Unity Equipe Cafe Racers
12th January 2016
Manx Norton | Triton | Bantam John | Norvin
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Unity Equipe specialises in Manx Nortons, Tritons, Norvins, Tribsas, Norbsa and pretty much all varieties of classic British cafe racers. The firm was founded by the much respected John Newby. For many years the business was based in Todmorden, Lancashire which is in the Rochdale area. But now Unity Equipe is based near Chesterfield, Derbyshire, and the current owner is John Phelan, aka "Bantam" John Phelan.
The firm's mission is clear; to provide quality British made spares for builders and owners of classic cafe racers. And on that point, John Phelan is passionate. He assures us that 95 percent of his products were/are made in the UK, and in view of the fact that most of his products are NOS (new old stock) spares from Triumph, BSA, Norton, Royal Enfield, AMC, et al, his claim is probably justified.
But he also has parts remade in the UK, and he's very conscious of the need to make the right component, in the right size, in the right shape, in the right materials, and with the right finish. In other words, in the old British tradition.
We know John Phelan a little. Mostly on nodding/casual chatting terms. He's amassed a huge quantity of parts (we're talking tons), and he markets those parts at autojumbles around the UK, or over the phone, or from his website. Or you can call in person at his shop premises where he employs five staff members. He's not exactly web savvy, so don't bother going there with him. But you can check out his site for yourself, and you can download a copy of the Unity Equipe spares catalogue. And while we remember, he can now also supply cafe racer parts for Hinckley Bonnevilles and Harley-Davidsons.
His knowledge of motorcycle spares is encyclopaedic and therefore impressive. And if you have special needs or requirements, he can generally advise on what will fit what, and what won't. And that's a rare thing these days.
It's fair to say that not everyone speaks well of John. But then, not everyone speaks well of anyone, and when you shift as many parts as Phelan, and when you deal with as many people as he does, it's inevitable that there will be "issues" and professional conflicts. You have to be pragmatic about these things. But if it means anything to you, we've always found him to be straight and honest. He's a straight-talking kind of guy who knows exactly what he's got to sell, and he sells it at realistic prices.
The Unity Equipe range includes frames, rear-sets, fork yokes, converter engine plates, brake hubs, fuel tanks, oil tanks, clip-on handlebars, fly screens, seat units, etc, etc. But amongst his huge hoard of more general parts are literally thousands of pistons, thousands of clutch plates, hundreds of gear sets, dozens of cranks, boxes of switches, an unknown number of levers, transfers, cables and suchlike.
Recently, John Phelan bought the entire stock of Mick Hemmings Motorcycles and the stock of Suffolk classic bike dealer, Len Baker. And before that, he also bought the stock of dozens of retired/bankrupt dealers, and he owns the rights to the Converta Engine Plates, M&D Footrests and the John Tickle name. So if you're looking for hard-to-get genuine British bike spares for your cafe racer project, Unity Equipe/John Phelan will quite probably have it.
Check him out. Make a decision.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story wrongly reported that John Phelan owned the rights to the Manx name. That was our mistake entirely. John Phelan hasn't made any such claim. Apologies, etc.
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