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Vale-Onslow scrambles barrel and Herman Meier

While clearing a late uncle’s workshop and sheds of predominantly car parts, we found a few motorcycle engines and their spares, including an unused cylinder barrel described on its original box as a ‘Vale-Onslow 250cc Conversion Kit.’

We’ve given it to a friend who plans to fit it to a Villiers 9E engine he has for one of his motocross machines.

We remember Len Vale-Onslow used to run the family shop at Sparkbrook, Birmingham so assume he must have designed this conversion kit. Can you fill in the history, please?

Jan and Ade Crawley,email, London.

Vale-Onslow claimed to have sold over 4000 of these 197cc to 250cc conversion kits for the Villiers 9E engine in the period 1957-1959.

Whether this is an optimistic claim is uncertain, although they were popular in period and it is rumoured the late Dave Bickers bought them by the half dozen.

Herman Meier with his most famous project, the Ariel Arrow racer.

What is certain is that they were designed by the German engineer Herman Meier, probably with input from his then business partner Bernard Hooper. Mr Hooper moved to Villiers in 1958 and later famously designed the successful Starmaker engine.

We’ll deal with the kit first: Herman Meier was naturally cagey when discussing any of his work directly with the press, so what follows next relies on memory… My memory..

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