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Published by admin, 2022-03-23 09:44:00

Classic Bike UK Issue 507, April 2022

Classic Bike UK Issue 507, April 2022


APRIL 2022
ISSUE #507








Editor Gary Pinchin,
[email protected]
Art editor Austin Smith,
[email protected]
Production editor Mark Holmes,
[email protected]
Technical editor Rick Parkington,
[email protected]
Editorial assistant Colleen Moore, colleen.
[email protected], 01733 468099
Head of Publishing Steve Herbert,
[email protected]

To sell your bike:
email [email protected]
Group Commercial Director
Gareth Ashman 01733 468118
Commercial Manager
Sarah Dodd 01733 366311
Account Manager
Francesca Chiarizia 01733 366360
Telesales Exec Sarah Frisby 01733 366406

Editorial Director June Smith-Sheppard
Acting Publisher Rachael Beesley
MD Automotive Group Niall Clarkson

CEO of Bauer Publishing UK Chris Duncan
Chief Financial Officer Bauer Magazine
Media Lisa Hayden
President, Bauer Global Publishing
Rob Munro-Hall


H Bauer Publishing is a member of the Independent
Press Standards Organisation (
and endeavours to respond to and resolve your
concerns quickly. Our Editorial Complaints Policy
(including full details of how to contact us about
editorial complaintsandIPSO’scontact details)can
be found at


H Bauer Publishing is a company A BRITISH V-TWINS special issue? Full of outside of the box – men who maybe didn’t
registered in England and Wales with Vincents and Brough Superiors? Well yes, you’ll reinvent the wheel, but certainly the way to
company number: LP003328 (England find a few of those in the following pages – and make the power to turn them!
and Wales). Registered Office: rightly so, as they stand as the pinnacle of the
Academic House, 24-28 Oval Road, London, NW1 British V-twin – but there’s so much more. The second major element of this issue is, of
7DT. VAT number 918 5617 01 course, our 2022 Events Guide. It’s the first time
We worried that it might be a bit JAP V-twin since the pandemic hit us that seems to offer a
No part of the magazine may be reproduced in any form in heavy, too. But after Alan Cathcart paid a visit good chance for the classic world to get back to
whole or in part, without the prior permission of H Bauer to Sammy Miller’s Museum and we scoured the something like normality. Our guide features
Publishing. All material published remains the copyright of H National Motorcycle Museum’s collection, plenty some 213 of the best classic events on offer this
Bauer Publishing and we reserve the right to copy or edit any of different bikes came to light. We unearthed year. Hope to see you at some of them.
material submitted to the magazine without further consent. a real cornucopia of side-valve, over-head valve
The submission of material (manuscripts or images etc) to H and even sleeve-valve V-twins. Enjoy the issue
Bauer Publishing, whether unsolicited or requested, is taken
as permission to publish that material in the magazine, on the We’ve virtually covered the A-Z of British Gary
associated website, any apps or social media pages affiliated V-twins – and, cheekily, even the odd special Pinchin
to the magazine, and any editions of the magazine published built outside of the UK but bearing British Editor
by our licensees elsewhere in the world. manufacturer’s names. We know we’ve not
covered every British V-twin ever made – this
By submitting any material to us you are confirming that is more about giving a flavour of the British
the material is your own original work or that you have permission industry that once embraced the thundering
from the copyright owner to use the material and to authorise V-twin before the vertical twins joined the singles
Bauer to use it as described in this paragraph. You also promise as the staple of a British motorcycle engineering.
that you have permission from anyone featured or referred to
in the submitted material to it being used by H Bauer Publishing. It hasn’t always been that way, though, and
If H Bauer Publishing receives a claim from a copyright owner in pursuit of this issue we’ve uncovered so many
or a person featured in any material you have sent us, we will fascinating tales of inventive engineers thinking
inform that person that you have granted us permission to use
the relevant material and you will be responsible for paying
any amounts due to the copyright owner or featured person
and/or for reimbursing H Bauer Publishing for any losses it has
suffered as a result. Please note, we accept no responsibility
for unsolicited material which is lost or damaged in the post
and we do not promise that we will be able to return any
material. Finally, whilst we try to ensure accuracy of your material
when we publish it, we cannot promise to do so. We do not
accept any responsibility for any loss or damage, however
caused, resulting from use of the material.

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Issue #508 32


The Hesketh V1000 may have been built in the lord’s name, but it wasn’t heavenly An AJW 1000cc – one of the more obscure British V-twins we unearthed for this issue

16 AJS Model S3 34 40 Brough to Coventry Eagle

A transverse V-twin made by the Mark Upham, a man who’s partial to a bit of Brough The Coventry Eagle’s rarer, but we
British company years before Guzzi all know which is more rarefied

22 AJS ‘Spirit of Arpajon’ 43 EMU Empire Twins

A special inspired by land record Four V-twins built by an Aussie
seekers, with 1920s AJS power using parts from BSA singles

30 Supercharged AJS 46 Grindlay Peerless ST1

The blown V-twin built to challenge Innovative sleeve-valve V-twin from
world records... but sadly blew it 1925 – and this is the only one left

32 AJW, Abingdon and BAT 52 Hesketh V1000

Three vintage V-twin oddments Aristocratic provenance? Yes.
from the 1910s and 1920s Reliability? Well... eventually

34 At Lunch with.. Mark Upham 54 JAP V-twin engines

The man who bought the Brough The famously tall Tottenham
marque is a remarkable fellow motors that ruled in the 1920s


Irving Vincent: a modern incarnation
of the classic Stevenage V-twin


43 2022
Your season starts here.
213 cracking classic
events to choose from
Turn to page 101


Classic World

6 1972 MARSH V8

One man’s vision to emulate
the famous Guzzi GP racer

74 The two faces of Alan Cathcart: Sideways on
the BSA-inspired Emu E120R racer (above)

and tootling sedately on a P&M Panthette (left)

56 James Model B2 74 P&M Panthette Model 6 8 THE WAY WE WERE

James didn’t just make lightweight A longitudinal V-twin that predates More V-twins – including an
commuter bikes, don’t you know... the Moto Guzzi and AJS versions obscure rarity in Estonia

60 Matchless Model X 80 Pick to Trump 11 YOUR CLASSICS

The Matchless V-twin was good Another pick ’n’ mix of V-twins A Greevesfield special sharing
enough for Brough – and this bike from the early 20th century a workshop with other classics

62 Matchless Racer 84 Vincent Black Lightning 12 LETTERS

Works machine from 1913-14 with An example of the ultimate Vincent We bet you won’t be able to
Swiss Motosacoche powerplant model with a special provenance resist smiling at the main pic

64 1935 New Imperial 90 Irving Vincent 1600r Classic Workshop

Record-breaking machine developed Successful neo-classic racer built as 120 RICK’S FIXES
by precocious engineer Matt Wright a tribute to Vincent’s great designer
Mr P’s monthly instalment
70 1907 Norton-Peugeot 94 Vincents of make-do-and-mend

Rem Fowler won at the first Isle of A selection of other models packing 126 PROJECT BRADBURY
Man TT on a bike identical to this that awe-inspiring Stevenage V-twin
Rick takes on a V-twin
72 McEvoy to Nut 96 Watsonian-JAP & Weslake with a sordid secret...

Venerable V-twins from the ’20s/’30s Watsonian-JAP one-off and Weslake Classic Market
– and a Norvin for good measure vee made in v limited numbers
98 1950 Zenith Big Twin
Disliked bikes that have turned
Post-war plodder that could happily into classics plus market stuff
slog along all day on pool petrol
Previews and reviews of all
Time to get out and about again – the classic sales that matter
these are the gigs to get out to
116 SUBSCRIBE special offer

How to enjoy your favourite classic
mag for a mere £4.10 per month



If Guzzi can do a V8...
Fifty years ago, the Marsh V8 500cc Grand Prix machine was designed
and built in Britain – by a pensioner working in his garden workshop


Above: Fred Marsh I n an issue devoted to British V-twins, it might Marsh, a retired engineer who once worked in Southampton
with his exotic seem rather odd to include a motorcycle with docks on ocean liners like the Queen Mary and Queen
V8 creation an engine like this – but it’s worth recalling Elizabeth, had already put his money where his mouth was
that, in March 1972, pensioner Fred Marsh with his own MR4 500-4 GP racer in the early 1960s.
Right: Marsh was a Before that was fully developed, however, he started work
retired engineer unveiled his mighty V8 road racer.
who built the V8 to on the double overhead cam 500cc V8 you see here. All
prove a British Marsh, frustrated that the British motorcycle industry the work was completed in his garden workshop
multi-cylinder GP shed, using basic tools plus a home-made lathe.
challenger could had, for several years, failed to produce a challenger The intrepid pensioner reckoned that
be produced on a material costs for the V8 amounted to less
limited budget for the 500cc Grand Prix World Championship, than £200. “They wouldn’t have cost that
much, but for the parts that were difficult
wanted to prove it was possible to design or impossible to make,” he insisted.
One major tasks that had to be carried
and build an exotic 500GP British road out for the build was producing an eight-
throw crankshaft – in fact, it was Marsh’s
racing engine on a limited budget. first job when he set about creating his
V8. “I knew if I could make the crankshaft
Unveiling his work in the March 22, satisfactorily, the rest would be easy, so that’s

1972 issue of Motorcycle News, Marsh

stated: “They talk of needing £20,000

[for such a project], but give me £2000

and four willing men – a turner, a miller,

a fitter and a pattern maker – and I could

have a Grand Prix contender built within

six months.”


where I started,” he explained. Producing the crankshaft Above: The engine
proved troublesome – but only because Marsh trusted the was a mixture of
work to an outside firm. It proved so stressful that he was Honda and home-
on the verge of giving up on the project several times. made parts. Marsh
“A machine operation went wrong and ruined six months’ even ended up
work. It was a task I delegated to someone else and then making the
realised I would have to do all the work myself.” crankshaft himself

His crankshaft consisted of a series of eight steel discs, Left: Marsh’s own
secured on tapered journals with additional dogs to ensure 16-lobe camshafts
alignment. Just over 13in long, the crankshaft revolved on and valve-operating
five main bearings: four roller bearings and one ball bearing. gear were used in
Steel conrods and roller big-end bearings were specially the dohc set-up
made by Alpha. Lubrication was provided by a Velocette
gear-drive oil pump, with oil being carried in the sump. front bank and my own barrels on the rear. The engine is
90°, set to allow the maximum draught.”
Built with racing in mind, engine capacity was 480cc
(42mm bore x 44mm stroke) because, Marsh said: “I had The cylinder heads were Honda-sourced, too, but with
to allow for a rebore, but to some extent the bore size was Marsh’s own dohc valve-operating gear. He also produced
determined by the Honda pistons I used.” his own 16-lobe camshafts which were driven by chain, as
in the Coventry Climax 1500cc car racing engines.
Marsh was inspired by the Moto Guzzi V8 racer, built
in 1955 and raced until the end of 1957. The Guzzi was The engine unit sat in a modified Douglas Dragonfly
water cooled, but Marsh chose to build his V8 as an air- frame with Norton forks (he had used the same set-up for
cooled engine. “It would have been too costly for me to his 500-4). Initially, he tried to run the engine with four
make a water-cooled job,” he admitted. “My engine is air carburettors, but eventually went to eight – four Amals and
cooled with horizontally-finned Honda cycliders on the four Japanese items – which allowed the engine to run
cleanly up to 10,000rpm. Marsh said at the time: “I hope
‘I KNEW IF I COULD MAKE THE it will rev to 12,000-14,000rpm and give over 70bhp. I will
CRANKSHAFT SATISFACTORILY then know what Britain could have done in the 1960s.”
Marsh died in 1978.


Very rare v-twin This is a photo of my three-year-old
uncle sitting on a bike at my family’s
farm in Estonia. I’m guessing it was
in the ’30s, but certainly pre-war.
Any idea what the bike this is?
The long gearlever looks unusual!
John Brockbank

Hi John,That’s a rare bird – it’s an
AJS S3, 500cc side-valve transverse
V-twin. Battery and coil ignition was
chosen over a magneto and, strangely,
although the transverse V-twin is
ideally suited to shaft drive – like a
Moto Guzzi or Honda CX – the AJS
was fitted with right-angle gearing,
enabling it to have a conventional rear
chain. Introduced in 1931, the AJS was
part of a new wave of car-influenced,
innovative design from the British
industry that included the Matchless
Silver Arrow V-twin and four-
cylinder Silver Hawk, and the Ariel
Square Four. Unfortunately, the
economic depression was already
bubbling away and ultimately the
Ariel was the only survivor. The AJS
was first go; the company collapsed
and was bought out by former rival
Matchless in October ’31. The new
owners dropped the S3 and very few
were made. (See page 16 for the full
story and a road test of the AJS S3).
Cheers, Rick P

AERO INSPIRATION Jon’s dad had a fairing custom-made for his CB450 while stationed in Japan

I recently found some photos of a bike my father owned. As an aircraft mechanic
stationed at a US air base in Misawa, Japan in 1968, he purchased a brand new Honda
CB450 and proceeded to ‘make it his own’. As the story goes, he had a local shop hand-
fabricate a Daytona-style race fairing out of sheet metal, as per his guidance. He also
fitted upswept megaphone pipes, with clip-on bars completing the style he was after.

When his tour was over in Japan, he had it shipped back to Texas for his next
assignment. Once there, he changed the front and rear sprockets for taller overall
gearing. He said the engine was most efficient at 7000rpm and with that gearing it would
cruise comfortably at 90mph on the Texas highways back then. He also told me that with
the fairing fitted, and despite those tall gears, he could redline the engine easily. I

suppose that it was his
vision of what releasing the
bike’s full potential would
be like.

Over the years, when we
would get together, the
conversation would always
drift back to that Honda and
how much fun he had with it
as a project. Despite the
many times I heard the story,
I never tired of it. He’s no
longer with us, but his
stories live on in my memory.
Jon Price, Cary,
North Carolina, USA



Got an old pic with a mystery bike in it?
Send it to the address at the bottom of the
page and CB expert Rick Parkington will

have a go at identifying it for you


I’ve enclosed a picture of my brother’s father-in-laws father from The picture below is of my grandfather, John Thompson (known as ‘Jack’) on
about the war time. He would love to know what the bike is. what I think from the tank is an Enfield. Jack was born on a farm in 1893 in Suffolk
Someone suggested it is a Dunelt – one I’ve not heard of before. and was always in trouble with his father for his ‘inventions’ to automate farm
If you could help identify it, that would be great  jobs. I have no idea when the photo was taken or where. It has to be after 1915,
Nigel Smith which is when Jack was in Holnest Military Hospital in Dorset. Prior to his
hospitalisation, he had been in the trenches in France. Most likely it was taken
Hi Nigel, yes, it’s definitely a Dunelt – a Model K 250cc and after 1917, when he married Edith Blainey (the upper face at the window behind
the registration is from Buckinghamshire in 1929. Dunelt him in the picture) in Dorstone, Herefordshire. I can see a sidecar in the picture,
was the trade name of Dunford and Elliot in Sheffield, and but there is what looks like a side-saddle seat for a pillion behind him. Any
their claim to fame was a two-stroke engine with a double- information you can give would be great – and if you can identify the other, lower
diameter piston – a sort of bell shape but with straight sides face in the window, that would be a miracle! 
and an outward step near the bottom with its own piston Ray Coles
ring. The original 1920 engine was a 500cc, which was Well, Jack sounds like my kind of guy! FJ is an Exeter registration, so that
impressive because it was generally reckoned that piston- ties in with his post-war garage business. The bike is indeed an Enfield,
ported two strokes just didn’t work over 400cc. Dunelt the 976cc V-twin with all chain drive and a two-speed gear – rather than
referred to their design as ‘supercharged’, which in a sense it being a gearbox as such, this was a simple countershaft located behind
was. As the piston rose, the bigger bore at the bottom of the the engine, with two chains and two sets of sprockets running from the
piston drew in a 770cc charge, which as the piston crankshaft. I’m not certain when Enfield went from a stirrup (cycle type)
descended was pushed into the 500cc crankcase, making it front brake to the dummy belt rim type shown, but I’d guess the bike and
a ‘forced induction’ – more than the 500cc engine could photo date from the early ’20s. The sidecar is a singe-seater, so it’s not
normally inhale. The 250cc Model K came along in 1925 unusual to have a pillion seat, too; being a side-saddle type dates it a bit –
and the 500 was dropped a couple of years later. Gradually by the mid ’20s it was becoming acceptable for lady passengers to sit
four-stroke engines from JAP and Sturmey-Archer took astride a motorcycle seat. Rick P
over and motorcycle production ended in 1935. 
Cheers Rick P PS The other face at the window that you mention will have to remain
a mystery, I’m afraid!
Here is a photograph of TO AUTOMATE FARM JOBS’
me and my 1975 Suzuki
GT500A. Taken in early 9
1977, I was 19 and had
hair. The Suzuki has long
gone, sadly – along with
the hair. However, I am
still riding bikes.
Edward Foreman,

Greevesfield & Co addition of a new seat tube from the Enfield attached from
the engine/gearbox to the top tube, along with a new gearbox-
John Sharp’s Greevesfield is a long-term project – and it to-swingarm spindle bracket. I converted the leading-link
has to share his workshop with a few other bikes… forks to taper roller bearings, which seems to be a big
improvement… although I am yet to test them out on a
Thirty five years ago, I bought a rough 1957 Greeves 20T Left to right: The rock step. The chrome tank and badges are original, but
Scottish along with a box of 9E engine parts. I was riding Triumph Tiger Cub, the wheels presently fitted are from an old trials Yamaha;
in local trials in Kent on an Ossa Mar, but always fancied Honda 125 trials bike I plan to have the original wheels rebuilt with chrome rims.
the challenge of an older bike which I could modify and and Greevesfield
fettle. I did some work at the time, moving the footrests special are just I’ve had to make lots of new parts, most of which I have
back and fabricating stainless steel engine plates, but work some of the vehicles fabricated in stainless steel – including the engine plates.
and family halted progress and the bike went back in boxes. that live in John’s I am making a battery box and installing the ignition system;
Welsh workshop once this is complete, I will give it a run, then strip and
About 15 years ago, we moved to mid-Wales and the paint it in Moorland Blue, the original Greeves colour.
Greeves in boxes came with us. Then, about six years ago, Below: John got
while searching for my Trialmaster jacket, it emerged that busy with his I bought the Honda you can see here from a friend about
my daughters had burnt it along with some old furniture computer to plan his six years ago as a non-original non-runner, and it’s now
when we first moved. They gave me £300 to buy a new one, Greeves/Enfield my son Harry’s. The frame and engine are SL125 – a previous
but instead I bought a fully reconditioned 350 Bullet engine fusion project owner had modified the frame, lengthening the swingarm
from India. I had always had a hankering to fit a four-stroke and moving the footrests back. Harry got a proper TL tank
engine in the Greeves, as this had been a common mod. for it, rebuilt the forks, manufactured stainless foot pegs
and modified the air box and carburettor mounting to clear
I drew up both the Greeves frame and Enfield engine and the new tank. I modified an old trials Cub exhaust pipe to
fitted them together on the drawing board/computer. The fit the head. To overcome the non-running issue, we had to
difficult thing was trying to reduce the wheelbase for trials, convert the ignition from CDI to points, coil and condenser
which I didn’t totally resolve – but as the bike with total-loss battery. The bike goes really well and is easy
will mainly be used by me for greenlaning, this to trial, but it lacks power; I have suggested Harry invest
isn’t an issue. in a 160cc conversion.

The frame is all original Greeves, with the The Triumph Tiger Cub in the picture came from a chap
in Birmingham, and although it looked OK on first inspection,
and came with a lot of genuine bills showing that a considerable
sum had been spent on it, I have subsequently spent a lot
of time sorting it out. The forks where non-standard – they
had been converted to taper rollers using an old car cylinder
head bolt and thin aluminium sleeves, providing no proper
way to adjust and fix the bearing. I brazed a threaded stem
made from EN8 steel to the bottom yoke and made an
adjustable clamp fitting in the top yoke.

Then I encountered the well-known Cub issue – to change
the gearbox sprocket, you need to split the engine. I found
that someone had done a conversion by cutting a hole in
the inner chain case and riveting a seal plate back in after
changing the sprocket. No one seemed to be doing this these
days, so I made a tool to run on the gearbox shaft with a
cutter and machined a hole just large enough to fit the
sprocket. I machined a seal plate to register on this diameter,
secured by four M4 screws. Despite my visions of having
to replace the chain case, luckily it worked really well. The
other mods were to ditch the alloy silencer and replace with

a stainless one I made; I also made a stainless
rear brake pedal and lever. It’s now on its wheels,
the engine is running fine and it’s ready for action.

John Sharp

Left and right: John 11
made lots of new
parts in stainless
steel, including
the engine plates

SEND YOUR PHOTOS TO: [email protected]


You’re never
too old…

This is my mate Malcolm, who is in his 70s, on my YR5.
He had never sat on a motorcycle before this moment;

I think he looks like a natural. Next step’s to get him
riding! (He doesn’t know I’ve sent this in!)
Austin Leach

Thanks for sending this in, Austin. In these
uncertain times, it’s good to be reminded of the
pure joy that motorcycles can inspire in people –

even if they can’t ride ’em! Cheers, Mark H

Right: Peter Davis METISSE MANIA #2 I much enjoyed the article featuring Steve Tonkin’s
loves his self-built Rickmans, in particular the BSA Gold Star-engined
Rickman – even #1 I have to say how much I enjoyed your Metisse trio example – he must have used copious amounts of
though it was a article in the January issue. The photography in KY Jelly to get the engine in! I have just completed the build of
serious challenge particular is stunning – the shot of the three bikes at the a Rickman MkIII, and what a challenge it was! The problem was
to put together side of the country road, overlooking Morecambe bay with the my choice of engine – a ’61 G80.
Lake District hills in the background is a work of art. It reminds
me that the dim, short days of winter are once again submitting To say it is a tight fit is an understatement! The gap between
to the longer, brighter days of spring – although it always seems the rocker box and the top frame is 0.035in! To fit the exhaust,
a long time coming. The only negative to me in the whole article we had to put a carefully-calculated dent in the pipe in order to
concerns the front end of the bikes: ‘The price of a Hinckley front miss the front downtube – and then where do you fit the coil,
end is a fraction of a Norton/four leading shoe set-up’. Well, it battery and rectifier?

would be – the ‘Hinckley’ is a mass- Being a teenager in the ‘60s, I well remember watching the
produced item made in Thailand, whilst Rickman brothers compete at Farleigh Castle, Westbury and
the Norton unit would be made in small Glastonbury, and always promised myself I would one day own
batches in the west. So who could blame one of their bikes, in particular the Matchless engine version – in
Mr Tonkin for watching the pennies whilst green, of course. Three years ago, I bought a wrecked G80 from
producing three lovely machines? You Germany and then, with the help and encouragement of Adrian
could have used the term ‘Modern Moss from Rickman Motorcycles in Stroud, I built the bike.
Triumph’ or just ‘Triumph’. The inclusion of
‘Hinckley’ implies a false source. Am I the It is everything I had hoped for – and being road legal I can
only one who is sick to death of the fake really enjoy it. But if I built another, I would use a short-stroke
‘heritage’ that is so prevalent these days? engine with a magneto – a long-stroke with coil ignition presents
just too many challenges!
Tony Greenbank, Bradford,
Peter Davis
West Yorkshire

SEND YOUR LETTERS TO: [email protected] 12


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ead patterns for bikes from the 1890s to

o bolt on the best upgrade for your classic.
Branches at Beaulieu and Bicester

01590 612261 [email protected]




Many years before Moto Guzzi made the configuration
their own, AJS produced this across-the-frame V-twin

I t may be a cliché, but it’s true – there’s nothing which entered production in 1931. This had been conceived
new under the sun. The 50º transverse V-twin as part of AJS’s product-led drive to counter the effects of
engine layout of the 1931 AJS Model S3 was the late-’20s economic downturn, which duly led to the
conceived 35 years before the Moto Guzzi global Great Depression. Thanks to the good relations
between its family management and a loyal workforce, AJS
V7 which established it as the Italian marque’s had been hardly affected by the UK-wide General Strike of
May 1926 at a time of great industrial unrest. But that year
trademark engine format. And the so-called AJS Transverse saw sales of its bikes begin to decline for the first time in
the firm’s history, not helped by the appearance of the
Twin wasn’t even the first such device to reach production attractively-priced mass-produced Austin Seven light car,
which eventually led AJS itself to produce such a vehicle.
– five years earlier at London’s 1926 Olympia Show, the
The slump accelerated in 1927, and in the face of mounting
Yorkshire-based P&M firm (maker of Panther motorcycles financial difficulties the four Stevens brothers bravely decided
to try to fight their way out of trouble by investing in new
from 1924-67) had unveiled its 246cc Panthette (see page products – especially exciting new high-spec models sold
at affordable prices, which they hoped would grab market
74). However, P&M’s truly innovative (if evidently share by making AJS stand out from the rest.

underdeveloped) transverse V-twin proved a flop in the These were led by the sporting overhead-cam AJS models
which entered production from 1927 on, and as a more
showrooms and was replaced by a less costly, much simpler

range of Villiers-engined lightweight two-strokes.

Despite this historical context, the Wolverhampton-based

AJS marque owned by the Stevens family – by then one of

Britain’s largest manufacturers, producing upwards of

30,000 bikes annually – forged ahead with development of

its 498cc S3 with a similar transverse V-twin engine format,


Despite the combination of unit-
construction transverse engine and
low seat height making it a relaxed

tourer, the S3 was the victim of
financial circumstances and very
few of them were manufactured



Above: The fact that luxurious option, the pair of four-cylinder prototypes built AJS almost inevitably, given its rarity, in the Sammy Miller
the S3’s price made in 1927 and 1928 (although these didn’t make it to production). AJSMuseum on England’s South Coast. There, it’s on display
it a competitor to The AJS Model S3 was revealed in April 1931, and entered alongside the sole surviving 630cc AJS four-cylinder prototype
the Silver Arrow production later that year – although just a handful were built in 1928, as well as the unique 1939 supercharged
produced by AJS’s manufactured before AJS had to call in the receivers that 500cc V4 GP racer and the Porcupine, which won the first-
new owners, October, owing to rapid over-expansion into various ever 500GP world title in 1949. It’s in good company, then.
Matchless unsustainable areas, including the manufacture of cars,
furniture and radio sets. Although, being Complete with matching engine and frame numbers
Right: Engine is a honourable men, the Stevens brothers repaid (150045 – though one other survivor carries
50° V-twin side- all their creditors by the end of September matching numbers of 150338, which
valve with valves on 1932, they were unable to keep hold of AJS, seemingly casts doubt on that 31-bike overall
the outside of the and the Collier brothers’ south-east London- production figure) the S3 has been on show
cylinders to cool based Matchless Motorcycles purchased in the Miller Museum for over three decades.
the exhaust ports the AJS name, manufacturing rights, and “I bought it at Sotheby’s Stafford sale in
goodwill for £20,000. This led to the 1988 – I just left a bid with the auctioneer
Wolverhampton factories being sold off, before heading home, saying: ‘I’ll give two
and AJS production moving to the Matchless grand for it if that gets it,’” recalls Sammy
plant at Plumstead. with a grin. “The following Monday, it
turned out I’d bought it! It was pretty sad-
The S3 failed to make the cut of existing looking, but all there, so we restored it quite
AJS models chosen for continued manufacture quickly and I’ve since done the Graham
down south, probably because at £65 it Walker Rally on it, as well as various Ajay/
would have competed with the comparably Matchless events. It’s a very mellow bike to
priced 400cc V-twin Matchless Silver Arrow, ride – a proper plonker!”
which meant that a total of what’s understood Viewed up close, it’s evident that the S3
to be just 31 such motorcycles were constructed by AJS in
1931. Yet these examples of what was another one-year is indeed a true forerunner of today’s Moto Guzzis. Its
wonder were shipped off all over the world, with one delivered transverse 50º V-twin 498cc side-valve engine measures
to the AJS importer in New Zealand, another to eastern 65 x 75mm, with those valves unusually positioned on the
Romania – now Moldova – a third to Argentina and a outside of each cylinder. This ensures the exhaust ports get
fourth to Sweden. Today, these comprise four of the eight a plentiful flow of cooling air, while a single rear-facing
such bikes known to have survived, another of which is Amal carburettor sitting in the large, clear space above the
gearbox of what is a very compact engine design, feeds

Far right: The low
compression makes
kickstarting the
engine easy, even
when stone cold



Right: The S3 is so both cylinders via a shortened chromed intake manifold. ‘IT’S A PROPER PLONKER –
low-slung it has The valves are operated via a pair of chain-driven longitudinal A VERY RELAXED 50mph RIDE,
adjustable footpegs camshafts, with each chain having its own Weller tensioner. WITH VERY LITTLE VIBRATION’
to compensate for The tappets act directly on the valves and, as on the
the miniscule conventional-format 998cc Model S2 which AJS also console which sits well proud of the tank, as this is too small
saddle height introduced for 1931, the detachable seven-stud cylinder to adequately encase it without losing precious fuel space.
heads are cast in steel, incorporating a steel bush to carry
Above : Massive- the spark plug. Also like the bigger twin, the S3’s unfinned The AJS has a conventional kickstart lever on the right,
looking instrument cylinders’ axes are in line, so since the steel conrods carrying and the low 6.5:1 compression makes firing the engine up
console is mounted cast aluminium pistons sit side by side on a common crankpin, pretty easy, even from cold – there’s no decompressor lever,
on top of tank, the little-end conrod eyes are offset. Unusually, the pistons and none needed, merely a choke on the right just below the
rather than indented have three rings at the top in the usual position, with a fat horn button, and an ignition lever on the left. You’re
into it, so as not to immediately aware that the Amal carb has no return spring,
lose fuel space fourth at the base of the skirt. A Pilgrim oil pump to so the revs remain exactly where you set them last. This
force-feed the caged roller-bearing big-ends is makes changing gear a little easier once you get used to
Below: Gearshift mounted at the front of the vertically-split knowing just where to leave the throttle setting, while you
action is relatively crankcase, and driven off the same half-time grasp the light-action clutch lever with your left hand, and
precise for a hand- layshaft running off the crank which drives pull the gear lever back towards you with your right to engage
change set-up the camshafts. The lengthways crank runs bottom gear. That ratio is quite low, as befits a bike which
in ball-bearing mains. AJS obviously envisaged might be used as a sidecar tug.
A coil-ignition Lucas distributor sits
at the rear end of the left-hand camshaft Once under way in bottom gear, it’s soon time to shift into
which operates it, with the dynamo on second, pushing the lever forward through neutral – which
the opposite side of the bike belt-driven is quite easy to find when you want it, thank heavens – and
off the engine’s primary drive coupling, then to third. This is a long, lazy gear befitting the touring
in what looks like a very neat, well considered nature of the bike – although even with a good run at it
layout. The six-volt battery is mounted I couldn’t persuade the speedo needle to go any higher than
centrally just in front of the half-gallon oil 58mph on level ground. However, just as Sammy told me,
tank, above the three-speed gearbox. This has it’s a proper plonker – a very relaxed 50mph ride, which in
widely spaced ratios of 5.00, 7.93 and 13.58 to 1,

with a hand-shift to the right of the fuel tank, and a
multiplate oil-bath clutch. Primary drive from the lengthways
crank is effected via a short propshaft with a rubber-and-
canvas UJ at either end – but instead of the shaft final drive
such a format almost begs for – as Moto Guzzi adopted from
the start – AJS opted instead for a spiral-bevel right-angle
drive off the inline gearbox, to a conventional but fully
enclosed chain final drive. This doesn’t, however, run in oil
– although the substantial chaincase will surely help prolong
chain life, simply via protection from dirt.

The S3’s chassis, made from mild steel, is a widely splayed
brazed-lug duplex cradle frame with a single top tube, no
rear suspension, and AJS’s own Webb-type girder fork,
which with 19in wheels (against 26in beaded-edge originals)
fore and aft delivers a 56in (1420mm) wheelbase. The low
build of the unit construction engine permits a very low
height for the Terry saddle of just 26in (660mm), resulting
in the need for AJS to offer adjustable footrests, which can
be moved up or down (the twin straight exhausts permitting)
and forward or back over a four-inch (10cm) range. The
three-gallon fuel tank is surmounted by an instrument


again until they come almost to a halt. The fact that this is Left: A single
accomplished with the aforesaid complete lack of undue rear-facing Amal
vibration, whether loping along at 50mph in top gear, or carburettor sits in
buzzing the engine a little harder to climb a gradient, is the space above
particularly impressive. the gearbox

1931 would have been more than enough to satisfy the likely The only time I felt obliged to shift back a gear to second
customer for such a bike, especially as there’s very little while on the go was to slow the AJS downhill, which is why
vibration at any speed and the twin fishtail silencers deliver I was so relieved that the gearshift action is quite precise
a lilting exhaust note that’s relatively subdued. Once in top – better than most other hand-shift transmissions I’ve
gear, you don’t really ever need to shift down unless you experienced. That’s because the pair of seven-inch (178mm)
encounter even a relatively gentle hill, where despite the AJS single-leading-shoe drum brakes are pretty useless,
long-stroke engine dimensions, the AJS needs a little more especially the front one, which isn’t really up to the job of
urge at higher revs to scale the summit. But you can plonk stopping such a heavy bike from even modest speed. The
along in top gear in towns and villages, with no need to shift rear brake was slightly better, but to stop the AJS properly
down to second until you’re practically at walking pace. you need to plan ahead and really stamp on the rear brake
pedal when you need to stop in a hurry. And that from only
The engine is so flexible that you can actually take off 50mph or so – just as well it won’t go any faster, then!
from rest in top gear on level ground without excessive
clutch slip, and once you’ve reached top gear a rider of Sammy Miller Museum
average weight certainly doesn’t need to work the gearlever
To see the Sammy Miller V-twins featured in this
issue, including the Grindlay Peerless (p46), James
Model B2 (p56), Matchless Model X (p60), 1907
Norton (p70) and Panthette (p74), visit the Sammy
Miller Museum in New Milton, Hants. It’s open to
visitors daily from 10am. Call 01425 620777 or
visit for more details. Changing
government guidelines regarding social gatherings
during the Covid-19 pandemic may affect museum

opening times. Please check before travel.



Mark’s bike is the result of a lot
of ingenuity, many hours of
work... and plundering the scrap
bin at the local engineering firm


That’s the


When Mark Turner created this AJS
V-twin tribute to a pre-war land speed

racer, he relied on scrap material to
make his own special parts, using
period tools and production methods

Photography: MARK TURNER

A fascination with land speed record history
provided the inspiration for Mark Turner’s
home-built special, ‘The Spirit of Arpajon’.
Ironically, Mark, former owner of bike shop

Track and Classics, and ex-CRMC and Classic

National competitor, only started this project after chancing

upon the AJS V-twin motor that forms the machine’s centrepiece.

He said: “I’ve been into bikes forever, but my interest in

speed record bikes came from reading a newspaper article

about a supercharged Zenith ridden by Eric Fernihough

which mentioned Arpajon. I’d bought a vintage V-twin engine

and thought: ‘Do you know what..?’ I began researching

1920s speed records and got into the whole 1920s/’30s

streamliner thing with cars, trains, planes. I love the art deco

styling of that period, too – the Silver Arrows, Bluebird.”

Arpajon is located some 20 miles south of Paris, just down

the road from Montlhéry, home of the famous banked



How Mark’s 1930s land speed record bike tribute came together


The frame was de lugged with the help of a hacksaw, then fitted with new self-made lugs First stage of engine fitting included roughing out the engine plates
34 5

Mark re-facing the tappet adjusters Scrap flat bar was turned into exhaust brackets The exhaust system at first-fit stage

oval racing circuit. Back in the 1920s and early ’30s, the their long, straight and very smooth autobahns where the
authorities would close a four-and-a-half-mile stretch of records were attempted. But places like Brooklands and
bumpy road lined with trees and ditches to host speed trials Arpajon were bumpy – and those bumps seemed to set the
for cars and bikes. For almost a decade, Arpajon was home streamlined bikes off into serious speed wobbles. Tyre
to Europe’s pioneering daredevil motorheads who risked life technology then was pretty limited, too.”
and limb for a chance to claim a new land speed record.
Mark bought his AJS engine from a chap he met at a local
On August 31, 1930 a British chap called Joseph S Wright, VJMC show. “I’d taken a bike to the show and got chatting
a top Brooklands racer of the era, got his name in the record to a guy who said he had a V-twin engine for sale,” he says.
books having clocked 137.23mph on the Osborn Engineering “He was planning to build something using it plus a pile of
Company’s OEC JAP, powered by an engine fettled by ace bits he had collected. I bought the engine, most of a frame,
tuner Claude Temple. some fork bits and a wheel hub as a job lot. I didn’t even
know what the engine was at the time – but it had ‘1923’
Less than a month later, on September 21, 1930, Ernst stamped on it, and after some research I discovered it was
Henne went faster still – this time on the broad, straight road an Model D AJS.”
between Ingoldstadt and Munich – doing 137.74mph on a
750cc BMW. But Wright would not be outdone. He travelled This side-valve 50° V-twin was produced initially in two-
to Cork on November 6 with two bikes, the OEC Temple speed 631cc/5hp format in 1912, then increased to 748cc in
JAP and a spare Zenith JAP, and clocked an amazing 1918 and replaced in 1925 by the 800cc/7hp Model E.
150.74mph. That record was to stand until November 2,
1932 when Henne, known as the ‘White Phantom’ because “I’d bought it as a rebuilt engine and externally it was very
of his white overalls, upped the ante again with his BMW, clean, but I was intrigued by what was inside. The head and
this time in Tat, Hungary. barrel was easy to remove and I discovered a massive amount
of play on one side of one piston. It has alloy pistons – originally
Mark takes up the subject of the land speed record machines it would have been iron. There was something like 50 thou
of that era: “At first, the bikes weren’t streamlined. They of movement and it looked like someone had reamed the
started with shrouds on the bike’s forks, then ended up with gudgeon pin hole badly.”
full streamlining and the rider sat on top of the bodywork.
The early sidecars had bodywork. Having discovered that, Mark realised he’d have to strip
the rest of the motor as a precaution. Sure enough, the cam
“The Germans had streamlining, which probably suited followers had been ground wrongly. “I rebuilt them by




Fork cover pattern transferred onto alloy sheet

Mark wanted to use only 1930-style work methods. This is his CAD (Cardboard Aided Design) for the streamlining Fabricating the back-up tank for foot-operated oil pump
9 10 11

Checking the clearance behind the streamlining The first fit of all four engine covers Mark happy at work – and on the home straight

grinding them square,” he says. “Then I built them up to it an egg-cup full of oil and hopefully save the engine at Below: Binks
the right height with hardened steel valve shims from a speed. I’m not claiming to have invented anything with this; Mousetrap
Japanese bike engine, brazed in place. I did some tests on I’ve seen this on other bikes of the period.” carburettor was
the material first, as I was worried the heat from the brazing formerly fitted to a
might soften the metal. I cooled it in oil after brazing and The gearbox is early BSA four-speed, probably from an friend’s Brough
found the new cam profiles to be as hard as they should be.” A7/A10, which Mark has converted from foot to hand change.
“I did buy a couple of period-correct Sturmey-Archer ’boxes,
With the motor stripped bare, Mark also discovered lots but they were trashed inside,” he admits. “The advantage
of shot blast material inside the cases. “It had been run like of the BSA ’box is that it gives me lots of gearing options.
that,” he says. “I could tell from the combustion deposits on I’ve no idea what gearing I have or need until I ride
the pistons, but thankfully the shot blast material had not it. The AJS has an unusual drive sprocket off
destroyed any bushes or bearings.” the crank, so I’m stuck with that. I would
consider a period ’box if I could find a good
He fixed the piston by making an arbour to bore the small one, but the project had already been stalled
ends – there was plenty of material to work with – then he for a couple of months because of the hassle
sleeved them with phosphor bronze small-end bushes. “The with the other ’boxes.”
machining process removed the circlip bush recesses, so I
turned up some buttons to retain the gudgeon pins – something The V-twin is fed by a Binks Mousetrap
I’d done before in motorcycle engine rebuilds,” he says. carburettor which Mark says would have
cost £6-10s in 1920 – a king’s ransom back
The bottom end was in good condition, as was the crankshaft then. “They were considered the performance
assembly – but when Mark saw the primitive total-loss oil upgrade of the era, and the most common home
system, he decided to convert it to take a Pilgrim pump, for them was a Brough. Mine came from my
taking the drive off the end of the gear that drives the magneto. friend Peter, whose dad had it fitted to his Brough.
Peter’s mum complained about it throwing flames out at her
“I’ve got an adjustable cable at the ’bars so I can adjust in the sidecar, so it was removed and the standard carb
the oil flow,” he explains. “There’s also an oil tank on the refitted. The Binks languished in a drawer for over 40 years,
bike behind my left knee – that’s got a Best & Lloyd pump until Peter offered to sell it to me for the project.
which is foot operated and gives one complete sweep of oil
into the crankcase. Bearing in mind that this is built as a “The Mousetrap is a variable venturi carburettor – the
straightliner, if it starts to nip up when it’s flat out I can give



Right: Mark fitted venturi of the bellmouth can open and close mechanically. expended on the rolling chassis. The AJS frame front downtube
a Binks Mousetrap The throttle lifts the slide, and when you reach maximum was badly bent, so that was chopped out and replaced with
carb, considered velocity you adjust the venturi of the bellmouth to increase a straight tube from another frame. At the rear half of the
the performance the airspeed of the mixture to find the sweet spot for frame, Mark removed all the lugs and replaced them with
upgrade to have in performance. It’s got two jets – one in the normal place under the ones he would need to build the bike his way. “I used a
the 1920s/’30s, the carb slide and another lower down at around six o’clock, hacksaw to cut the lug on two sides, then heated the lug so
which had in a lower position in the venturi, a quarter way inboard of I could literally peel it off the frame, leaving the frame tube
previously been the leading edge of the bellmouth. Think of a modern powerjet untouched. Then I made new lugs to suit in two halves and
fitted to a Brough carb – this is the 1920s equivalent!” Ignition is dealt with by brazed then in place,” he explains.
a Lucas 50° magneto.
Below: All of Mark had no clue as to the origin of the fork components
the aluminium While the engine and transmission required plenty of work, he inherited when he bought the job lot, but thinks they could
bodywork was self- it was nothing compared to the hours of labour that Mark possibly be Triumph. However, they were incomplete and
fabricated; it was he wasn’t even sure all the fork bits came from the same
Mark’s first attempt source. “It looked like there were mismatched bits and pieces,
at carrying out so I made the bottom damper links. It would have been a
such work casting originally, but I fabricated it. The upstands for the
star springs are also made in pieces, brazed together. The
bottom links had eight pieces instead of the casting, but now
they’re painted you’d never tell the difference.”

Mark gave his project a dose of authenticity by approaching
it with the mindset and tool kit of a 1920s motorcycle engineer.
“I’ve only used 1920s hand tools to build this bike,” he
confirms. “I used oxy-acetylene because that’s what they had
back in the 1920s. I’ve used files, too – for example, the
gearlever started as a 25mm x 10-12mm flat bar which took
me two complete days to file to shape and finish.

“I hand-drilled all the [lightening] holes using a brace and
bit. I wanted to build this bike as if the engine was new in a
shed in the 1920s. I only cheated a couple of times by cutting
some sheet metal with a bandsaw, just to save time. I’ve even
done my own nickel plating. All the bits are made from metal
(Continued on page 29)


Photography: ARCHIVE A HERL


Above: Record Mark Turner’s ‘Spirit of Arpajon’ project first run of over 150mph, his first attempt road closure and the timing equipment
breaker Joe Wright was inspired by a madcap era of land at a second run was voided when a costs, not to mentions Wright’s trip,
on his OEC JAP, with speed record breaking in the 1920s/30s. finishing point banner fell over and the which is why the record was attributed to
his Zenith JAP back- One of the most intriguing tales from that timing beam was tripped by an official their machine – but there’s more. The
up bike in the time is the story of ‘Stolen Glory’, the bike retrieving it! It was Wright’s second full strange thing was that everyone who
background, during which smashed the motorcycle speed run that resulted in the decisive witnessed the record-breaking effort
his land speed record on November 6, 1930... or did it? 149.02mph and a new record. By then, bought into the story – and a week after
record runs at Cork, the OEC had been fixed, so Joe went for a the record-breaking spree, Wright
Ireland in 1930 It all happened in Ireland, on County third run (on the OEC) but could only sheepishly appeared on the OEC stand at
Cork’s Carrigrohane Road, where Joseph manage 136.38mph, with a loose saddle the Olympia Motor Cycle Show with the
Right: Joe Wright on ‘Joe’ Wright clocked 152.48mph on his thought to be rubbing the rear tyre and OEC Temple JAP that show-goers
the same OEC JAP, first record-attempting run on the bike, scrubbing speed to the extent that it assumed had broken the record.
with the instantly then recorded 149.02mph on his return ripped the centre tread out.
recognisable duplex for a mean speed of 150.736mph. The only indisputable fact was that it
steering system It is suggested that OEC funded the was definitely a JAP engine that had
clearly visible The record was officially credited to powered a bike to the record, but rumours
Wright and his supercharged OEC Temple began to surface that the wrong machine
JAP, fitted with a distinctive ‘Duplex’ was on display and it was indeed the
steering system with parallel upright Zenith JAP that had broken the record.
tubes connected by links. But, according
to Jeff Clew’s account in his excellent It wasn’t until early in 1931 that
book JAP – The End of an Era, the OEC The Motor Cycle, according to Clew,
had sheared its engine sprocket key at published a half-baked story explaining
about 80mph in a warm-up run, so he had that the organisers of the show had been
to jump on his spare bike, a supercharged mistakenly misled by JAP management
Zenith JAP for the record runs. that the OEC was the record bike. Bob
(Continued on page 28)
But the story doesn’t end there. After a


Currie, in his book Motor Cycling in the Far left: A sheepish-
1930s, however, painted a different looking Joe Wright
picture, suggesting that as Zenith was next to the OEC JAP
temporarily out of production at the time at the Olympia
of the show, it was considered better to Motorshow, London,
advertise a machine that was currently in where the bike was
production than one which was not. displayed as a
‘world land speed
Clew points out in his book that OEC record breaker’
muddied the waters further in an attempt
to distance themselves from the deception Left: Wright’s 996cc
when they released a statement in the Zenith JAP being
January 14, 1931 issue of Motor Cycling prepared by his
which said that the machine Joe Wright mechanic at Cork
used for his record runs in Cork was not of for the record run,
their manufacture, and any association after the OEC was
with their name was without the out of action. Note
knowledge of consent of the company. the taped-up fork
blades, engine
The issue is still a matter of debate fairings and disc
among vintage enthusiasts, but images rear wheel cover
from the Cork record runs tend to confirm
it’s the Zenith JAP, with its alloy
bodywork, that Wright appears to be
riding – and not the OEV JAP with its
distinctive Duplex steering system.

The shape of other land speed record motorcycles of the time

Ernst Henne, known as ‘The White Phantom’ Brough Superior ‘works scrapper’ used by Freddie Joe Wright set a new lap record of 113.71mph at
because of the overalls he wore, with his 1932 Dixon at Arpajon in 1927, George Brough in 1928 and by Brooklands on his 996cc Zenith JAP on March 23,
world record-breaking BMW 750 Kompressor. 1929, winning the 350 to 1000cc solo handicap
Bert LeVack to set a record of 129.05mph in 1929



Above: Mark’s I got from scrap bins in the local engineering company. There Mark filled them with sand, capped the ends, then applied
machine was was lots of ¼in and ½in round bar, and 3mm and 4mm plate his oxy-acetylene torch to them, wrapped rag around the
inspired by the off-cuts. I even offered to pay for the material, but the guys hot bars and applied pressure until he got the degree of
world land speed just let me take it.” bend he was looking for. The exhaust piping came from a
record bikes of the scrapped V6 Granada which his brother had used for banger
era, and bears a The rear hub is from a BSA A65 and came with the bits racing. “I saved the free-flow exhaust system when he was
strong resemblance Mark bought. He modified the brake drum and plate. It’s a going to throw it out. My thinking was it might come in
to Joe Wright’s QD hub, plus he can easily change the sprocket ring. The handy one day. I think I’ve moved house four times since
Zenith Jap (see left) front hub is of no known origin, but fits the need for a large- then, but it has finally been put to good use! There are five
flange 40-hole old hub. “It came with cup and cone bearings, pieces of pipe I cut to form the rear cylinder exhaust and
but I pressed them out, found some suitable modern bearings, six in the front one!”
then sleeved the hole to the correct size. And made a new
The finished bike looks like it was inspired by Joe Wright’s
‘A REAL LAND SPEED RECORD Zenith JAP, but Mark reckons he had no intention of modelling
BIKE WAS WAY BEYOND MY it on any particular bike, insisting that he just wanted to
REACH, SO I BUILT MY OWN!’ create his interpretation of a period straightliner. “It was
never my intention to model my bike on ‘Stolen Glory’. I did,
spindle,” Mark says, adding: “I’d be lost without my old however, want the proper winged shrouds on the forks and
lathe and I’ve got a pillar drill from the 1920s, so it all fits the bodywork you see from the outset.”
with my desire to use 1920s methods.
Mark reckons he never really got a chance to stand back
Staying true to the idea of a 1920s record bike, Mark fitted and study his bike until a big unveil he arranged when lockdown
a Blockley rear tyre, the same kind of tyre fitted to the pre- restrictions were finally lifted.
war cars that raced at Goodwood. “As my bike is built as a
straightliner, it didn’t need a profile rear tyre, so I used the “I did all the black paint and even nickel-plated parts
Blockley for the look. It’s an Avon Speedmaster on the front myself, but my friend Tommy Redman did all the blue
– they’ve been in production for ever,” he says. paintwork. I did the prep, but he said he was set up to do
the spraying, so why not let him help? Phil The Monster
Mark made all the aluminium bodywork on the bike – the Forge did the signwriting. All I told him was the name of
first time he has ever put his hand to this kind of fabrication, the bike and the fact that I wanted it in a deco font.
using wooden bucks to create some of the complex curves.
He also made the petrol tank, which features an integral oil “A genuine land speed record bike was way beyond my
tank. “Hats off to the petrol tank makers,” he says. “It’s not financial reach, so I built my own! The plan now is to take
an easy job. When I came to pressure-test my work, I had it to Elvington to see what I can get out of it. I think the
lots of touching up with weld to get it right! The tank material record there for a 1923 bike is around 113mph. If I can get
was once the roof skin of a car. It’s all salvaged material.” 90 out of it, I’ll be more than happy.

The ’bars are from an unidentified Japanese motorcycle. “The bike took 18 months to build, working on it three
to four days a week. It could have been done a lot more
quickly using power tools, but I didn’t want to do that. I’m
just happy that, apart from the gearbox, it’s a brand new
1920s motorcycle and there’s nothing on it that could not
have been made back in the day.”



The original
Arpajon AJS

The AJS supercharged V-twin was a fearsome beast,
but failed in its attempts for land speed record glory

Photography: ARCHIVE A HERL

Left: Joe Wright
calms his nerves
with a cigarette
before his world
record attempt on
the supercharged
AJS V-twin at
Southport Sands on
May 14, 1933
Inset: Wright’s wife
gives him a good
luck kiss before the
attempt, with Joe
gamely hanging on
to his ciggie


T he supercharged AJS V-twin was one of the ‘THE POWER UNIT SAT IN A Above: The AJS
final footnotes in the story of the company DUPLEX FRAME WITH A 21/2in supercharged
under Stephens family ownership, before it DIAMETER BACKBONE TUBE’ V twin during
was acquired by the Collier brothers of Arpajon Speed Days,
compression, fed by special Amal carburettors with three- August 31, 1930 with
Matchless fame. inch float chambers. rider Oliver Baldwin

The V-twin was the brainchild of Nigel Spring, who had Ultimately it was Captain Oliver M Baldwin and not
Denly (whose Shell Oils contract clashed with AJS’s Castrol
previously prepared racing machines for Bert Denly at contract), who debuted the bike and ran 130mph at Brooklands
in July 1930 before the rear piston seized, followed by
Norton. Both had joined AJS when the company, better another unsuccessful attempt at Arpajon in August.

known for its road racing and trials successes, decided to By the time AJS was ready to have another go at the
records, Joe Wright had pushed it to 137.32mph on an OEC
chase world speed records. Spring persuaded Jack Stevens JAP; then Henne replied with 137.66mph and, with AJS in
severe financial difficulties, the project was sidelined.
that it would be possible to take the prized land speed record
In 1931 the Collier brothers, owners of Matchless, acquired
for the flying kilometre from the Germans (Ernst Henne, AJS – and by that time Wright and Henne had taken the
record to over 150mph. The AJS project lived on under new
750cc BMW, 134.75mph) and was given the go-ahead to ownership but, realising the engines needed supercharging
to stand any chance of breaking records, a Powerplus No8
build a V-twin machine. In 1929 he began designing a supercharger was added along with new bronze cylinder
heads and coil ignition.
normally-aspirated 50° V-twin with 79mm x 100mm
Joe Wright tried the bike at Southport Sands and achieved
dimensions, using concepts similar to that of the company’s 136mph, then ran 145mph at Tat in Hungary – but, realising
Henne’s record was out of reach with the machine in its
‘R10’ 500cc single-overhead-cam single – with alloy heads current form, AJS sold it into private ownership without
ever fulfilling its early promise.
(both inlets facing rearwards) and barrels machined from

solid steel billet, sitting on a common crankcase.

Large, heavy flywheels were supported by massive bearings,

with two races on the drive side and one on the other. Forked

conrods ran on four rows of rollers in Duralumin cages and

were topped with pistons from the 500cc singles. It had a

special Sturmey-Archer three-speed gearbox, a four-plate

clutch and primary drive by chain.

The power unit sat in a duplex frame with a huge 2½in

diameter backbone tube with downtubes from the headstock

running beneath the engine and gearbox. The forks were

taken from the 1930 500cc TT racer and, for record attempts,

AJS used 28in x 2.75 Dunlop tyres, wired to the rims. The

V-twin beast produced around 70bhp running with 11.1


Photography: GARY MARGERUM 1927 AJW

National Motorcycle Museum T he AJW 1000cc V-twin made its first public
appearance in the London-Land’s End Trial
To see all the National Motorcycle Museum in April 1927. Three sidecar outfits were
V-twins featured in this issue, including the entered, of which one retired with a broken
Matchless works racer, Rex Acme and Trump JAP,
visit the NMM in the West Midlands. It’s open to sidecar wheel spindle and the other two gained
visitors daily from 8.30am. Call 01675 443311 or
visit for gold medals. The successful riders were company founder
more details. Changing government guidelines
regarding social gatherings during the Covid-19 AJ Wheaton and FK Knill. The range of AJW machines
pandemic may affect museum opening times.
was shown at Olympia later that year and featured both
Please check before travel.
Anzani (Vulpine) and JAP V-twin engines, though this
machine is fitted with a 78mm x 104mm, 996cc Summit

engine which was also a produce of the Anzani company

and was sold new for £105. AJW machines were built to

order in the early days, with AJ Wheaton being a printer

by trade. The early prototypes were built in the maintenance

shop of the family business in Frienhay Street, Exeter

• See this bike at the National Motorcycle Museum



1913 Abingdon

ABINGDON LTD of Tyseley, Birmingham made motorcycles
between 1903 and 1933, but are better known for a tool
they made – an adjustable spanner branded ‘King Dick’ –
and would eventually cash in on it by relaunching their
motorcycle range in 1925 under the Abingdon King Dick
banner. Before WWI, after initially using imported engines
of side-valve design, the V-twin was their most successful,

particularly in the export market
where their machines earned a
reputation for reliability and
longevity. Their own V-twin
engine was conventional in design
but well finished and Abingdon
sold them to other makers like
Ariel and Campion. Abingdon
eventually focused on selling
tools and other engineering
products. The King Dick name
was believed to have been taken
from a pub near the works.
• See this bike at the National
Motorcycle Museum


THE NAME comes from the company founder Mr SR Batson, who
ran the business in Penge, Surrey, for the initial few years before selling
out to the Tessier family. This is a Bat No 2 Light Roadster of 770cc,
with a JAP side-valve engine, featuring Bat’s own two-speed countershaft
gearbox and a peculiar linked springing system of saddle and footboards
– though an alternative version of the machine allowed for belt drive
and an Armstrong three-speed hub.
• See this bike at the National Motorcycle Museum


Promotion for the 1913 BAT V-twin Light Roadster focused on its all-round qualities

Mark at his desk at home in Austria –
he moved there after discovering the
Austrians’ appetite for British bikes.
That’s an Indian tank in the foreground
and a racing frame made for a speed
record attempt at Bonneville

Right: Broughs at
the Cross Point
museum in Austria.
Mark built the
Pendine (furthest
away) to compete at
Wheels and Waves
in Biarritz, France

Middle: Jay Leno
with Mark at Pebble
Beach in 2009.
The SS100 is the
second Brough
Mark made

Far right: Intriguing
chaos in Mark’s
home office







One of the world’s foremost Brough Superior
experts explains how he went from running
a Somerset bike shop to building a spares

empire and making Brough Superiors

T hat clock used to be in George Brough’s office,”
says Mark Upham, sitting behind a massive
desk in his own office in Austria and pointing
across the room. “That chair used to be in

George Brough’s house in Pendine,” he

continues, getting up and wandering into an adjoining room,

“as did this sideboard and that cupboard with the Brough

tank on top of it. This table here was a present from Lawrence

of Arabia to George Brough, and that is the old plaque from

the Brough factory.” It’s fair to say that Mark Upham is

rather keen on Broughs.

Having spent a lifetime studying, collecting, buying and

selling the machines, the 65-year-old is now one of the

marque’s leading experts and his home is a madcap treasure

trove for anyone into old motorcycles. And modern ones – I

spy a carbon-fibre fairing panel balanced on another grandfather

clock. “Ah yes, we did a full carbon Brough Superior race

fairing, and that was the crashed one. It was the only Brough

ever to race at Silverstone. Jeremy McWilliams raced it in

Moto2,” he says before pointing out some spoons previously

owned by you know who.


MARK UPHAM | Interview


being ridden, Mark
puts plenty of miles At 65, Mark has the energy of a teenager combined with problem was that I was always running out of money, so
on his bikes. Here an entertaining ability to distract himself mid-sentence. So I always had to sell everything I had. In my shop in North
he’s taking part in you go from the types of spear used in the filming of Lawrence Street [Mark opened a spares service for English bikes in
the 1500-mile Malle of Arabia (he owns three) to how he managed to pick up a Wellington, Somerset when he was 19] I actually had a
Rally on the first beautiful old oil can via a short discussion of the increasingly Brough Superior in my living room. But I didn’t know the
bike he built after warm winters in Austria, Brexit and the Indian he’s just floorboards had dry rot and it fell through the floor. That
buying the Brough bought at auction. The pace is relentless. was the first time I had an article written about me.”
Superior company
“I was fascinated by the story of Brough Superior from He’s had quite a few written since: about buying the Brough
Right: George an early age,” he says after I clumsily prod him back on topic. Superior companies and intellectual property, breaking
Brough stands “In 1977 I bumped into an old boy who had a 680 Brough records at Bonneville, lending Broughs to Jay Leno and losing
behind a MkI Superior frame and I bought it, and it went from there. The several valuable bikes in the Austrian mountain-top museum
(the rider is JA fire last year, to name a few. But I’m still not clear about the
Watson-Bourne). HERITAGE IMAGE PARTNERSHIP LTD / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO source of his obsession with Brough.
Note Brough’s flat
cap; Mark has a “In a way, I should have been more attracted to Vincents
penchant for the – it was a more modern bike, so better in lots of ways. But
same headwear when you see how George Brough sold bikes you realise how
clever and interesting he was. He’d go to parties with lots of
wealthy people and find the smallest, weakest-looking man
to sell his SS100 to. The guy would buy it and then nearly
kill himself on it and George Brough would say to him:
‘You’re going to be a fantastic rider,’ and pat him on the
back, and take him shooting or whatever. And the poor bloke
would never ride the bike again.

“That’s why so many of these Brough Superiors have survived
– no one ever rode them. Here’s a manufacturer who made
3000 bikes and a third of them still exist. It’s astonishing.

“And because the bikes were hardly ridden, he had no
repairs to make – he was a player, a very smart man. Brough
Superiors are not rare bikes – the Coventry Eagle (See page
41) is rare, the McEvoy is rare (See page 72). And yet they


are both cheaper than Brough Superiors. Connoisseurs have doing 90mph overtaking Moto Guzzis and Kawasakis on it In 2013 Mark took
decided they like the Brough Superior story, and they keep – it made 45bhp and was relatively light. a team to the
the prices up. In England that popularity is to do with Lawrence Bonneville Salt flats
of Arabia – but everywhere else, it’s not.” “The second Brough Superior we created was a Pendine, in America to try and
an Eddy Meyer replica based on the 1927 design, which was break some records.
After collecting and restoring Broughs for years, in 2008 a new build but with some original parts – the carburettor From left to right:
Mark went to California to be a judge at the Legend of the body, gearbox and magneto were original. The first person racer and CB writer
Motorcycle concours d’elegance in California, where he we ever let ride that bike was Jay Leno at Pebble Beach in Alan Cathcart, his
found out Bonhams were selling the Brough Superior name. 2009. He just rode off, with no helmet on. son Andrew
“I went up to Malcolm Barber [the boss of Bonhams, (a mechanic),
who Mark knew well] and told him he couldn’t “I thought he was going down to the bottom of the Sam Lovegrove
sell the company because it was in trouble. So drive and back, but he was gone for 20 minutes. (ace Brough builder)
they withdrew it.” But the seed had been It frightened the life out of me, but he returned and Mark. The bike
planted, and 11 months later Mark bought with a big smile on his face and said: ‘When is a 750cc Brough
what remained of the company himself. can I ride that again?’ So I said: ‘Now if Superior nicknamed
you like,’ and he was off again.” ‘Baby Pendine’,
“Sometimes in your life you have to Buoyed with the bikes’ success and which broke two
make a decision. At the time, we had a having watched The Fastest Indian movie, world records
plan for British Only Austria [Mark’s Mark decided to try to break a few
successful parts business] and buying world records at the Bonneville Speed
Brough Superior wasn’t in it. The company Trials. In 2011 he took a 20-strong team
wasn’t in great shape, so we had to get to the salt flats: “Everyone was saying
everyone they owed money to round a table we didn’t have a chance. I spent €246,000
and sort it out. But eventually we managed building a bike [a Brough, obviously, built
to buy it from the Card family.” by Alastair Gibson] and getting the team there.
We did it professionally, with sponsorship from
With the company secured, Mark set about the
task of building painstakingly accurate new versions Revival Cycles. The Americans were jeering at us,
of old Brough models. “We’d already been restoring a lot of saying us Europeans stood no chance, so it was especially
Broughs and as we went through the process of buying the moving when our rider Eric Patterson was just two mph off
company, we started to tool-up and buy patterns. We made the record. Alastair [Gibson] rang his father in South Africa
the bikes in Austria and England – at the time I didn’t have and he told him to go back on the timing in two-degree steps
the contacts to get it all done in England.” until we had maximum power. It worked – we got the AMA
record first time out and everyone was amazed.”
After two years of hard work, the first bike was complete,
then Mark rode it to the Wheels and Waves festival in Biarritz The Bonneville records were an astonishing achievement
four times and completed the 1500-mile Malle Rally. “I was on many levels – making the bike, getting the team together

MARK UPHAM | Interview


Above : Mark’s FABIO AFFUSO
daughter Viktoria
with his first Brough and funding the whole thing – particularly when you consider sold more and more bikes and spares. “We expanded into a
build. The pair Mark started out with no family background in motorcycles. new building, where the workshops were Formula One
completed the His father was a ship’s captain who, although he owned a standards. But we went from selling 840 bikes a year to
Malle Rally on it motorcycle, had no great passion for them. 130-odd and it was a cashflow nightmare. By 1991 it was
all finished and all I had was my shirt and my underpants.
Above right: The “My first ride was on the 11th of October 1956 – my They were really tough times and I learned a lot – my lack
Modern Broughs are mother was overdue so my father took her for a ride on his of education and book-keeping skills had got me in trouble.
designed and built BSA C11 and I was born a day later. By the time I was 17, I I over-extended myself and was over-ambitious.”
in France had already bought a 500 BSA single and a BSA A10 Golden
Flash and sidecar, ready for when I passed [Mark left school Mark then used his knowledge to work for various auction
Right: Attila at 16 and had been earning money working on a farm]. houses in their vehicle departments, but he struggled:
Scheiber (right) Fortunately I did pass, but unfortunately I crashed it a few “I knew it wasn’t for me – my dyslexia meant I couldn’t spell
is co-owner of times and turned it into a sort of chopper.”
Austria’s Cross well or commit things to paper.
Point motorcycle Spending his evenings tinkering with his BSAs, “By 1993 I was really down on my luck – I was
museum. Mark has Mark noticed how difficult it was to get hold filling skips for £40 a day to get myself back
been instrumental of spares and, tapping into that teenage on my feet. Eventually I had to sell my car
in the museum’s energy, decided to start a business. “Back – a Guy Salmon Jaguar XJS that I loved
success then, no one was doing English parts so – and got £8000 for it at the Beaulieu
I decided to do something about it. I autojumble. I hadn’t seen that kind of
went round all the local farms and cash for a long time.
villages and found the people who had “Then an Austrian friend came over
parts in their garages and bought them.” and said they wanted to buy a 1914
Overland car for £8500, but only had
Then, aged 19, he opened his shop, £1000 in cash and asked if he could
MD Motorcycles in Somerset. “I ran it borrow the money. So I handed over the
for two years without any insurance, £8000.”
because you couldn’t get any until you I’m waiting for the horrific ‘... and I never
were 21. It was very popular – on some saw him again’ punchline, but in fact this act
Saturdays people were queuing out of the shop of generosity set Mark on a course that would
and they came from all over the country.
turn his life around. “He sent me my money, and some
“Then we started getting involved in new English more so I could hire a lorry, put the Overland on it, pick up
spare parts and by 1978 we were selling Japanese bikes, too. some motorcycles for him and drive it back to his place near
But we were only doing this to keep the business going – all Vienna. That was my first trip to Austria – and the next year
the money was invested in buying parts for English bikes. [1994]I made six more.
Looking back, the better thing financially would have been
to concentrate on the Japanese bikes, but I wasn’t interested “I noticed that when I brought bikes over here [to Austria]
in that.” I sold them immediately. It wasn’t long before I was selling
150 bikes a year out here, but that market has gone now – the
The business kept expanding as the effervescent Upham


of both bikes
people who lusted after an English bike because they had 1951 Indian Warrior from the Mecum auction to go in the and automobilia.
them when they were young are all in their 90s now.” Top Point museum, which we featured in the March issue] Here he’s standing
and went back to bed. We’re hunter-gatherers, so I get the behind a 2010 Brough
But Mark had seen enough to realise Austria was a great thrill of the chase, then it soon fades and I need to hunt Superior SS100 that
place to move his business to – it was central enough to make something else. I’m not very good at selling bikes, though. he’s looking after for
most of Europe a reasonable car journey away (handy for I’ve had to sell a lot in my lifetime when my financial a customer
picking up and delivering bikes), and as the internet developed, circumstances weren’t so great and I didn’t like it at all.”
it meant his spares business could flourish wherever he was.
Plus the whole place is breath-takingly beautiful. Lunch finished, we walk out to one of Mark’s outbuildings
to see some of the bikes damaged in the museum fire. As
“In 1996 we opened British Only Austria (vintage-motorcycle. usual, he’s wearing his George Brough-esque flat cap and
com ) which is now Europe’s biggest supplier of parts for old I’m reminded that some unkind souls have said that Mark
English bikes. It’s a very good business. Useful, too – I had plays up his eccentricity for effect. But that isn’t the impression
a torn ligament in my knee a few years ago and a customer I get. It feels more like he is who he is and isn’t much bothered
came in and said: ‘I could do that for you’. He was a surgeon, what other people think. He just gets on with what he likes
and he did the keyhole surgery in exchange for a decompressor doing, whether that’s naming all his kids after motorcycles,
mechanism for his 1928 BSA Sloper. He said it would last gluing his own teeth in or going racing for the hell of it.
10 years – and that was 15 years ago.”
“I’m a great one for trying new things,” he says. “That’s
I tentatively ask if he’s swapped any other parts for surgical why I decided I’d take up racing. I bought a Vincent outfit,
interventions. “Oh yes. I’m always up for a deal. Dentistry put a five-speed gearbox in it and rode it a couple of times
in Austria is very, very expensive and I had a customer in at the Salzburgring. It was incredibly powerful – 1282cc
Vienna who was a dentist and a Triumph fanatic – he was running on methanol – and great fun to ride, but the week
building a 6S into a Tiger 100. He put three bridges in for after the race I was absolutely cream crackered. You needed
me in exchange for motorcycle parts that I imported specially to be a lot fitter than I was. The very first race at the Salzburgring
from England. One bridge came loose a few years ago, so I started last as a novice and finished first. That was all
I just stuck it back in with some Araldite. I tried superglue, because of the bike – I just had to hang on. The last time I
but it didn’t work and tasted horrible. rode at the Salzburgring, we took off, spun around, landed
and slid to a halt. My passenger – who was very experienced
“My business is a way of life that I love. When I leave at and good – looked at me, shook his head, got out and I’ve
5am to go on a trip to France to buy some stock, I see the never seen him since. I stopped after that.” Eccentric he may
poor chaps driving to work and I don’t have to do that. Last be, but mad Mark Upham most certainly is not.
Sunday I needed to buy a bike in America, so I got out of
bed, walked five metres to my computer, bought the bike [a


1925 SS100

Photography: GARY MARGERUM

Brough Superior

-1925 SS100 -

THIS SUPERB example of a 1920s Brough Superior has a fascinating
history, but one stirring episode stands out. Chris Needham had bought
the bike in 1925 and entered it in a mixed car/bike speed trial on
Southport Sands in September. Needham dominated the bike classes
with a 100.8mph run through the flying kilometre and had won a
50-mile race. To decide the day’s overall victor, though, a match race
was staged over a mile sprint between him on the Brough and Sir Henry
Seagrave and the supercharged two-litre six-cylinder Sunbeam racing
car, which Seagrave had driven to victory in the 1923 French Grand
Prix. In the dash across the rutted, sandy course, Needham beat Seagrave
by several yards, thus giving George Brough extra bragging rights to
extol the virtues of his mighty Brough Superiors.

This bike, restored to its 1925 glory, features JAP’s 45bhp, 980cc
KTOR V-twin (85.7mm x 85mm) overhead-valve racing engine with
8:1 compression, Wex carburettor and magneto ignition. It features
Brough’s tubular cradle frame, Castle sprung forks, drum brakes and
28in wheels with beaded-edge tyres.
• See this bike at the National Motorcycle Museum


This glorious pair of Brough
Superiors is on display at the
National Motorcycle Museum

1927 FACTORY RACER 1927 Coventry Eagle

-1927 Factory Racer- COVENTRY EAGLE first produced a big V-twin in 1923, called the Flying
Eight. For the first years the engine used was a 976cc JAP double-camshaft
THIS IMPOSING 1000cc Brough Superior was fielded as side-valve and while the motor quickly gained a good reputation, the let-
a ‘works scrapper’, to uphold Brough’s reputation in sprints down was the weakness of the frame design. By 1926 the frames were sorted
and other speed events. Factory riders Arthur Greenwood and the Flying Eight gained an overhead-valve engine. It was then decided
and Ronald Storey rode it successfully at major venues to produce a smaller fast tourer with a 680cc engine (70mm x 80mm) in a
including Saltburn Sands and Doncaster, home of the ‘Petrol machine named the Flying Six (Model C70). It had mechanical lubrication,
St Ledger’. In 1928, Storey raised the Saltburn course record an ML magneto, an Amal carb and a Burman three-speed gearbox. The
to a sensational 122.9mph. new frame, incorporating ideas from Brooklands racer Bert Le Vack and
also used in single-cylinder machines, was a duplex cradle design, carried
Following the NMM fire of 2003, this machine was at the front by a single, slightly-curved downtube and continued back to
rebuilt to its 1927 condition by specialist restorer Simon the rear wheel spindle. The new machine was luxuriously equipped, featuring
Miles. Study of the frame convinced him that it was a an Enfield hub with internal expanding brakes and shock absorbers. Druid
prototype built for Brough by Bert Le Vack and therefore forks were used, with an Andre steering damper.
used to set the 1924 world record at Arpajon, France, • See this bike at the National Motorcycle Museum
originally housing a prototype JAP racing engine.
The SS100 used Le Vack’s frame, although on production
models the tubing fits much more closely to the engine unit.
The design, with cradle tubs under the engine and gearbox,
is credited for the providing Brough’s stable handling.

In its 1927 form, this machine has a 50bhp JAP JTOR
V-twin overhead-valve racing engine (80mm bore x 99mm
stroke, with a 9.5:1 compression ratio) breathing through
a Binks carb, fired by a Bosch magneto ignition and with
a Sturmey-Archer three-speed gearbox.
• See this bike at the National Motorcycle Museum



Parallel universe

This is one of four alternative BSA V-twins, created to show what the
firm could have built, rather than ploughing the parallel-twin furrow


E mu Engineering owner Doug Fraser, an
electrical engineer from Melbourne, Australia,
set out to create four BSA specials – bikes that
he felt the Birmingham-based marque could

have built back in the day. All V-twins, one

represents the missed opportunity of how a BSA V-twin

might have been made in 1938, employing components

from the M23 500cc single. The second explores what

might have been if the company had the foresight to create

a V-twin Gold Star in 1954, and uses B33 500cc single

parts. He completed the collection with two more ‘modern’

machines based on the same 75° V-twin motor, one being

a road bike and the other a full-on racer.

Doug says: “I’ve always had a soft spot for BSA V-twins.

They built them from roughly 1920 until 1938, and were

nice looking bikes, but something you couldn’t afford to Above & top: The Emu M46 Empire Twin is essentially two BSA Empire Star engines combined



thrash. I couldn’t understand why BSA didn’t build a modern Top left: B66 Empire Triumph T140V components. The B66 motor sits in a period
V-twin, based on two of their singles of the 1937-39 period. Twin is Emu’s more BSA A10 tubular steel duplex cradle frame which has been
So I decided to take the most modern bike that they had in modern model, modified to accommodate the V-twin engine, with its forks
their pre-war catalogue, which was the Empire Star single, with swingarm and ultra-effective cast iron brakes sourced from Rob North-
and put two of those together on a common crankcase – suspension framed BSA/Triumph F750 triples.
hence the name I gave it, the Empire Twin. I made my own
patterns for the crankcases, got them cast and then built Top right: Builder Not content with these two, Doug built two more Emu
the engine. All of this took about 700 hours to accomplish, Doug Fraser says BSAs: first the E120R racer and then its E120S street spin-
plus another 700 for the chassis and to complete everything the B66 Empire Twin off, on which he’s so far covered over 10,000km in near-
– in between earning a living!” is his interpretation everyday use. Both bikes feature the same dohc 75° V-twin
of what a BSA eight-valve motor measuring 100mm x 94mm for 1194cc,
Doug’s gutsy, large-capacity overhead-valve V-twin might superbike could with toothed-belt cam drive. Output is 103bhp at 6800rpm,
have been a counter to Edward Turner’s acclaimed Triumph have looked like measured at the rear wheel.
Speed Twin, whose 1937 debut ensured that the British
motorcycle industry would largely turn its back on V-twin Right: Emu E120S “It was the logical follow-on to the other two bikes,
development to concentrate on parallel twins. is the road version showing where BSA would have been if they’d decided to
of the E120R racer keep going with V-twins into the modern era,” says Fraser.
The 1118cc 50° V-twin pushrod engine in the M46 Empire below. It’s builder “Both of the others have lots of BSA parts, and they’re based
Twin is designed and produced entirely by Fraser. Its internal Doug Fraser’s on the styling BSA used in their period – but unfortunately
dimensions are 87mm x 94mm and it delivers 45bhp at regular rider and BSA hasn’t been around since 1972, so we can’t really say
4000rpm. Its maximum torque of 70lb ft at 3200rpm ensures he’s covered over what their bikes would have looked like today. So I’ve opted
an ultra-flexible engine character with crisp acceleration. 10,000km on it for a thoroughly modern design in creating what I imagine
Amal MkI 30mm Concentric carbs ensure optimum fuelling a BSA superbike might have ended up being like.”
and clean throttle response. The four-speed gearbox is concocted Below: Emu E120R
from assorted BSA/Triumph components, and the engine/ racer in between
gearbox sit in a period BSA M20 tubular steel diamond the M46 and B66
frame (lengthened by 100mm to accommodate the V-twin Empire Twins
engine) with BSA girder forks and zero rear suspension.

Doug’s intention was to collect parts to build a second
version of the rigid-framed M46 to sell, but when his parts
supplier let him down he decided he’d make a more modern
version of the V-twin, with a swingarm frame. “Some 1400
hours slipped straight past, and then I had that one ready
for the British Rally in 2010 – the biggest event of its type
in Australia with over 1000 British bikes,” he said.

The 1143cc 50° V-twin pushrod ohv engine of Fraser’s
so-called B66 Empire Twin measures 88mm x 94mm and
delivers 58bhp at 5600rpm. It produces maximum torque
of 76lb ft at 3500rpm, ensuring ultra-flexible engine character
with zestful acceleration. Carbs are 34mm Amal MkII
Concentrics, with the five-speed gearbox sourced from


Grindlay Peerless ST1 is a
distinctive and undeniably
beguiling beast


SECupRtheEir TS

This 1925 Grindlay Peerless ST1 was a
revelation in its day, featuring an innovative
Barr & Stroud engine with two-stroke style
porting in a thundering four-stroke

Words: ALAN CATHCART Photography: KEL EDGE

T he 1920s was a decade brimming with technical
innovation in motorcycle engine design, which
gave rise to numerous alternative solutions
to providing motive power on two wheels, as

engineers all over Europe and America sought

to work out the best way to make these new-fangled

motorcycles work best.

Among the many different ways of answering that

conundrum was the sleeve-valve engine, fitted for four short

years from 1923-27 by British manufacturer Grindlay

Peerless to its range of motorcycles built in Coventry, which

was already the heartland of Britain’s motorcycle industry.

There, in 1910, local car fitter foreman Bob Grindlay – later

to be Lord Mayor of Coventry during World War II, when

the Luftwaffe wreaked devastating blitzkrieg on the city

– had founded Grindlay Sidecars to build high-quality such

attachments, which quickly became popular thanks to their

excellent robust finish.

In 1923 Grindlay, by now well on the path to becoming

an important industrialist in Motor City UK, teamed up

with Kent engineer Edward Peerless to start manufacturing

complete high-powered motorcycles, again built to a very

high standard of quality. These were later powered by

conventional motors from JAP and Rudge (whose factory

was just 400 yards away from GP’s), but they first came with

sleeve-valve engines from Scottish company Barr & Stroud.

The Glasgow-based precision optical engineering firm’s

core business was making gun sights, rangefinders, periscopes

and binoculars, but the end of the World War I in 1918 saw

this business dry up. So, with a strong post-war demand for

proprietary engines to power the motorcycles for which

customers released from the strictures of war were clamouring,

Barr & Stroud opted to seek a slice of that market. They

offered something completely different from their competitors,

however – a range of sleeve-valve engines ranging from 350cc

through 500cc to 1000cc.


So what’s a sleeve-valve engine? On the Barr & Stroud
version, a precision-machined single sleeve-valve was fitted
within the cylinder of an otherwise conventional internal
combustion engine, slotted between the piston and the cylinder
wall, where it was free to rotate and/or oscillate. Just like on
a two-stroke motor, the cylinder wall contained both inlet
and exhaust ports in the side of the sleeve. A peg at the bottom
of the sleeve engaged with a conventional half-time pinion
via a joint, so that the sleeve moved in what was actually an
elliptical path, at half crankshaft speed. Ports in the sleeve
aligned in turn with the inlet and exhaust ports in the cylinder
wall to allow the engine’s four-stroke cycle to happen.

Its advantages were a significantly reduced parts count
– there were no poppet valves, springs, cams, followers or
tappets, and the only reciprocating component was the
piston. It was also mechanically silent, clean and well
lubricated, as the elliptical action of the sleeve spread both
lubricant and wear evenly over the entire surface. It offered
an ideal combustion chamber shape, long service intervals
and huge volumetric efficiency comparable to a modern
four-valve cylinder head’s due to very large port openings.
There was also good exhaust scavenging and a controllable
swirl of the inlet air/fuel mixture, which in turn resulted in
reduced emissions, though this wasn’t a factor back in the
1920s. Disadvantages? Well, it was hard to cool the cylinder
head effectively as it was deep down within the sleeve, and
there was a poor response to rapid throttle openings. Some
sleeve-valve designs were also subject to increased oil
consumption as well as to smoking, though this apparently
wasn’t a problem with the Barr & Stroud motors.

The first sleeve-valve engine was actually invented in the
USA in 1904 by Charles Yale Knight, using a double-sleeve



principle, which went public in powering Above: Magneto
the Silent Knight automobile unveiled drive cover
at the 1906 Chicago Auto Show. proclaims the
However, a comparable but quite engine’s nature
different single sleeve-valve (SSV)
engine design was patented in Below: Barr & Stroud
Glasgow in 1909 by Scot Peter engines were built
Burt and Canadian James under licence, even
McCollum, both independent featuring their
engineers working for the Scottish patent numbers
car maker Argyll. This consisted on the cylinders
of a single sleeve which was given
a combination of reciprocal and
partial rotary motion; thus it was
simpler and less costly to make, and
reduced the high oil consumption of the
Knight double sleeve design.

It was first used in the 1911 Glasgow-built Argyll
car, and after an 18-month lawsuit brought by Knight, was
found not to infringe his patents in any way. The SSV
format’s most successful application was in aircraft engines,
including Bristol’s large 18-cylinder Centaurus, and the
Napier Sabre and Rolls-Royce Eagle engines used in WWII,
three of the most powerful piston engines ever made.

So Barr & Stroud bought a licence on the SSV design to
manufacture smaller capacity sleeve-valve engines – complete
with its patent numbers on the cylinders – to market to
motorcycle companies, starting with a 349cc single-cylinder
version, later joined by a 499cc single and 999cc V-twin.
The 499cc Barr & Stroud engines were designated WA7,


Above: Distinctive
sleeve-valve engine
is mechanically
silent in operation

Left: Cutaway
through a Barr &
Stroud sleeve-valve
engine shows its
internal workings.
Main shot shows a
spare sleeve (being
held, at right) with
ports and drive peg
visible. The peg is
driven by a half-
time pinion, causing
the sleeve to move
in an elliptical path;
the combination of
this and the rising
and falling of the
piston create a four-
stroke combustion
cycle (inset shows
the sleeve at the top
of its travel)



with aluminium crankcases, internal flywheels, and cast running condition – and that’s in the Sammy Miller Museum
iron cylinders; but the WA9 999cc 50° V-twin engines were on England’s South Coast. What’s more, it sits alongside a
not simply two 500s on a common crankcase, as might 500cc single-cylinder version which was gifted as a wreck
have been expected. The front cylinder was identical to the to the Museum Trust in 2005 by John Grindlay, grandson
500’s, but the rear cylinder was a mirror image of the 500, of the company’s founder, which Sammy duly restored to
with different inlet and exhaust manifold adapters. running order.

Barr & Stroud’s sleeve-valve engine sales began in August The big V-twin came all complete in 2007 from the
1921, and the last delivery was recorded on October 25, collection of the late Joyce Cobbing – but in a poignant
1926 – having tided the company over its post-war slump, twist, Sammy acquired it just one week before thieves broke
enabling it to survive long enough to be acquired by Pilkington in and stole eight extremely rare vintage motorcycles from
Glass in the late 1970s. During those five years, around her storage unit, which have never been recovered. “Without
1700 motorcycle engines were made, comprising about doubt, the Grindlay Peerless would have a prime target for
1500 examples of the 349cc WA6, 110 of the 499cc WA7, the burglars, so we were lucky to get it when we did,” says
and just 80 of the WA9 999cc V-twins. Grindlay Peerless
purchased 82 engines in total, predominantly Sammy. “It was all complete, but it had the wrong forks
999cc engines (41 of them in all) as befitted – somebody had put Castle forks on it instead
their upmarket clientele. They also bought of Druid, so we changed those, and stripped
19 of the WA7 500’s, and 22 of the and repainted everything. The engine was
WA6-series 350’s. luckily not in bad shape – it hadn’t done
a lot of miles, though of course they
Two Barr & Stroud V-twin-engined are low-revving engines, so they don’t
Brough Superiors were also built get too stressed. We made new
and sold in the early days of George exhaust systems up for it, but besides
Brough’s company founded in 1919, changing it back to the original
but couldn’t compare to the allure forks, there wasn’t an awful lot of
and performance of their Grindlay work to do.”
Peerless rival. However, Grindlay Sammy rode the freshly restored
Peerless also developed a range of machine in the 2008 Banbury Run,
conventional models powered by where I remember admiring it before
poppet-valve JAP engines, and the start in the Gaydon paddock – and
promoted them via a series of race wins then again out on the course when he
and speed records obtained by factory breezed past me as I struggled up Sunrising
rider Bill Lacey – later to be the tuner of the Hill on my 500 Sunbeam as if I was going
Ecurie Sportive bikes on which Mike Hailwood
made his name in the 1958-62 era. backwards! The chance to take the Grindlay
Peerless for an afternoon ride around the lovely New Forest
In 1928 Lacey became the first man to break the 100mph countryside surrounding Sammy’s museum was a treat that
mark on a 500cc bike in setting a new one-hour world had been 15 years in the making.
record at 103.30 miles on a modified 498cc Grindlay Peerless-
JAP he prepared himself. In 1934 Grindlay decided to end No doubt about it, standing in the museum courtyard’s
motorcycle production, and instead founded the Coventry sunshine, the bike’s rakish looks and numerous small detail
Engineering Company in 1936 to assist with the production touches just exuded quality. I wondered whether this was
of aircraft guns, pitch propellers, barrage balloons, aircraft where George Brough got the idea for the shape of his fuel
fuselages and control gear – which proved a profitable tanks and savoured the sight of its unusual but eye-catching
endeavour, with war coming. black-painted sleeve-valve engine. The motor has a roller
and ball bearing crankshaft carrying steel conrods topped
With just 41 examples of the Grindlay Peerless ST1 V-twin by aluminium pistons, and measures a ‘square’ 86mm x
manufactured, there is just a single known survivor in 86mm for its 999cc capacity. A mechanical Best & Lloyd
pump forces oil through the hollow crankpin to lubricate
the big-end. Sparks are provided by an EIC magneto mounted Above left: Does the
in a rather exposed position at the front of the engine with shape of that tank
no protective cover, and chain-driven off a half-time pinion look familiar?
ahead of the crank, which also drives the oil pump mounted Brough Superior,
outside the chain cover. anyone...?

Where a conventional bike engine of the era had vertically- Left: In its day, the
split crankcases with the cylinder(s) bolted to it, the dry-sump Grindlay Peerless
Barr & Stroud V-twin features a horizontally-split crankcase, exerted a greater
with the main bearings being in the upper half, leaving the allure than its
bottom half simply as a cover. The separate oil tank is Brough rivals
carried on the seat tube.

There’s a chain primary drive to the three-speed Sturmey-
Archer gearbox with a short, relatively stubby shift lever
down on the right topped by a wooden knob, with a clutch
lever on the left ‘bar, which looks distinctly busy with the
ignition and air levers stacked on top of each other, with
the decompressor lever beneath them. There’s just the front
brake lever on its companion ‘bar, working the not especially
effective six-inch SLS front drum, though its foot-operated
companion rear brake is more effective, if not exactly living
up to the GP catalogue’s claim that ‘the brakes are extremely
powerful, and require only slight pressure for quick operation.’
Everything’s relative, I suppose.

Though it’s been impossible to discover the compression
ratio of the Barr & Stroud V-twin engine, the right-side
kickstarter is nicely placed to crank the engine into life with


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