With the roadtax system weighted in favour of 250s they now accounted for a third of all motorcycle registrations. The tough economic climate also led many manufacturers to drop high priced large-capacity models. Coventry-Eagle, for example, whose 988cc JAP-powered Flying 8 had challenged the BruffSup SS100, now majored on an advanced 250, the Silent Pullman Two-Seater. Available as a (Villiers) twostroke or (Blackburne) fourstroke, the Pullman featured full enclosure with a a leafsprung monocoque frame.
Understandably, after its traumatic 1934 experience, Husqvarna stayed away from the TT so Stanley Woods rode 250 and 500cc Moto Guzzis. He won the Lightweight TT comfortably, ahead of Tyrell-Smith and Nott’s Rudges. For the Senior TT Woods, on the 120º V-twin Guzzi, was ready and willing to take on the all-conquering Nortons. Jimmy Guthrie and Walter Rusk were running first and second on their Nortons when Woods passed Rusk and, making do with one rather than the customary two fuel stops, snatched victory from Guthrie by just 4sec with a bone-dry fuel tank, setting a new TT lap record of 86.53mph. It could hardly have been closer, but for the first time since the Indian
hat-trick in 1911 a foreign bike had won the Senior. Historical footnote: TT innovations included allowing riders to warm up their engines before the race; the employment of travelling marshals; and the use of the Manx flag, rather than the Union flag, to start the races.
The Guzzi twin’s Senior TT win did not weaken Norton race chief Joe Craig’s faith in his singles. After all, Nortons had registered another hat trick in the Junior, and following the TT Jimmy Guthrie went to Montlhery where his dope-fuelled cammy Norton exceded 114mph. At the Manx GP (which was, for the first time, designated the Grand Prix of Europe) Guthrie averaged 90.98mph on his way to a Senior victory, setting a world racing record.
By way of contrast DKW’s entry for the German GP was a 500cc double-split-single two-stroke twin with an extra supercharging cylinder, giving a total of five pistons. One Brit at the GP reported: “Everywhere there are Nazi swastikas. Everybody seems to be somebody important.” Germany had an exotic bike and facist organisation; Jimmy Guthrie had a Norton one-lunger and British pluck so of course the Norton won, followed home by a Husqvarna ridden by Ragnar Sunqvist, now comfortably sans appendix. The highest placed German bike was Karl Gall’s blown Beemer.
Stanley Woods rode a Husqvarna to victory in the Swedish GP.
OEC, already using hub-centre steering, took the next step with the Whitwood Monocar. Outrigger wheels swung up as the plywood-bodied car got under way; engines ranged from a 250cc Villiers to a 750cc JAP V-twin. The Monocar, complete with its windscreen and steering wheel, was a flop; it was a solution in need of a problem.
After years with no national speed limit a 30mph urban limit came into force, as did a riding/driving test for all new applicants (though anyone who had held a licence before April 1934 was allowed to keep it under ‘grandfathers’ rights’). Provisional licence holders were required to display red L-plates.
Harry Nash’s New Imperial, fitted with a light-ally flyscreen and engine enclosure, snatched the flying-kilometre world record at 70.1mph.
A BSA director returned from a German industrial show with dire tales of Nazi militarisation. BSA responded by getting back to their Small Arms roots. Gunmaking machinery mothballed since 1918 was cleaned up and put to work; before long part of the Small Heath plant was busy making rifles and machine guns.
Vincent launched its own 500cc engine, a high-camshaft single designed by Phil Irving. in three versions: the 80mph Meteor, 90mph Comet and the 100mph TT Model. When a factory tester on a tuned Vincent-HRD Comet did over 110mph the magistrate didn’t believe a bike could go that fast and dismissed the charge.
Rudge came up with a trials/scrambles version of its four-valve Ulster based on the bike Bob McGregor rode to victory in the Scottish Six Days Trial.
The ISDT was back in Germany. Germany’s Trophy team, including Ernst Henne, was mounted on supercharged 500cc BMWs with telescopic forks; DKW’s factory roadracing team rode 250s as the Vase team. One Beemer was relying on tyre patches to slow the oil leak from a smashed rocker and the Jawa-mounted Czech team was on the point of victory when a dropped valve left the Germans to win again. Edyth Foley (497cc Zundapp) and Marjorie Cottle (348cc BSA) rode for Britain; the highly experienced Cottle had to drop out when her Beeza went up in flames.
Ernst Henne raised the world flying kilometre record yet again, hurtling along the Frankfurt Autobahn on the blown 750cc BMW at 159.10mph. BMW roadsters appeared with oil-damped telescopic forks and a London distributor was appointed.
Taking centre stage at the Olympia show was a 500cc V4 AJS – essentialy four chain-driven ohc singles mounted on a common crank.
Pratts petrol was rebranded Esso (for Standard Oil).
Harley Davidson dealer Earl Robinson crossed the USA from NY to LA on a Harley 45 flathead (thats a 750cc sidevalve in English) in a record breaking 78hr 54min. Then he did it again on a combo with his wife Dot in 89hr 58min to set another record. They were both successful in long-distance trials; Dot later co-founded the Motor Maids of America.
Knobbly tyres and other modifications had made trial bikes so good that courses had to be made tougher and tougher to give riders sufficient challenge. Some hill sections were now regarded as dangerous. The ACU hosted conferences where manufacturers, riders and organisers had their say on the sport’s evolution. The Colmore Cup was the first national trial to ban knobblies and within three years every major trial had a ‘standard tyres only’ rule. Inevitably the tyre manufacturers offered tyres that were as knobbly as possible within the rules.
Italy and Germany declared all motorcycles free of roadtax – and Italian motorcyclists wouldn’t even need driving licences. There were 227 models from 48 marques at the Milan show.
Motorcycle sporting events at Easter included track racing, sprinting, grasstrack, speedway, trials, hillclimbing, sandracing and scrambles. Highlights included a sprint at Gatwick Racecourse in which Eric Fernihough and his blown 996cc BruffSup broke the 12sec barrier with an 11.72sec standing quarter.
King George V’s Silver Jubilee led to countless press reviews of his 25-year reign. The Blue ’Un’s contribution was a review of the 1910 Olympia show, with a reassuring list of marques that had exhibited there and were still in business. They included: AJS (albeit under Matchless ownership), Ariel, BSA, Calthorpe, Douglas, Excelsior, FN, James, JAP, Matchless, Montgomery, New Hudson, Norton, OK, Panther, Royal Enfield, Rudge, Scott, Triumph and Zenith.
Colonel TE Lawrence (of Arabia) died after swerving his Brough Superior SS100 to avoid an errand boy’s bicycle. Another motorcycle accident took the life of Norton designer Arthur Carrol.
Noel Pope lapped Brooklands at 120.59mph on a 996cc JAP-Brough Superior. As well as breaking the 118.86mph record that had been set by Joe Wright in 1929, Pope collected the first BMRC Super Award for a two-miles-a-minute lap. Within two months the record was broken again. The bike was another blown Brough but the pilot was Eric Fernihough.
The 750cc ohv V-twin Beeza Y13 bridged the gap between two well established V-twins: the pretty little ohv 500cc J12 and the 1,000cc sv G14 which was primarily aimed at the heavy sidecar sector (BSA offered a range of tradesmen’s sidecars alongside its sports and saloon chairs).
The 1,000cc ohv Squariel joined, and soon superseded, the cammy 600.
For the first time since before the Great War Velocette entered the 500cc roadster market. The cobby high-cam ohv MSS was a natural development of the 250cc MOV and 350cc MAC.
With more than 500,000 vehicles laid up for the fourth quarter the Blue ’Un called for roadtax to be replaced by increased fuel taxes.
The Japanese Automobile Manufacturing Law excluded foreign companies and foreign capital. The government said: “The motor vehicle industry is of major importance both forindustry and national defense. Entrusting this industry to the control of foreigners is unthinkable.” Tohatsu was nominated as the sole manufacturer of small petrol engines to the Japanese military and developed a range of rotary-valved twostrokes ranging from 48-248cc. Rukuo began production of Harleys under licence for supply to the Japanese military.
Poland made a late entry into large-scale motorcycle manufacture with the launch of SHL, which specialised in Villiers-powered lightweights.
WD thinking had swung back from twins to singles and another seven-marque shootout was arranged, this time involving Ariel, BSA, Matchless,New Imperial, Norton, Royal Enfield and Triumph. Orders were placed for the Norton 16H and Matchless G3, then BSA replaced its unsuccessful W35/6 with the M20.
The driving (and riding) test was introduced, initisally on a voluntary basis to avoid a logjam when it became compulsory. The first person to pass the new test was Mr Beene.
Cats eyes made night riding much safer. Inventor Percy Shaw came up with the idea after following the reflection from tramlines. And, as every schoolboy knows, if the cat had been facing the other way he would have invented a pencil sharpener.