‘Allo Verus

Stafford has been and gone; the Classic Bike Rickman Bonneville sold for a satisfying £14,000 on the hammer and I came back with a load more old junk I didn’t really need…

Well, I say that. I spent a lot of money on Blackburne parts I do need but only to find that all of them will need further (expensive) attention. These were parts from the estate of the late Mike Sherwin of Hampshire. Mike was a nice fella whom I knew slightly; he had been a Blackburne fan for many years owning a Zenith (currenty offered by Yesterdays), Chater Lea (also sold by Yesterdays to a friend of mine in the Netherlands) and a Rex Acme. Unfortunately I guess having put together a lot of Blackburne bikes he had a lot of dud bits left over and I allowed my excitement at finding these parts to overrule my judgement. Still, I have only myself to blame and it can all be put right.

But the point behind the title of this post is my other Blackburne purchase. A mate pointed out that there was an early Blackburne engine on one of the stands nearby. It was a side valve and not something I need at all but I thought I would go and take a picture of it and collect the engine number for my Blackburne research. Having done so I was just walking away when the stallholder caught my eye. It seemed only polite to ask how much the engine was, if only to make some polite comment  “A fair price but not something I need thanks” or similar before walking away. Disaster. It was a very fair price; modest even. So I found myself staggering back to the van with yet another bloody Blackburne engine; but it is a very early 350, probably 1920, the other two I have are slightly later so it’s a sort of gap in the collection…isn’t it?

Verus engine L1619...allegedly

Verus engine L1619…allegedly

It’s a dear old thing really. The aluminium cover over the valves is an owner modification and was insulated inside with linoleum by the looks of it, not sure why I can’t see it being absorbent. There was also a disc of the same stuff attached to the inside of the flywheel, maybe it was sound-proofing, the flywheels can ring on Blackburne engines. If it was to soak up oil emerging from the main bearing, I would have thought a felt disc from a gramophone turntable was better myself…


But the funny thing is when I went to add it to my register I found it was already in there. ‘L1619 – 350cc sv – 1920 Verus’ it says. These days I record where the reference has come from, it could be a bike I’ve seen in the flesh or one that has been offered for sale with full details but this is an early entry in my list – from maybe ten ago or more and I cannot think where I found it. What troubles me is that if it was in a 1920 Verus a few years ago why isn’t it now? And look at it, this is an engine that hasn’t been in a frame for a very long time – I’d say it’s come from a scrapyard really, so if it was part of a 1920 Verus it must have been a basket case.

Verus is not a particularly common make. Made by Wiseman’s of Birmingham, who also produced the Sirrah and even less familiar Weaver, they only were only in production for a couple of years in the early 20s. The VMCC have been advertising for a Verus and Sirrah marque specialist for some time; hardly surprising that noone has come forward is it? But Veruses (Veri?) do exist; a look on the internet will reveal 350cc Blackburne-powered examples on both the British Only and Andy Tiernan’s archive pages. I presume Verus didn’t use frame numbers since both bikes have one of the DVLAs unsightly long frame numbers whacked into the tubing, shame. Here’s the picture of the bike from Andy Tiernan’s website…

Verus 1 (2)

First I assumed that I had simply written the number in my register wrongly and this is a different engine. But looking at the close ups on Andy’s site, the engine plates on my engine are clearly Verus shaped so that’s too much of a coincidence: curiouser and curiouser…

So then I wondered if perhaps this engine is the original for a Verus, maybe even the bike above, and a past owner simply fitted another, better condition motor as part of the restoration and I’ve ended up with the old one. This used to be common practice, especially with proprietary engines where the number doesn’t match the frame anyway, making the change less obvious. But hang on, if that were the case wouldn’t the engine plates have stayed on the bike? These don’t look like they’ve been off for many a year so I doubt they have been traced/scanned and copied – and it would be pretty unlikely to get another Verus-plated engine to go in the bike.

At present, like my Gold Star this issue is unresolved but no doubt I will get to the bottom of it eventually. What would be really great would be to pair the engine back up with the bike from which it came. I have a hazy memory that the reference may have come from a letter in an early copy of Classic Motorcycle but if so I can’t find it. I’ll let you know when I work it out…

Otherwise Stafford was a fun and busy as always.


This Itom caught my eye in the autojumble. I once acquired a Simmonds-Itom race chassis but at the time failed to find and engine and in any case I was aware that even in my twenties I was rather big for a racing 50 but even so there’s something about them…

And just to prove I haven’t fallen out of love with Gold Stars this one on the Goldie club stand was a real cracker.


It created a lot of interest over the weekend apparently and I just hope that whatever the owner has to do to make it rideable (it apparently runs anyway) will not provoke him to restore it to look just like all the others. Equally interesting was this fabulous cutaway Goldie motor, allegedly found in a skip at a military training base in the late 60s. I think the guy on the stall said that BSA made just six Gold Star cutaways.


A very nice thing to own and although it may have a handle I bet it’s less of a wind up than a complete Goldie…

As usual there was a lot to look at in the auction. The whole deceased sale thing is getting a bit depressing but thinking about it, people have always died, I think it’s just that with values climbing as they have, relatives are more keen to auction stuff than leave it to be picked through by friends, genuine or otherwise.


It is a difficult situation this. What would you recommend your partner to do if you died suddenly? It’s straightforward enough if your bikes are all complete and on the road, if nothing else the insurance valuation will give an idea what’s what but when you have projects and piles of parts it all gets a bit nebulous and maybe an auction is the only way to realise the true value. I have seen situations where widows have been offered disgracefully low prices for valuable parts and machines but equally where they have had absurdly inflated ideas about the value of their husband’s collection – quite possibly due to him excusing the money he spent by telling his wife the stuff was ‘worth a fortune’. So maybe that’s why the deceased stuff seems to end up here.

Among the bikes for sale was this lovely 1926 Cotton-Blackburne.


This was a sort of one owner bike. Dave Knowles bought it brand new in 1926 and owned it until the late 1980s. I saw it first on the Island in the late nineties. When Dave bought the bike, he was told that it had been built for the 1926 TT but not raced, which is a lovely story and if we leave aside the possibility that a smooth salesman was talking the bike up to an impressionable youngster it could well be true. But in those days the difference between road bikes and TT racers was not particularly marked; the race was after all the Tourist Trophy and still aimed to be a competition for machines representing what was actually available to the public, hence they still had mudguards and stands etc. So you would expect the chassis to be pretty standard. The engine is a standard sports OHV engine but that too is as it should be; Blackburne retained ownership of their TT engines and they were supplied on loan only, to worthy racers and good customers, so the bike would never have been fitted with a TT motor when it was sold. One way to look at it is that very few of the TT bikes survived the gruelling race, so the Dave Knowles bike, is in a sense, the one that got away…

Another corker was this untouched BSA, last taxed in 1930 I think it was.


Very nice, although I think this Indian might have just pipped it on my bag list; my history with restoring Indians never stretched back this far.


In those days Indians really were ahead of the game. I really like the 1950s restoration with hand-painted tank script; and also the fact that the bike is fitted with a Sturmey Archer gearbox – probably a better bet than the original crash box. Clearly a British market bike – early Indians had no front brake, for the UK market two independent brakes were a legal requirement and a loophole was to put both on the same wheel. This bike has a small drum brake with a contracting band brake wrapped round the outside. The other giveaway is that front stands were not fitted on US models; this one is missing but the clip is still there on the mudguard. I think I last saw this bike in the Civil Service Motor Museum at Bourton on Stour, which is a lovely ‘olde-worlde’ motor museum packed with fascinating ephemera, well worth a visit if you are in the area.

The Broughs of Bodmin sold well of course. Here a buyer guards his purchase.

IMG_0700 Finbar said the 11/50 would make an ideal Wallace and Gromit style sidecar outfit; cheek! Luckily although the little wretch could raise a paw to bid, he couldn’t use it to write a cheque so I made myself scarce until they chucked him out for non-payment.

The twin wheeler hammered at £295,000.It’s a very rare thing but seemed a hell of a lot for something with an Austin Seven engine. How annoying that the former owner had even managed to leave the plugs out just in case there was a danger it might survive intact.


Still engine parts will be a lot less than JAP twin bits. probably be back on the road in a couple of weeks…

I was struck by the way this speedo has measured time elapsed not in miles per hour but corrosion;


I should have been a poet, me…

Buying Broughs at auction seems to have become a bit of a big boys peeing contest. They are lovely bikes and of course I’d be delighted to find one in my shed but seeing the money that was thrown at these projects, of which about the only bit that can be used again is the engine and frame numbers, just started to seem a bit…well, vulgar. Of course George himself would be delighted. Bullshit usually has a short shelf life before it ends up on the roses but GB’s marketing campaign seems immortal.

Anyway, if all that left a bit of a bad taste, my faith in old bikes was restored by what I found outside in the race paddock:


Hang on is that a Gilera Four? No, it’s a Norton Jubilee with nutty café racer silencers. Seeing my camera the stallholder grinned and called out, “Nothing to do with me, somebody just dumped it there!”

Yes, that’s what it’s really all about. Silly old bikes and laughs; leave the big money play to the millionaires, they’ve got to spend it on something to make it worth the effort!

Cheers Rick


Comments (7)

  1. Dave Thomas

    Hi Rick,
    Is it Anton you refer to re the Chater Lea ? Used to speak to him on line and swapped a few emails but he seemed to disappear overnight. He had a few nice bikes so doubt he’d given up riding, just hope alls well that’s all.
    Cheers, Dave

    1. Rick (Post author)

      That’s right, Dave. hopefully he’s fine, I know they were moving house so perhaps he’s busy!
      Cheers Rick

  2. Julie

    Yes I was sorry to miss out on the twin-wheeler Brough, need a new engine for my Austin 7!

  3. Derek

    The head nuts are off the Austin engine, too. Odd-looking head, incidentally; one – it’s aluminium, two – the plugs are in a different location to the Austin ones.

    1. Rick (Post author)

      Okay, thank Derek; nice to know you get something special for your 300 grand…

      1. Derek

        Meant to say too that I think that the suggestion that the lino is used as sound deadening is probably correct.

  4. Tim

    Hi Rick, how’s things been down Kent way? Recently retired from the salt mines so will be back to work on the Victor Special; frames been hand painted, as have other bits, all the major parts sourced for the most part….

    Still reading your section in CB, loads of great tips and advice.

    If you’re ever out this way, give us a shout


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