Clearly alarmed at the prospect of losing motorcycle export revenues (particularly from the US) the government made fuel available for the big open trials, but scramblers and roadracers languished with dry tanks alongside the roadriding fraternity.
The hard-pressed industry put on a brave face at Earls Court, where AMC joined the vertical-twin club with the badge-engineered 498cc AJS Model 30/Matchless G9. But on the track the two marques went their own way: the 348cc ohc 7R ‘Boy Racer’ was definitely an Ajay.
Vincent came up with the Series B 998cc Black Shadow which offered unheard of ton-up performance at an unheard of price: £500 plus a painful £81 purchase tax (at the end of the war the average house cost about £500. In three years that had tripled but in 2013 that would still put the price of a Shad at about £70k).
For £60 BSA would sell you a pretty little D1 Bantam with a lively 123cc twostroke engine. The design came from DKW as part of Germany’s way of saying sorry; it also appeared in East Germany (as an MZ) and the US (as a Harley). The humble Bantam would become the best selling British bike of all time.
BMW had returned to its roots during the war, producing aero engines for the Luftwaffe. This attracted the attention of the RAF. It took until 1948 to rebuild the plant; BMW’s first postwar bike was the R24 250 ohv single which was better suited to postwar austerity than the potent boxers.
The other Axis powers were also stirring. In Japan Soichiro Honda established the Honda Research Institute Co; on the track Italian and German multis were proving a match for the ageing British one-lungers.
Fergus Anderson won the 500 class in the French Circuit de Pau but he did it on a Guzzi. He rode the first 7R off the production line in the 350 race and was doing well when the clutch failed.
Norton notched up another Senior TT hat-trick but only after Omobono Tenni’s Guzzi proved unable to cope with pool petrol – for four laps it had outpaced the Nortons of Artie Bell, Bill Doran and Jock Weddell. An AJS 7R proved the new model’s potential by managing 4th.
Ironically, having come a fantastic fourth in the Senior behind three 500s, the 7R was beaten into a forlorn fifth in the Junior by four of its fellow 350s. Frith and Foster’s Velos were first and second, ahead of Bell and Lockett’s Nortons. Maurice Cann rode his 250 Moto Guzzi to victory in the Lightweight TT, followed home by Roland Pike (Rudge), Doug Beasley (Excelsior) and Ben Drinkwater (another Guzzi).
The Clubman’s TT had a 1,000cc Senior limit so it was no surprise that Vincents (ridden by Jack Daniels and Phil Heath) were first and second with Milton Sutherland’s Norton third.
Keen to win export dollars, Triumph and Norton sent bikes to the prestigious Daytona Beach races in Florida to challenge Harley Davidson and Indian on their home ground. A Norton International ridden by Canadian Billy Matthews came a creditable second in the 200-mile Experts race (behind an Indian but ahead of a Harley. A GP Triumph placed 6th). Norton Inters were 1st and 2nd in the 100-mile Amateur race.
Indian broke with its big-twin tradition by launching European-style 217cc ohv singles (the Silver Arrow and Gold Arrow) and 490cc ohv vertical twins (the Sport Scout and Super Scout).
Even stripped of their blowers, the trio of transverse fours that Gilera sent to the Dutch TT were formidable adversaries. But Artie Bell’s Norton one-lunger was first past the Senior flag, ahead of a Gilera riden by Nello Pagani with Jock West third on an AJS Porcupine. The Lightweight Dutch TT marked the racing debut of the twostroke Montesa, which hailed from Spain.
A GP Triumph won the Manx Grand Prix; it was ridden by Manx baker Don Crossley who also placed third in the Junior, which was won by Dennis Parkinson’s Norton.
Guzzi star Omobono Tenni was killed during practice for the Swiss Circuit de Berne.
Italy hosted the ISDT.