It always feels a bit strange, suddenly coming across your own name in print (TCM, September 2020) and then seeing YC 2125! I remember it well of course, particularly that tasteful shade of purple chosen solely because I already had a black one and purple was in Valspar’s range of polyurethane paint.
I had done a few high speed trials, as track days were called back then, on my two-speeder (UX 185 – where are you now?) although I never got round to actually racing.
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I believe Titch Allen raced a two-speeder and had some sort of hand operated cable arrangement to depress the rocking pedal so he could bump start it.
I remember that a day or so before one track day I had a problem with the Scott – I don’t remember what but, given their idiosyncrasies, it could have been anything – and your dad offered to lend me the AJS (yes, that one; August 2020).
It was a brave thing to do bearing in mind that I had never ridden it and, indeed, I didn’t actually sit astride it until coasting it down the hill to the scrutineering bay at Cadwell Park.
It was a horribly wet day and things were about to get worse. It fired up okay and reached a few hundred rpm, and then it stopped – revving any further that is. I was resigned to just cruising around for a few laps and then as I approached the Gooseneck and went to change gear the whole ‘gate’ came away from the tank and I was left riding one-handed with the gearstick and attached linkage in the other hand.
I don’t think it actually had enough steam to get up the hill back to the paddock so it was a mournful business. It was a typically generous gesture from your dad, who’d also had the sense not to come with me.
Of course nowadays he would have been risking several thousand pounds but then they were just old bikes and appealed to quirky characters like us who actually were motorcyclists and used them for fun. We certainly didn’t like spending any money on them because they weren’t worth anything.
For example, in the early 1970s the King’s Lynn section of the VMCC was given a barnful of stuff by the widow of one of our members. We priced it up and I still have the list which features PUE 368, a Francis Barnett, for £1-10-0 and EN 6831 (BSA 349cc) for £2 as well as petrol tanks and gearboxes for up to five shillings (25p to you). They needed a bit of work of course.
My older son (also a James) who now has a couple of Nortons (one a Manx), a three-speed Flyer and a Bonneville, lay in his carrycot in the petrol tube sidecar of an 1150 Brough, our only means of transport at the time which cost £80, delivered to the door (BAU 46).
It was him who showed me this article, pointing out that your dad had had the sense to hang on to his machines. Well, not quite all of them, as I once bought a Series A Comet from him for a few quid and, no, I haven’t got that either.
Now that old bikes are treated as investments (and that’s especially true of Vincents, Broughs etc), it’s a different matter. We never bothered with restoration, which now seems de rigueur and there was a pride in just keeping them going.
But back to YC 2125, and about time I hear you say. James remembers us delivering it to your dad on our way back from the Burma Star Day air show at Waterbeach.
Since I took his younger brother as well, James must have been around eight, which makes it 1976, not late 1960s.
I had bought it from Bill Gibbard, who was the technical correspondent for the Brough Superior Club, whose journal I edited at the time.
Bill was a director of Tate and Lyle and we had had a committee meeting at his rather grand house. The Scott was in a shed at the bottom of the garden; it was all on its own so as not to contaminate those Broughs. “Ooh, a Scott” I said. “Do you want it?”
“Not really,” he replied, “It’s nothing like a Brough. You can have it if you like.” I don’t know what I paid but it wasn’t very much as I had a large family and, correspondingly, no money.
We moved to Yorkshire in the late 1980s but have been back in Norfolk for quite a while.
Read more Letters, Opinion, News and Features at www.classicmotorcyle.co.uk and in the November 2020 issue of The Classic Motorcycle – on sale now!