Saturday, 30 October 2010

Old Friend, Land Rover 109

I have had this one 30 years almost. She is a 1978, ex RAF, heavy duty model.

If you are looking at the door writing, you might note the above date of manufacture, don't be fooled :)

Incidentally, Donald Campbell had a fleet of twenty five supporting Land Rovers on Lake Eyre


The little BSA is coming along slowly.

Not a fully standard CI5T but I am enjoying working with what I have and not worrying too much about the incorrect bits.

Friday, 29 October 2010


Speedway Inspiration

My wife came home from the library this week and presented me with a book that she thought I might be interested in.

"The Adventures of Barry Briggs..Wembley and Beyond... Briggo" biography.
When I was about 9 years old I met Barry Briggs, he tried to sign an autograph for me, as I mentioned elsewhere in this blog he announced in his NZ accent that "yer pen don't write mate".
I am now 49 and those words echo in my head so clearly as I reflect on them.

The book set me thinking of the whole Speedway inspiration.

My first memories must be a little before 9 years old (1969), I remember going to Swindon Robins meetings on Saturday evenings and perching on my brothers shoulders. His shouts of "Get under him Broady" (Mike Broadbanks). The Castor smell of course, would never be forgotten and the speed and engine note as the riders enter from the straight and transition into the wonderfully controlled slide and unmistakable body poise.
When my brother left home and moved to Exeter there was the opportunity to visit him and go along to see Exeter Speedway. There I took a photo in the pits of Ivan Mauger and his bike for my school art project. Developing it the wrong way round in the process.

Swindon rider Mike Keen lived in my home village, Saturdays would often mean riding to his house and help to clean his boots, leathers and bib.
The thing is, I can really remember the way that the riders and bikes captured my imagination, but I just can't quite embrace it any more.
 I sometimes try to capture the feeling of being a little involved, of looking across Mike's workshop and seeing his two bikes sitting on their stands, proud and pert in the way that speedway bikes are. He even gave me 50p for this privilege!
He also gave me a Robins bib....... what a treasure.

thankyou to:

My friend and I each built pseudo Cycle Speedway bikes, taking an old bike, stripping it down and fitting knobbly tyres, bending conduit or water pipe ultra wide handlebars and a 22 tooth rear sprocket!..... not really sure how much of an advantage this was but it had "Cycle Speedway" on the box so it must have been important.
Nearby in the disused village station yard, we had the perfect shale/ash oval track, clad in my Robins bib, this venue became my regular play ground.

I now realise that these days must have been such a huge inspiration to me.
However, it is surprising that this hadn't occurred to me before, is this vivid memory the beginning of a period of reflection and contemplation? Is this the "on set" of old age?

As years went on, I inevitably (as I now realise) progressed to racing and almost in a chance way, on to Grasstrack (as near to speedway as I would be likely to get). Ironically I have raced with the sons of my heroes, including Mike Keen, Mike Broadbanks, Martin Ashby and Barry Duke.or even with some of the old names themselves.
My brother who had taken me along to the meetings in the beginning had now come full circle, he was again looking after me but as mechanic, mentor and first aider. He also found himself with the very same old names, standing alongside Mike Keen, Mike Broadbanks and all.

This one went bang on my test ride, oops!
Try this one, ah yes much better.

I have a proud memory of racing with grasstrack legend and mentor Lew Coffin.( Lew Coffin You Tube)
Lew would always be there to help, especially with young riders or newcomers to the sport.
Lew wandered up to me in the pits of a Grass meeting, he suggested that I reposition my sliding foot on the track and helped me select more suitable gearing. Having crossed over from motocross, the significance of gearing was not fully appreciated. On Lew's advice I lowered my  ratio, making a dramatic difference to my performance and the battle of simply getting the bike into a corner.
The outcome of this was a completely satisfying next race and then the semi final.... which included Lew.
We raced until the penultimate lap, exiting the corner, a bike length behind Lew, the bike snatched, I grabbed the clutch, but not before a loud metallic ripping sound followed by a "fantasy like" glitter mist hovering ahead of me in the late afternoon sun. One broken con rod, giving one broken crankcase, barrel, piston, head, valves and guides.....

I must add, all of the above was just on a low key club level, I was no expert.
 Lew would have been in his mid sixties and he was riding with so much skill in hand that he would do just enough to do the job and keep us youngsters (well 20somethings) at bay.

Lew's signature. Note conrod not from this engine.
If you look closely at the rings you can see
`how the piston swaged into the pent roof head.

Never the less I raced with Lew Coffin. After the race he came along to me and commented on my improved performance, thanks to his advice. He peered into my, now stripped and wrecked engine before picking up and signing my still warm piston with his historic
 "22 Lew" signature. In this single action he gave me a ticket to set off on a memory trip every time I glanced at this momento!

All good for the old age moments!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

David Uhl Art

As well as riding, fixing and dreaming about old bikes, cars and aeroplanes,I really enjoy clay sculpting and painting well as other things.

Please have a look at the paintings on the blog and associated website David Uhl.

There is one painting "The Winners Table" that after initially admiring, I found I keep going back and looking at all the little detailed items. The colours and contrast really create a rich period feel.

Thanks to "Moto Freako"(see side bar link) for the introduction to this blog.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


This afternoon I took some time off to help my daughter prepare her CB 650/4 Honda chop for the MOT after many years of storage.

We took a drive to Poole and Bournemouth to get a few items and drove by Battistini Motorcycle shop.
I had always pictured Battistini as full of items that would be totally out of my price range.
I couldn't resist just stopping and having a look from the door..............didn't want to seem a time waster or tyre kicker!

Well how wrong was I!

We found the most interesting, welcoming and inspiring place.

The guy inside the door overheard my daughter and my comments about "cool place to work". He replied with a sincere smile, " Yes it is, that's why I'm here".

The clothing and accessories chap, greeted us like we were old friends, far from any sales pitch he just welcomed us.

Oh and the cool Rocker style diner where we could not resist a coffee, doughnuts and big junk of atmosphere.

The guy in the workshop was introduced to us, he has a collection of pre war cars as well as bikes and again I felt like I had known him for years.

Finally Mr Battistini himself came up and had a chat, genuinely happy that we called in off the street.

  The very guys that I had put on a plinth for many many years were absolutely welcoming.

We left having ordered a battery, cheaper than any of the other three shops we had visited, open face helmet at a reduced and very affordable price for my daughter and the promise that she would be back for that tasseled leather jacket. We also bought tickets for a Rockabilly Night on 6th Nov..

I can't recommend enough that this is a place to visit and have a coffee and soak up the atmosphere, sat outside by the Hot Rod and Stepside truck or inside in the diner.

Thanks to all at Battistini.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Daimler Sleeve Valve Photos

Just thought that I would share the photos of a Daimler Sleeve Valve Engine rebuild.

I have not carried out a full mechanical restoration as there have been some cost limitations.

The engine is about 1925, it has two sleeves per cylinder as opposed to the more common single sleeve found in many aero engines.
Each cylinder is topped by a single head. This provides a sealed top "cap" and locates the sliding sleeves.
The head has a large piston ring known as a "Junk" ring, this name being carried to the head also.
Each sleeve is operated by a small con rod connected to a small crank in place of the more familiar camshaft.
As the exhaust and inlet sleeves operate, they uncover their respective ports.

Lubrication is given by a finger pump delivering oil into dip trays which accept the scoop at the bottom of each con rod. The oil also throws up into galleries for the main bearings, There is no oil pressure feed.

Sleeve valves are particularly prone to heavy oil burning, giving significant smoke trails. The dip tray on this engine neatly connects to the throttle to allow it to cleverly rise and fall to regulate oil delivery ie. the full throttle, "up" position allows the con rod scoop to collect more oil than when the tray is in the "down"..idle position.

Daimler Sleeve Valve Crank

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Ernie Woods "Thor"

Every so often I have a visit to the workshop from Steve Woods, Steve is the son of a very well known racer Ernie Woods who used to ride Manx Nortons and sprint a Jap engined 1100cc V twin. The Sprinter "Thor" was a significant bike in the history of British sprinting.
I think I met Ernie Woods when he was a senior member of the NSA (National Sprint Association) and I remember it being a pleasure shaking the hand of a Brooklands Goldstar rider.
Steve always has some great stories to tell growing up with such a well known and accomplished father.
Steve himself was a very capable racer and recounts the sometime difficulty of carrying out little tweaks to his own bike that were, maybe construed as, slightly on the edge of the ACU rules for the particular class. Ernie by that time was a top ACU Technical Representative and Scrutineer.
Please have a look at the "vintagent" site :Thor Sprint Motorcycle

Friday, 8 October 2010

Hudson Truck

Below is a link to an amazing truck speed record project. Even more amazing is the fact it is built to allow quadriplegic and paraplegic drivers the chance to experience LSR attempts.
I haven't put many photos up because i'm not sure about copyright, but please try the following links Hudson photos and Hudson2

The Hudson Project

The Hudson Project

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Flying Flea

I previously posted an inspiring historical video of the diminutive little aeroplane, "Pou de Ciel".

Henri Mignet for a while achieved an almost romantic dream of providing access to the sky to any person with some practical skills and only a little money.
To achieve this he felt that the aircraft should be flown instinctively, natural movements that a child might make if they were soaring, climbing and turning in their imagination. Movement and prompts more akin to horse riding than the whole science of flight.
He felt that the pilot should move the stick up or down and left and right in a totally natural and reflex movement and he pretty much achieved this.
Sadly, there was a fatal flaw as you would expect with many pioneer ventures, although the flaw was addressed the damage to the aircraft's reputation was done.
Further than this I think that Mignet also dismissed the "system". The bureaucratic testing and licence issues were not part of the dream of freedom.
But, I am sure many of us admire his attitude and his dogged skill at achieving the escapism that many might occasionally wish for.
Mignet would borrow a friends Harley Davidson sidecar outfit and tow the folded Flea to a quiet plain far from any distractions, here he would set up his tent and fly as many times as possible, carry out careful modification and make extensive notes and observations,
Observations that were noted in his detailed building notes in the books that he published. Books full of idyllic and florid views of the adventures ahead.