There were 12,479 convictions in England and Wales for riding or driving without third-party insurance.
The RAC handled 11,983 car breakdowns. Ignition problems were most common at 20.2%, followed by ‘axles’ (presumably including punctures) at 13.8%, accidents, at 11.6%, and ‘cylinders and pistons’ at 10%.
US motorcycle exports for January-November slumped to 6,360, from 11,032 in 1930 and 15,286 in 1928.
The roadtax system changed again, and from now on it would be based entirely on capacity rather than weight. Bikes up to 150cc paid 15s (75p); 150-250cc, £1 10s (£1.50); and over 250cc, £3 (£3). With utility 350s taxed as heavily as luxury big twins demand rose for 250s while 350s were soon being sold off at knock-down prices. Price slashing was not so much the order of the day as the order of the decade.
Major HR Watling, director of the Manufacturer’s Union, wrote: “The motorcyclist himself is a type of individual possessing personal courage, cool skill and a sound mechanical knowledge.”
One 250 summed up the dire state of the market. South London dealer Pride and Clarke was selling Red Panthers, launched the previous year at £42 10s (£42.50), for just £28 10s (£28.50). At that price they soon sold out so Pride and Clarke asked for more. Panther obliged, cutting the price even further to £27 17s 6d (£27 87.5p) including lights and tools. The factory didn’t make a penny profit but the exclusive contract kept it in business. The name of the game was survival and it worked. Panther came through the recession (which bottomed out in 1933); Pride and Clarke was still selling Red Panthers in 1939, still priced at £27 17s 6d (and it was still selling bikes more than 40 years later).
Cheap didn’t mean nasty: a Red Panther won the Maudes Trophy for ACU-observed tests at Brooklands including 115.7mpg at an average of 35.5mph, a 63.4mph flying quarter mile and two-up restarts on a 25% (1-in-4) slope – adverts promised 65mph and 115mpg. A Red Panther even competed successfully in the ISDT.
The ACU set up the Speedway Control Board. It also launched the National Rally although the inaugural event wasn’t a great success.
Rudge’s creditors called in the receivers. Road bike development continued but the race department was closed. However, the factory racers stayed in action courtesy of the Graham Walker Syndicate – a dream team comprising Walker, Ernie Nott and Tyrell-Smith. They all worked for Rudge, which gave them time off and some top spannermen.
Triumph launched a Val Page-designed 645cc ohv vertical twin called the 6/1. Using almost the same rolling chassis as the singles, it featured a bolt-on semi-unit gearbox and a rear brake that could be locked on as the new model was designed primarily for sidecar use. Primary drive was by a pair of gearwheels (the engine ran ‘backwards’), though surprisingly it lacked a foot gearchange. The 6/1 debuted at the Scarborough Rally with a sidecar designed specially for it by Harry Perrey who, like Page, had moved to Triumph from Ariel.
Having won the 1932 event Britain hosted the ISDT, which was based in Llandridnod Wells. But we weren’t to keep it because for the first time the Trophy was won by Germany (from Britain, by a single point). The victorious German Trophy riders included world record holder Ernst Henne.
The Triumph 6/1 outfit won an ISDT Silver award and went on to win a Maudes Trophy for lapping Brooklands for 500 miles in under 500 minutes.
Twostroke specialist Len Vale-Onslow’s SOS (originally for Super Onslow Special, later using the slogan So Obviously Superior) also used the watercooled Villiers lump. Fair enough; the engine was based on his design. SOS also pioneered the use of an electrically welded frame.
During the year Britain exported motorcycles and components worth £1.2 million. The top three destinations were Australia, South Africa and, rather more surprisingly, Germany where many smaller manufacturers were fitting British engines, forks and gearboxes.
During the show Maurice Schulte died. He and Siegfried Bettmann had set up Triumph; Schulte was its first managing director.
Francis Barnett followed the enclosure trend with the 249cc Villiers-powered Cruiser. Deeply valenced mudguards, legshields and engine covers placed the Cruiser in the ‘Everyman’ class of modestly powered, clean-to-use mounts. The same engine powered the enclosed Coventry Eagle Pullman (which was later available with a 250cc Blackburne fourstroke lump).
A 249cc watercooled Villiers engine powered two more enclosed models: the Excelsior D6 Viking, with the whole side of the machine enclosed; and the HRD-Vincent Model W. Yes, even Phil Vincent was looking for sales in the utility market.
Monty Saunders rode a 250cc Excelsior-JAP streamliner round Brooklands at 102.5mph. It’s a record that has never been broken and the Excelsior remains the only 250 to win a Brooklands Gold Star, awarded by the British Motor Cycle Racing Club for lapping at over 100mph.
The Lightweight TT was won by an advanced four-valve ohv 250cc Excelsior with two camshafts and a complex rocker assembly that earned it the nickname of Mechanical Marvel. Marvels were 1st and 2nd until the last lap when Wal Handley’s engine let him down leaving Syd Gleave to take top spot, ahead of Charlie Dodson’s New Imperial with CH Manders (Rudge) 3rd.
Excelsior’s celebration was spoiled by the death of works rider Frank Longman in a crash near Ramsey. He had had won the Lightweight TT in 1928.
Dorking, Surrey dealer Harry Nash sleeved down a 150cc New Imp Unit Minor to 125cc, fitted it with partial streamlining and lapped Brooklands at a shade under 73mph. Also lapping Brooklands that year was the Dynasphere monowheel, built by Douglas and the British Aluminium Co. A fascinating concept which is said to have ended its days at the bottom of a lagoon in the Brooklands sewage farm.
Having won the Junior ahead Norton team mates Hunt and Guthrie Stanley Woods did it again in the Senior, ahead of messrs Simpson, Hunt and Guthrie. He led both races from start to finish, setting race records in both classes.It was the first time a manufacturer had achieved a double hat trick.
Cammy Velos, were kept out of the top three Junior TT spots by the unaproachable Nortons, but they finished 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th. Les Archer rode one to victory in the Brooklands Hutchinson 100 race at an average 100.6mph; the first 350 to cover 100 miles in an hour in Britain.
Flashing indicators appear in the USA.
There were 257 solos and 67 outfits at the Olympia show: 36 150s, 83 250s, 43 350s, 91 500s, 28 600s, 31 1,000s and 14 models over 1,000cc. There were 205 ohv models, 66 sidevalves, 46 twostrokes and nine ohcs; 81% were singles, 16% were twins and 2% were fours. Four-speed gearboxes were fitted to 199 machines; 115 had foot gearchange; 30 had spring frames. Unit construction featured in 28 exhibits, 13 had pressed-steel frames and 24 were equipped with partial or full enclosure.
The Motor Cycle reported: “One of the most pleasing features… is the wide acceptance of the ‘Everyman’ ideal. On all sides one finds machines with their mechanism enclosed, mounts that are clean to ride and easy to clean, special silencing systems and designs that have as their keynote accessibility… One finds, too, that an increasing number of manufacturers are placing the question of engine flexibility, comfort, ease of handling, weather protection and ease of starting before all else…The day of the Everyman motorcycle has arrived.”
The BSA portfolio included Daimler cars, whence came fluid-flywheel transmission that was fitted to a Beeza 500, but it found no favour with the riding public and was stillborn.