50 STAFFORD REUNION
Holding on for a hero
Alan Turner tells of a very special reunion at Stafford when, thanks to Holland’s Ferry Brouwer, Des Heckle was reunited with his record-breaking 250cc Yamaha TD1C sprint bike of 46 years ago.
hile much was taking place at April’s Carole Nash Classic MotorCycle Show at Stafford, away from the crowds a very low-profile meeting finally brought together a motorcycle and two people for whom, and for different reasons, it represented joy and frustration. In the 1960s, sprinting and the new sport of drag racing regularly made headline news. In a sensational performance somebody would set a time, or speed, that eclipsed a
previous effort, and then someone else would come along and go quicker. Standards of engineering, and the quality of the preparation, improved beyond measure, and as well as the usual events, there were regular tilts at the shorterdistance world records. These often took place on the long runway at Elvington, near York. In the lightweight classes, Yorkshireman Des Heckle was one of the men to beat. His success in sprinting had already secured world
The top tubes sweep wide – to Des’s annoyance. The tiny fuel tank held just enough juice to keep the centrally-mounted float chamber full for a run.
Ferry Brouwer (left) and Des Heckle pose with the Yamaha that, for different reasons, brought joy and frustration to both parties more than 40 years ago.
records as well as numerous class records at many of the sprint courses around the country. His fiancee, later wife, Irene, also set world records. For some seasons Des had persisted with a Villiers Starmaker and had posted times that had made the 250cc class his own. However, the Starmaker had little more to give, the world had moved on and it was time to move with it. He started work on a Yamahapowered machine, the well known Padgett’s company in Batley, Yorkshire, offering him the loan of a TD1C engine which gave state-ofthe-art performance. Des went to see his usual frame builder, Keith Stephenson, to discuss a new frame to house the engine, and as with previous bikes it was fabricated from small-diameter
tubing, in straight runs and forming part of a triangulated structure wherever possible. Unfortunately, they were soon aware of a problem with the straight top tubes as the cylinders could not be removed with the engine in situ. The remedy was to put a large radius curve in both top tubes, a compromise that still irks Des. The front fork arrangement had largediameter tubes as stanchions with smaller tubes forming a leading link arrangement. This rolled on a small diameter front wheel built around a Honda 50 hub assembly. The small amount of suspension movement was controlled by rubber bands, as used on speedway bikes. The rear wheel had no suspension, and the hub was laced into a wider rim shod with a sidecar road-
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race tyre, offering a convenient combination of tread width and a stickier compound, and probably the best available rubber at the time. The rider’s accommodation was a loop of small diameter tube – Des didn’t intend to spend too long in the office! The handlebars were welded directly to the forks, angled downwards to minimise frontal area. The fuel was contained in a tiny tank, held between and beneath the top rails of the frame and just above the carburettor float chambers. Des remembers that the tank was mounted higher for half-mile and kilometre events, needing to drain completely. Low and light, the completed bike certainly looked right. It turned out to be fast, but tuning and carburation were critical. In