By close of play Britain had produced 420,000 motorcycles for military use; BSA and Norton each supplied more than 100,000. The sidevalve M20s and 16H warhorses had given stirling service but Triumph had done its bit too, supplying xxxxxx military xxxxs. Now Jack Sangster won the race to resume civilian production with a postwar range. Within days of VE Day on 8 March Triumph announced a range of ohv Tiger singles topped by Edward Turner’s mouth-watering Speed Twin.
AMC was hot on Triumph’s heels with a 1945 lineup. The nimble telescopic forked WD G3L 350 ensured a ready market for the civvy G3 but Matchless was also among a pack of contenders eager to challenge Triumph in the vertical-twin market. AMC also sold the Sunbeam marque to BSA.
BSA’s first post-war model was the 348cc ohv B31; effectively a pre-war B30 with Ariel telescopic forks. Judging by the popularity of the Matchless G3L, its Beeza counterpart would have made an excellent military mount. The B31 proved itself a dependable, lively all-rounder.
Low-octane ‘pool’ petrol became available to civilian riders, rationed to two gallons a month for models under 250cc or three gallons for bigger bikes. And new motorcycles could be bought on the open market as wartime restrictions were lifted. But Britain was virtually bankrupt. Bread rationing was introduced and the government’s ‘export or die’ policy, while essential for our economic survival, meant new bikes were virtually unobtainable. And prices were inflated by a 25% purchase tax.
Nonetheless, by year’s end there were nearly half a million machines on British roads: double the 1939 total.
Even racing bikes had to be adapted to run on pool petrol – and in a bid to reduce production costs the FICM banned superchargers. This ended the development of blown racers from Britain (AJS, Velocette and Vincent); Germany (BMW and NSU); and Italy (Gilera and Moto Guzzi).
With petrol trickling back onto civvy street the MCC was able to stage its first postwar meeting, at Wrotham Park, by mid-June. The Ulster MCC bounced back with a “grand reunion grasstrack”.
Speedway was also back by mid-summer with more than 25,000 war-weary Londoners packing New Cross Stadium.
ACU secretary Tom Loughborough stood down after 30 years, handing over to assistant secretary Tom Huggett. Loughborough stayed on as secretary-general of the FICM.