HITLER PROMISED that within 18 months Germany would no longer need to import petrol and that within four years it would be making enough synthetic rubber to meet its needs. There were sustained calls for similar moves in Britain where it was said our vast coal reserves could have made us self-sufficient in fuel. If only.
NO LIMIT, starring motorcycling ukulele maestro George Formby, featured footage from the 1935 TT. In the film our George built and rode the Shuttleworth Snap, which was actually a 1935 350 AJS. All together now: “La la la la la-la going to the Teeee Teeee ra-ces”. Great song, great movie in which Formby punches a bullying motor cycle racer in the snoot.
WITH MUSSOLINI’S fascist forces attacking medieval Abyssinia the British government did not want Moto Guzzis anywhere near the Island so Stanley Woods rode for Velocette in the Junior and Senior races. Having become used to the spring-frame Guzzis he must have appreciated Velo’s innovative air sprung, hydraullically damped ‘pivoting fork’ (swinging arm) frame. Velocette also introduced a dohc setup but a cam-drive failure put Woods out of the race on the first lap of the Junior which was won for Norton by TT debutante Freddie Frith. Jimmy Guthrie was running third when his Norton threw its chain. He replaced it and carried on but on the sixth lap he was stopped by officials and excluded for outside assistance. He vehemently denied this and rode on to finish fifth. The ACU relented and gave him the runners-up trophy—but in the final placings he was placed 5th behind the Nortons of Frith and ‘Crasher’ White and the Velos of Mellors and Thomas.
IN THE SENIOR Woods rode a blinder for Velocette, setting a new lap record at 86.98mph, but a furious Guthrie rode like a demon to win by an 18-second nose. Frith, having graduated to the TT from winning the previous year’s Manx GP, came third to help keep Norton on top.
WOODS WAS OUT again in the Lightweight on a DKW, but after leading for most of the race his Deek died with lack of sparks, leaving Bob Foster to win for New Imperial, but only after company founder and MD Norman Downs cancelled a scheduled pitstop to take on oil. The New Imp had a notorious thirst for oil; Foster didn’t call his mount the Flying Pig Trough for nothing. Foster was followed home by Tyrell-Smith’s Excelsior and Woods’ DKW team-mate Arthur Geiss.It was the last TT win by a British 250 and the last solo TT win by an ohv engine. Foster was a newlywed; his bride’s reaction to her TT honeymoon destination is not recorded.
GILERA BOUGHT the blown, transverse-four, oil-cooled ohc Rondine and began to devlop it for road racing. Like the Ajay the Rondine was powerful and complex; also like the Ajay, its speed was not yet matched by its reliablility.
JIMMY GUTHRIE and his Norton were back at the Nurburgring for the German GP, where 240,000 spectators were busy exchanging Nazi salutes and cheering on the blown DKWs. Two Deeks were hard on Guthrie’s heels when they made a disastrous pitstop. One rider took off his radiator cap and got a face-full of steam. He understandably dropped his bike, which knocked over the other DKW. So Norton had an easy 500cc win and Freddy Frith gave Norton a 350cc win. To complete the Brits’ day, Tyrell-Smith’s Excelsior beat off the Benellis and DKWs to take 250cc honours.
OBSCURE BUT true: for the first time all automotive bulbs had to be marked with their wattage, and for some reason headlights over 7W had to be turned off as soon as the bike stopped moving.
TRIUMPH DECIDED its future lay in car production and was on the brink of killing off Triumph motorcycles when the rights to the name were snapped up by Jack Sangster’s Ariel. With the Square Four Edward Turner had proved he could design a bike; Sangster took a chance and made him managing director of Triumph. Turner promptly put a stop to Triumph’s losses and made cosmetic changes to Val Page’s range of singles. The 250cc Tiger 70, 350cc Tiger 80 and 500cc Tiger 90 (the model numbers referred to their top speeds) were a great success.
WEMBLEY HOSTED the first speedway World Individual Riders’ Championship sanctioned by the FICM (now known as the FIM). The final left Lionel van Praag and Eric Langton with 26 points apiece; van Praag took the tie-breaker by the narrowest of margins to win the trophy and a purse of £500.
THE FIRST motorcycles raced at the new Crystal Palace track in sunny South London.
ERIC FERNIHOUGH took his his run-on-a-shoestring Bruffsup to Gyon, Hungary to set a flying-mile record at 163.82mph, for which he earned a bonus of £25. But he couldn’t match Henne’s kilometre world record.
BACK HOME ‘Ferni’ won the 350cc class at the Brighton Speed trials with an Excelsior-JAP. Back on his usual Bruff-Sup he also won the unlimited solo and sidecar classes, setting a half-mile record of exactly 90mph. He subsequently added to his record tally with an 86.92mph lap of Brooklands on a 175.
ERNST HENNE, riding a torpedo-shaped projectile built round a 500cc blown Beemer flat twin, screamed along a kilometre of new autobahn at 180.97mph. A headwind slowed his return run but the world-record 169.41mph two-way average was a clear 10mph faster than he’d achieved with the unenclosed 750.
THE GOVERNMENT, in desperate need of funds to re-arm, decided roadtax no longer had to be spent on the roads. Like income tax, this was a measure taken to deal with an emergency; motorcyclists riding over our crumbling infrastructure are still complaining about it.
AT LEAST SOME of the diverted Road Fund would be spent on motorcycles: the Army was keen to standardise on a bike to replace its V-twin Beezas, sidevalve Triumphs and flat-twin Douglases so BSA, Norton and Rudge were invited to submit machines for a 10,000-mile evaluation. Norton’s well-proven 500cc sidevalve 16H won the day and 100 were immediately ordered to equip troops en route to Palestine. The war office decided a lightweight was need for training and selected a 250cc Matchless.
AS THE FIRST step towards establishing a national road system the Trunk Roads Act transferred responsibility for 4,500 miles of main roads from local authorities to the Ministry of Transport. But with more than 1,400 independent road authorities looking after 180,000 miles of roads there was a long way to go.
TRANSPORT MINISTER Hore-Belisha noted that 500 motorised vehicles had been registered ever day since he took office two years before (a total of some 183,000). He announced plans to ban L-riders from taking pillion passengers and appointed a corps of Divisional Accident Officers to investigate accidents. They were all experienced road users; at least one rode a motorcycle to work.
THE BRITISH Motor Cycle Association drafted a Motor Cyclists’ Grand Charter including a proposal for police courts to sit in the evenings, allowing misbehaving motorcyclists to face the music without the added penalty of losing pay by attending court. Its case was put to the Home Secretary by Captain Strickland MP who, as a committee member of the BMCA, gave motorcyclists a voice in Parliament. But to no avail: the courts remained firmly closed outside office hours.
A FRENCH RAILWAY company was using a fleet of 250cc combos set up to run on road and rail for track inspections.
A COAL-TO-PETROL plant opened at Erith, Kent. Each ton of coal was said to produce 15gal of petrol, 20gal of diesel and 15cwt of smokeless fuel. Japan also built a coal-to-oil plant.
THOSE PLUCKY gels Theresa Wallach and Florence Blenkiron rode a 598cc Model 100 Panther M100 outfit the length of Africa. In motorcycling sexism really isn’t an option. [The story of their adventures, The Rugged Road, is a ripping yarm; well worth tracking down.]
THERE WAS HOT competition for the long-distance award at the Watsonian Sidecar Rally, held that year at Maxstoke Castle, Warks. One stalwart clocked up 612 miles to join the fun, but he was beaten but an even stalwarter charioteer who took the long-distance award at 636 miles.
POPULAR ACCESSORIES included a pillion seat attached to the back of the sprung rider’s seat (bad news with a big old lot on your flapper bracket); an adjustable chain oiler; a hydraulic cable oiler; propstands; and matching speedometer/rev counter (or clock) from Smiths.
A CROYDON motorist convinced traffic cops he was sober enough to drive by writing his name and address backwards and performing tricks with three matches and two glasses of water. Things were less flexible in Germany, where any driver or rider involved in an accident was bloodtested for alcohol abuse.
WOOLER DESIGNED a 500cc flat four. A protoype finally appeared in 1948 but it never made it into production. [Here’s a fact know to very few: when Motor Cycle Weekly roadtested the Honda GL1000 Gold Wing in 1975 it included a diagram of the crankshaft assembly; rather than commission new artwork they retrieved the diagram drawn in 1948 to illustrate the Wooler.]
IN THE US an inner tube was marketed with a two-year ‘no-puncture’ guarantee.
THERE WERE 22,395 bikes on Kiwi roads.
THE SIX-DAY Olympia show attracted a record breaking 76,653 enthusiasts, including 31,611 on the Saturday. Not everyone could afford stand space so Pride & Clarke’s Hammersmith showroom, right next to Olympia, showcased the AJW, Calthorpe, Cotton and Douglas line-ups; the Panthers were exhibited at George Clarke’s South London depot; and the Scotts yowled at the company’s London depot on Tottenham Court Road.
ARIEL ADVERTS proclaimed that the 1,000cc ohv Square Four could do “10mph to 100 in top”—and a Squariel went to Brooklands to prove that it was no idle boast.
FANCY THAT dept: A one-armed Bradford vegetarian set an English record by covering 36,000 miles in the year on his bicycle.
VINCENT-HRD combined a brace of its Comet engines to produce the 47º V-twin Series A Rapide that was only 3½in longer than the one-lunger. The Rap was designed to take on the BruffSup SS100 with a 100mph-plus performance and “docile” manners.
THE METROPOLITAN Committee of Motorcyclists (MCM) was formed by a collection of London bike clubs “to campaign agains the increasing injustices which the motorcyclist has to bear”. These included the Police Court practice of forcing riders to pay court costs even when they were found innocent of any wrongoing—and the fact that a single copper’s allegation was usually enough ‘evidence’ to secure a conviction.
THE INIMITABLE Marjorie Cottle replaced luggage straps with “stranded braided rubber” from chest expanders fitted with wound wire hooks. A bungee by any other name.
THE ITALIAN industry was building some exquisite lightweights for road and track.
GLOUCESTERSHIRE County Council fitted some green kerbside mirrors to help cut accidents in fog.
LORD NUFFIELD denounced the “persecution” of motorists: “No matter how law abiding a motorist is, he must have luck on his side of he is to avoid trouble with the police.” He called for specialist motorists’ courts, staffed by magistrates with some knowledge of motor vehicles.
BUT NOT ALL cases were contentious. A cop giving evidence in the Highgate Police Court solemnly told the magistrate: “At the defendant’s request I showed him our stopwatches. He said, ‘Tick tock tick tock, old chap’.”
AT A DINNER to mark the centenary of roads pioneer Macadam, the great man’s great great grandson called for roads to be paved with rubber.
AT YEAR’S END 516,567 motorcycles were registered in Britain. January-October registrations were up 17% year-on-year to 49,820. Exports rose 22% to 16,399 despite tariff and currency restrictions. Leading importers of British bikes were Australia, South Africa, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. However a large batch of Triumphs went to Iraq; King Ghazi was a confirmed Triumph enthusiast.
GERMANY, BY now fully Nazified and determined to prove the might of the master race in international competitions, must have been confident about winning the ISDT on its own ground. After all, the German Trophy Team would be riding blown BMW 500s: officially the fastest motorcycle in the world. That’s hubris for you. Britain fielded three teams (there was an all-Scots Vase B-team as well as the Vase A-team) and none of the nine riders lost a single mark. In fact the Scots were faster than the English Vase A-team in the final speed trial so they took the Vase. It sat on the ACU mantlepiece alongside the reclaimed ISDT Trophy, courtesy of Vic Brittain (350 Norton), George Rowlet (AJS 350) and Stuart Waycott (500 Velo outfit). An equally well deserved gold award went to one Ken Norris, on a 350cc version of the bargain-basement Red Panther. This was Britain’s 8th ISDT victory. Germany and Switzerland had won three apiece, followed by Italy (two); Belgium and Sweden had won one apiece.
HAVING CONGRATULATED our victorious lads, the Blue ’Un said: “We doubt whether any other nation in the world could have organised the event so superbly.” Germany was putting that organisational brilliance to use in a frenzy of roadbuilding. By October 620 mies of autobahn was complete, with plans for another 3,700 miles. One transport pundit wrote: “To the German they not only make distant towns in the Fatherland accessible, but even enable him to visit neighbouring countries just for the weekend.” If only.
RUSSIA, NOT TO be caught napping, built 5,346 miles of road during the year.
DUNLOP DEVELOPED a tyre sealant fluid that proved itself in the ISDT; another ISDT innovation was the International oversuit from Barbour which was issued to the victorious British Trophy team. It was claimed to be “absolutely and utterly stormproof even in blizzard weather”; advanced features included an instant ‘zipp’ fastener and draftproof belted cuffs at ankle and wrist. .
FROM STUTTGART came the 63cc two-stroke Hartman engine unit, built into a wheel and ready to be bolted into the back of a standard bicycle with a fuel tank bolted to the downtube. It was claimed to do up to 35mph at 170mpg.
THE BMW RANGE now comprised 198, 298 and 398cc ohv singles as well as the 494cc ohv, 745cc sv and 730cc ohv flat twins.
RUDGE, NOW BACK on a sound footing, was bought by music company His Masters Voice (still in business as EMI).
AN ENGINEER proved, with the aid of graphs, that a 100mph TT average was a physical impossibility.
MANY RIDERS had been fined for trickling over the line at the new ‘Halt’ signs when the road was patently empty of all other traffic but their complaints came to nought—a High Court judge decided that signs meant just what they said. Even on an empty road every vehicle had to come to a standstill.
A FRENCH daredevil named Manneret set a 105.7mph 350cc world record on a Jonghi (the record had been held since 1930 by A Denley, who had done 104.52mph on a 350 Ajay).
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.
ANYONE WHO committed three motoring offences in New York was automatically jailed.
VAL PAGE JOINED BSA’s design department and revamped the M (sv) and B (ohv) singles, later to be joined by the 250cc C group models.
BELGIAN MANUFACTURER Socovel produced an electric motor cycle. The only controls were a twistgrip and brakes; it was powered by a 36V electric motor supplied by three 12V batteries that gave a range of 25 miles at 20mph on the flat. Not until the 21st century would advances in battery technology give electric bikes the performance and endurance to enable them to lap the mountain circuit at ton-up speeds. But in Miami, USA a filling station attendant used proven technology to build a petrol-fuelled steam bike that returned 50mpg.
AFTER 20 YEARS with Indian, Al Crocker launched a 1,000cc V-twin that blew Harley Davidson and Indian into the weeds. It was the first ohv American roadster (Indian had made a few ohv 750cc racers 10 years before). Contemporary reports claim 56hp, 110mph and an ‘all-day’ cruising speed of 90mph. Any Crocker rider who lost a race with an Indian or Harley was promised a full refund. Crockers were built to order; one with a capacity of nigh on 1,500cc. Paul Bigsby, who designed many Crocker components, recorded 128mph on his Crocker at the Muroc Dry Lake Speed Trials; a stripped-down model bored out to 1,500cc with 12.5:1 compression reportedly hit 150mph. Wartime material shortages and the low-rate/high-cost production process killed off the company within six years. About 200 were made and no more than 70 have survived into the 21st century. In 2019 one of them sold for $704,000.
HAVING IMPORTED 29 bikes “for study” Miyata was exporting 50% of its output to South America, China, India, Korea and the Dutch East Indies.