For almost 25 years American police forces had been making good use of motor cycles. Now the Metropolitan Police Force mounted some of its traffic cops on 493cc BSA Slopers, backed up by BSA three-wheel cars. The Birmingham police also picked Beezas while in Coventry, almost inevitably, patrolmen were mounted on Triumphs. The Worcestershire force opted for Royal Enfields. Italian traffic cops were encouraged to nick errant motorists with a 10% share all the fines they dished out.
Ernst Henne covered a flying kilometre at 137.6mph aboard a blown 750cc BMW.
OEC of Gosport, Hants dropped a blown 996cc JAP V-twin into its hub-centre-steering duplex frame and Brooklands star Joe Wright rode the beast along the Carrigohane Straight near Cork at a two-way average of 150.74mph to reclaim the world speed record. Or not. Following a bit of a furore when the bike was exhibited at the London show it was admitted that the record had actually been set by Wright’s spare bike, a more conventional Temple-JAP. But the record was back in Britain and that was the important thing.
Two motorcycles were running in Alaska; 3,985 were registered in Hungary.
London-based clubs teamed up to stage a Grand Fancy-Dress Ball at Olympia.
British bikes dominated Italian racing in the 500cc class, but Benelli, Guzzi and Bianchi were sweeping the board in the 175, 250 and 350cc classes respectively.
Crash helmets were coming into use by road riders as well as sportsmen while the fast growing cadre of dirt track riders were setting a trend for black leather. One advertiser offered “well padded jackets and breeches, face masks in tan leather with splinterproof sights, detachable reinforced elbow and knee pads, gauntlets and boots with detachable steel toecaps”. Completing the ensemble, though presumably not in black leather, were “best quality jockstraps”.
Face screens were gaining popularity as an alternative to goggles; Ixion opined that they made goggles obsolete.
As the post-Wall-Street-Crash recession bit motorcycle production was down to 74,000, almost exactly half the 1928 level, and the number of bikes on British roads fell from the 1929 peak of 731,298 to 724,319. In response to falling sales some manufacturers, including Triumph, Ariel and Raleigh, branched out into light cars and commercial vehicles. Humber followed suit but ended motorcycle production, while AJS diversified into sidecars and even radios.
Ariel closed its doors, but they opened again after Jack Sangster, son of company founder, Charles, bought it.
Ferocious competition forced down prices. Cash-strapped customers were also tempted by the widespread adoption of credit deals, generally known as the ‘never-never’.
Ariel, BSA, Douglas, Triumph and JAP took stands at the New York show but of the surviving Americans only Indian made it to Olympia. Harley and Excelsior arranged displays at London dealers’ showrooms to coincide with the show, as did a number of cash-strapped British marques including Ascot-Pullin, Dot, NUT, Royal Ruby and SOS. Excelsior’s line-up included the Henderson four and inside Olympia the Indian stand featured the Indian-4 (based on the ACE design which in turn was based on the Henderson… the contracting US industry was as incestuous as the British industry would be a few decades later). Annual US motorcycle exports totalled 10,200, compared with 38,000 a decade earlier.
In any case the stately American fours were blown into the Olymipian weeds by not one but two limelight-stealing limey fours. From Ariel came the 500cc ohc Square Four; Matchless matched it with the 600cc ohc V4 Silver Hawk, which also boasted cantilever rear suspension. The oh-so-promising Silver Hawk, despite an incredibly advanced specification, would last only a few years and no more than 500 were made. But the Squariel, as an ohc 500 and 600, and later as an ohv 1,000, would be in production for nigh on 30 years. Brough got into the four-pot act with a Swiss side-valve in-line Motosacoche engine.
From Montgomery came the Greyhound with a JAP ohv 500cc lump. Other show highlights included another innovative Ariel, this time a four-valve 500 single with its engine leaning forward by 60º (and designated a ‘sloper’, as distinct from the 30º ‘inclined’ models); a cut-price cammy Velo, the KTP, with coil ignition; a roadgoing version of OK Supreme’s unit-construction racer (known as the ‘lighthouse’ for its distinctive vertical camshaft drive); and a brace of Triumphs fitted with pressed-steel covers for the crankcase/gearbox assembly to give them the fashionable ‘clean’ look.
The show was open for six days, one fewer than 1929, but the 106,000 gate was about the same as the previous year.
The Paris show featured a trio of in-line, shaft-drive fours from Train (496cc, with fan-assisted cooling), Motoconfort (499/749cc) and Chaise (498cc). Italy, Germany and Belgium also staged major shows.
Britain could fairly claim to be at the forefront of the global motorcycling industry but at the start of the new decade there was no shortage of strong competition from France (Peugeot, Terrot, Rene-Gillet); Germany (BMW, DKW, D-Rad, NSU, Zundapp); Belgium (FN, Sarolea); Italy (Bianchi, Gilera, Moto Guzzi); Austria (Puch); and Switzerland (Motosacoche, which also sold engines under the MAG banner). As in Britain, there were also plenty of small concerns trying to survive the global recession.
Rudge, having spent a great deal of money on developing its four-valve racers, ran into financial difficulties. To bring in more cash it went into the proprietary engine business, offering its four-valve engines under the Python banner to compete with JAP, Sturmey-Archer, Blackburne and MAG.
The ACU introduced a contract that was to be signed by all speedway riders and promoters “which contains absolutely no loopholes, leaks or undesirable exits through which a promoter – or rider – can wriggle”. At the same time the ACU took over the running of the league from the northern and southern promoters’ associations. It rejected a proposal to introduce a betting ‘tote’, fearing gambling would lead to corruption, and the new ruling body lost no time in banning women from the sport, possibly because they had shown themselves extremely good at it.
A speedway meeting was staged at an unlicensed track to the south of Manchester. Riders wore facemasks to avoid identification; thousands of fans broke down the fence to avoid paying the entrance fee; bookmakers plied their trade. Following an ACU inquiry a dozen riders lost their licences, 22 unlicensed riders were banned from applying for licences and the officials at the meeting were suspended.
Aussie star Vic Huxley won seven English speedway championships on his Rudge to become the most successful rider in the country. England took on Australia in a five-match series with the final at Wembley. It poured with rain causing a rash of crashes; England beat the inventors of the sport by 49 to 45. JAP introduced a new line of speedway motors.
The AA published a list of sites in Surrey where nightingales were to be heard, including times of likely performances. Less attractive was an epidemic of snakes in Essex, they were even spotted wriggling across the Southend arterial road.
A thousand tons of rock overhanging a road in North Wales were removed as the overhang was considered likely “to become a dangerous avalanche at embarrassingly short notice”.
A Hampshire farmer used his motor cycle to draw a plough and found it much quicker than dear old Dobbin.
The first Puch arrived in Britain: a 250cc two-stroke twin with the pistons mounted on a single Y-shaped conrod and a single combustion chamber.
The chief constable of Newcastle advocated the use of motorcycle patrolmen to control traffic.
Norwegian adventurer Major Tryggve Gran planned to reach the South Pole on a motor cycle.
There was a record entry for the Arbuthnot Trophy Trial, for serving Senior Service officers. The Motor Cycle’s correspondent said: “It is an axiom that there is no finer sporting event in the whole motor cycle calendar…as usual there were no observers (every competitor reports his own stops, generally adding caustic comments about his riding ability).” Overall winner was Midshipman RS Hawkins on a 600cc Panther.
France hosted the the ISDT which was based in Grenoble, France and passed into the Italian Alps. There were 85 competitors including 44 Brits, seven of them women, taking on teams from Belgium, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Following a series of crashes on French Alpine tracks Italy took the Trophy and France took the Vase. FP Dickson of the Brough Superior works team died of complications following a poorly treated smashed ankle. George Brough suffered a broken leg in a head-on crash with a car while riding to fetch help.
Sunbeam, known for exquisite engineering and finish, came up with an economy model to suit the gloomy economic environment following the Wall Street Crash. The Lion used the established longstroke 492cc sv lump: cost cutting measures included a lighter clutch and lack of the secondary chain oilbath. A chrome tank (in place of Sunbeam’s usual black with gold coachstripes) bore the lion-rampant logo of its parent company, ICI.
Dunelt staged an ACU-observed test of an ohv 500. It was ridden non-stop for 16 days and nights round the TT course (apart from Sundays, of course), covering 13,199 miles in foul weather, including blizzards, fog, rain and ice; and not just ice on the road, it had to be hacked from the machine. Average speed was 34.8mph including all stops.
The TT was gaining great international media attention: for the first time the BBC broadcast part of the Senior. The Brits clearly weren’t scared of foreign competition. For the first time the Isle of Man authorities put £5,000 into the TT kitty, of which £3,500 was earmarked to subsidise the costs of overseas entrants and entries were duly received from 19 countries, including the first Japanese competitor. Tada Kenzo took 40 days to reach the Island, spent a month learning the course and rode his Velo to a respectable 15th place in the Junior. Rudge four-valve singles ridden by Tyrell-Smith, Ernie Nott and Graham Walker romped home 1st, 2nd and 3rd (Nott set a lap record of 72.27mph) even though the radial-valve 350cc engine was so new that only one prototype had been run, on the bench, before the team headed for the Island. When scrutineers checked the engines following the race all three were found to have cracked pistons and two had broken valve springs.
Rudge’s pent-roof 500s were better developed. Tyrell-Smith’s mount dropped out with ignition problems but his team-mates, Wal Handley (who had borrowed a Rudge from Jim Whalley after his FN failed to turn up) and Graham Walker, finished 1st and 2nd in the Senior; Handley raised the lap record to 76.28mph. It would be the final solo TT win for an ohv engine. Riding through torrential rain they saw off strong opposition from the Sunbeam team led by double TT winner Charlie Dodson and the Norton trio of Stanley Woods, Jimmy Simpson and Tim Hunt. The Nortons were powered by a revamped cammy engine designed by Arthur Carroll that would become an icon for Norton’s racing prowess. The Lightweight event provided Jimmy Guthrie with his first TT win, aboard an AJS.
But it was Rudge’s year. Walker won the Dutch and German GPs—Rudges were 1st and 2nd in the German, Dutch and Ulster rounds; Smith and Nott won the 500 and 350cc European championships. In the first Senior Manx Grand Prix, which replaced the Amateur TT, Rudges won the Senior and came 1st and 2nd in the Junior. However, Norton 500s won the French and Ulster GPs, covered 300 miles in three hours at Montlhery and covered a record 108.60 miles in an hour. A 350 Norton set a record at 104.52 miles. Elsewhere on the Continent Norton, AJS, Sunbeam, Velocette and OK continued to do their stuff, against stiff competition from the likes of Motosacoche, Guzzi and Bianchi (for the record one race winning Guzzi rider was named Truzzi).
Reliability trials, in which the main thing was to finish, were the earliest of all motorcycle competitions. But trials had evolved into specialist events and the sport had grown so much that the Manufacturers and Traders Union decided to restrict its support to a dozen events a year, not least to put a financial cap on spiralling riders’ bonus payments.
A petrol pump was put on display in the Science Museum at South Kensington.
Following the installation of automatic traffic lights at Ludgate Circus Lodoners were promised more lights at the junctions of Cannon and Queen Victoria Streets and Moorgate and London Wall.
Negotiations were under way to remove Lancashire’s one remaining tollbridge, at Warburton.
Oleaginous Spanish boffins (‘hatto numero octo’ in local parlance) were experimenting with olive oil as an alternative to imported mineral oil.
Relieved legislators in the state of Pensylvannia reported no increase in traffic accidents despite raising the speed limit to a heady 40mph.
As part of its campaign to promote the ‘Everyman’ motorcycle “to appeal to the man in the street” The Motor Cycle organised a trial of utility machines with £500 in prizes. Areas to be tested were reliability, braking, hillclimbing, weather protection, silencing, stability, ease of starting, ease of handling, simplicity of control, external cleanliness, luggage-carrying capacity, speed, comfort, flexibility, service intervals, ease of maintenance, tools, vulnerability, appearance, lighting and warning devices. There was to be a special award for “the novelty in design best calculated to popularise the motor cycle as a touring mount”. The judges were to include “Everyman officials” with no experience of motorcycling. Everyman contenders included Ariel, Francis-Barnett, New Hudson, New Imperial, Panther and Raleigh.
Beta Manufacturing of Shipley came up with a fuel tap incorporating a combination lock.
JAC supplied 1,200cc flat twins as escorts for the Japanese emperor.
UK traffic fatalities topped 7,300.
The Motor Cycle Buyers’ Guide reported each factory listed an average of 5.33 models, priced from £20-160.
New Hudson launched a revamped line of motorcycles, but as the Depression bit deeper there were few buyers.
IN Czechoslovakia CZ made its first motorcycle.
The Road Traffic Act did away with overall speed limits.
In Germany Sachs produced its first motorcycles. In Austra Puch developed a supercharged racer.
Three years after revival of the veran car run the Sunbeam MCC staged the first Pioneer Run to Brighton.
Killen Tire was granted GB patent for tubeless tires
Chrome plating had spread over the Atlantic to tart up British motorcycles. It was shinier than nickel plate and much easier to keep clean; before long exhausts and control levers were routinely chromed on all but utility models.
The Newmount certainly sounded British but its H-section frame members gave away its Continental origin; it was actually a Zundapp renamed for the British market.
Nylon paved the way to waterproof (but sweaty) wet-weather gear.
Introduction of the Road Traffic Act and The Highway Code. The overall
20mph speed limit was abolished, but the minimum riding age rose from 14 to 16.
A Schoolboy’s Lament
“I wonder if I may encroach on your valuable space to air a grievance? Why should schoolboys who own motor cycles have to take out a licence either yearly or quarterly when they only get four month’s holiday in the year – a month at Christmas and Easter and two months in the summer? And as it is not a complete calendar month, they cannot get a refund on a complete month without great inconvenience. Compulsory insurance will be the last straw! Surely the authorities could arrange for licences and insurance forms to be issued for a complete holiday? It would be a much more satisfactory arrangement. ”
FLOREAT CAMPERDOWNIA, Berks.