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BMCT News Newsletter of The British Motorcycle Charitable Trust

March 2010

BLACK COUNTRY MUSEUM DEVELOPMENT Trustees Peter Wellings (Chairman) Malcolm Aldridge Steve Bagley Paul Barnes John Handley Mike Jackson John Kidson Ian Walden OBE Registered Office Rodborough Court Stroud GL5 3LR Registered Charity No. 509420 Administration Andy Bufton/MMS Holly Cottage Bishampton Pershore WR10 2NH Contact details Tel: 01386 462524 Mob: 07754 880116 E-mail: info@bmct.org

Building work on the Old Birmingham Road row of shops at the Black Country Museum is progressing fast. Some of the buildings are finished and already in use, and it won’t be long before the Motorcycle Dealers is open for business, although sadly you won’t be able to go in there and buy a brand new old stock Sunbeam or AJS! The new building is being funded with the aid of a substantial grant from the BMCT, and when it is finished you will be able to take a step back into a replica of a nineteen thirties bike shop with examples of many Black Country made machines on display. Some of our rare machines you will be able to see there include examples made by Wolf, Diamond, Sunbeam and the jewel in the crown, our beautifully restored AJS S3 v-twin. This project is just the latest in a series of developments

Inside this issue:

Black Country Development

1

Classic Show season begins

1

Save the Triumph Bonneville

3

Members’ Page

5

Auction News

6

Diary Dates

6

at the museum that have been made with the help of the BMCT with the aim of improving the way in which one of the Black Country’s most important industries is represented in the museum. When in 2001 the Marston Collection of Wolverhampton made machines was in danger of being split up by its owners we stepped in

with funding which helped obtain a large Lottery grant to bring the collection to the museum. Since then we have also helped with the construction of a large motor depot to house these and other rare and significant machines from the Black Country area. The finished motorcycle dealers shop will be open to the public soon.

The new motorcycle dealer premises are furthest from the camera

CLASSIC SHOW SEASON STARTS WITH A BANG The classic bike show season got off to a flying start with events on three consecutive weekends in February. First off was the Classic Off-road and Racing Show at the

Telford International Centre, where road racing, trials, scrambles and grass track machines from the vintage to modern era were on show. The guest of honour was

www.bmct.org Ex works ISDT Royal Enfield at Telford

Chris Horsfield, who many will remember for his exploits on the big Matchless 500cc scramblers of the sixties. Next up was the Bristol Classic Show at Shepton Mallet which was notable for the very high standard of the many club stands. Winners of the award for best club stand this year were Wells Classic Motorcycle Club with their recreation of a Transport Café. Last but not least, the Ace Café Classic and Custom Show at Alexandra Palace where we were represented by the London Motorcycle Museum who showed our Scott Flying Squirrel on their stand. See photos on p.2.


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BMCT News

AROUND THE SHOWS

The BMCT‟s own Baughan was a star exhibit on the Golden Valley Club‟s stand at Telford

There were some very attractive machines on the New Imperial Owners‟ Club stand

The 2010 classic show season got well under way in

February

Classic

with

Off-road

the and

Racing Show at Telford, followed

on

successive

weekends by events at Sh e p t o n

M a lle t

a nd

Alexandra

Palace.

Here

are

some

of

Only half British, but still a lovely bike nonetheless, this is John Kidson‟s Cotton-Guzzi racer at Telford

the

This Matchless G50 took pride of place on the AJS & Matchless stand at Alexandra Palace

outstanding exhibits...

A 1926 680cc New Imperial - JAP with a 350cc New Imp racer in the sidecar - a striking exhibit

The Ally Pally show is for classics and customs, so there were a number of interesting specials like this JAP engined “Manx Superior” on show

Douglas being a Bristol make, it wasn‟t surprising they were well represented at Shepton Mallet.

The reborn Norton concern were at Alexandra Palace with three of their new range.


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March 2010

SAVE THE TRIUMPH BONNEVILLE! In July 1973, in a government sponsored move, a new company was formed from the ashes of the collapsed BSA Group Norton Villiers Triumph. Against the wishes of the Triumph workforce NVT planned to move Triumph production to the BSA factory at Small Heath, Birmingham. As a result the Meriden workers staged a sit-in that lasted almost two years. It ended finally when in March 1975 a workers‟ cooperative was set up purely to manufacture the Bonneville in 750cc form, primarily for the American market. Although there were some noteworthy bikes built during this period – such as the ‟77 Bonneville Jubilee Special and T140D Special with cast wheels - the writing was on the factory wall. This excerpt from “Save the Triumph Bonneville” by BMCT member John Rosamond is reproduced by kind permission of the author and Veloce Publishing.

John Rosamond, former Chairman of the Meriden workers‟ co-operative.

The world famous motorcycle manufacturer Triumph Engineering, located at Meriden, Coventry in the West Midlands, exhibited all the trappings of a very successful and profitable business. A subsidiary of the large BSA Group, it still retained all its own Triumph trademark identity and was reported to contribute over half a million pounds’ profit each year to the Group’s results. As such, in 1970 the Triumph factory provided an excellent prospect for employment when my full time trade union official, Mr Andy Smart, contacted me to see if I was interested in a production welding job. Triumph’s wage rates for production welders during the late 1960s and early ‘70s were always in the top three for large factories in Coventry and District. Whilst high wages were paid, it was generally recognised that day or night shift working at Triumph on individual piecework meant everyone earned their money. Triumph had a closed-shop agreement with the Birmingham and Midland Sheet Metal Workers’ Union; there were seven other staff and shop floor trade unions at the company. When Triumph needed to recruit production welders it approached the Sheet Metal Workers’

Union in the full knowledge that only suitable candidates would be sent along for a trade test and interview; this was a partnership of convenience that had stood the test of time. I was twenty-five years of age, a qualified production MIG welder, married with a young family and a house mortgage, seeking the security of employment in a high earnings factory; Triumph provided that opportunity. Accordingly, I was very pleased that following my introduction to Triumph by the trade union, I was successful with my welding trade test and interview. It was explained at interview that the company was expanding its MIG welding capacity in preparation for production of the new all-welded Bonneville and Trophy P39 frame; the new frame was being introduced for the high volume 1971 Bonneville and Trophy 650cc twins, production of which was about to start. As instructed in my letter of appointment, I reported for work at the factory in midNovember 1970. The Meriden shadow factory had been built in 1942 on a 22 acre green field site north west of Coventry, to rehouse motorcycle production after the previous Priory Street, Coventry factory was destroyed by the German Luftwaffe in the Blitz of 1940. On my first day at Triumph I expected to be confronted with mass production individual piecework. I

The oil-in-frame Bonneville

was certainly in for a shock - there was no work to do, and I was shown into an almost silent factory. The welding section charge hand explained that there was a major problem with the new P39 frame and it had not yet been released for production. The BSA Group had set up a divisional Research and Development Centre at Umberslade Hall, Hockley Heath, Birmingham. This R&D centre undertook the majority of new projects for all Group subsidiaries, including Triumph, and the new all-welded mild steel frame for the big twins, Triumph’s volume sellers, was its first serious motorcycle involvement; it was now nearly three months late for production. Without the release of the new frame design drawings, everything was held up. In an effort to try and counter this production disaster, the Meriden factory had been pre-building for stock Daytona 500 models that did not use the new frame. However, a complete year’s projected requirement of this model had now been stockpiled. In addition, 3-cylinder Tridents had also continued to be built, but market demand for triples was much less than for the big twins. Engines for Bonneville and Trophy models had also continued to be built as per the scheduled build programme, and were now stockpiled all over the factory awaiting motorcycle assembly as soon as the new P39 frames became available so all was not totally lost! Once Umberslade released the new frame design drawings the welding jigs and fixtures required for production could be rapidly completed. One young welder who had worked at Triumph for two years told me that to maintain morale during the past three months, inter-section crib, domino and chess tournaments had been organised to prevent boredom. Management had taken the view that it was not the men’s fault there was no work and everyone had been paid ‘average’ earnings and were very happy! Well, perhaps not everyone. A welder with fifteen years service who over-


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BMCT News

The Meriden factory at the time of the workers‟ sit-in, and (inset) the P39 frame

explained that this production delay was unprecedented, and that the company must be losing an absolute fortune, going on to say that happiness and security at Triumph was only guaranteed when high-targeted production and dales levels were achieved. The past 3 months should have been spent building and shipping 1971 Bonneville and Trophy models for Triumph’s major, very seasonal American market. All late arriving 1971 models that were not available for sale in America before next May would remain in stock to be heavily discounted the following spring. The recruits were then shown the new welding section where the P39 frame would be produced. The section was laid out logically on a flow line basis, with high volume in mind. Day and night shift working was planned, with thirty welders on days and thirty on nights, with the appropriate number of frame builders and machinists to support the required production. Whilst we were looking at the new section, one of the first frame assembly jigs arrived. I was amazed. It was certainly impressive; I’d never before seen a welding jig with ground finishes and painted a beautiful shade of royal blue. Whilst admiring it the chargehand told me there were to be two further back up duplicates of every jig and fixture. The Group must have spent an absolute fortune. The Wavis frame driller machines were also being installed. Once a frame had been completely welded it was clamped into one of the two duplicate frame drillers that would then precisely ream the existing pilot holes. By so doing, the exact dimensions of every important hole on the frame was guaranteed. Finally, the steering head tube was bored at each end for the bearings and the frame was finished. The swing arm assembly was just as precisely made so that every new 1971 Bonneville and Trophy rolling chassis was

identical, guaranteeing Triumph’s excellent road handling qualities. My first day as a welder at Triumph soon came to an end and I hadn’t even struck an arc! With the expected high volume piecework I had thought that I would go home physically tired, but I didn’t. I was, however, mentally exhausted wondering exactly what I had got myself involved in. My second day started much the same as the first, with one exception: any previous thoughts about a secure job and working environment had now completely disappeared. Confronted with chaos and the thought of having to try and retrieve three months lost production with a totally unknown new frame assembly certainly made me feel very apprehensive about the future. It was clear from the comments of other new welding recruits that my feelings were much the same as theirs. However, with the new recruits and the Triumph old hands seeing the P39 frame for the first time, we were certainly all in it together to make what we could of the situation. With a number of production jigs and fixtures arriving in the area where I was to work, a start was made. The major new design feature of the allwelded mild steel frame for the 1971 Bonneville and Trophy models was the integral engine oil tank. The large ‘backbone’ main tube of the P39 frame was to contain the engine oil. Accordingly, it was vital that all welding on the oil tank was of a pressure vessel standard, guaranteeing no oil leaks. I was to work at the beginning of the welding flow line, the seat loop to main tube oil tank assembly. This assembly also contained the centre swing arm pivot tube and various brackets. The steering head tube had already been welded to the main tube as a sub-

assembly. Our first pre-production build was a disaster; when tested with compressed air in a large water tank, the main tube oil tank leaked like a sieve. Not a good sign when only recently a cartoon had appeared in a motorcycle monthly suggesting that Triumph had by now employed the famous oil well firefighter Red Adair to try and stop the engine oil leaks! Luckily ,one of the large influx of welders from all over Coventry and District had MIG welding experience on pressure vessels. Triumph’s welding equipment was suitably adapted to enable the ‘spray transfer’ MIG welding technique to be used. This required very high welding amperages, a reduced filler wire diameter and a change from pure CO2 shielding gas to an argon and CO2 mix. Once the new process was perfected there were very few oil tank leaks to repair. With thousands of stockpiled engines all over the factory awaiting the new frame, and with the frame section now fully equipped, there was massive pressure to complete the firstoff pre-production build, prior to mass production getting under way. The first frame assemblies were checked practically in the Triumph way: The installation of a Bonneville engine. When the engine was found to be too big, a full dimensional check by the Inspection Department was called for. Every P39 frame dimension was checked against the Umberslade design drawing and found to be correct - astonishingly not only was the new 1971 frame design release three months late, the engines for which it was designed would not fit into it!

To find out what happens next you‟ll need to but a copy of John‟s book! „Save the Triumph Bonneville‟ is available at £24.99 from all good booksellers or direct from the publishers, Veloce Publishing on 01305 260068


BMCT News

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MEMBERS’ PAGE

Member Richard Maby from Dorset sends us this picture of his 1939 AJS Model 26 350 twinport, a 3-owner machine complete with its original handbook. By the time this bike was made, AJS had been part of the Matchless concern for some eight years, and most AJS models featured a high proportion of Matchless components. In many cases, such as this, there were AJS and Matchless versions of the same machine. Matchless bought Sunbeam, an-

other Wolverhampton make, in 1937, and Associated Moto Cycles was formed. Eventually AMC absorbed Francis-Barnett, James and even the once-mighty Norton, transferring production of all these makes to their huge factory in Plumstead, London. With the decline in the British industry, by the late sixties AJS was reduced to making solely offroad machines for what had by then become Norton-Villiers Limited, based, somewhat ironically, in Wolverhampton.

ROBIN’S SCOOTERS SCOOP THE AWARDS Two machines from BMCT member Robin Spalding’s superb British Scooter Collection have swept the awards at the early season classic bike shows. Robin’s Ambassador (left) won Best Scooter at Shepton Mallet, while his Sun Wasp (below) took Best Classic honours at Alexandra Palace.

NEW MEMBERS We welcome the following new members and supporters of our cause:

David Milgate A. Ross Neil Freemantle Brendan Mulcahy James Francis David Taylor Martin Friendship Trevor Heaton Shelley Ripper Nigel Summerton Nigel Ballard J.M. Atkinsonn D. Franklin Adam Ball Ian Defoe Mick Brooks


The British Motorcycle Charitable Trust Holly Cottage Main Street Bishampton Pershore Worcestershire Phone: 01386 462524 Mobile: 07754 880116 Email: info@bmct.org

Preserving the past...for the future

Who are we…? The British Motorcycle Charitable Trust was originally founded in 1979 as a means of raising funds to establish what was to become the National Motorcycle Museum at Bickenhill, near Birmingham. By 1995 the museum was well established as a successful commercial venture, and it and the charity became separate organisations. A new board of trustees was appointed to manage the assets of the BMCT as it pursues its objective to preserve and promote British motorcycle engineering heritage. Our funding comes from bequests, donations, membership fees and interest on our reserves. We have an expanding network of affiliated museums that we assist with projects, and we also own a growing collection of rare and unusual machines which can be seen on display at various locations throughout the country. Our members enjoy free entry to all our affiliated museums for the very reasonable sum of £20 a year. To enquire about membership or to find out about how you can help the trust through a donation or bequest, please contact Andy Bufton at the address on the left. Visit our website at:

www.bmct.org

UNDER THE HAMMER Bonhams’ sale at the RAF Museum, Hendon saw over 100 machines from the Spanish Pamplona Collection offered for sale. The collection featured a diverse

DIARY DATES was very strong considering its nonstandard specification. The bike sported Amal Concentric carbs, electronic ignition, alternator, 150 mph Shadow clock and 18 and 19 inch wheels.

Elsewhere in the country, H J Pugh of Ledbury had the usual assortment of fairly unremarkable bikes in their sale in January, but amongst them was this gem (below), a 1936 Triumph 5/5 498cc twin port. Very nicely restored three years ago, this example of the last Val Page designed Triumph failed to reach its reserve, despite the best bid on the day selection of bikes from a 19th century De being £11,500! Dion Bouton to more recent HarleyDavidsons. Highest priced on the day was the American Cleveland Tornado Four (above) at £48,000 including buyer’s premium , while the top price for a British machine was the £29,900 paid for a Series C Vincent Rapide (below) which

March 28 Shropshire Classic Show, Wistanstow April 4-5 Red Marley Hillclimb, Great Witley, Worcs. April 5 British Historic Racing, Mallory Park April 11 Bike Jumble at the Sammy Miller Museum April 18 St Georges Dragon Roast and Military Vehicle Day, London Motorcycle Museum April 25 Post Vintage Humber Club at London Motorcycle Museum April 24-25 Classic MotorCycle Show, Stafford April 24-25 VMCC Coventry to Brighton Run May 2 Lambourn Vintage Machinery Show, Berks. May 8-9 British Historic Racing, Three Sisters, Lancs.

UPCOMING AUCTIONS

June 20 VMCC Banbury Run, Gaydon, Warks.

Cheffins Cambridge April 24th Bonhams Stafford April 25th Brightwells Leominster June 24th

June 26-27 British Bike Bonanza, Nailsworth, Glos. For more details see our website

Edited and published by Matchless Management Services, Holly Cottage, Bishampton, Pershore, WR10 2NH

BMCT News Spring 2010  

New development at Black Country Museum

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