THE FEDERATION OF AMERICAN Motorcyclists had closed down during the war. Now it was replaced by The American Motorcyclist AssociationAMA, with the slogan: ‘An Organised Minority Can Always Defeat a Dis-organised Majority’
THE TT PROGRAMME WAS EXPANDED to include an Ultra-Lightweight race for bikes up to 175cc. Following the first massed start in TT history 17 riders covered three laps; first man home was Jock Porter (New Gerrard) at 51.2mph, ahead of Freddy Morgan and Chris Stead, both riding Cottons. The 59 Junior entrants represented 23 marques, most with factory support. Having lost out in 1923 AJS was back in force with 10 starters. They faced opposition including six Dots, five New Imperials and four entries apiece from Matador, New Hudson and Cotton (whose team included Stanley Woods). On the first lap Jimmy Simpson (AJS), Wal Handley (Rex Acme) and Len Horton (New Imperial) broke the 60mph barrier—but all three dropped out with mechanical problems leaving Ken Twemlow (New Imp) to win, at 56.57mph, ahead of S Ollerhead (Dot) and IHR Scott (AJS). Following the excitement over the first Sidecar TT in 1923 only 10 combos started in 1924. The capacity limit, once again, was 600cc but three 350s took the field—and while George
Tucker’s 588cc Norton was first past the flag at 51.31mph, they finished 2nd 3rd and 4th. Runner-up was Harry Reed (Dot-Bradshaw), ahead of the memorably named Almond Tinkler (Matador) and JW Taylor (New Scale). Another 588cc Norton, piloted by George Grinton, was 5th and that was that: five of the seven 600s failed to finish. But the Norton boys were mighty pleased: having entered every TT this was their first win since Rem Fowler’s twin-cylinder victory in 1907. The Lightweights and Seniors ran together with the first of 35 500s setting off five minutes after the last of 21 250s. This was fine for the spectators as both races ended at about the same time but it made life interesting for the riders as the big ‘uns carved their way through the little ‘uns. As TT competitor and historian GS Davison explained: “On the bumpy,
dusty Mountain track there was often only one rut to follow and consequently the 500s had to queue to go by.” Having won the Sidecar TT Norton took the Senior trophy too, courtesy of Alec Bennet, now in the Norton team, at 61.64mph (his second TT win and the first to be won at more than 60mph) ahead of Harry Langman (Scott) and Freddie Dixon (Douglas). They also averaged better than 60mph. Only 15 Seniors completed their six laps; drop-outs included Messrs Simpson and Woods. As usual Wal Handley led the first Lightweight lap on his Rex-Acme, ahead of the previous year’s winner, Jock Porter (New Gerrard). They swapped places on the second lap but neither finished the race, which was won by Edwin Twemlow (New Imperial) at 55.44mph, ahead of HF Brockbank (Cotton) and J Cooke (Dot).
BERT LE VACK RODE A 996CC OHV JAP-engined Brough Superior Brooklands Special with Castle forks along a highway outside Paris to set a flying-kilometre record of 119.1mph. Its cradle frame and mechanical oil pump were incorporated into a new roadster, the SS80, named for its guaranteed 80mph capability (a Brooklands certificate stating that the complete machine as delivered to the customer had exceeded 80mph could be supplied at an extra cost). Before the end of the year the sidevalve SS80 was joined by an even more potent stablemate, the ohv ton-up SS100, which joined a select band of ohv big twins that would set the standard for high-performance motor cycles until World War Two.
BROUGH SUPERIORS WERE SOMETIMES called the Rolls Royce of motor cycles; in the USA the four-pot Ace, built in Philadelphia by Tom and Will Henderson since 1920 (when, you may recall if you’ve read the 1920 page, they sold the Henderson Motorcycle Company to Ignatz Schwinn), became known as the Dusenberg of motorcycles. And while the BruffSup’s 119mph record-setting run was commendable, it was put into the shade by an Ace’s claimed 134mph (albeit without FICM ratification). Not to be left out a Henderson in the capable hands of murderdrome veteran Freddie Ludlow was timed at 127.1mph.
BY YEAR’S END there were more than 500,000 motorcycles on British roads.
P&M LAUNCHED A SPORTY OHV 500 and named it the Panther. The motor was coupled to a four-speed gearbox which was made for P&M by local tractor builders David Brown. The Panther came in three forms, the Sports model; the Continental model with pillion seat, Zenith carb and a twistgrip; and the Touring model with enclosed chains and CAV electric lighting. The Yorkshiremen clearly liked the name because within a few years P&M became Panther. New Hudson, Raleigh and Royal Enfield also came up with ohv designs; Rudge offered a 500cc version of its four-valve, four-speed 350.
COVENTRY WAS THE HOME of the British motor cycle industry so it comes as no surprise that the city was the birthplace of a new motor cycle sport. The Coventry Motor Cycle Football Club was founded by J Montgomery who, unsurprisingly, became team captain of the team. Before long they had local competition when the Coventry Ace MC formed a team and as other teams appeared further afield the first friendlies were held. Coventry played four games in that first season, winning all of them without conceding a single goal. The new sport caught the public’s imagination; Pathe News was on hand to record the Coventry Aces in their first year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6cbwJ66I0U
JUST AS MOTOR CYCLE FOOTBALL was getting under way Northampton Town FC banned its players from motor cycling after three professional county cricketers two footballers died in crashes. One of them had played for Manchester United; the club’s manager said: “My opinion of motorcycles as a means of eating the miles and making others eat their dust will not bear publication, and I endorse in every respect Northampton’s rule.” The Football League argued that clubs should put bans on motor cycles in contracts.
RALEIGH WON THE MAUDES Trophy with a round-the-coast stunt observed by the ACU. Hugh Gibson left Liverpool on a 798cc V-twin outfit; Marjorie Cottle set out in the opposite direction, unobserved, on a 348cc solo to cover the same route. Gibson suffered a series of setbacks. Bad roads caused the rear stand to fall and fracture, then the sidecar stand worked loose. The tappets and valve guides demanded another stop for lubrication, and after 1,700 miles the engine had to be decoked. There was another stop to sort out a blocked carb with more delays for three punctures in the sidecar wheel and two in the rear tyre. Between Ullapool and Kyle Sku Gibson took a wrong turn and had to follow a rough track over a mountain that meant a climb of 2,700 feet and a 10-mile detour. Cottle suffered only two involuntary stops on her solo, for a puncture and a plug change. Near Oban, blinded by rain and the intensely cold wind, she crashed but pressed on. They completed the 3,429-mile run in 11¾ days, finishing within 15min of each other.
BOURNE WAS BACK IN THE CHAIR later in the year as ACU observer on another reliability run; this time the sidecar was attached to a 633cc Norton Big Four pilloted by Phil Pike. The bike was asembled under Bourne’s supervision from parts picked by him to prove it was a bog standard model. They covered 4,088 miles, comprising four end-to-end runs and 20 cllimbs up Porlock Hill. Bourne later reported: “What the ACU could not control was what happened at Chudleigh Knighton in Devonshire less than 200 miles from the finish. A Ford 14-seater charabanc came out of a blind side-turning straight into the sidecar and pushed the outfit across the main road and squashed it against a stone wall.” Rider and passenger emerged shaken but unhurt.
THE ACU LAUNCHED THE SIX-DAY/1,000-mile Stock Machine Trial; AJS won three gold medals and a team medal. And an Ajay described as “the only fully equipped touring sidecar in the trial” was top combo.
A MATCHLESS OUTFIT won its class in the Scottish Six Days Reliability Trial.
ITALY BUILT THE FIRST MOTORWAY, between Milan and Varese.
CARLO GIANINI AND PIERO Remor left Rome University and put their brand-new engineering degrees to good use by designing an ohc four-pot engine. Industrialist Count Bonmartini was impressed enough to bankroll them; this was the first of the transverse fours that became ubiquitous half a century later. The 490cc prototype featured a single overhead camshaft driven via a shaft in front of the cylinders; power output was a claimed 28hp at 6000rpm.
REPRESENTATIVES OF 13 COUNTRIES met in Paris for the Fédération Internationale des Clubs Motocyclistes (FICM) congress. They formally recognised the FICM in the general sporting regulations as the only body representing motorcycling activities. Germany hosted its first motor cycle grand prix on the Avus circuit in the Grunewald forest, on the outskirts of Berlin. The first Dutch TT, organised by Motorclub Assen en Omstreken, was run over a 28km paved triangular circuit near Assen. And the first FICM European Grand Prix was held in Monza, Italy. The title of European Champion (in each class), was awarded to the winners of this race as the FICM was not yet ready to organise a championship run over a series of races.
AT THE SWISS GP GRAHAM Walker’s ohv Sunbeam won the 500cc class ahead of a Motosacoche ridden by Italian ace Luigi Arcangeli. TC de la Hay won the 350cc class on another Sunbeam; a Swiss Condor beat a Velo to take 250cc honours.
IN THE GERMAN GP WANDERPREIS von Deutschland Zenith beat BMW into second place to win the 500cc race.
IN THE FIRST SPANISH GP no less than five 500cc ohv Duggies led the way home; a pair of French Alcyons were first and second in the 350cc class. In the Grand Prix des Nations a brace of ohv Guzzis were the fastest 500s on the day, ahead of Norton and Peugeot.
VICTOR HORSMAN AND A DENLEY both set new hour records but before year’s end French ace Pean Richard scorched round the new Montlhery circuit on a Peugeot twin, raising the bar to 88.45mph. He also rode it to victory in the French Grand Prix but could only manage 14th in the Senior TT (his team-mate R Gillard finished 11th).
HOWARD DAVIES LAUNCHED THE HRD range featuring 348 and 490cc JAP engines, Burman boxes and Druid or Webb forks. The HRDs were low and sporty, with duplex frames and some of the first saddle tanks. Designer EJ Massey had built the Massey-Arran that gave AJS such a fright in the 1921 Junior TT—the year Howard had made history by winning the Senior on a Junior AJS.
With the R37 BMW’s flat twins gained overhead valves.
CAMBRIDGE GRADUATE ERIC FERNIHOUGH MA won a Varsity motorcycle race, starting a relationship with JAP that would cover him in glory.
IN JAPAN THE MILITARY VEHICLE Subsidy Law allowed the government to subsidise makers or owners of motor vehicles suitable for military use, provided they were made in Japan. At the same time import tariffs were imposed on foreign vehicles. The immediate result was the entry of major industrial concerns into the manufacture of motor cycles. The Murata Iron Works built two copies of the ‘pocket-valve’ Harley Davidson and offered them to the army, which tried them out and returned them without comment which in Japanesde society was a hugely insulting. The Imperial Army was already using imported Harleys. Toyo Kogyo (Mazda) also tried to build a motor cycle for the army and that effort failed as well. While these two companies went back to their drawing boards, Mr Shimazu, who had built the first Japanese motorcycle back in 1909, unleashed the Arrowfast: a 633cc side-valve single with three speeds and a reverse gear for sidecar work.
BARON OKURA, THE SEMI-OFFICIAL Japanese Harley-Davidson importer ordered a few ‘J’ models in 1922 and a few dozen more in 1923/24, but didn’t buy any spares, which confused the H-D top brass. This, combined with a large order from Outer Mongolia, also without any spares, spurred Harley to send Alfred Rich Child to set up a proper dealer network. Negotiations with Baron Okura were a failure, but while in Japan, Child befriended Genjiro Fukui, US-educated and a wealthy founder of the prestigious Sankyo Pharmaceutical Company. Fukui ran an import/export division of Sankyo, the Koto Trading Co., which had been selling ‘bootleg’ import Harleys, brought into Japan from the Outer Mongolian shipments, and sold under Baron Okura’s nose. Child join forces and Fukui set up the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Sales Company of Japan with Fukui/Sankyo providing investment capital. As managing director Child pocketed 5% of gross sales in Japan. The initial order included 350 Harley combos (three-wheelers having been found useful as utility vehicles after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake), plus $20,000 worth of spares and $3,000 worth of factory repair tools. As Sankyo already had pharmaceutical contracts with all branches of the Japanese military, Harleys were suddenly required for all manner of police, military, and Imperial Escort duties. Japanese sales rocketed to 2,000 bikes a year.
THE ISDT MOVED TO BELGIUM and Britain won (on James, Sunbeam and AJS) but only on a technicality , as the Blue ‘Un explained: “Britain has at last won the chief trophy in the International Trials, but it must be admitted that the victory has been an empty one. A Norwegian team has made the best performance, but since the Norwegian riders did not use machines made in their own country they were only eligible for what was known as trophy Number II. A Belgian team on Belgian machines also made a better performance than the Britishers—who lost their sidecar man, FW Giles (348cc AJS) , on the last day—but the Belgians were ineligible because their trio did not include a sidecar diver. Everyone agreed as to the severity of the contest, but Stobart, who a few years ago rode a James in English competitions, now is attached to the Saroléa firm assured The Motor Cycle that the organisers had by no means selected the worst roads; in fact, the surfaces were not nearly so bad as in the recent Tour de Belgique, when, on one occasion, he stuck a pothole with such violence that the machine came down on the stand and smashed it. Discussing the event with the competitors, the writer was reminded that when he described the 1921 and 1922 International Six-Day trials, he referred to the beautiful locality in which they were held as the country of the graceful chamois. According to Clifford Wilson, Belgian is the country of the disgraceful chicken! Wilson said he would best remember the country for its chickens and its pavé. At one point a scared chicken volplaned onto Wilson’s shoulder so that is steering was deflected to such an extent that he left the road and found himself behind a tree which flanked it, there to meet B Kershaw (J&S Omega) who had arrived at the same spot while trying to avoid a cow. Two kinds of pavé exist, good and bad. There is quite a reasonable amount of the former, much of which is preferable to the pot-hole-riddled macadam, and more than one likes of the latter, especially in the Tournai-Charleroi district, the manufacturing centre of Belgium. Had it been the task of Englishman to arrange this trial in Belgium they would have chosen the Ardennes district and stuck to it; for there is really beautiful hilly country was good roads. But the Belgians who organise the events chose differently. It must be remembered that the Fédération Motorcycliste de Belgique is not exactly like the Auto Cycle Union, a union of happy concord whose clubs work in complete harmony with
the parent body. In Belgium the provincial clubs have to be placated and encouraged, and it would not do to neglect districts in which loyal clubs exist and flourish; consequently, tracts of flat and uninteresting country have to be visited and that is why distances have been long—well over 200 miles per diem—through lengthy stretches of flat and thickly populated country where many level crossings have added to the difficulties, especially in view of the high average speed which had to be maintained. Even if the whole of the course had been entirely flat, which it was not, the necessity of averaging 30mph plus the bad road surfaces would have provided difficulties enough. Three of the six days have not only been in hilly country but there have been a few real test hills quite of the type the ACU loves to find. Vieux Tiers, at the end of the fifth day, was rough and winding, with a gradient of 1 and 5 at least, and Vieux Polleur, on Saturday, not so windy nor quite so long but if anything a shade steeper, was marked ‘forbidden to automobiles’, and worth of all, the speed hill climb up the three-mile Côte de Malchamps, leading out of Spa, did enough damage to justify its existence in all conscience, for it wiped out England’s best hope, the gallant Giles, whose plucky little 348cc engine had taken him and his wife in the sidecar through a whole week, and had had at times to average after 40mph. It also eliminated Huynen (FN) of the Belgian team, who crashed while trying to avoid a dog, and Bonivert (Saroléa), whose engine gave out on the hill. It was surprising, but none the less the fact, to hear an English writer affirm that the Norwegian team and the one Swede—Göthe (Husqvarna-JAP)—were the most skilful riders on the corners, and it was most pleasing to hear a tribute paid to the good sportsmanship of the Dutch. At half distance the British team was in the running for the International Trophy, as Belgium, which could have qualified, failed, curious to relate, to find an entrant with a sidecar. Three teams had entered for Trophy No II, namely Belgium, Norway and Holland; and Great Britain entered for both trophies. Holland’s casualties had been serious, and the teams of Great Britain, Norway and Belgium were left intact at this stage. Furthermore, on the second
day, when the competitors toured the manufacturing districts, a great deal of trouble was experienced. Kehoe, the British rider included in the Belgian list, had fallen the night before, damaging his rear wheel and had arrived somewhat shaken; undaunted, he started next morning, only to find himself compelled to retire immediately. Then the bad roads caused the breakage of Charlesworth’s (Zenith) rear sidecar connection, but he cleverly strapped up the attachment and continued till the end. B Bourke (New Hudson) rode in still smiling after an accident caused by striking a huge hole when trying to avoid a milk cart drawn by a pair of dogs. His pluck was greatly admired, especially when he announced he would start the next morning, but the damage was too serious and he was forced to retire after striking another pothole when driving in Giles’ dust. Muller (Velocette) had a fall 51km from the finish, bent his footrests, cut his head, and could not start on the Thursday. Thursday is a day which will live long in the memories of the International Six Days competitors, as they journeyed through the grand Duchy of Luxembourg and enjoyed some of the finest scenery on the trip. On the Friday they passed through Haelen, where exactly 10 years ago the gallant Belgian cavalry fought a desperate and costly battle against the German hordes, and held up their advance for several days. The town was en fête. Then they entered Dutch territory and had a welcome they will never forget. They lunched at the pretty little town of Oisterwijk, and finished the first stage in the charming market-place. Here were motor cyclists in their hundreds,
many mounted on British machines. Two bands met the competitors, and discoursed sweet music all through the luncheon stop. Boy Scouts and amiable policeman kept the roads free, but were beaten by the inevitable dog which always strays on the course on these occasions. At lunch the junior Dutchmen presented each competitor and official with a packet of highly artistic postcards and announced that they had only to address them to their friends and relatives and the KNMV would see to their postage. Riders of all the five nations present cheered when a Dutchman courteously presented a bouquet of flowers to Mrs Giles, the only lady passenger, on her arrival in her husband’s sidecar. All too soon the Dutch frontier was left behind, and as the short stretch of neutral country between the customs houses was entered, a banner stretched across the road wished departing guests ‘Farewell and Good Luck’ in French and English. At the Belgian Customs House douaniers busily examined the machines’ engine numbers, but exacted no other formalities. Here ‘Nuit et Jour’ (night and day) the be-pseudonymed Belgian rider of a Rush-Blackburne, arrived with a clatter and fell off. He had done this frequently and his damaged foot rests were circumstantial evidence. The devoted band of officials of the Belgian Motor Cyclists’ Federation undoubtedly put in an enormous amount of hard work both before and during the competition; but, though they meant well, they lacked experience in the organisation of a contest of such international importance. The last day, which entailed another tour in the beautiful Ardennes country over the best roads so far encountered in the trials, saw the undoing of several gallant and important riders. FW Gilles (AJS sidecar), on whom the continuity of the English team depended, retired through engine trouble on the three-mile hill of Malchamps out of Spa. It was a sad disappointment, not only to Giles himself, but to all the English present, but the high average speed which had to be maintained on the rough roads brought him disaster. Then an evilly disposed dog caused Vidal (Saroléa), one of the Belgian team, to crash heavily, and he retired somewhat injured, and, lastly Bonivert (Saroléa) retired at the same place through engine trouble. These misfortunes left only the Norwegian team intact, and the Belgium team in front of the British. Even if Giles has not had to retire the British team would not have been leading. The speed hill-climb, in which GE Stobart (Saroléa) made the fastest time, on the final day penalised the competitors heavily.” Team awards: International Cup, Great Britain‚ GS Arter (499cc James), C Wilson (499cc Sunbeam) FW Giles (348cc AJS sc). International Cup No II, Norway—C Vaumund (499cc Triumph), O Graff (550cc Husqvarna), J Juberget (999cc Harley-Davidson). Belhium, de Grady (348cc FN), Vidal (499cc Saroléa), Huynen (348cc FN). Trade teams, 1, Saroléa (Vidal and Stobart); 2, FN (de Grady and George).
Courtesy of my chum Francois, here are a couple of contemporary sporting pics followed by a selection of some Continental ads…
To close the year, some contemporary ads…