Founders Day Fry Up and more

Well, it was another hot one at Founders Day this year. And I actually managed to get around the autojumble this time, to make up for the abortive efforts at Banbury…

 

The Founders Day show and autojumble at Stanford Hall near Lutterworth Leics, is one of the most popular autojumbles for anyone into the older bikes. Traditionally, it is seen as the place for garage clear-out stalls, rather than professional traders and although this has made it attractive – and therefore encouraged more pro stalls to appear – it still seems a good mix of familiar and new faces behind the tables. And bargains can still be had; I picked up a handful of rusty but useable ’20s BSA gearbox bits for a tenner, which slightly made up for the prices I had to pay for other things I found.

But never mind that, once spent, soon forgotten! What I won’t forget in a hurry was this cracking Panther which gets my vote for this year’s star bike. IMG_1120

This, I would guess, is what you might call a REAL Panther. The word ‘Panther’ was originally the model, rather than marque, name; the products of Phelon and Moore being known collectively as P and Ms. The P and M ‘Panther’ was their sports OHV model, something like this one.

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There was no price on it but I hope it goes to a good home. Very nice indeed.

What else? Well I don’t know if it was the sun twinkling through the leaves on a nice paint job but I really liked this Royal Enfield

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Nice to see an original pair of Armstrong shocks on the back. I was so impressed with the Enfield that I didn’t notice the equally nicely done Norvin chained to its front wheel until my mate Bruce pointed it out! Oh well, Norvins get all the attention, let’s leave the spotlight on the Enfield.

The prices for vintage parts can be scary and it seems to be getting worse because demand quite simply exceeds supply. I used to think that some people had sheds stuffed with these bits and some do – but very few and they are not usually keen to part with them, so unfortunately if you see something you need you kinda just have to pay the price or walk away. One thing I would have liked to take home if money was no object was this Sturmey Archer racing gearbox, with blanked off kick starter…

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And yes, I’m afraid ‘2000’ means pounds, not the year of bike it fits!

There are definitely more obscure European bikes on the UK market these days making a more affordable way into pre-war stuff…

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Quite liked this mystery object, it’s a rakish looking thing but goodness knows what you’d do for parts. But then I tell people that you just have to make (or have made) parts for pre-war British bikes so I suppose it’s no different really; you just need a Metric leadscrew on your lathe!

But if you want an easier project how about a nice BSA Golden Flash…

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Well, admittedly there’s one or two bits missing…but it does offer the potential to build a double-engined drag bike…maybe?

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Well in a way maybe that’s the point. It would be a very long climb to turn this small pile into the bike shown on the photograph but for a negotiable £950 you would have a good basis for some sort of custom creation, which is eminently preferable to the story I heard over the weekend about somebody selling a set of A10 tin-ware, having bought it from a bloke who was converting a complete and pretty original A10 into a ‘bobber’.

Difficult thing this current custom scene. I am greatly in favour of it in principle but I can see trouble ahead if people start cutting up sound bikes to make their own ideal. When I was young, my British bike mates were all into café racers or choppers, partly because standard bikes were out of our price range, admittedly, but mainly because youth always has to find its own path. The bottom line is that those years provided people of my age group with their apprenticeship in old bikes, the customiser of today will probably become the restorer of tomorrow and I guess if a few nice bikes have to get (in some eyes) wrecked to encourage a new generation of enthusiasts then it has to be worth it. There are loads of going-nowhere projects like this A10 that are missing too many parts to be worth restoring and building some sort of custom from them seems a brilliant way to get a bike on the road and hopefully supply the gradually-appearing next generation of British bike enthusiasts. Of course it’s a real shame if perfectly good original bikes get broken up to build customs – especially if the standard bits get dumped or sold to fund the job but equally there are a lot of ‘restored’ bikes out there that have been cheaply and poorly done to make a profit, which wouldn’t be such a loss…

Here’s the flip side of the coin. An absolutely superbly untouched Excelsior Talisman Twin. IMG_1128

This is a late model, judging by that bathtub – and you thought the Triumph one was ugly! Very snappy paint jobs on these late Excelsiors, altogether a lovely unrestored bike but £3500? When you compare it with what’s around, like that £2000 Sturmey gearbox, it doesn’t seem bad but then if you had a £30,000 vintage track bike, missing a gearbox, £2000 for the right item would be a bargain; somehow paying £3500 for a British two stroke twin – even in this condition – seems a step too far. I guess the thing I’m saying is, looking at all of this stuff, the gearbox, the A10, the Excelsior…none of it really has any fixed value beyond its weigh-in price at the scrapyard. Any other figure is really just our imagination; what you might call ‘perceived value’. Our imagination tells us, maybe correctly, that to ride a Brough Superior would make us a happier person and we thus place a value upon that experience but this means there can be no set values, one man’s bargain is another’s waste of money.

After all, how much is a bottle of mineral water worth?

Ask a bloke crawling across the Sahara.

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Being as I’m all Rudged-up at the moment, I have to throw in this one; nice, minimal wee beastie.

And finally having mentioned my old Francis Barnett Seagull for sale at Banbury, here’s a pair on either side of it in age. I like these old ‘Built like a Bridge’ models, the adverts pointed out that the straight tube frame could be dismantled and stored in a golf club bag. Not sure whether that was a particular incentive to buyers but one could unkindly add that it made production cheap…

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On the same stand was this post-war model which I would guess is an early 50s 122cc Kestrel. There is a real charm about Francis Barnett’s pre and early post-war models, it may be just the double-barrelled name but they seemed a cut above the rest. Sad really, both James and Fanny B made quite high-quality lightweights on their own account but the AMC empire rather dragged them down.

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It has been a very busy few weeks for me (hence the lateness of this post) but the next stop in my calendar was Kempton Park where I spotted this untouched beauty. It hadn’t sold come the end of the day but the vendor didn’t seem to bothered, I think he was looking for an excuse to keep it, Kent registered too. Overheard conversation suggested most viewers thought it should stay as it is; although that oil leak wants looking at…

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Sometimes I really miss my old Golden Flash but you can’t keep ’em all…

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It’s a bit alarming when you find rusty old bits of autojumble dating from your own times but here is a tank for a BSA Beaver (or Brigand) like I had when I was 16. I rode to my first autojumble on that bike and it’s a bit horrifying to think that this tank is now the same age as an ex- D-Day M20 tank was then. And yet, I haven’t changed at all…hmmmm.

If you need a Beaver tank, you’ll find it on Simon Stephen’s Renovation Spares stall. Simon reported that I was the only visitor to the stand that recognised it, so I expect he still has it in stock.

Another friendly face on a stall was Andrew, who rode my Martinsyde at a VMCC training day a couple of years ago. He’s started selling repro licence discs to match the age of your bike. After all why take your tax disc holder off just because you don’t need one legally anymore –  especially if it’s a nice original one; Andrew can supply a good facsimile of the pattern it would have had from new, bearing your bike’s details, nice idea.

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I asked him if he had a website or whatever I could mention but, perhaps wisely, he’s just doing it as a while-you-wait service at shows. Probably a good idea, these things can end up taking over your life.

As, in a way, it already has because I saw Andrew again at the Elk Promotions Ardingly Show the following day. Elk Promotions often have a date the Sunday after Kempton because then autojumblers from far afield can make a weekend out of one trip which makes sense. On the other hand you could argue that nobody will go out to an autojumble on Saturday AND Sunday…

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But there you’d be wrong. I certainly did and when I got there the place was heaving with people. One thing about Ardingly, you can guarantee it will be busy on a sunny day because it is a lovely ride there. I went on the Rudge for its first longish run and really enjoyed it. Turned out I should have entered it in the show because when Lloyd, one of the judges, saw me with it later he said, “We wanted to give that bike a prize but we didn’t know who to give it to!”

When I got there my friend Dennis Frost captured the moment on film. See what a happy smile the Rudge gives its rider?

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One of the nice things about the Elk shows is their informality; they are well organised but relaxed. I have judged the show bikes there from time to time and the deal is that you just vote for the bikes you like the most, they don’t have to be perfect, original, restored, exotic.. It’s up to you. We try not to award prizes to the same bikes twice and it means everybody has a chance. This makes a real change from the larger shows where it is often a bit of a toss-up between the three or four top restorers in the country, whose bikes are generally streets ahead of anything else. The owner of a CB400T Honda I spoke at Ardingly was absolutely delighted to find he was among the winners and it’s just a nice thing to see genuine surprise rather than confident satisfaction on a winner’s face.

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Dammit! I thought mine was the only scruffy Gold Star left in the world…Pleased to see this one, I didn’t get to speak to the owner to ask how he gets on with his Mikuni carb. I don’t really want to know, I am determined to persevere with my GP… I think that will be a project for this winter.

Always nice to see a Rex Acme on display, in fact you may have spotted another one in the background of the Francis Barnett pic at Founders Day. That one has now been bought by Tony, a chap I met at Kop Hill last year. Tony was very smitten with my Rex; subsequently we had a long email exchange about pros and cons and now he’s gawn an’ done it! Well done Tony, I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy mine. The Rex Acme below is a 1925 model, the same one that was for sale at Verralls a year or so: looking very pretty now I have to say.

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But there was a slightly surprising turn as I walked round the autojumble. Still getting over seeing my old ‘Barnet for sale at Banbury – and by the way I have since been contacted by the new owner who promises to keep me posted on the restoration – what did I see but my old ‘Excelsior Universal’ (see the Rick’s bikes page) on a stand this time.

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It would have been about 1988 I sold that bike and I wouldn’t have recognised it but for the frame number 407 being quoted on the For Sale board. It is no longer FSU627 – I guess I got that age related number before they were made non-transferable. According to the cartell.ie registration nmber check site (suggested by Julie Diplock, thanks Julie!) that number is now on a GMC. I typed in FSU628 too, out of interest, because I remember the DVLA originally sent me that number by mistake; turns out that number’s now on a SAAB. Strewth! You can see why the DVLA got so arsey, and why old vehicle enthusiasts detested the whole personalised plate thing. Dealers would buy an old bike, sell the number, get an age related plate, sell that, then get a Q plate and flog the bike and not surprisingly the DVLA got fed up with funding the deal and made life . Without wanting to come over all biblical, this combination of greed and vanity is the reason why when you find an old bike that is not on computer you have a real struggle to keep its original registration, which is a real pity since it’s often the only bit of history you get with a bike – you never now when some old boy will come up and say, “That’s my old bike!”

I’m delighted to say that the personalised plate thing seems to be a bit old hat now. I mean it was fair enough for celebs like Jimmy Tarbuck to have TAR8Y or whatever but when every other car has some contrived arrangement of letters, often with the owners name written at the bottom in case you can’t figure it out, it is all a bit pointless. Most of the old bike dealers who habitually stripped the numbers off the bikes they sold seem to have stopped now so I assume the value of the numbers is now greater on the bike where it belongs than on the open market; it’s just a pity it screwed up so much for the rest of us while it lasted.

Anyway, put the soapbox back under the bed; this time I was the old boy who went up and said  “That’s my old bike!”  It even still had the headlamp I borrowed off the Bown moped I threw in when I sold it. I was pleased to see that according to the board the forks had been rebuilt, hopefully it no longer drastically pulls to one side – but of course this was my chance to set the record straight by telling the the vendor that it isn’t a 1937 Excelsior at all but a 1947 Norman. “It says Excelsior on the log book…” he pointed out dubiously. “Ah,” that was my mistake…” I tired to explain but as I spoke I realised what hell you would unleash by trying to get that error sorted out with the DVLA…so it may be better if we leave Norman out of it. Good to see it’s still about after all this time though. Wonder what ghost from my past will turn up next?

Cheers Rick

 

 

 

Des

Comments (6)

  1. Raymond Albeson

    Love the Panther!
    I think Tarby’s reg no was COM 1C, so no vintage numbers were harmed.
    See you at the Manx!
    Best wishes
    Raymond

    Reply
    1. ,Rick (Post author)

      Oh no; in that case, whose car have I been chasing all these years, autograph book in hand?!
      When I worked with Speedway champion Malcolm Simmonds I remember him telling me back in his heyday he tried to get 51MMO that he spotted on a Morris Minor. Again given that he was pretty famous and it was the perfect number for him it seemed fair enough. Evidently it’s now on a Land Rover discovery but sadly the real ‘Simmo’ is no longer with us.
      Cheers R

      Reply
  2. Graham Gasson

    Hi Rick, So pleased you like the look of the Rex now, it took a while to get to this point…. probably 15 years to finish (half a frame and the petrol tank to begin with). Started with my Dads help and finished on my own, I had to sell it to fund other projects, shame Dad never got to see it run. At least I must have learned something on the way with his guidance. Hope to have the Zenith out in October, another Blackburne engined bike. Maybe see you then? Thanks, Graham

    Reply
    1. Rick (Post author)

      Yes, well done Graham. Looking forward to seeing the Zenith!
      Cheers Rick

      Reply
  3. Tony Heyworth

    Hi Rick, yes that very stylish Rex Acme of yours cast the spell and I have to say I’m really pleased with the 1927 Rex Acme bike I bought – nice to see it hiding behind the Francis Barnett in the picture you snapped at Founders Day. Having seen the Rudges racing at Goodwood Revival, being very impressed with their turn of speed and the team set up in the paddock I’m now really interested in which model of Rudge you have acquired – great picture! As always it’s the unrestored condition and patina of your bikes which make them so attractive. One of those would look the part next to the Rex 🙂 Tony

    Reply
    1. Rick (Post author)

      Oh dear, it’s a dark road Tony! My bike is a bit of a mongrel – a 1936 Special fitted with a 1935 Ulster engine. The only real difference being that the Ulster had 20″ and 21″ wheels where mine has 19″. Rudges are a bit quirky in their construction but I have to say it is a really nice bike to ride.
      As always I think the thing about old bikes is you have to take the time to get to know them and to sort them out. If you can do that you will get the same fun out of them that was experienced by their original owners, unfortunately some have been rebuilt with appearance more than function as the priority and as a result they are not pleasant to ride. Worse still, the person who buys such a bike then believes he has bought a perfect specimen and is hugely disappointed, blaming the technology of the day – after all it’s reasonable to assume bikes weren’t very good 80 years ago. But anyone fortunate enough to experience really good pre-war bikes will agree they really were very good indeed!
      Have fun with your Rex!
      Rick

      Reply

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