseeable future.
There are still plenty of problems to solve, say Ford, such as how the system will interreact with vehicles that are "off the grid", or on another network, or fail to recognise the required protocols. And pedestrians and cyclists and dogs and pigeons behave a lot less predictably than the average driver or rider and are giving the firm a monster headache.
But it can only be a matter of time before the solutions are found, and then the driver will be so redundant that he'll be able to sit at home in front of the box and send the car out for a Chinese take-away and a six pack, and maybe stop off at the car wash on the way back. In fact, he could probably go for years without even looking at his wheels.
Remember Zager and Evans back in 1969?
"In the year 5555
Your arms hangin' limp at your sides
Your legs got nothin' to do
Some machine's doin' that for you"
They warned us about this and other stuff, didn't they? But the genie's out of the bottle a lot sooner than many expected, and the future is now.
See Sump, August 2012.
— Big End
You gotta respect another man's wheels. But it's hard to do that when his ride has only one wheel at the front (that's fit only for scrap) and hasn't got one at the rear—or much more in between.
But that didn't stop Bonhams bringing the hammer down at £10,580 including premium for the 1928 AJS 349cc K7 pictured immediately above.
And it didn't stop Bonhams realising £7,130 including premium for the circa 1951 Norton 490cc ES2/International pictured immediately below.
Both bikes carried estimates of £1000, which was either Bonhams being very stupid, or being very smart (and we suspect the latter).
It all happened at Bonhams' Banbury Sale on Saturday 15th June 2013; an auction that, say the firm, turned over £1.5 million, which was up £485,500 on last year's outing.
Other notable sales include the (immediately) above 1935 S.O.S 172cc
Ex-Tommy Meeten 'Brooklands Special' which sold for £5,060 including premium.
S.O.S was founded by Len (Leonard Leslie Hubert) Vale-Onslow (image right) in 1926. The Super Onslow Special (aka So Obviously Superior) was first built in Hallow, Worcestershire.
Having no gas supply, Onslow used electric welding for the frames and conceived a very light and rigid structure which was ideal for competition.
He used JAP engines of 250cc and 350cc, and Villiers engines of 172cc, 196cc and 247cc. The bikes were noted for their high quality build and finish—not to mention performance and agility.
In 1932, Onslow relocated to Birmingham, the city most closely associated with the short-lived marque. A 346cc bike was soon being offered along with a 249cc water-cooled machine.
Redhill, Surrey-based Tommy (T.G) Meeten (above, astride a Francis Barnett) took over S.O.S in the early-1930s and continued the tradition of building lightweight, competition-oriented two strokes with manufacturing still based in Birmingham.
The Bonhams-Banbury example was sold with its original Brooklands engine, and has been "restored to a high standard". Meeten, we hear,
was the first registered owner/keeper of the bike and successfully campaigned it.
For services to the motorcycling world, Len Vale-Onslow was made a MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 1995. He died in 2004 at the dizzy age of 103, and was still riding at age 100.
The last S.O.S bikes were built in 1939.
The top-selling Bonhams-Banbury motorcycle lot was a restored 1907 NSU 460cc. This bike, which had been displayed at the Coventry Transport Museum, sold for £13,800.
Meanwhile, a restored 1939 Ariel 995cc Model 4G ‘Square Four’ sold for £13,225.
Overall, these are respectable enough results, but this wasn't a stunning sale. Just a workday one. Most of the big money was realised on the classic cars, where an 1966 Aston Martin DB6 Sports Saloon (immediately above) topped the bill at £133,660 from an estimate of £60,000-£80,000.
— Girl Happy
In July 2013, new laws kick-in giving the rozzers extended powers to dole out fixed penalty notices for careless drivers, tailgaters, speedsters, lane hoggers, light-jumpers and hand-held mobile phone chin-waggers.
The existing £60 fine (for endorsable and non-endorsable offences) will rise to £100. The existing £120 fine (endorsable) will rise to £200
Alternately, offenders will retain the option of taking the matter before the beak and risk a higher penalty. Or aquittal. And re-training (for some offences) will also be on offer.
Note that there will be no change to the number of licence penalty points "awarded", and fines for parking/obstruction/waiting offences are also unchanged.
In view of the deteriorating driving standards in many parts of the British Isles, the new powers seem too little and too late. Moreover, there simply aren’t enough traffic coppers to go around anymore to enforce the changes—with most of them routinely loitering at roadsides with speed cameras looking for soft (and not necessarily dangerous) targets.
Also, it’s hard to see why Her Majesty’s government feels that a hundred quid rap on the knuckles for a driver blithely jabbering on a mobile phone warrants the same penalty as, say, stopping briefly on a London Red Route to put your waterproofs on in a sudden storm.
And it’s hard to reconcile that £100 fixed penalty for unlawful mobile phone use with the maximum fine for, say, cycling on the pavement—which is five hundred quid (although in practice you’ll usually get a telling off or will be asked to fork out £30).
But then, modern UK governments have rarely, if ever, managed to consistently get the balance right between serious and trivial offences, hence the number of violent muggers, rapists and killers who regularly walk out of a court with little more than “a good dressing down” by the judge, and maybe a few hours of "community service".
Fines, remember, are just taxes. And as we've said before, the inverse of a fine is the right to break the law as long as you cough up the readies. Whereas we think that plenty of drivers (and riders) need a more substantial jerk on their leads and need to be taken off the road completely.
Still, what the hell do we know? Like Norman Wisdom on the banknote above, we’re just little people mostly out of our depth.
Meanwhile, fines for non-endorsable offences (failure to display a tax disc or unlawfully stopping on the motorway hard shoulder), have risen from £30 to £50, whilst the fine for driving without insurance rises from £200 to £300 fine.
Another fine mess? We certainly ain't impressed.
UPDATE: Click on any of the numbers below to read more about soft punishment Britain. Granted, we weren't there at any of the trials, and we try hard to avoid being reactionary. But the stories below are just a small sample from the Sump files. It's easy to see why public confidence in the British judiciary is low.
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— Sam 7
Two major events for this weekend (June 15th and 16th 2013). Firstly, Bonhams will be holding its Banbury Run Sale on Saturday 15th June 2013 and fielding 35 complete bikes, plus a few basket cases and a Bantam that's got most of the big lumps in the right places.
Officially, the sale is for "Pioneer, Veteran and Vintage Motorcycles". But plenty of the lots are anything but. Regardless, it doesn't look like anything too earth shattering is on the block, but there are a few cheapies for anyone with small pockets and big ideas. We quite like the ratty 1960 T20 Triumph Tiger Cub (image above, courtesy of Bonhams) that carries an estimate of £1200-£1600, and which sounds about on the money.
Meanwhile, the VMCC's Banbury Run kicks off the following day, Sunday.
Open to veteran and vintage machines built before 31st December 1930s, this is one of those events that you've got to see at least once in your life, so better make it before you're dead.
It all happens at the Heritage Motor Centre, Gaydon, Warwickshire CV35 0BJ. That's two miles north of Banbury, next to M40 J12. The weather doesn't look too promising. But this is England, and England can take it. We invented grey skies and rain, and it looks like an unsettled couple of days with showers—not that we really believe the Met Office anymore.
Keep in mind that there's always an autojumble on the day, and remember that the Banbury relies upon volunteers for marshalling duties. It might be a bit late in the day, but if you want to try your hand and do your bit, check the link below.
— Girl Happy
We don't know much about this event because the press release was in French, but it looks like it's the first outing for a French Cafe Racer Weekend.
It takes place on the 22nd and 23rd June 2013 at the Autodrome de Linas-Montlhery, France.
Triumph, BMW and Honda are among the sponsors, and the organisers are hoping to see at least 200 bikes in attendance.
There will be "demo rides" in which you can parade your bike around the track. But the organisers are keen to emphasise that it's not racing. There are four categories, and you can book four 20 minute sessions for €100 per day. You'll also have to pay a compulsory insurance fee of €6.
Montlhery is located near the N20, about thirty kilometres south of Paris. It's accessible from the A6, A10 and the Francilienne (ring road).
The entrance fee is €10 for one day, and €15 for the weekend. We're advised that you can buy tickets upon arrival, and that there are no camping facilities at the track.
For more on this, you'll need to check the website and/or find yourself a translator. But you've been alerted to this event, so the rest is up to you.
— Del Monte
We missed this one. From our events listings, that is.
We don't do it often, but we're imperfect examples of an imperfect species living in an imperfect universe, and we're apt to screw up every once in a while—usually (but by no means exclusively) when we've put a few suds between our lips.
In any case, the organisers (tut, tut) failed to tip us off, but Davida did—albeit just a few days beforehand. But the press release didn't get looked at until about ten minutes ago, and here we are with our tails (and tales) between out legs trying to make light of it.
Anyway, Dirt Quake II took place at the Norfolk Arena in King's Lynn, Norfolk on Saturday 8th June 2012, and Davida fielded a team that included Christopher Gaime, Simon Mills, Frankie Grassi, Fiddy and Jules Watts. We don't know how they fared, but apparently no one died.
And in case you're not au fait with Dirt Quake, it's a riot of dirt bikes, choppers, flat trackers, and custom bikes, etc, organised by Sideburn magazine people, Dave Arnold, Gary Inman and Ben Part B.
We'll try and do better next year, but it helps if the organisers jerk our leads well in advance.
Apologies to Davida.
— The Third Man
They promised 100 bikes for the auction, claimed 87 on the day, but delivered just 74, of which only 36 were sold. In a word, this is disappointing.
However, you've got to cut these guys a little slack because this was the first time out for Historics which, prior to this auction, has focused on specialist classic cars and sports cars. Clearly, breaking into the (sometimes) lucrative world of motorcycle sales is a tougher than expected climb, especially in a market that appears to be cooling.
The 87 motorcycle lots actually included some bicycles and memorabilia, hence the lower number of motorcycles—which is a little disingenuous of Historics who clearly told us that 87 motorcycles were on offer.
We'll be generous here and put that down to "mis-communication". But the next time the firm ventures into this market, they might want to be very careful about what they say.
Here are some facts at a glance:
36 motorcycles sold
37 motorcycles unsold
1 motorcycle withdrawn (Triumph TR6)
None of the British V-twins sold
1 Vincent (1950 Black Lightning) is under offer as of 13/6/2013
5 bikes sold under estimate (albeit one only slightly under)
2 bikes sold over estimate
The BSA A10 (image above) did fairly well selling for £9,250 from an estimate of £8000-£10,000. It's a Rocket Gold Star lookalike, but the specification is unclear.
Overall, Historics must be licking a few wounds, not least because many of the motorcycles in this sale were very recently on the block at Cheffins. It's not clear what was the path from Cheffins to Historics, and we haven't analysed it too closely, but it appears that many of those bikes failed to sell the second time around. For more on this, see Sump's earlier report: 87 bikes for Historics at Brooklands.
— The Third Man
Officially, these things are called Advance Stop Lines, or ASLs. But most people refer to them simply as "bike boxes". You know exactly how they work. You're on your motorcycle or ensconced in your car, and you come to a red light with a bike box carpet. Being motorised, you're obliged to stop at the first white line and leave the space ahead clear for the sweaty pedal pushers who are officially encouraged to line up across the carriageway in front of two thousand tons of traffic that's just waiting to mow 'em down at the first hint of green.
If there ain't any cyclists around, you still have to stop and leave the space clear. Except that currently, almost nobody in the UK is enforcing this no-go zone, and that's why Andrew “Sockpuppet” Gilligan of Transport for London (TfL) wants to do something about it.
Gilligan is TfL's London Cycling Commissioner. Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, gave him the job in January this year (2013), and Gilligan wants motorists to “show more respect to cyclists”. Quote/unquote.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, he’s a cyclist too and is said to be earning a whopping £38,000 a year of public money for a two day week, which is a long way north of minimum wage.
TfL now wants to decriminalise this infringement of the Highway Code rules by wielding what's called a “commencement order”. That would mean that Boris, Gilligan and Co can install roadside cameras, issue instant £60 fines with three penalty points, and pocket the money, so to speak.
That's boxing clever, and it seems most of the legal framework has been constructed which means that the cameras can’t be far behind.
Trouble is, it seems to us that these bike boxes are as daft as speed humps and serve merely to exacerbate problems rather than ameliorate them. Not only do the boxes unnecessarily expose cyclists to the obvious danger from impatient, short-sighted and careless drivers, but the boxes also force motorised traffic further back from junctions where much-needed lateral visibility is reduced.
Moreover, cars and motorcycles travel at greater velocities than bicycles and therefore need greater stopping distances with suitable deceleration "cushions". But a £60 fine and a three point cosh is likely to force motorists and motorcyclists to choose between two evils: Stop sharply and risk a cycle box fine, or run the red light and risk a smack from a nearby traffic cam.
Certainly, if you ride a motorcycle, bike box cameras could greatly increase the risk of being rear-ended as you screech to a halt with your hand on your wallet.
Regardless, this kind of black & white, blunt-instrument, remote policing is on the increase now that traffic cops have joined the endangered species list.
And TfL, which has already hijacked a huge amount of asphalt in the capital, is clearly looking to increase its property portfolio on the London Monopoly board. Granted, TfL has condescended to allow motorcycles access to most of its bus lanes. But it's made numerous errors on the cycling front (some of them fatal), and looks like it's on another collision course with stupidity.
Or is it? Currently, we’re not giving them the benefit of the doubt because we genuinely doubt the benefits. But sometimes counter-intuitive factors come into play, which is why we're watching this one carefully. And you should too.
The Cycle God is on a crusade, and the high priests at City Hall are only too anxious to convert the rest of us to what is rapidly becoming a new religion. It's a worry.
It was forty years ago that Peter Williams powered to victory at the Isle of Man TT riding a F750 John Player Norton. What made Williams such an accomplished rider was a combination of nerve, daring, determination—and a sound underpinning of the mechanics and dynamics of motorcycle engineering.
What made the bike so special, however, was the unique stainless steel monocoque chassis that gave the ageing 750cc Norton Commando engine a fresh lease of life and made it once more competitive.
During that 1973 race season, Peter lapped the TT circuit at 107.27mph, which was dangerously close to Mike Hailwood's 1967 record riding a Works Honda. In that same year, Williams was also the highest points scorer in the victorious Transatlantic Trophy team.
Today, Peter Williams Motorcycles Ltd is planning to capitalise on that
TT-winning achievement with a limited edition run of 25 replicas.
A pioneer of motorcycle cast wheels, disc brakes and beam frames, Williams' new bikes will be constructed using CAD technology and CNC laser cutting engineering. The engines will be built by Northamptonshire-based Norton specialist Mick Hemmings using new parts throughout together with a cam profile of Williams' own design. The wheels and front fork will be magnesium.
Each bike will cost £65,000. And that, we're advised, is about one quarter of the price of an original JPN racer, of which just four were built.
The impetus behind this project is not only to commemorate a forty year old Isle of Man victory, but to raise funds for Williams' new carbon fibre monocoque venture which is currently under development with support from Lotus.
Peter Williams Motorcycles Ltd. comprises the man himself, Greg Taylor (of motorcycle engineering firm GTME), and Mark Wells & Ian Wride of design consultancy Xenophya Design. Some reverse engineering was required where the original blueprints were not available, and all that's required now are the buyers.
— Big End