New Triumph MD Edward Turner dropped the Val Page 6/1 vertical twin in favour of his own 500cc design. It was initially catalogued as the Model T but became famous as the 5T Speed Twin. The 26hp ohv engine weighed only a few pounds more than the 500cc Tiger 90 one-lunger and slotted neatly into the Tiger 90 frame. Its success hastened the post-war move to vertical twins.
Triumph Tiger 70 (250), 80 (350) and 90 (500) singles were taken to Donington where they lapped at peak revs in each of their four gears. They moved onto Brooklands under ACU supervision where the 70, 80 and 90 lapped at 66.39, 74.68 and 82.31mph respectively, winning Triumph the Maudes Trophy.
Norton developed a 499cc double-knocker with ‘garden gate’ plunger rear suspension to supersede its 490cc ohc world-beater but, like the dohc Velo, it had teething problems.
In the Senior TT the dohc Velocette was once again ridden by the redoubtable Stanley Woods while the blown BMW was ridden by TT veteran Jock West. Jimmy Guthrie’s Norton dropped out with mechanical problems near the Gooseneck but his team-mate Freddie Frith put in the first 90mph TT lap to draw level with Woods’ Velo. West’s BMW dropped out with a split fuel tank and Frith beat Woods by 14sec. So a Norton won but Velocette took the manufacturer’s prize. In the Junior it was business as usual for Norton with Messrs Guthrie, Frith and White scoring yet another hat trick. And in the Lightweight Omobono Tenni became the first Italian to win a TT (on a Moto Guzzi, setting a lap record of 77.72mph) after Woods’ Guzzi let him down on the last lap. Ginger Woods’ Excelsior ran Tenni a close second with Ernie Thomas third aboard a DKW.
Just a week later at the Dutch TT Guthrie’s Norton dropped out again, but this time Karl Gall’s blown BMW stood the pace to take 500cc honours. Velos were first and second in the 350cc class but a DKW led the 250s, ahead of Tyrell-Smith’s Excelsior Manxman.
At the German GP Harold Daniell and Crasher White gave Norton 1st and 2nd in the 350 race. In the 500 class Freddie Frith’s bike was misfiring but Jimmy was on course to beat the BMWs on their home ground when, within a mile of the flag, his Norton’s rear wheel spindle snapped. Guthrie was thrown off and killed.
BMW did not compete in the French GP, where Ted Mellors rode cammy Velos to victory in the 350 and 500cc races. But at the Ulster GP Jock West won the 500cc class for BMW (as a mark of respect for Jimmy Guthrie Norton did not enter) with Velocette and DKW taking 350 and 250cc honours.
British rearmament blew away the final cobwebs of recession and if few workers could afford cars they could certainly afford bikes. By year’s end 20% of all traffic was running on two wheels.
The British Aircraft Company took over the Douglas works to fill a contract for aircraft engines. But the contract fell through so limited motorcycle production continued under an exclusive retail deal with Pride and Clarke.
Eric Fernihough and his blown Brough went back to Hungary for another go at the flying kilometre record and this time he succeeded, by the narrowest of margins, with a two-way average of 169.79mph. Then a chair was bolted on and Ferni, an outfit novice, set another world record at 137.11mph.
Fully enclosed projectiles were becoming de rigeur for record breaking. The blown dohc Rondine/Gilera 500 was thus equipped when Piero Taruffi rode it into the history books with a two-miles-a-minute hour record of 121.23mph. Then he went after Fernihough’s record and managed 170.37mph. So he was quicker, but not quicker enough because the FICM rules demanded an improvement of at least 0.5mph to set a new record.
Henne settled the resulting row by setting a new kilometre record of 173.67mph on the blown 500 BMW – for good measure he also set new 500, 750 and 1,000cc flying-start records at one mile, five miles and 5km. At which point Herr Henne retired. His record would stand for 14 years.
Following Britain’s convincing victory in 1936 the ISDT moved back to Llandridnod Wells. The difference in organisation between Nazi Germany and democratic Britain could hardly have been more extreme. The previous year a hapless youth on a tradesman’s sidecar outfit who strayed onto the course and crashed into a British competitor was hauled off to an uncertain fate by Swastika-armbanded brownshirts. British law did not allow public roads to be closed and for no clear reason the ACU brought the date forward to July, at the height of the holiday season. As well as cars and charabancs bemused Continental riders had to avoid ramblers, livestock and dogs. Again it was a two-horse race between the Brits and the Jerries and again the Brits won, albeit by the narrowest of margins.
The Arbuthnot Trophy Trial, set up for serving officers in the Royal Navy, was finally opened to ‘other ranks’.
Low Temperature Carbonisation Ltd opened a factory able to produce 12 million gallons of oil and petrol and year from coal. The company claimed to be able to meet 1% of Britain’s oil and petrol needs.
In the peak month of July 15,286 motorcycles were registered in Germany. In line with the under-200cc roadtax examption, 77% of them were lightweights.
The Law Society took action against lawyers who were using ‘touts’ to contact road accident victims.
Some 75% of British bikes were supplied with four-speed transmission, up from 50% in 1935. In the same period footchange usage rose from 24 to 65%. Nearly 10% were unit construction and 1.3% featured gear primary drive.
Speedometers were required on all new vehicles.
The Motor Cycle’s Buyers’ Guide listed every marque on the British market: AJS, AJW, Ariel, BSA, BMW, Brough Superior, Calthorpe, Chater-Lea, Cotton, Coventry Eagle, Cyc-Auto, Douglas, Excelsior, Federation (made by the Co-operative Wholesale Society), Francis Barnett, Harley Davidson, Indian, James, Levis, Matchless, Montgomery, New Imperial, New Gerrard, Norton, OEC, OK Supreme, Panther, Rudge, Royal Enfield, Scott, SOS, Stevens, Sunbeam, Triumph, Velocette, Vincent-HRD, Wolf and Zenith.
The short reign of Edward VIII is of no interest to us as he took no interest in motorcycles. But when he abdicated to marry an American divorcee he was replaced by his Brother George VI who, while still Prince of York, had owned a Douglas and sponsored Brooklands ace SE Wood.
A correspondent in the Blue ‘Un presented evidence that the idea of white lines on roads was first mooted by a chap named Scantlebury in 1920.. The plan called for foot-wide strips of white stone to be set into the road surface.
Dipped headlights were introduced; speedometers were made compulsory.
The Metropolitan police were instructed to warn motorists for minor infringements instead of automatically prosecuting every offender.
Ixion noted that the German motorcycle parc had grown from 610,000 in 1929 to 936,000 in 1934 (up 53.4%) while the British parc had fallen from 732,000 to 548,000 in the same period (down 25.1%). Britain still accounted for 60% of global motorcycle exports but Germany had become the world’s leading user of motorcycles. PS Ixion also revealed that he had picked up his first speeding ticket after 40 years and 750,000 miles.
Motoring defendant in the Highgate police court: “The car had a certain momentum. You see, I had come from Willesden.”
A German firm won a £600,000 contract to build a coal-from-oil plant in Manchuko.
More than 400 former Royal Engineers dispatch riders and friends attended their seventh annual reunion. As usual there was a ‘silent toast’ to the fallen..
The Ministry of Labour warned the ACU that foreign speedway riders would no longer be allowed unless they were “essential to the continuance of a track”.
There were 140 exhibitors at the Milan Show but centrestage was snatched by the only British bike – a 1,000cc Squariel. Also on display were an Italan-made replica of an Ariel single called the Astra; Italian-made Matchless engines called the Mercury range; and lots of bikes featuring British engines. BMW’s stand led on its new 600cc ohv R6 with hydraulic teles; Belgium was there with Gillets and FNs. The Italian Dei range was popular – with engines by JAP; lots of Italian bikes also featured Amal carbs and Burman boxes. The CM was an all-Italian sportster with an inclined 490cc ohc single featuring hairpin valve springs and a four-speed box. Simplex and Bianchi offered sprung frames but there were no new Guzzis and only minor updates to the Gileras and Benellis.
The Nazis loved parades. ‘Herr Hitler’ opened the Berlin show, which wass heralded by a parade of racing bikes and cars along a five-mile route lined by 10,000 members of the NSK (Nationalsozialistisches Kraftfahrkorps: National Socialist Driver Corps). “German design pleases, yet disappoints,” was the Blue ’Un’s view. On display were 10 German marques and one Austrian. With no insurance, and no licences for bikes under 200cc Germany had registered 125,131 bikes (not counting military/government orders and powered bicycles) in 1936; two-thirds of them under 200cc. There was plenty of sound engineering on show but little innovation – cheap lightweights were selling like warme kuchen so manufacturers were content to keep the tills ringing. Coil ignition was almost universal and while spring frames were few and far between many bikes sported saddles with adjustable springing.
The Brooklands authorities clearly weren’t too bothered about attracting paying customers because many race meetings were held on Wednesday afternoons when the vast majority of enthusiasts were busy earning a crust. So there was only a small crown to see Wal Handley, who had retired from racing two years previously, ride into the record books on a BSA M24 Empire Star. BSA wasn’t known for its racers but this 497cc ohv iron-engined single, running on alcohol with a 13:1 compression ratio, lapped at 107.6mph to win the Allcomers Handicap and a Brooklands Gold Star. Within weeks BSA launched an all-alloy model based on Handley’s race winner: the Gold Star. Over the next 25 years it would shine brightly as a racer, scrambler, trials iron and super sports roadster.
The British Motor Cycle Association was concerned by the strength of public prejudice against motorcycles and motorcyclists. Asserting that “the motor cyclist handles his mount with greater skill than any other type of road user” the BMCA issued (for five bob a year) machine badges indicating the number of years the rider had escaped prosecution for any motoring offences
Frank Aspin of Bury, Lancs patented an engine “of original type for which phenomenal performance is being claimed”. The Blue ’Un examined the drawings and components and confirmed “the soundness of the ideas”. We now know that a conicawl rotary valvbe replaced conventional valve gear; it could be set up as a twostroke or fourstroke. The 250cc Aspin engine (converted from a Rudge Lightweight TT model) was safe up to 10,000rpm and had been run for 280hr at 8-11,000rpm. It weighed 48lb (including the 18lb flywheel needed with a compression ratio up to 13:1 on petrol or 17:1 with special fuels ) and developed 27hp which matched a contemporary racing 500 [or indeed my 1953 plunger ‘Flash – Ed]. Velocette tried it with little success. Aspin technology was applied to car, bus and truck engines but despite 30 year’s development and more patents overheating of the valve rotor and high oil consumption were never fully cured.
The petrol-starved militaristic Japanese government banned motorcycle clubs. They also ramped up the import duty on motorcycles by more than 700%.
News from Japan: One Soichiro Honda set up in business manufacturing piston rings.Import duty on motor cycles rose by more than 700%. Meguro, already well known in Japan for proprietary enfines, built its first bike, the ohv, 13hp 500cc Type 97. Miyata was producing 5hp 175cc two-strokes and Suzuki, still busy making looms, looked at the lightweight car market but the Japanese military government had banned all ‘non-essential commodoties’. Miyata set up a dealership in occupied Shanghai. There’s cheek.