Andy's classic British motor bikes
The stable in 2021.
My three current bikes, side-by-side, during the bulb season, (when there is sadly very little time to ride them!)
On the left, a 1952 Matchless 350, in the middle a 1958 BSA Gold Star 500 and on the right a 1972 Norton Commando 750.
More details and pictures below, plus my 1950 Vincent Comet 500.
I have also owned, in date order, in 1959 a BSA Bantam 125, (awful), in 1960 a 1946 AJS 500 and a second AJS 500 of 1948 vintage, (good working bikes), in 1972 a Norton Navigator 350, (very unreliable), in 1974 a Norton Dominator 600, (excellent) and a BSA A7, (unexciting).
The Commando I bought in 1995, the Gold Star in 2015 and the Matchless in 2018. No more room for any more.
1972 Norton Commando 750
My work bike, owned for over 25 years and in that time covering in excess of 20,000 miles. It was originally a "Fastback", although due to the deterioration of the fibreglass components I converted it to the Intercontinental specification.
The Commando was the last British super-bike, finishing
production in the Norton Andover factory in 1978. In many ways a great bike,
though technically outclassed by the Japanese bikes that started appearing
in the early '70's. There are around 35,000 still running, so many
specialist companies have sprung up making upgrades for Commandos, most of
which I have fitted over the years, including an electric start system.
LH picture: That's Jane and I on the Commando, on the
front cover of the 50th edition of Real Classic a few years back, when the
Commando was still in Fastback specification. Real Classic is still the the
"go to" magazine of classic bike owners. Inside was 7-page article I wrote
on how to upgrade a Commando without spending too much money on it. Still
available on-line via the Real Classic website.
RH picture: Matching kit, colour-coded for the bike, is essential if one is to be taken seriously at bike meets!
1958 BSA Gold Star DB34
Clubman, 500cc single.
By far my most iconic bike is a BSA Gold Star DB34 Clubman. This particular bike started life as one of the three bikes in the Castrol Oil racing team, so was a regular competitor in the TT races on the Isle of Man. It was ridden by, among others, Phil Redmond. I bought it from the manager of the team, who acquired it when the team was wound up in the early '60's.
It has had many upgrades, in that the previous owner never held back from spending money on it. It even includes an effective electric start, which is a real bonus on a Gold Star, which are notoriously difficult to kick start. There are You-tube films dedicated to starting a Gold Star!
It rides magnificently, being both beautifully designed and engineered. I have been known to ever so slightly exceed the speed limit whilst aboard, but don't tell the fuzz.
People can't believe it is over sixty years old.
If one owns old British iron it is vital one can work
on them oneself. Any failure in this department would result in vast expense
incurred employing the services of mechanics experienced in such work.
Here I am replacing the racing RR2T gearbox with a conventionally geared BSA box, which makes the bike much more rideable, as the racing box has a very high first gear, followed by three very close ratio gears. Slipping the clutch at any speed under 30mph is not my idea of fun...
|....this on the other hand is my idea of fun!|
This is my most recent acquisition, a
Matchless G3 350cc single,
manufactured in the AMC factory in Plumstead in 1952. Why did I buy it?
Several reasons: firstly it belonged to a very good friend who was slimming down his eleven-strong collection of bikes. I knew the bike well, and he knew I fancied it, as it was pretty much the same as my first proper bike, my two AJS's. AJS and Matchless were the same bikes built in the same factory, in what is today called badge engineering.
Secondly, it was in very good order, ran beautifully, started with a simple prod of the starter crank and above all was a delightful, if steady, bike to ride.
It featured the famous "jam-pot" rear suspension units. It was also at the right price. I have not touched it mechanically, as it has needed nothing doing to it. All I have done is to fit s set of indicators, as I like following traffic to know when I am planning to make a turn.
It might be getting on to 70 years old, on the road it tops out at about 60 mph, but I think it is my favourite bike of the three. I absolutely love it.
1950 Vincent Comet "C" series
I have always hankered after a Vincent, which represents the apogee of British bike design before and after the war. Also known as HDR, and Vincent HDR. The Vincent Black Shadow is probably the most famous of all bike names, anywhere in the world. The Comet is very similar in many ways to the 1000cc models, but has one cylinder, as opposed to two, and a different gearbox.
All Vincents were superbly engineered by Phil Irving, their senior designer, backed to the full by the hands-on owner, Phil Vincent. Financially however they were always in trouble, despite charging a totally justified top price for their products, and ceased production in 1955.
|Complete strip down under way. Makes one realise the sheer quality of all that goes into a Vincent. Very easy to work on as a result.||A WW11 flying jacket and goggles is de rigueur when one rides a Vincent.||
Don't try this at home!